Day sixty-one

The end of 30 Days of Art!


I’m happy and sad for my month of art to be over.  I’ve seen and taken part in a lot of interesting things I probably wouldn’t have found the time to do if I wasn’t doing this experiment.  I’ve discovered some new areas of interest that I’d like to pursue – like charcoal drawing, knitting, and stop motion animation.  I’ve participated in some fascinating political art events because my art month happened to fall in the lead up to the Canadian federal election.  I was even asked to write a blog post about my experiences writing about art during the time of election for the Department of Culture (read it here). Thank you to everyone who took the time to teach me a skill, or join me on an art expedition, or learn alongside me.

Recap of the month

What I covered during art month and links to the posts about the topic: colouringoil pastelsstill life charcoal drawing,knittingart therapypoetry, double bassexperimental film artclay modeling and wheel,  guitarTim Burton exhibitsewing,art and politicsjewellery makingspontaneous artphotographytheatreart on a budgettheatre-in-developmentconcert,salsadesignreligious artthe Wrecking Ballstop motion animationwrought iron, flash mob.

What did I learn?

I’ve been stressed about finding time to do everything I wanted to, cover every topic of art I could, really enjoy myself, and still find time to blog about it.  Writing about art is so hard because it is more about the experience than the description of it.  I was warned by a friend that 30 Days of Art would be one of the hardest months to do.  I didn’t believe it, as I love art, but it is so true.  I was talking to this friend the other day, and after an “I told you so” from him, we talked about all the positives I got out of it.  This month has opened my creative brain to help me get through the next ten months.  It put me out of my comfort zone on numerous occasions, and forced me to reveal my lack of skill in certain areas, but also my willingness to try them nonetheless.  I am more confident that I can make it through this year having made it through this month.

Where I will go from here with Art?

My friend recently lent me The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, a best-selling book on how to discover and recover your creative self.  It’s a twelve-week course that allows you to open up to your own creativity.  I’ve only started reading it, and although it is pretty ‘hippy-skippy’ (as my friend puts it), I think a lot of the exercises are really useful and connected to some of the things I learned while doing 30 Days of Art.  I will try to use some of the exercises to keep my creative self open.  I’m also still working on the art for my walls, including some mixed media projects, and practicing guitar.

Art things I didn’t get a chance to do, but would like to try: Hot Docs film festival (documentary film festival on now, see website for details), cake decorating (see Couture Cupcake Boutique for some beautiful cake designs), choreographing a dance (Kendra Hughes of Kinetic Elements graciously offered to help me with this, but we could never get our schedules to match), floral design (beautiful floral arrangements at Mocha Rose – I wish I had a green thumb!), finger painting (I’m going to do this one day, just for fun), life drawing class (I’ve moved this to Out of My Comfort Zone month), video game design (click here for Roger Ebert against the idea that video games are art, and here for the TED Talk with Kellee Santiago arguing that it is), and I’m sure there are many other things that I missed.

Tomorrow starts 31 Days, 31 Dates. Ahhhhhh!

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Day sixty

International Dance Day

After many rehearsals, it was finally the day of the flash mob!  At Metro Hall Square (just east of King and John) today at 12:10pm, we surprised everyone by bursting in to dance!  Organized by the National Ballet School as a tribute to International Dance Day, about 130 dancers took over Metro Hall Square.  I wanted see the looks on everyones face when we started to dance, but I was paying so much attention to getting to where I needed to be (accidentally bumping into two different dancers in the process – oops) and getting the steps right, I didn’t have time to look around me!  Luckily the weather cooperated for us and although a little chilly, the sun was out – we were worried it would be raining and no one would see us.  The official video of the event is being edited and will be put up on You Tube on Sunday.  They have asked that we don’t publish any video until the official one is released, so in respect to the choreographer Matjash Mrozewski and NBS, I will wait to post the footage of my experience until Monday.  But here’s a little sneak peek of me before the dance, filmed by the very kind Nico Szidiropulosz:

Day fifty-nine

Wrought iron

The flower hook Casey made, with a little help from me!

I’m more than excited to say that I helped make that beautiful hook yesterday!  Casey Deane invited me to spend the day seeing how he works with wrought iron at  the Toronto Blacksmith Shop Ltd.  It was so much fun!  And Casey is a fountain of knowledge, so I spent the afternoon listening to all his tidbits of information on the blacksmith trade and watching him create art out of iron poles.

The process of making the rose and hook began with the iron poles in the forge (a giant oven used to heat the metal so it is malleable).  Rotating between texturing (with the ball end of a ball-peen hammer) and cutting the petals for the rose and bending the hook (by hitting the pole on an anvil with a hammer and cooling certain areas in a drum full of cold water called a  quenching bucket), the process takes patience and skill.  The time between when the iron is taken out of the forge, until it stops being hot enough to be able to work with is called a “heat” (hence the saying “in the heat of the moment” and “strike while the iron’s hot”).  Traditional blacksmiths pride themselves on how much they can get accomplished during one heat.  It was interesting to see how the metal sheds its coating during each heat, like layers of skin flaking off.

