February 25, 2014

A Garden of Marvels
by Ruth Kassinger

Cover art and illustrations by Eva-Maria Ruhl.

The email from Leslie Exton came in October: can you participate in creating the artwork for the White House holiday bookletIn eleven days? I said yes, as did seven other faculty, alumni and students of the Corcoran College of Art + Design. 

We met with Pat Blair, official calligrapher for the WH, were greeted by Julianna Smoot, WH Social Secretary, were taken on a lovely White House tour by Laura Dowling, WH florist extraordinaire. On our tour, Laura explained how each room would be decorated.

 Her concepts were illustrated on storyboards with ribbons, sprigs of holly, twigs, berries, leaves, produce and many more items . Here is one interesting example:

Each room was well thought out, always mindful of the theme: 
Simple Gifts

My contribution - five drawings/paintings, two of which found their way into the WH Guide, one slightly altered. They will now go to the National Archives. 
1. deconstructed cranberry sphere  for the Red Room
© 2010 Eva-Maria Ruhl

watercolor and colored pencil
I had never seen a deconstructed cranberry sphere. This was my best guess. Here is the sphere at the WH Open House Event

2. Pomegranates, Cranberries and Magnolia Pod for the Red Room
graphite and colored pencil
© 2010 Eva-Maria Ruhl
To see the entire White House Holiday Guide:
Excerpt from the Washington Post (December 2nd, 2010) 
Eight artists from the Corcoran College of Art + Design were chosen to illustrate the 2010 White House Holiday Guide Book, which will be presented to each guest touring the decorations this year.
The artists, a mix of current students, alumni and faculty, have been part of a botanical illustration program at the Corcoran, led by associate professor Leslie Exton. The illustrations will become part of the White House collection.
"We were hoping for a way to collaborate with our neighbors across the street," said Kristin Guiter, spokeswoman for the Corcoran.
Previous White House administrations often used children's illustrators to create artwork for the traditional souvenir booklets. Last year the Obamas did not publish a book. Their first booklet also features recipes from foods that will be served at the many holiday parties. The first party begins tomorrow with a volunteer reception to thank the hundreds who have spent a week assembling and installing the elaborate decorations.
Although most of the official White House holiday public tours are filled, according to a spokeswoman from Michelle Obama's office, the public can contact their member of Congress to see if they still have space for their allotted times. More that 100,000 people are expected to tour the White House during the upcoming holiday period.

find my illustrations as chapter headings
by author Ruth Kassinger