24 December 2011

Tis the Season

"I will honour Christmas in my heart, 
and try to keep it all the year. 
I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future"

Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol*

Best and happiest wishes of the Season to all my readers.  
See you again in 2012!

* The full text of Dickens' A Christmas Carol (with illustrations)
may be found online at Project Gutenberg.
Here is that link.

21 December 2011

VIDEO: Elegant Moves So Smooth

I feel dance in my bones but lack the coordination and grace to pull it off.  But watching those that do is a wonderful thing.  I'm digging this tribute piece to the incomparable Astaire and Rogers set to a modern tune.

17 December 2011

SENT OUT: Gingerbread Mail

On December 6th, Donovan of the always entertaining and informative Letter Writers Alliance posted a request from a group of kindergarteners in Texas.  They had a geography project going that used the story of the runaway gingerbread man.  Here's what Donovan wrote:
"They have a Gingerbread Man in their classroom and will read stories about him and one day he will disappear and they will discover he has run away (like in the story). The class will make a plan to get him back and try to solve the mystery of where he went. Here comes the "need help" part. They need friends and family to send postcards from other places to report sightings of their missing friend. They will map each postcard and track his journey."
There were some specific directions as to whom the note was addressed and the importance of including the story's famous tag line “Run, run, as fast as you can.  You can't catch me I'm the Gingerbread Man!"  Well, I couldn't resist and made the following postcard that I sent off to the kids right away.

13 December 2011

VIDEOS: Dancing When Music Changes

When my sister Artist was an undergrad doing her fine arts degree, she was given the assignment of showing movement.  Her solution was a clever one.  Using a long roll of paper, she drew out 'dancing footprints' - like those above - but varied their pattern and direction every 20 or so feet.  Then when the day came for the projects to be shown, she rolled out the paper and asked for some volunteers.  Their task was to dance down the roll using the footprints as their guide.

Then came the truly imaginative part of her creation.  She turned on a mixtape of music she'd assembled: a collection of varying dance musics - Renaissance, Jazz, Big Band, Rock, etc.  And just as she had hoped, the dancers changed their dance styles along with the music - all the while keeping their feet following the patterns on the paper.

The way dance varies according to its cultural and musical has long been a fascination of mine.  I am not much of a dancer, but I love the sensation of feeling how different musics make me want to move in different ways.  Here are a few fun examples of dancing and musical styles.

This one is the Curtain call from Richard II at Shakespeare's Globe theater (London) starring Mark Rylance.  It was a tradition to end a play - no matter how tragic - with a dance.  Here the modern cast made their curtain call into a dance.

Classical ballet is its own universe of drama, humor, poignancy, and elegance.  Here is one version of a famous scene: The Dying Swan.  In this 1986 video, 61 year old Maya Plisetskaya dances the her iconic role.  Note the utter fluidity of her arms at the beginning - like water flowing.

The all-male troup, The Trocadero Ballet of Montecarlo, has their own take on the dying swan - one that showcases the superb technical and comic training of its performers.  In this video, "Maya Thickenthighya" performs the piece - its own creation and a lovely homage to Ms. Plisetskaya. (This video includes the enthusiastic curtain call he received as well.)

Gene Kelly's 'mirror dancing' in the movie Cover Girl  shows off Mr. Kelly's graceful athleticism and unerring ability to match mood, music, and movement.

Following through on my sister's notion of putting dance to different music, here is that same sequence  put to Dancing With Myself by Billy Idol. It still works!

This last piece just delights.  Dancer extraordinaire, Fred Astaire, thought this piece by the Nicholas Brothers one of the best dance performances in the movies.

09 December 2011

Worlds of Our Own, Finale

. . . continued from the previous post. (Part 1 can be found here.) 

After the last (4th) coat of chalkboard, the Planeteers, holding the final version of their globes, re-create their pose from Day 1. Then we got down to the final doings.  

First up - after a little goofing around - they boys removed the tin foil that protected the globes' metal parts when we were painting.

The directions on the box for the the paint stated that after the final coat cured for 3 days, one had to prepare the surface by rubbing chalk all over it.

It took almost two entire pieces of white chalk to cover the globes completely.

Then, the chalk was rubbed off. (We used heavy cotton rags that had once been an old bedspread.) The remaining surface was pretty smooth - not quite like an old fashioned slate chalkboard, but nice.

Then the 2 Planeteers began to create their new worlds!

It was a challenge at first; the chalk didn't create as fine a line as Boy1 hoped.  He wanted the names of the continents and islands to be smaller, like on a real globe. Boy2 started with the landmasses first. A few days later, the creations were complete.

And here we have a final pose, and a list of the new lands of one of the Great Chalkboard Planets.

05 December 2011

Worlds of Our Own, Part 2

In a fairly recent post you got to see the first stages of The Great Chalkboard Planet Adventure with my two nephews.  These past two weeks we finished things up.  

After the primer coat of flat, white latex/acrylic paint dried for a few days, we began with the chalkboard paint.  We used the Rustoleum brand because it comes in a range of colors that get mixed at the point of purchase.  Since Boy1 wanted dark red, I was able to ask the Paint Tech to change the color formula slightly.  (Many thanks to Adam at Menards for this!)

Earlier this summer when working on a different project, I had tried a different brand - can't recall the name.  I bought it at a local artist supply store.  It came in a small, 8 oz. plastic canister and was a deep royal blue shade.  As with our globes, I put down a primer coat first and then two of the chalkboard paint.  It looked good, colorwise, but the surface was a little shiny and didn't take the chalk very well.  Since then I've learned that there are numerous brands out there.  I can't speak about them (and Rustoleum isn't paying me anything to talk them up here!).

The pics above show the globes after two coats of paint.  The dark green paint seemed to have better coverage, though it was also a matter of how each boy applied their color.

We'd used brushes for the primer coat but switched to small foam rollers for coats 2 and 3 so that the surface would be as smooth as possible.  Foam Pro was the brand.  The fine-grained foam is often recommended by artists doing wall murals or trompe l'oeil creations.

For the final coat, we used both roller and brush.  Each boy rolled the top half of the globe first.  Then I used a brush to smooth out any heavy edges or line.  Then, I held each boy's globe upside down for him while he paint-rolled the southern hemisphere.  Finally, I smoothed those sections and did some gentle brush-smoothing along the equators to even out the two halves of paint.

Above you can see how much lighter the wet paint looks when being applied.

Here you can see how the paint begins to darken as it dries.

And here you can see what happens when one of the 
artists leaned too close to his paint tray!

The Planeteers re-create their pose from Day 1.

The final report on The Great Chalkboard Planet Adventure will be the next post (4 days from now).

01 December 2011

VIDEO: Even Toys Gotta Roam

For all of us who love the idea of toys with a secret life of their own, here's a sweet, funny short.

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