Play “Artle,” an Art History Version of Wordle: A New Game from the National Gallery of Art

Are you one of the hundreds of thousands who’ve gotten themselves hooked on Wordle, the free online game that gives players six chances to guess a five-letter word of the day?

Its popularity has spawned a host of imitators, including Quordle, Crosswordle, Absurdle and Lewdle, which has carved itself a niche in the vulgar and profane.


Even the National Gallery of Art is getting in on the action with Artle, wherein players get four attempts to correctly identify an artist du jour by examining four of their pieces, drawn from its vast collection of paintings, photographs, sculptures and other works.

The Gallery provides a bit of an assist a few letters into every guess, especially helpful to those taking wild shots in the dark.

Before you commit to Georgia O’Keeffe, you may want to consider some 80 other George and Georges variants who pop up as you type, including  Georges Braque, George Grosz, Georgine E. Mason, George Joji Miyasaki, George Segal, Georges Seurat, and Georg Andreas Wolfgang the Elder.

Hats off if you can readily identify all of these artists’ work on sight. That’s an impressive command of art history you’ve got there!

As with Wordle, a button provides a streamlined invitation to boast about your prowess on social media after you’ve completed your daily Artle. Return visitors can keep track of their stats in the upper right hand corner.

There’s no shame in failing to identify an artist in four tries, just a free opportunity to further your education a bit with titles and links to the four works you just spent time viewing.

The examples we’ve included from Thursday, June 2’s puzzle are Free Space (Deluxe), pink, The Civet, Imperative, and Cobalt Night by….

Your guess?

Play Artle here – like Wordle and multivitamins, just one a day.

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Ayun Halliday is the Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine and author, most recently, of Creative, Not Famous: The Small Potato Manifesto.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Draw Along with Beloved Cartoonist & Educator Lynda Barry: Free Drawing Exercises Online

How do you rescue a day that’s gone pear shaped?

Stopping to drink a glass of water is one of our longtime go tos.

If there’s a box of matches handy, we might perform Yoko Ono’s Lightning Piece.

Most recently, we’ve taken to grabbing some paper and a trusty black felt tip to spend a few minutes doing one of beloved cartoonist and educator Lynda Barry’s all-ages draw-alongs.

Barry began uploading these videos early in the pandemic, for “friends at home who are about to turn four or five or six or seven or any age really.”


Each demonstration begins with an oval. There’s no prologue. Just dive on in and copy the motions of Barry’s slow moving, refreshingly unmanicured hands, captured in a DIY god shot.

Less than four minutes later, voila! A smiling crocodile! (It’s magical how a facial expression can be changed with one simple line.)

The soundtracks to these little narration-free exercises are an extra treat. We’ve always admired Barry’s musical taste. It’s a real mood booster to cover a cheetah in spots to the tune of a marimba orchestra.

Barry’s also a big cumbia fan, conjuring a kitty to Lito Barrientos’ Cumbia En Do Menor, a lion to Los Mirlos’ Cumbia de los Pajaritos, and a Stegosaurus to Romulo Caicedo’s Cumbia Cavela.

Now that you’ve got a cheetah under your belt, you’re ready to progress to a ScorpionLeopard, one of Draw Along with Lynda B‘s “strange animals.”

Barry does offer some commentary as these cryptids take shape.

We suspect her pioneering work with a group of four-year-olds in the University of Wisconsin’s Draw Bridge program leads her to anticipate the sorts of burning questions a pre-schooler might have with regard to these beasts. Her classroom experience is evident. Whereas others might think a steady stream of bright chatter is necessary to keep very young participants engaged, Barry’s thoughtful words develop in real time along with her drawing:

This is a tough animal. It has a big stinger on the back. This is a rough animal… angry.  Put the eyebrows like this. It makes them look angry. What kind of teeth do you think this animal has? I don’t think they have little bitty teeth. I think they have big fangs.