Then the flower was created by bending the iron into a spiral and welding on the petals.  A blowtorch and vice were used to mold the petals into shape and to twist the hook section into the curve (this is the part I helped with!!!!).  The bracket was made by drilling the holes, countersinking them, and welding it into place.  Finally the whole thing was sanded, polished and coated with a clear coat to keep it from rusting.  It all took about two and a half hours to make and I love it!

Casey started learning the trade after discovering that he couldn’t find certain custom parts for his motorcycle.  After an apprenticeship with some very accomplished (and old school) blacksmiths and a few years experience, Casey opened the Toronto Blacksmith Shop to create custom furniture and home decor.  Check out some photos of Casey’s amazing pieces on the facebook page here or on torontoblacksmithshop.com.  Everything is beautiful and he does custom work, so if you need a unique, hand-made piece for your home, then look him up!

Here are some photos of my experience and some of Casey’s work:

The forge

Casey making the rose petals with a safety message on the wall in the background

Using the blow torch

Wine rack by Casey Deane

Iron bird by Casey Deane

Lamp by Casey Deane

Tonight I had the dress rehearsal for the International Dance Day flash mob!  The flash mob will take place tomorrow at 12:10pm in Toronto.  If anyone’s interested in coming out to see, send me a message and I’ll let you know where it is (as long as you pretend you don’t know it’s going to happen!).

Dress rehearsal for the flash mob. 12:10 tomorrow. If you know where this is, come see the dance on your lunch!

Day fifty-eight

Stop Motion Animation


Stop motion (also known as stop action) is an animation technique to make a physically manipulated object appear to move on its own. The object is moved in small increments between individually photographed frames, creating the illusion of movement when the series of frames is played as a continuous sequence. (wikipedia)

That was so much fun and I love my little video!  Although way harder than I thought it would be.  There are so many things to consider when making a stop motion animation: subject, story, props, lighting, set, camera angle, computer program.  Once that is all decided, then each movement needs to be made and a photo is snapped.  I took two photos for each movement so it was a bit easier and flowed a little better.  To get a realistic human look, traditionally 24 frames per second are used.  However, to get the choppier, more playful look that happens in my video, we made the video at 15 frames per second.  In this eight second animation, there were 134 photos.  Then the photos were uploaded on to my friend’s computer, made into an animation on iStopMotion, then added the title, credits and sound on iMovie.

It was an exercise in patience to move the figures only slightly, take a photo, then move them slightly again, and take another photo.  I can’t imagine the work that went into Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993), or King Kong (1933)!

Here’s a fun clip I found on Smashing Magazine “50 Incredible Stop Motion Videos” (a fun time-waster if you want to check out some other cool stop motion videos):

And my friends Mere and Dan’s claymation video they made last year (they were obviously mad at the raccoon in their yard!):

Day fifty-seven

The Wrecking Ball

Four actors walk onstage – one with a Quebecois accent, one with a white napkin taped below his nose as a moustache, one brown-haired guy in jeans, and finally one with his hair slicked to the side.  Yes, Canada’s four major party leaders are in the room and they are in therapy together.  “Michael, I’d like you to use the ‘when you do that, I feel…’ when you are speaking to Stephen,” says Gilles, the moderator of the therapy session.  A hilarious skit making fun of all of the party leaders opens the Wrecking Ball 2011.

Next comes a spoof of Laureen Harper to talk about her life as the “queen of housewives, at home baking cookies for the kids.”  Then a very moving, serious piece on lack of free speech in an unnamed country where women are raped, then threatened if they speak of it to anyone, especially the foreign press.  Two writers-in-exile read letters they have written to Canada reminding us not to take our democracy for granted.  Then a final very silly scene between Stephen Harper and his stylist that ends in Harper, covered in clown makeup, singing Tomorrow from Annie while walking up and down the aisle.

Twitter feed on the screen at the Wrecking Ball 2011

The scenes above were separated with quotes read by the organizers about democracy, information about websites involving the arts and politics, and referring back to the live tweeting happening and what they can find on Twitter about a possible Yoko Ono sighting at the Ottawa Wrecking Ball.

This is the twelfth Wrecking Ball since 2004 – all in response to a political need.  The set-up: a group of writers are given one week to write a 10-minute play and one week to rehearse, in response to certain themes or questions.  For Wrecking Ball 12 – the second ever national wrecking ball, happening in Victoria, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal at the same time – the playwrights were given two questions: What is leadership? And what is democracy?  This year Marcus Youssef, Vancouver playwright, had his piece performed in every city (the leaders in therapy), with different local writers filling the rest of the evening.  The Toronto writers were: Sean Dixon, Ava Homa, Ayub Nuri, Colleen Wagner, and Jean Yoon.

In this year’s Wrecking Ball live tweeting was introduced in order to connect nationally, all under the hastag #wreckingball2011.  You can check out what was said by searching #wreckingball2011 and #wb2011 on twitter.com.  My favourite tweet of the night, though, was by praxistheatre: “Apparently Montreal #WreckingBall2011 used puppets for “In Treatment”. Puppets! In gov’t? Never. #WB2011”