What do we talk about when we talk about summer in DC? Humidity, monumenting, Fourth of July? Local artist Carlos Carmonamedina talks about outdoor movies at Canal Park, friends stumbling around Adams Morgan, running through Lincoln Park, and other scenes from his day-to-day life in the District.
Well, he doesn’t exactly talk about it—rather, he illustrates it.
Carmonamedina is the artist behind the weekly series Postcards from Washington, DC. Each week, he illustrates a new slice of life in the city, often inspired by an anniversary, current events, or something as mundane as his commute. Last week, it was outdoor movies at Canal Park. Before that, it was Mapplethorpe projected on the Corcoran Gallery. Three weeks ago? A commemoration of the Caps’ historic win. And remember the debacle about the duck ramp at the Reflecting Pool?
The project started in 2016, after Carmonamedina and moved to DC from France when his wife accepted a position at American University. It was his first time in the US, and though he’d been showing his work in galleries throughout Eastern Europe, he had few contacts in the States. Instead of focusing on shows, he decided to try something new: using his art to better acquaint himself with his new home. Postcards from Washington, DC was born.
“I’m not the kind of person who likes to have one creative practice,” he says. “I decided to use my art as a way to meet people. It’s sort of an extension of my diaries or my journals—little snippets of what I was discovering in the city, as a way of sharing my perspective as a foreigner.”
And that perspective is wide-ranging: Carmonamedina travels through the city almost entirely by bike, which keeps him up close to the people and places he illustrates. The postcards are all technically distinct in terms of process and style as well. He works digitally, but the postcards emulate everything from traditional watercolor to clean, sharp Art Deco work.
“It’s also a personal challenge to try to make the postcards different from each other and not get married to a particular style,” Carmonamedina said. “I’d rather keep it fresh and challenging for myself.” And because the project is public, he says, it keeps him accountable to the city full of fans waiting for the next postcard.
That sense of duty—to the place and its people—landed Carmonamedina on the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s 40 Under 40 list. Subtitled “People Saving Places,” the honor recognized his work for highlighting the human spirit of the city through the history of its buildings and neighborhoods. He’s also collaborating with the popular local wares vendor Shop Made in DC to sell his postcards.
Ultimately, the project is about community. “I’m always up for revisiting the concept of what makes a city, and how the community can be involved in decision making,” he said. “So it’s—not my duty, but part of my interest—to show what’s behind this building or what’s behind that area. All these voices need to be represented somehow. I try to bring that into my illustrations.”