Sunday, September 12, 2010

30 Days of Creativity - #14 - #16

Experiments with Colored Pencils

There I was in a hotel room in Orlando Florida. It was the first day of the Model Schools Conference put on by the International Center for Leadership in Education. I had come prepared with some art supplies, since I knew it would be otherwise hard to keep rolling with this 30 Days of Creativity project while on the road.

I also crazily packed a little cardboard robot model my daughter recently gave me as a gift, but I admit to not working on it at all while I was there. I was able, however, to experiment with some colored pencils and old yellow paper.

Figure 1. A first colored pencil piece
When it comes to art, my talents (if any) tend to be in the abstract realm. I had recently been playing around with ideas for how to incorporate recycled toilet paper rolls in an art project. One idea I played with a little was to cut the rolls open and attach them together to make a painting surface, create a painting, then disassemble the pieces and rearrange them in a new way. So, I decided to test some ideas that I thought might work for an eventual painting for this project.

Unfortunately, I neglected to sharpen my colored pencils before I came! I pressed on anyway and used whatever ones I could to get some sort of a line on the paper to create the swirly thing shown in Figure 1. That was my first night's work.

Sharpen Those Pencils!

The next night I made my way down to the lobby and looked around the business center for a pencil sharpener. No luck. What kind of a business center in a major hotel doesn't have a pencil sharpener? Plan B.

Figure 2. Drawing is better with sharp pencils
I approached the registry desk and asked one of the employees if they happened to have a pencil sharpener I could use. One of the kind persons went to the back office area and returned with a basic electric model. She plugged it in for me and I proceeded to sharpen away. I was able to get about 90% of them sharpened before the sharpener seized and would sharpen no more.  I returned the device with a "thank you," pretty certain it would come back to life once it cooled. Back to the room.

More Experiments With Colored Pencil

That evening and the next, I tried variations on the theme I had begun the night before (Figures 2-5). These came out better since the pencils were sharp(er).

Figure 2 was really nothing more than a test of how smoothly I could move the pencil tip over the surface of the paper. It is really quite amazing how the brain and hand can improve the performance of such a simple task in a short time. By the time I was done, my movement was much more steady and he sweep of eth curves much smoother compared to when I started

Figure 3. Use of overlapping lines

Figure 3 is okay. It included a deliberate crossing of one swoop over another. just to guage the appeal of that effect.

These are just free form experiments with colored lines. It was a lot of fun and I am sure I learned something from the process, although exactly what is hard to say. Just because I can't quantify it, or pin it down, doesn't mean it doesn't have some value. At least to me.

I like Figure 4. This included a deliberate attempt (only partially successful) to not allow any of the swoops to cross over each other. I added some background to it just to see what effect it would have on the overall look. It seems to work.

Of these I do not much care for Figure 5. It looks too mechanical; like it was drawn with a machine of some sort. It's like something produced by a Spirograph.
Figure 4. Trying not to cross the lines

Great art? Probably not. But, interesting enough to make me think something along these lines, done in more vibrant colors with acrylic paint, would work well for the toilet paper roll piece I had in mind (more on that later). 
Figure 5. A spiral, more symmetrical design

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Saturday, September 11, 2010

30 Days of Creativity - #13

Song Writing

I have had a few lines of a song floating around in my head for, oh, I'm guessing probably about a year now. I decided (not having any other ideas at the moment) to sit down and try to use that kernel of an idea to write a full fledged lyric. You know saying, attributed to Chuck Close —"Inspiration is for amateurs. I just show up and get to work." The name of the song is "Non-Linear Dude".

Non-Linear Dude

Sitting in a corner, staring at lines on a page
Sitting in a corner, staring at lines on a page
Does it go up? Does it go down?
Why don't it ever, com back around?
I wish I woulda' payed attention that day

Rise over run, or is it run over rise?
Rise over run, or is it run over rise?
Δy over Δx, all they said was "follow the steps"
They said it's  easy but ...
Might as well be fighting a T. rex

Some day soon, I'll be on a job interview
The manager will shake my hand, say "how do you do?"
She'll ask about my future plans, what I wish for and hope
Pretty sure she won't ask me, if I can calculate a slope
                    (end bridge)

The world keeps on turnin', there's  a constant rate of change
The world keeps on turnin', there's  a constant rate of change
y = mx + b, I can count to ten, I can't count to b
What the hell is m?
Not sure what quadrant I'm in

They say I got to understand, the equation, table and graph
They say I got to understand, the equation, table and graph
Been' tryin' to find the y-intercept, try as might, ain't found it yet
I might as well go out and play
Cuz I ain't never gonna' use this anyway

Sitting in a corner, staring at lines on a page
Sitting in a corner, staring at lines on a page
Sitting in a corner, staring at lines on a page

Yeah I'm a math teacher. I guess this song reflects my frustration about the disconnect between what kids need to learn  (invention, creation, and "how to learn"), instead of what is usually taught, which is to be rule and procedure followers.

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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

30 Days of Creativity - #12

Paper Crafts

Figure1. Starting an origami triangle
Today was a day to try some paper crafts. I had recently gotten a couple of books from the library—one on paper tessellations and one on origami. It was time to try something from each. It ended up being  a family affair, with my daughters trying their hands as well.

Origami Triangle, Origami Pyramid

Not being in an overly ambitious mood, I made a simple triangle out of a square piece of paper (Figure 1). Big whoop. Realizing that was not very impressive, I proceeded to a three sided pyramid. Big Whoop!

Tessellated Paper

Figure 2. Old and interesting gummed paper
This was actually more interesting, and was tackled by the girls. I had recently obtained some very interesting gummed paper at an estate sale and hadn't come up with a legitimate gummy use for it yet, so we figured, "what the heck." It has an interesting fuzzy texture, but turned out not to be ideal for the purpose (Figure 2). It does not hold a crisp edge, which is necessary to get a large number of precise folds into it. I also tears too easily.

But, somehow they got it to work and produces the attractive curved shape shown in the middle of figure 3. Figure three also shows the origami pyramid.

Figure 3. Triangle, tessellation, and pyramid

The tessellation book recommends mulberry paper, which apparently is very tough and holds a crease well. It also happens to be fairly expensive (although you can get a deal on some on eBay). If we ever decide to get seriously into tessellating paper (not likely) it would be worth the investment. Some of the creations shown in the book are pretty amazing though.


Montroll, John; Origami Polyhedra Design; Wellesley, MA: A K Peters, 2009

Gjerde, Eric; Origmi Tessellations: Awe-inspiring Geometric Designs; Wellesley, MA: A K Peters, 2009

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