Through a chance encounter on Airbnb, Untapped Cities came in touch with Denver artist Anne McGraw. Her self-funded project, Summit Ridge Studio, consists almost entirely of hand-painted maps that she produces from the basement of her home and sells online by request. Surrounded by her collection of antique maps and two cats, McGraw has developed a cutting edge aesthetic using everyone’s favorite open-source navigation software–Google Maps. We sat down with Anne to talk about her use of water colors, Denver urbanism, and her past as an architect.


Amar Steward Notorious BIG and Tupac paintings NYC Untapped Cities

British artist Amar Stewart is the man behind the amazing paintings of NYC’s most important MC’s in the guise of 17th century Dutch royals and noblemen. Hailing from London, Stewart came to NYC to do a month-long residency at Cotton Candy Machine in Williamsburg. We met up with Stewart in Bushwick to chat about his inspiration, the New York vs. London art scene, and his upcoming show in San Francisco.

Can you tell us about your inspiration, first of all? We’ve obviously read that you’re inspired by Frans Hals’ portraits in the Met, but are there other artists or art forms that inspire you?

Yeah, definitely ‘cause I only discovered Frans Hals about two years ago, and it was my fiancée that introduced me to his work. I’d heard of it, I’d probably seen a little bit of it, but I never really paid much attention to it. I think because for so many years I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my art, so I was looking at graffiti artists, illustrators, designers, all sorts of creative people in different genres, which I don’t think was a bad thing. I was looking at them all, and I guess because of that I was inspired by so many people. A lot of the works were different mediums, even, like digital or illustrations to chalk works, to aerosol, murals and whatnot.  (more…)

Jay Z-Shawn Carter-Cotton Candy Machine-Williamsburg-NYC-Untapped Cities-Amar StewartJigga with a Feather Hat by Amar Stewart (Instagram photo via Cotton Candy Machine)

Tomorrow night, Cotton Candy Machine, an art boutique in Williamsburg run by Sean Leonard and artist Tara McPherson, hosts an opening of oil paintings by their first artist in residence, Amar Stewart. The Brooklyn-based artist, originally from London, England, has had his work shown before in NYC and in other major cities like LA, Hong Kong and Melbourne.

The theme of his latest collection of oil painting takes inspiration from Dutch Golden Age painter Frans Hal and Hip Hop culture, with most of his paintings featuring legendary NYC MC’s along with ones who have made their mark on the culture over the past few years. (more…)

A Sunday on La Grande Jatte-Georges Seurat-Paris

One of the iconic paintings of the Impressionist movement, A Sunday on La Grande Jatte in Paris by Georges Seurat, is often shown as the quintessential example of the “Pointillism” style, which is compromised of using small painted dots.

We recently went to check out the scene of Seurat’s painting, and discovered that L’île de la Jatte, an island in the Seine between Neuilly-sur-Seine and Courbevoie, was a source of inspiration for more than Seurat. Monet, Van Gogh, Sisley, Nozal and Gleizes all have paintings from vantage points on the island.  (more…)


Courtesy of the Artist – “The Price of Happiness”

Ghost of a Dream is an art duo comprised of Lauren Was and Adam Eckstrom. Their “Price of Happiness” piece was recently featured in No Longer Empty’s “How Much Do I Owe You?” Exhibition. Untapped Cities sat down with Was and Eckstrom to learn about the inspirations behind Ghost of a Dream’s pieces and the thought process behind documenting society’s hopes and dreams. (more…)

In the winter of 1888, Vincent Van Gogh came to the conclusion that he could no longer live and paint in Paris. Writing to his brother, he lamented:

It seems to me almost impossible to be able to work in Paris, unless you have a refuge in which to recover and regain your peace of mind and self-composure.

In search of a quieter, quainter life, Van Gogh headed for Arles, a small city in Provence.

The winding streets of Arles

The city had not always been so quaint. In 40 BC, Arles (then called Arelate) provided military assistance to Julius Caesar in a key battle against Pompey. It fell into the Roman Empire’s good graces as a result and grew into a significant military, cultural, and religious center. Today, these influences are hard to miss: the quiet residential streets of Arles wind around a giant amphitheatre, among other impressive Roman monuments.

The large Roman amphitheatre in Arles

This grand Roman legacy was far from Van Gogh’s mind when he chose to settle in what was then a somewhat faded town. This faded quality, however, was exactly what he was looking for as he sought a break from the hustle and bustle of Paris. He wrote to his brother:

I believe that the town of Arles was once infinitely more glorious for the beauty of its women, for the beauty of its traditional dress. Now it all looks sickly and faded as far as character goes.  But if you look at it for a long time, the old charm reveals itself.

Perhaps above all, Van Gogh enjoyed the beautiful light and weather of Provence, “where outdoor work is possible almost all the year round.” He continued to work outdoors long after the sun set, famously capturing scenes like the “Starry Night Over the Rhone.” Legend has it that the increasingly eccentric painter was seen balancing candles on his wide-brimmed straw hat so he could continue to work through the evenings.

“Starry Night Over the Rhone”

Today’s view of the Rhone from near where Van Gogh sat, pictured here on a foggy Arles day.

Despite only living there for a little more than a year, Van Gogh created many of his greatest paintings in Arles. He originally hoped to found an artists’ colony in the city, thinking that his friends would find Arles just as inspiring as he did. Van Gogh repeatedly urged his friend Paul Gauguin to join him in the South, telling him:

[E]ven while working I never cease to think about this enterprise of setting up a studio with yourself and me as permanent residents,…which we’d both wish to make into a shelter and a refuge for our pals[.]

When Gauguin arrived in October 1888, he stayed in a room in Van Gogh’s rented yellow house (no longer standing in Arles, but immortalized by the artist  inside and out).

“Bedroom in Arles”

The artists’ colony never got off the ground. Van Gogh became ever more unstable, getting into fights with his friend and ultimately threatening Gauguin with the razor blade later used to cut off his own earlobe. Van Gogh spent the rest of his life in and out of hospitals but continued to paint up until his death in 1890.

Today, visitors in Arles can walk in Van Gogh’s footsteps, connecting contemporary sights with the artist’s interpretations. The city has set up easels to mark some of Van Gogh’s more famous subjects, allowing for direct comparisons.

The public garden in Arles, with a Van Gogh “easel” showing the artist’s depiction.

“Entrance to the Public Garden”

The “Café de Nuit” (Night Cafe) was not originally yellow. It was later painted to match the colors used by Van Gogh in his painting.

“Café de Nuit”

The courtyard of the historic hospital in Arles, where Van Gogh recovered after chopping off his earlobe. Today, the courtyard is called L’Espace Van Gogh.

“Garden of the Hospital in Arles”

As a small town, Arles is enjoyable as a day-long excursion from within Provence and is easily walkable. It’s  accessible by train or bus from larger hubs in the region, including Aix-en-Provence, Avignon, and Marseille. For more on the South of France, check out the Untapped Guide to the French Riviera.