World Children’s Day 2022

Every year we like to raise our voice, along with other organizations all over the world, in support of broader awareness of the rights of children. During economic downturns, ecological disasters and military conflicts, children are among the most vulnerable and suffer greatly.

We take this opportunity to introduce you to a group of university researchers who dedicate their efforts to bringing greater protection to children. Their work deserves much respect. The Interdisciplinary Research Laboratory on the Rights of the Child is based at the University of Ottawa. Their essay competition will be of interest to undergraduate and graduate students. They publish a blog in English and in French with inspiring and accessible articles.

Play. By Yvon, c1965. Source: CDIC-CIDE.

November 3rd is WDPD

The World Digital Preservation Day (WDPD) is an awareness campaign that takes place annually on the first Thursday of November. The day marks the significant and growing importance of digital information and celebrates those who have made a commitment to prevent the disappearance of digital documents.

The WDPD is an initiative of the Digital Preservation coalition (DPC), a charitable organization based in York (England), with offices in Glascow (Scottland) and Melbourne (Australia). Their WDPD blog includes articles from all over, including Canada. Of interest is also their categorization of twenty different “digital species” and risk classification for each of them. Among the categories, personal archives are considered critically endangered.

Source: Digital Preservation Coalition, 2 November 2022.

At your fingertips

Did you ever wonder if the way you hold your pen for writing is the most efficient way? This might surprise you, but there are at least four equally efficient ways to hold a pen. This is according to health reviewers Gregory Minnis and Rebecca Joy Stanborough, in a HealthLine article from 2019: A Gripping Tale: How to Hold a Pencil.

In it, dynamic and lateral tripod, and dynamic and lateral quadrupod grips are described as equally practical for writing. Their article includes simple exercises that will help toddlers progress, from a more primitive grip to one just mentioned. It also notably brings up the fact that other holding techniques are suitable for drawing, and that when it comes to drawing, one is well-advised to get creative with grip styles.

If you would like to take an art history tour of hands holding writing devices, have a look at the many examples in Howard Oakley’s Paintings of Writing 1 & 2 on his Eclectic Light Company website.

Proper way to hold a pen. The Popular Educator, Vol. 1., 1888. By John Cassell. Source: Wikimedia, 9 October 2022.

Message from a bottle

After last week’s blurb about quills, it is hard to resist sharing a few words about vintage ink bottles. Small bottles of ink have been on the market for over two hundred years, and were for the most part made from blown or molded glass, sometimes from metal, or a combination of both. People and museums collect the early ones, and they are fairly easy to find on reselling platforms.

Jane Eastman of Winchester, England is a self-made connoisseur, and demonstrates great appreciation for them. She recklessly seeks and pulls them out of riverbeds, among other treasures. See several beautiful photographs of them, with extra historical background, in her Beach Combing magazine article “My indelible love for ink bottles.” The magazine’s channel has a video of her in action and it is quite an excursion.

As far as museums go, the Charles Dickens Museum has a bottle used by the famous author. Another bottle with a clever design is among the many others at the Corning Museum of Glass, in New York State.

Ink bottle, 1825-1875, AN 2013.4.3. Source: Corning Museum of Glass, 27 August 2022.

If it be your quill

A craft activity is a great way to convey a history lesson. A history lesson should be an opportunity to contemplate what has been long gone, as well as parts of the past that still persists in our time.

If you ever consider making a quill with your child, we suggest that you begin with the word processor in your computer. Have a close look at the many fonts available, and see if you and your child can differentiate the old looking ones from the newer ones. You will be quick to find Old English, Palatino, New Roman, Garamond, and the likes. They are the ones with stylish serifs.

Then, ask the child to gather as many different handwriting devices as possible at home. You might have ballpoint pens, felt pens, pencils, crayons, chalks. You might even have a metal quill. Ask the child to write the alphabet with each and compare the results. If you have one, use a magnifier to have a closer look. Make sure to observe the variations in the thickness of lines, as well as the presence or absence of serifs.

At this point, proceed with your quill making, to find out whether a quill will make writing in old style fonts easier. A good guide to use is one posted by the Rhode Island School of Design, aka RISD Museum on Instructible. You might also like the very detailed one by Liralen Li on this old Flick page, or one of the many videos online.

Whichever way you go about it, there are a few important things to keep in mind. First, hygiene. If you take feathers directly from a farm, make sure to clean, sanitize and dry it thoroughly before you handle them with bare hands or before cutting carefully. Second, safety. For best results, the carving requires a short, sharp blade that gives maximum control. Use more than one feather, because your first attempt might fail, or you might want to try different carvings. Once your quill is ready, get some ink and write for fun, your own secret recipe for a magic potion. Try different kinds of paper, and hang on to the one that best suits your quill.

In the end, take the time with your child to browse books or the web, and see if you can find old style fonts. One fantastic recent book about fonts is The Eternal Letter (MIT Press, 2015) edited by Paul Shaw.

Trimmed and sharpened quill. Photo: RISD Museum. Source: Instructables.com, 19 August 2022.

Pupils on holidays

Optical illusions are so much fun. When there is a new one in town, it is time for an optical excursion. Give your dilating and contracting pupils a well deserved vacation right where you are.