Others in the “strange animal” family: a CatDogSealFish, an octophant, and a catterfly (featuring a cameo by Barry’s inquisitive pooch’s snout.)

Draw along with Lynda Barry on this YouTube playlist.

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Ayun Halliday is the Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine and author, most recently, of Creative, Not Famous: The Small Potato Manifesto.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Cartoonist Lynda Barry Teaches You How to Make a Visual Daily Diary

Cartoonist and educator Lynda Barry is a favorite here at Open Culture.

We’re always excited to share exercises from her books and intel on her classes at the University of Wisconsin, but nothing beats the warmth and humor of her live instruction… even when it’s delivered virtually.

Last week, she took to Instagram to inform the fourteen lucky U of W students enrolled in her fall Making Comics class to prepare for a new way of keeping their required daily diaries, using a technique she calls “sister images.”

Those of us at home can play along, above.


Grab a composition book, or two blank sheets of paper, and a black felt tip pen. (Eventually you’ll need a timer, but not today.)

Rather than describe the ten-minute writing and drawing exercise in advance, we encourage you to jump right in, confident that teacher Barry would approve.

There are plenty of resources out there for those who want to learn how to outlinescript, and storyboard comics.

Barry aims to tap a deeper vein of creativity with exercises that help students embrace the unknown.

The sister diary’s purpose, she says, is to “let our hands lead the way in terms of figuring out our stories.”

Whether or not you seek to make comics, it’s an engaging way to document your life. You can also implement the sister diary technique for discovering more about characters in your fictional work.

You’ll also pick up some bonus tips on drawing backgrounds, using all caps, allotting enough space within a panel for full body renderings, and staying in the moment should you find yourself at a temporary loss.


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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Follow her @AyunHalliday

Art Historian Provides Hilarious & Surprisingly Efficient Art History Lessons on TikTok

@_theiconoclassIf youse come at me again for my Australian pronunciation I swear 😂 #arthistory #arthistorytiktok #baroque♬ original sound – AyseDeniz

Art Historian Mary McGillivray believes art appreciation is an acquired skill. Her TikTok project, The Iconoclass, is bringing those lacking formal art history education up to speed.

The 25-year-old Australian’s pithy observations double as surprisingly sturdy mnemonics, useful for navigating world class collections both live and online.

Some highlights from her whirlwind guide to the Baroque period, above:

If it looks like the chaos after blackout where everyone is stumbling around in the dark under one solitary emergency light, it’s a Caravaggio.

If there’s at least one person looking to the camera like they’re on The Office, it’s a Velázquez.

If there’s a room with some nice furniture, a window, and some women just going about their everyday business, it’s a Vermeer.

Rather than the traditional chronological progression, McGillivray mixes and matches, often in response to comments and Patreon requests.


When a commenter on the Baroque TikTok took umbrage that she referred to Artemisia Gentileschi by first name only, McGillivray followed up with an educational video explaining the convention from the 17th-century perspective.

@_theiconoclassReply to @rajendzzz her dad was hot, comment if you agree #baroque #artemisia #arthistoryclass♬ Guilty Love – Ladyhawke & Broods

At the urging of a Patreon subscriber, she leaps across four centuries to discover an unexpected kinship between Cubism and Renaissance painters, using George Braque’s Man with a Guitar and Sandro Botticelli’s Four Scenes from the Early Life of Saint Zenobius. One is attempting to escape the shackles of perspective by showing surfaces not visible when regarding a subject from a single point. The other is using a single space to depict multiple moments in a subject’s life simultaneously.

@_theiconoclass#arthistory #arthistorytiktok #renaissance #cubism #medievaltiktok♬ original sound – Finian Hackett

McGillivray is willing to be seen learning along with her followers. She’s open about the fact that she prefers Giotto and Fra Angelico to contemporary art (as perhaps befits an art historian whose face is more 1305 than 2021). Artist Dominic White’s wearable, environmental sculpture Hoodie Empathy Suit doesn’t do much for her until a conversation with the exhibiting gallery’s director helps orient her to White’s objectives.

