Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Children's Drawing...Front-facing Animals

In the first class, we drew side-facing wild cats (Tigers and Lions).  In the second class we talked about dogs compared to cats...the shape of their bodies, their ears, their muzzles, and also how the sky appears to meet the land in the distance.

Now, in the third class, we talked about front-facing animals.  It can be difficult to visualize three-dimensional muzzles pointing toward us and recreate them on a flat sheet of paper.

Sometimes it helps to use visual guides.  In this case we used stuffed toes of socks and three ounce plastic cups.

Next we looked at models of horses and wild cats.  We noted the shape of their nostrils and nose in general, the difference in length of muzzle, the eye placement on the skull and the placement and shape of the ears.

After that, we used the stuffed sock toe skull and a plastic cup muzzle to make them look similar to a lion.  I cut the plastic cups so they would be short like a lion's muzzle.  We drew the nose and mouth on with Sharpie markers.  We used masking bits of masking tape to show the approximate eye position.

Then we repeated the steps to make a model similar to a horse's skull and muzzle.

Our next step was to draw a front-facing horse head, using what we had learned.  The students used those faces as the first step in drawing their pictures for the evening.

Children's Drawing...Dogs

First we looked at photographs and talked about how the sky appears to meet the ground in the distance.  We also noted that often the ground appears to extend "up" behind what is sitting on it.

After comparing the lion and tiger models from last week and the dog models the students chose to draw this week, the children worked on their own. (Last week we drew together as I drew and discussed each part...the eye, the muzzle, etc.)

These are the models the students chose to work from.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Carolina Chickadee (Poecile carolinensis)

This is a photo Tom took from our dining room window a few weeks ago.  Carolina chickadees are around all year with their cheerful "Chickadee dee dee" call.  In the woods, I often hear another of their vocalizations which sounds like a squeaky door.

I thought all chickadees were Black-capped Chickadees when I began birding.  That was before I began talking to area birders.  I soon learned that our area, part of the southern three-quarters of  Ohio, was home to its relative, the Carolina Chickadee.  To further complicate matters, the birders told me that Black-capped Chickadees are sometimes spotted here and that the two species have been known to interbreed.  However, I am fairly safe in assuming I am seeing Carolinas around here.

Here are the range maps of the two species from The Sibley Guide to Birds, copyright 2000 by David Allen Sibley.

Black-capped Chickadee

Carolina Chickadee

What really complicates matters is that the two species look very much alike and their calls , while not the same, are similar.

Wild Ohio Magazine, a magazine published by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources six times a year, has an interesting article about our chickadees in the 2013 Winter Edition.  The magazine is funded by anglers', hunters' and trappers' annual license and stamp fees, and donations from wildlife enthusiasts and readers.  It is filled with interesting articles about a wide variety of outdoor subjects.  

Friday, February 15, 2013

The Eastern Skunk Cabbage is Blooming

Eastern Skunk Cabbage (Symplocarus foetidus)

On Wednesday afternoon, I took a quick hike down to the swamp at Brukner Nature Center because Deb Oexmann, Executive Director, sent us an email a few days earlier telling us this plant was poking up through the ground.  This is a different plant from the American Skunk-cabbage, (Lysichitomn americanus), which is sometimes grown in Europe.

The Eastern Skunk Cabbage is the first wildflower to bloom in this part of Ohio.  Early in the spring its leaves are furled but in the summer the Brukner swamp will be carpeted with its huge open  leaves which remind people of the garden variety of cabbage leaves.  Skunk is part of the name because of the way the leaves smell when they are broken.  I think the smell  is very like that of our native Skunk (Mephitis mephitis), a member of the weasel family.  However, the patch of skunk cabbage in the swamp smells lovely and springlike because the leaves are not broken.

The Eastern Skunk Cabbage has interesting adaptations.  It creates heat within the spathe, the cuplike growth that surrounds the spadix on which the tiny yellow flowers grow.  Scientists theorize that the insects which pollinate the plant are attracted to the warmth within the shelter of the spathe.  The plants create enough heat to melt the snow above them so they can emerge.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Children's Drawings...Lions and Tigers

Last Thursday was the first of five weeks of children's drawing. I told the children I would put their drawings on my blog. The drawings were done using markers. I brought in picture books and copies of two of Henri Rousseau's jungle plants paintings to give the children ideas for the backgrounds.

As I often do, I led them step by step through the process of seeing their animal. Since the class was small, each had a large plastic model to use.

 One helpful hint is to start with the eye. The eye is one detail that encourages the artist to draw a larger picture. Here is the model I worked from.

 Below it is the sketch I drew as I talked.

I am not as concerned about drawing a really good lion from the model as I am about encouraging the children to look hard at their models. As it turned out, I made the muzzle much too long so that was a good opportunity for me to show the children how a drawing can be corrected if it is drawn in markers.

I also see that the legs are too long. However, the legs are fine for explaining how to keep front and back legs the same length by drawing a line of tiny dots across the page. We talked about where the back side legs seemed to be when we looked at the models even though our brains knew they were on the same level as the front legs. This was a good opportunity to discuss how things appear differently when they are farther away.

There wasn't anything I could easily do about drawing the body longer but we talked about the fact that it was too short.

Here are the children's drawings and the models they drew from.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Dixie Swim Club, the Play at La Comedia

Friends and Tom and I saw The Dixie Swim Club at  La Comedia Dinner Theatre Sunday matinee in Springboro, Ohio. Tom and I had seen the play presented by the Mariemont Players at their theater in the Cincinnati area a couple years ago when Gretchen, our daughter-in-law, played the part of Sheree. We thoroughly enjoyed the play then so when we saw that it was being offered at La Comedia we decided to see it again.

The Dixie Swim Club is a newer play.  Its world premiere was at The Playhouse of Wilson at The Edna Boykin Center in Wilson, North Carolina on September 21, 2007.

The action takes place in a summer cottage where the members of a winning college swim club meet every summer. The four scenes range from twenty-two years after graduation to forty-five years after graduation. Each of the five women has a unique personality and life style. What holds them together is the friendship they developed during their college years on the swim team.

If you like laugh out loud funny this is the play for you, but, if you watch for it there is a poignancy to it as well.

In the Mariemont Players's version, the focus was on the poignancy of the five women getting together every summer for a week on the Outer Banks. In the La Comedia version the play was treated a bit more like a farce. Either way, the play is an enjoyable experience. If you live in the Dayton-Cincinnati area, I hope you see the play.  March 3 is the last performance.