Recently, three researchers have published their article The eye pupil adjusts to illusory expanding holes, in which they uncovered the new optical illusion pictured below. Bruno Laeng and Shoaib Nabil, both from the department of psychology at the University of Oslo, and Akiyoshi Kitaoka, from the same at Ritsumeikan University (Japan), “found that participants varied considerably in their perceptions of subjective expansion.” Among many other interesting observations, their study shows that pupils tend to react more to black “holes” than colored ones, in the test images. What about that? The dark side always has such an appeal it seems.

What is your favorite optical illusion? Did you know that there is a Museum of Illusions in Toronto, and in Paris and Lyon as well? Book lovers, get The new book of optical illusions, by Georg Ruschemeyer at Firefly Books.

The « expanding hole» by Dr Akiyoshi Kitaoka, Ritsumeikan University.
PHOTO: RITSUMEIKAN UNIVERSITY /AKIYOSHI KITAOKA. Source: Frontiers.org, 22 July 2022.

No small matter

Children’s drawings can be a lot of fun and will, more often than not, bring a smile to the adult who encounters them. There is however one thing that experts seem to agree on, and it is that these images are not to be taken lightly, most of all when it comes to sharing with a child. As children reveal themselves candidly, it is everyone’s responsibility to welcome self-expression in a safe and supportive environment.

We share this video presentation recorded in October 2020, and produced by the Discovery Museum (Boston), in which Dr. Ellen Winner, Professor of Psychology at Boston College and Senior Research Associate at Project Zero, Harvard Graduate School of Education, shares her findings on the subject.

The Psychology of Artistic Behavior in Children. By Discovery Museum. Source: Youtube, 2022.

TEDx Talks also has a few short conferences on children’s drawings. This lively one, The Power of Children’s Art, by Dr Martha Skogen, designer, researcher, with a Phd is in Visual Communication from NTNU, has also a lot to show and to think about.

Pet portraits

For many people with domestic animals at home, having an artful portrait of them made and proudly hung on the wall, is just one more fun thing to do with their pets. Others might instead wonder “Pet portraits, what in the world is going on?”

No matter which of those tribes you belong to, and whatever the size of your household, with or without a pet, take a moment to consider the impact domestic animals may have or have had in your life. It is true that nowadays, pet “parenting” has been largely promoted by commercial interests by what has become a huge business. At the same time, it is also true that genuine environmental concerns have impacted our way to relate to the entire animal kingdom, including species living under our roofs. As our way to relate to the natural world evolves, so does the perception of ourselves and how we relate to one another.

If you are interested in issues of lifestyle, domestic life, or parenting, we found a research paper filled with fascinating observations and conclusions about the emotional attachment with pets during childhood: “Spotlight on the psychological basis of childhood pet attachment and its implications“. In this research, published in Psychology research and behavior management (vol. 12 469-479. 28 Jun. 2019), the five authors clearly examine the notion of emotional attachment. While they confirm the benefits pets can bring to children and the whole family, in terms of teaching moments and mutual care experiences, the authors provide key insights about important factors such as the size of the family and the timing of integrating pets to the family dynamic. They do not fail to remind us that emotional attachment can also come with potentially problematic fear of loss.

On a lighter note, there is a plethora of artists available for pet portraiture. Three of them have caught our attention for you: Zann Hemphill of PawsbyZann, Astrid Colton of PetPortraitsCanada, and Lisa Howarth of TheLonelyPixel. Google Arts and Culture also offer a mobile application to make your how digital pet art. Furry, feathery, or scaly… grab your pencils and brushes and have fun.

animal, cat, pencil, paper, 2020s
Pete the cat. Pencil on paper. By Sahana, 2020. Source: CDIC-CIDE.

See you at Imagine in the Park Festival – June 4th

For two years, we have longed for the moment when public health authorities would allow large gatherings and community events. The time has come and we will be so glad to meet you at the popular Gage Park, in Hamilton (Canada), on June 4th. We are proud to call Imagine in the Park our Collection Partner. We are grateful for their hospitality.

Come join the fun and visit us in person at our information table. Oh, and bring some art to contribute to the Collection!

A special thanks to BannerBuzz, for their kind support for the occasion.

Beautiful pysanka

We pay tribute to an Ukrainian folk tradition that goes back thousands of years: the pysanka. Join us in encouraging everyone to learn about the beautifully dyed eggs, with bright geometric shapes, strong contrasts, fine motifs and familiar images.

Your homemade pysanka can be an Easter egg, but it does not have to. The tradition predates the arrival of Christianity in Ukraine. Floral, animal, agricultural and celestial imagery are all part of the long tradition. The pysanky are sometimes free of any figurative representation and simply made of symmetrical, repetitive lines and shapes. As long as you keep strong contrasts and symmetry in mind, your pysanka will shine. According to the best documented website, pysanky.info, the symbolism of the imagery varied greatly throughout the ages. So, the joy it brings is more important than matching any predetermined meanings. Feel free to personalize your pysanka and to include elements inspired by your immediate surroundings and experience. After all, bee wax and eggs predate humanity.

The world’s largest pysanka is nearly 40 meters high and located in Alberta, Canada. We found that out from the Parliament of Canada’s Library, where gorgeous wooden pysanky of great symbolic significance are preserved.

We have seen crafty pysanky made with regular crayons and food coloring found at home. The kistka is the special tool for applying hot wax between dips in liquid dye. For a list of supplies, see this how-to article on MyModernMet. It shows where to find an electrical kistka, and there is also a way to make your own. Bunny eggs are optional.

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