@_theiconoclassWant to see me tackle more contemporary art? Big thanks to @mprg_vic ❤️🪶#arthistorytiktok #arthistory #contemporaryart #artgallery♬ original sound – Mary McGillivray

She tips her hand in an interview with Pedestrian TV:

I’m not very interested in deciding what is art and what isn’t. The whole “what is art” question has never been very important to me. The questions I prefer to ask are: Why was this image made?

She recommends art critic John Berger’s 1972 four-part series Ways of Seeing to fans eager to expand beyond the Iconoclass:

It’s got all the things you would expect from a 1970s BBC production – wide collared shirts, long hair, smoking on television – plus some of the most influential insights into how we look at art and also how we look at the world around us.

Watch Mary McGillivray’s The Iconoclass here. Support her Patreon here.

@_theiconoclassWant a part two? 😏😘 #arthistorytiktok #arthistorymajor #learnontiktok♬ Rasputin (Single Version) – Boney M.

via Bored Panda

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her June 7 for a Necromancers of the Public Domain: The Periodical Cicada, a free virtual variety honoring the 17-Year Cicadas of Brood X. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Learn How to Play Chess Online: Free Chess Lessons for Beginners, Intermediate Players & Beyond

The most desired Christmas gift of 2020? A chess set. It’s certainly desired, at any rate, by the rapt viewers of The Queen’s Gambit, the acclaimed Netflix miniseries that debuted in October. Created by screenwriter-producers Scott Frank and Allan Scott, its seven episodes tell the story of Beth Harmon, an orphan in 1950s Kentucky who turns out to be a chess prodigy, then goes on to become a world-class player. During the Cold War, the intellectual and geopolitical prospect of American and Soviet masters going head to head stoked public interest in chess; over the past month, the surprise success of The Queen’s Gambit has had a similar effect.

Whether or not you feel a sense of kinship with the series’ unrelentingly chess-obsessed young protagonist, you may well feel an urge to learn, or re-learn, to play the game. If so, all the resources you need are online, and today we’ve rounded them up for you.


To get started, Chess.com has produced “Everything You Need to Know About Chess,” a series of Youtube videos “designed to give every aspiring chess player the ‘one chess lesson of their life’ if they were only to get one.” Watch them, or explore these web-based tutorials. And even if you don’t have a chess set of your own, you can get started playing immediately thereafter: create an account at Chess.com and you can play against the computer or real players around the world matched to your skill level, all for free.

To shore up your knowledge of the game’s fundamentals, watch this five-video series by instructor John Bartholomew on topics like undefended pieces, coordination, and typical mistakes. The Chess Website’s Youtube channel covers even more, and its basics playlist teaches everything from opening principles to the nature of individual pieces, pawn, rook, knight, and beyond.

But nobody with a taste for chess can stop at the basics, and the supply of instruction has grown to meet the demand. The St. Louis Chess Club offers a series of lectures from national masters and grandmasters geared toward beginning, intermediate, and advanced players.

At Chess School, you’ll find videos on”the greatest chess games ever played, the immortal chess games, the best games from the latest tournaments, world champion’s games, instructive chess games, famous players games and much more.” Among serious players you’ll find many fans of Agadmator, whose extensive playlists examine current masters like Magnus Carlsen, past masters like Garry Kasparov, and examples of techniques like the English Opening and the Sicilian Defense, the later of which enjoyed quite a moment in the era of The Queen’s Gambit.  The series has hardly gone unnoticed in the chess world: on channels like Chess Network, you’ll even find videos about the strategies employed by Beth Harmon, whose style has been programmed into chess-playing AI “bots.” They also have a “Beginner to Chess Master” playlist that will continually build your understanding of the game in a step by step manner.

