19 November 2011

Painters Who Echo

Even though I have something of a struggle with the philosophy of the realist style, I am drawn to its clarity of line and color.  Recently artist James Gurney was one of the jurors for Plein Air Magazine's Salon competition.  He featured a few of the winning paintings on his website.  One that caught my eye was by artist John Ball.

Before I read Gurney's comments, I thought "Oh, John Singer Sargent"  I guess I know more about art than I think I do for Gurney had the same observation! I didn't know Sargent was in the Realist camp.  I thought Realism favored a more precise rendition of things, an almost photographic recreation.  But looking at Ball's work, and Gurney's in comparison with Sargent, I am getting a better idea of what this style really is.

A Dinner Table at Night
by John Singer Sargent

Here is another pairing of Ball and Sargent which show a shared sense of light and color.

A Prelude to the Day
by John Ball

The Oyster Gatherers of Cancale 1878
by John Singer Sargent

And two more, this time portraiture.  I so much enjoy the blend of direct color and subtle movement of light that both artists employ.

Moving into Evening
by John Ball

Spanish Dancer
by John Singer Sargent

Mr. Ball's biography can be found here.  A good history of Mr. Sargent is here.

15 November 2011

Worlds of Our Own, Part 1

My always fun and creative nephews and I have been on the hunt for a new project.  (This past summer they designed their second dinner party for family members: a menu of 4 courses, all the cooking, and table decorations including menus typed up on a manual typewriter and hand illustrated!)  So when I saw the following image some months back, we knew we had something.

We would make our own planets!!

Getting the project off the ground took some doing.  Who knew that just finding some old globes would be a project in itself?  Our local Goodwill shops had nothing.  Plus I was thinking they'd be relatively cheap.  No way, Ray!  Instead, I ended up bidding on numerous eBay globes.  I thought I'd struck gold with one, only to find the seller was less than accurate in the description.  The globe didn't spin and its surface was all torn up.  Fortunately, I found a couple more and they arrived in reasonably good condition.  

A local Craigslist ad filled out our needed globular number and then some.

I ended up with SIX globes!  Fortunately, my brother Architect and his daughter Hoja are thinking of a redux of the Summer Wizarding EventThey are thinking that the Headmaster's Office set needs more by way of excellent, wizardy occupational study stuff  -- such as clocks and globes and such.  So he's offered to buy up my extra Earths.

Last weekend, the neffers and I began our Planetary Adventures.  Fortunately for Galactic Peace, each had a liking for a different globe; so I didn't have to set up a rock-paper-scissors contest to work out which globe went to which boy!

We set out materials for Round 1 - which would involve covering the not-to-be-painted parts with aluminum foil and then applying a coat of flat latex acrylic paint as the primer coat.

But first, knowing things were likely to get messy, we made up some painters' smocks.  My Beloved Spousal Unit and I both had some dress shirts destined for the rag bin - these were donated to the Great Chalkboard Planet Adventure.  I had the boys try them on and then cut the sleeves to a workable length.  Then I labeled them with the name of our creative "team" -- Planeteers -- and added their respective uniform numbers (their ages). Their Mom also had them change into shorts so their good jeans wouldn't get paint on them.

The painting commenced. We worked on the table first and then made things more comfortable by shifting to the floor.

After a good thirty minutes, the first coat was complete and we set them aside to dry.  

We finished our afternoon together enjoying a video and a book I'd brought along.  Shaun Tan, an Australian artist, is someone I introduced the boys to earlier this year when I read them Tan's poignant and fantastically illustrated graphic novel The Arrival.  

This time, we looked at The Lost Thing. We read the book first and then looked at the 15 minute film.  They liked it a lot and we found ourselves looking through all the DVDs extras that showed how the various characters were rendered and the different music chosen.

Mr. Tan won an Oscar for this film. You can find more info on it (and how to get a copy) at this page on his website.  NOTE:  The DVD may not play on older DVD players as it has regional limitations.  We had no problem playing it on the boy's Mom's laptop - but it would look so much better on a larger screen.  The animation and illustrations are just fantastic.

11 November 2011

Real Keys for Imagined Houses

A very great deal of the fun of this Summer's Wizarding Event was the so-called invisible creativity that provided much of the back story for the activities of the day.  It also covered practical problems.  In the case of the House Keys, it let us create a tale that explained why such a large and famous School of Magic was apparently contained in a 2-story building!

Somewhere in the early brainstorming for the event, someone put out the idea of the kids receiving a set of "House Keys".  Unlike in Rowling's universe, which had students entering their respective Houses via a password and portrait door, our Houses were more prosaically entered using standard locks and keys.  

Each of our 4 Houses had its colors: green & brown, white & yellow, red & orange, and blue & silver.  These colors were incorporated in the banners and symbols used to designate each House.  The keys, we thought, had to match.

Everyone has old keys for places they've lived or offices they've worked at or cars they've driven.  I put out a call to the event cast and crew and other interested folks for KEYS!  I ended up with over a hundred, which was most gratifying, as was the variety of their shapes and sizes.

Step 1 was to clean them.  I filled a plastic container with hot soapy water to which I'd added just a tad of vinegar.  Then, using a dish brush, I scrubbed all the keys, rinsed them with hot water, and set them out to dry on a towel.

Step 2 involved creating the matching sets of matching keys. As it turned out, there were enough key designs for me to create 5 sets per House.  Each set contained three keys: two of them matching the two on each of the other sets for that same House and one mystery key.  These last mystery keys were fun.  Each student had a unique 3rd key.  The story went that even the faculty weren't quite sure what doors they opened.

Step 3 involved spray painting the keys in their respective House colors.  I worked out on our front porch using a large box to contain the paint mists as I worked.  I gave two coats of paint to each set of five keys.

Once dried, the sets were hooked onto key rings (all but 5 of which were scrounged from the keys and key sets donated for the event).  The third mystery key and a metal oval doo-dad my brother Woodcrafter donated were also hooked onto the rings.

The keys were ostensibly stored in an old, beat up box kept in the Headmaster's office.  This box was actually a vintage wooden cigar box which I labeled using a typewriter font alphabet rubber stamp set and black pigment ink. 

On the day of the event, the box was matter-of-factly brought out before the Sorting Ceremony.  As each new wizarding student learned of their House designation, they were given their own personal set of keys to be kept ever after!

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