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This is an SOS

May 23, 2011

“SOS: Save our Supplies” is a video for DOC2DOCK, “a non-profit organization that saves usable medical supplies from being discarded in the U.S. and sends them to hospitals in the developing world.”  The silk screened words on Kraft-faced corrugated boxes is brilliantly economical. The message is terribly moving.


Forget Justin Bieber. Just Get Rebuses!

May 19, 2011

Have to entertain a group of Star Wars Rebusmiddle school kids? Believe it or not, rebuses can wow ‘em!

I was a new art teacher at an affluent private school in Virginia.

Three of us were assigned lunch duty to keep order in the cafeteria and police the area. Well, I remembered how bad it felt as a kid – having some authority try to control me and subdue my spirit, so, now,  to make fun out of work, I started a lunchroom contest among my four tables. Kids with the cleanest table and floor would get a special reward. Tables even challenged each other’s claim of “done!”

Winners got the first five minutes of the prize all to themselves – pages from my collections of easy, middle and hard rebuses.  (Gulp. This could go either way – they’d love it or I’d bomb.)

We worked a few rebuses together and then the winners jumped right in. I was amazed by their delight decoding the picture puzzles. Laughter or groans erupted.  They praised each other’s solutions. Their joy was infectious.  Other tables quietly craned to see, and then were allowed to join the fun. Kids pressed forward. Such enthusiasm!

After several days of this delicious phenomenon – a clean lunch area and throngs of engaged, happy middle schoolers glued to me, word must have reached the assistant principal, for her dour face suddenly appeared wanting to know exactly what sort of (ahem) intriguing materials I was showing the children.  I swear she actually looked disappointed when I showed her!

Predictably, we parted ways at the end of the term, but not before I invented one last rebus for my art classes. I made a clip art version below that you can use next month!

Myrna's Rebus #1

Did you know that rebuses have a rich linguistic history going back possibly thousands of years?

How Cracker Jack Changed My Life

May 10, 2011

August 1950. A magical month for 8 year-olds at the Jersey Shore.

We got 25₵ each day to spend anyway we wished, on comic books (10₵) or candy or games at the arcade! Our best fun adventure, though, was crawling under the boardwalk to find fallen treasure – coins or small gumball machine prizes  – that had slipped out of tiny hands or torn pockets through the cracks into the sand below. It was a joyous time of freedom and discovery for our little barefoot band.

Funny Papers charms  Davy Crockett pins  Nursery Rhyme characters  Record Albums

Some of Myrna's charms collection  All the charms were wonderfully detailed miniatures from our everyday life – plastic and metal fans that actually spun, chrome toasters, one-inch playing cardsKnife charms frrom the 1950s, jewelry, record albums, Loony Tune characters, REAL knives, and Cracker Jack wiggle pictures.

Bulbs charmsGirl's Wristwatch charmRobin Hood Puzzle

In the evenings we traded with friends to complete our own collections, lovingly organizing charms by color, shape, item and uniqueness. At bedtime we returned our treasures to their cigar boxes and secreted them under our pillows.

I remember being endlessly fascinated with the visual trickery of Cracker Jack wiggle pictures.

Cracker Jack - Good    Cracker Jack - "Luck"I’m certain these must have been the first optical illusion playthings that started my journey to becoming an award-winning anamorphic toy inventor.  An omen?  Cracker Jack, thank you!

Wiggle pictures (or flip pictures) are technically known as lenticulars.

Anamorphosis Smarty Pants!

April 21, 2011

Gutsy enough to send  corrections to a dictionary or encyclopedia?

What do you think of people who do? Are they just “smarty pants”? Well, meet Smarty Pants Me!

Decades ago I sent a note to  Webster’s New World Dictionary DICTIONARY LETTERabout their strangely illustrated abacus.  As a young girl – I believe I was about two at the time (wink) – I was delighted that Editor David Guralnik responded so favorably and agreed to correct the image for a future revision of the dictionary.

Yesterday, I had the temerity to tweak Wikipedia’s rather stale article on Anamorphosis – a subject terribly dear to my heart, as you know. Wikipedia - AnamorphosisMorph-O-Scopes Distorted Dinos PacketA date and provenance had been wrong, an important definition had been omitted, and a current practitioner had been overlooked. Point being that books – dictionaries, encyclopedias, bibles, whatever – are written (and can be rewritten) by human beings just like you and me.

So if your own “teacher genes” and/or iconoclast nature impel you to correct “scholarly” resources, we’re in this together!  Smarty Pants! And proud of it!

Decorated Eggs Redux

April 4, 2011

Decorated Eggs Redux

The dictionary defines “redux” as “restored” or “brought back”.  Here are two little stories about Easter eggs redux.

Crushed easter egg restoredEaster Egg Restored
“It” happened the last time my daughter and I decorated eggs.  “It” was completely my fault. I accidentally crushed one of our creations.  Oh my goodness!  Such tears from one little girl!  I felt simply terrible and I promised that I’d fix the egg immediately.

Calling on my experience as an archeological artist on a dig in the Middle East, I set about resurrecting the egg. I found a similarly sized intact shell to use as an armature. Each shard was positioned and glued in place on the armature shell.  It actually turned out to be a shared fun experience!  More than that, I think my daughter learned a small but precious lesson in determination and creative problem solving.

Easter Eggs Brought Back
Nestled under the attic insulation of the last home I Antique Painted Metal Easter Eggsbought was a small trove of antique toys. Among them were three metal Easter eggs from England, carefully hand painted in front (no decals, no stencils) and speckled in back like blue jays’ eggs. As you can see, the details were painted by attentive eyes and delicate hands.  I feel such a profound personal connection with artisans who craft playthings with love.

Also found were these two charming little Easter basket purses. Easter Egg Basket Purses

The Beatles, Marilyn Monroe, Jimi Hendrix and Mozart reconstructed

March 29, 2011

Graphic artist Erika Iris Simmons works in wonderfully unconventional media.

She likes to take things- random thingsMarilyn Monroe by Erika Iris Simmons –  like you would find at a garage sale or in a thrift store – and make them into composite art. “Most of my pieces become portraits of people associated with the item I’ve chosen. I don’t really add any paint or pigments….”

She says she usually just takes things apart and re-arranges them in weird ways, cutting away unnecessary pieces, but she’s being too modest. Look closely at Marilyn – it’s lines formed of clipped film footage.  How sensitively the optical soundtrackartist positions the dark (sound track) edges up in some places for emphasis, and light edges up in others as to curve Marilyn’s jaw line.  Darkest clips for deep shadow, and just the snippet of a contour suggestion of arm and shoulder.

The Beatles by Erika SimmonsCheck out the Beatles (constructed of old audio tape), Mozart, Jimi Hendrix, and more in Erika’s gallery. I’m inspired. I’m a fan!  How about you?

Ooooh, Take Me Out to the Ball Game Fence

March 25, 2011

Optical illusion lovers, there’s a delightful surprise behind Seattle’s Safeco Field ballpark.

If you’re beside the chain link fence, it looks like someone randomly shoved ping pong balls into spaces. But seen from a distance, the fence merges into an ingenious black and white benday mural. Be ready to do a screeching U-turn like I did (or at least a serious double-take!)

Safeco Field Baseball Fence photo by Stones55

Safeco Field fence detail 1 - photo by Myrna Hoffman Safeco Field fence detail 2 - photo by Myrna Hoffman Safeco Field fence detail 3 - Photo by Myrna Hoffman.

I’d love to know who created the mural. Anyone have info on this?

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