Welcome, Members of Parliament

Welcome, Members of Parliament. This blog is designed to act as a student forum for anyone enrolled in my classes at a Dallas-area proprietary college, former students, and/or others who find our conversations interesting. The Parliament will be moderated to ensure civility and relevance. The directions we take, the paths we follow, and the concerns we address are all up to you.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Drawing Lessons

During my daily noodle through the New York Times, I ran across a terrific series in their Opinionator segment. It's called "Line By Line," written by James McMullan, and is "about rediscovering the lost skill and singular pleasure of drawing."

The first installment, "Getting Back to the Phantom Skill" (September 10, 2010) discusses why he embarked on the twelve-part series, and introduces his plan. Scattered throughout the columns are examples from art history that show how skills develop and how artists have used them in the past. The series ended last December with "The Road to the Ten Unknowns," about McMullan's creation of a theater poster.

This is about the best informal art course I've seen since I came across John Ruskin's Elements of Drawing a few years back, and has reminded me to reorder it (an overly enthusiastic student apparently couldn't resist the temptation and pinched my copy). Ruskin was not only an art critic and supporter of both Turner and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, but taught drawing at the school he founded at Oxford in 1841.

The Ashmolean Museum houses his teaching collection, and has a website devoted to The Elements of Drawing. The materials are vast (they include a video drawing lesson based on Ruskin's principles) and of interest to anybody who wants to learn to draw--or to draw better.

The book costs less than $10 in paperback; the only thing cheaper and that good is the McMullan series.

Image notes: The painting is John Ruskin in His Study at Brantwood, by William Collingwood (1881); the self portrait is watercolor touched with bodycolour over pencil, 1861. Both from Wikimedia Commons.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Endangered Alphabets

As many of you already know, I'm a lover of the word. Words, books, alphabets, languages--all aspects of reading and writing as a human cultural/technological activity fall under my owlish gaze.

So when I saw a review of Tim Brookes's Endangered Alphabets project, I was immediately intrigued, and got on board (a really awful pun, if you think about it).

Lovers of type and typography would do well to take a look at this, and contribute if you have any spare cash on hand. I've ordered the book and will share it with everyone when it comes.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

News, Newsreels, and Uncle News

For no particular reason, other than the fact that I'd been going through old photographs yesterday, it occurred to me to do a bit of research on an old family friend, Newsreel Wong.

Wong made a name for himself in the late '30s for a photograph he took (and possibly staged to some extent) of a baby on a Shanghai train platform.

What I didn't know was that he had been in New York City on July 28, 1945, when a disoriented pilot flew his Boeing B-25 Mitchell Bomber into the Empire State Building. Visiting the Hearst Metrotone offices early that morning, Newsreel Wong had been the only one in an office when the phone rang, and he answered it. He ended up commandeering a camera and headed to the site, where he was able not only to shoot the exterior of the building but got in to get film of the offices that were affected. The only other person who managed to gain access was Max Markman, who posed as a doctor, and shot the footage of the event included in this British Pathé newsreel.

A less sensationalized version of the coverage can also be found on YouTube, but I thought this highly edited bit was interesting for its embellishments. Since I'll be teaching the Visual Anthropology course in the Fall, this could provide some talking points about the role of the observer in the interpretation of events, and the impact editing has on the reception of information.

I don't know what happened to Wong's footage, but locating this particular event during an innocent search for a character from my past (he was known to my brother and me as "Uncle News" and lived near us on Yang Ming Shan outside of Taipei) amounts to a bit of the kind of synchronicity we've been talking about in the Myth class. As the tenth anniversary of 9/11 nears, this incident resonates eerily with more recent events.

One of the best blogs about media history I've ever found on the web is Amanda Emily's Feeding the News Beast: A Century of Tales from Behind the Lens. Her post on this event is the source of much of my information, and one on Wong himself explains how he got his nickname. Digital Video and Photography students ought to bookmark her site, because it's an endlessly informative record of visual news coverage.

Note: I'm posting this entry on both the Cabinet and The Owls' Parliament, due to its potential interest for a variety of audiences.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Tidying Up Art

In this week's History of Art & Design II class, I mentioned Ursus Wehrli's book, Tidying Up Art as a commercial example of parody. One of my students (sorry; can't remember who) said that he'd seen a TED talk by Wehrli, so I looked it up, and here it is.

Just in case you have a few minutes to spare, or need a break from studying for midterms.