The character’s personality, however, remains a creation of Walter Tevis, author of the eponymous novel The Queen’s Gambit. Tevis’ other works famously brought to the screen include The Hustler and The Man Who Fell to Earth: works of literature concerned, respectively, with mastery of a deceptively complex game and the condition of the social outsider. These themes come together in The Queen’s Gambit, whose author also described it as “a tribute to brainy women.” Perhaps you plan to give such a person in your life a chess set this year. If so, you know which book to wrap up with it — apart, of course, from  Ward Farnsworth’s 700-page Predator at The Chessboard: A Field Guide To Chess Tactics. Or Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess. If you have other favorite resources, please feel free to add them to the list below…

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

The Japanese Traditions of Sashiko & Boro: The Centuries-Old Craft That Mends Clothes in a Sustainable, Artistic Way

The state of our troubled planet dictates that disposables are out.

Reusables are in.

And anyone who’s taught themselves how to mend and maintain their stuff has earned the right to flaunt it!

A quick scroll through Instagram reveals loads of visible mending projects that highlight rather than disguise the area of repair, drawing the eye to contrasting threads reinforcing a threadbare knee, frayed cuff, ragged rip, or moth hole.


While some practitioners take a freeform approach, the most pleasing stitches tend to be in the sashiko tradition.

Sashiko—frequently translated as “little stabs”—was born in Edo period Japan (1603-1868), when rural women attempted to prolong the life of their families’ tattered garments and bedding, giving rise to a humble form of white-on-indigo patchwork known as boro.

While sashiko can at times be seen serving a purely decorative function, such as on a very well preserved Meiji period jacket in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s collection, its primary use was always one born of necessity.

As Austin Bryant notes on Heddels, a news and education website dedicated to sustainable goods:

Over generations of families, these textiles would acquire more and more patches, almost to the point of the common observer being unable to recognize where the original fabric began. As they recovered after the end of World War II, to some the boro textiles reminded the Japanese of their impoverished rural past.

Keiko & Atsushi Futatsuya are a mother-and-son artisan team whose posts on sashiko and boro go beyond straightforward how-tos to delve into cultural history.

According to them, the goal of sashiko should not be aesthetically pleasing rows of uniform stitches, but rather “enjoying the dialogue” with the fabric.

As Atsushi explains in an Instagram post, viewers seeing their work with a Western perspective may respond differently than those who have grown up with the elements in play:

This is a photo of a “Boro-to-be Jacket” in the process. This is the back (hiding) side of the jacket and many non-Japanese would say this should be the front and should show to the public. The Japanese would understand why it is a backside naturally, but I would need to “explain” to the non-Japanese who do not share the same value (why we) purposefully make this side as “hiding” side. That’s why, I keep sharing in words. One picture may be worth a thousand words, but the thousand words may be completely different based on their (free) interpretation. In sharing the culture, some “actual words” would be also very important.

To try your hand at sashiko, you will need a long needle, such as a cotton darning needle, white embroidery thread, and—for boro—an aging textile in need of some attention.

Should you find yourself sliding into a full blown obsession, you may want to order sashiko needles and thread, and a palm thimble to help you push through several weights of fabric simultaneously.

You’ll find many patterns, tips, and tutorials on the Futatsuya family’s Sashi.co YouTube channel.

via Vox

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

The History of the 1918 Flu Pandemic, “The Deadliest Epidemic of All Time”: Three Free Lectures from The Great Courses

In one cascade of events after another, people are finding out the normal they once knew doesn’t exist anymore. Instead it feels as if we’re living through several past crises at once, trying to cram as much historical knowledge as we can to make sense of the moment. 2020 especially feels like an echo of 1918-1919, when the “deadliest epidemic of all time,” as The Great Courses calls the “Spanish flu,” killed millions (then the U.S. devolved into a wave of racist violence.) By offering examples of both negative and positive responses, the history, sociology, and epidemiology of the 1918 flu can guide decision-making as we prepare for a second wave of COVID-19 infections.

The Great Courses started offering free resources on the coronavirus outbreak back in March, with a brief “What You Need to Know” explainer and a free lecture course on infectious diseases. After catching up on the history of epidemics, we’ll find ourselves naturally wondering why we learned little to nothing about the Spanish flu.


The three-part lecture series here, excerpted from the larger course Mysteries of the Microscopic World (available with a Free Trial to the Great Courses Plus), begins by boldly calling this historical lacuna “A Conspiracy of Silence.” Tulane professor Bruce E. Fleury quotes Alfred Crosby, who writes in America’s Forgotten Pandemic, “the important and almost incomprehensible fact about the Spanish influenza, is that it killed millions upon millions of people in a year or less… and yet, it has never inspired awe, not in 1918 and not since.”

Epidemic diseases that have had tremendous impact in the past have become the subject of literary epics. Few epidemics have accomplished mass death “through sheer brute force” like the 1918 flu. The numbers are truly staggering, in the tens to hundreds of millions worldwide, with U.S. deaths dwarfing the combined casualties of all the country’s major wars. Yet there are only a few mentions of the flu in American literature from the time. Fleury mentions some reasons for the amnesia: WWI “took center stage,” survivors were too traumatized to want to remember. We may still wonder why we should look back over 100 years ago and learn about the past when current events are so all-consuming.

“History compels us not to look away,” professor Fleury says, “lest we fail to learn the lessons paid for by our parents and our grandparents.” Faulkner, it seems, was right that the past is never past. But we need not respond in the same failed ways each time. The ability to study and learn from history gives us critical perspective in perilous, uncertain times.

Sign up here for a free trial to the Great Courses Plus now rebranded as Wondrium.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

The Smithsonian Puts 2.8 Million High-Res Images Online and Into the Public Domain

No matter how many public institutions you visit in a day—schools, libraries, museums, or the dreaded DMV—you may still feel like privatized services are closing in. And if you’re a fan of national parks and public lands, you’re keenly aware they’re at risk of being eaten up by developers and energy companies. The commons are shrinking, a tragic fact that is hardly inevitable but, as Matto Mildenberger argues at Scientific American, the result of some very narrow ideas.

But we can take heart that one store of common wealth has majorly expanded recently, and will continue to grow each year since January 1, 2019—Public Domain Day—when hundreds of thousands of works from 1923 became freely available, the first time that happened in 21 years. This year saw the release of thousands more works into the public domain from 1924, and so it will continue ad infinitum.

And now—as if that weren’t enough to keep us busy learning about, sharing, adapting, and repurposing the past into the future—the Smithsonian has released 2.8 million images into the public domain, making them searchable, shareable, and downloadable through the museum’s Open Access platform.


This huge release of “high resolution two- and three-dimensional images from across its collections,” notes Smithsonian Magazine, “is just the beginning. Throughout the rest of 2020, the Smithsonian will be rolling out another 200,000 or so images, with more to come as the Institution continues to digitize its collection of 155 million items and counting.”

There are those who would say that these images always belonged to the public as the holdings of a publicly-funded institution sometimes called “the nation’s attic.” It’s a fair point, but shouldn’t take away from the excitement of the news. “Smithsonian” as a conveniently singular moniker actually names “19 museums, nine research centers, libraries, archives, and the National Zoo,” an enormous collection of art and historic artifacts.

That’s quite a lot to sift through, but if you don’t know what you’re looking for, the site’s highlights will direct you to one fascinating image after another, from Mohammad Ali’s 1973 headgear to the historic Elizabethan portrait of Pocahontas, to the collection box of the Rhode Island Anti-Slavery Society owned by William Lloyd Garrison’s family, to Walt Whitman in 1891, as photographed by the painter Thomas Eakins, to just about anything else you might imagine.

Enter the Smithsonian’s Open Access archive here and browse and search its millions of newly-public domain images, a massive collection that may help expand the definition of common knowledge.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.