It may have taken hundreds of millions of years, but the blob is finally reaching its long overdue fame, at the highest level. A blob has joined the International Space Station crew last month. Its reaction to a micro-gravity environment is under scientific scrutiny. Find out about the educational scope of the experiment in this short cnet.com article by Leslie Katz.
Many of us who love to draw, have of course had more than one encounter with the blob. The fun colorful two-dimensional one, that is. While you keep a curious eye on the ISS experiment with the yellow creature, revisit the many drawing resources about blob art on the web. Teachers will appreciate this Blob-Art Challenge presented by MarieLee Singoorie Trempe, on Pinnguaq. If you are more the hyperrealist type, make sure to see this Stephanie Villiotis’ article “How to draw a realistic blob of paint..” on Make A Mark Studios. We will definitely add some of these instructional video to our playlists. Marvel Comics’ Blob must be so proud!
Like thousands of people around the world, we discovered and followed their creative journey, when the first global lockdown hit home. Macaire’s chalk art on the family driveway brought solace to so many. Camden, her younger brother and muse made sure we identified to each lively scene of imaginary travel. The siblings had initially planned 100 “frescos”, but the series kept growing. Last spring they published not one, but two books. The second book is titled Cam and Hopper travel the world. It includes fewer images than the first, but they are more polished. That is because Macaire sort of brought the driveway indoor in order to spend more time on each drawing. The process still ended with the photo session outdoor. Macaire also added poetry to her toolbox and a haiku poem matches each image.
Macaire and Camden took some time off their busy back-to-school schedule, and told us a bit about an important drawing on paper. Macaire made it when she was Camden’s age. It portrays both of them side by side under a swirly rainbow. It was a family favorite, got framed and preserved to this day. Last year, it inspired an enlarged chalk version, became the 101st celebratory work and made it in the first book. Two words for these two: BRAVO and THANKS.
Sometimes, inspiration just keeps quiet. You are in front of a blank sheet of paper and have no idea what to draw. You can always scribble and see what comes out. Or you can leave it alone and make a sharp turn. Take a pencil sharpener and just sharpen your pencils to the very last. Let a pencil sharpener save the day.
Of all the groovy collections out there, pencil sharpener collections will not fail to make you smile, even if all the muses of inspiration have abandoned you. We picked two of special interest for you to enjoy.
Sharpenking is a collectible commercial venture based in Wassenaar, Netherlands. They hold hundreds of items, buy and resell, as well as maintain a network of fellow collectors. Their Spanish Knights series display some mighty blades. The other collection does not have its own website that we know of. It shows up online as a road-side attraction by the regional tourism office, and also in many videos made by its visitors (like this one by Hoosier Boo). The Paul A. Johnson Pencil Sharpener Museum is a tiny cabin at the foot of the Appalachians in Logan, Ohio. Family and friends of the late Rev. Johnson maintain this display of nearly 3,500 items that he collected over twenty years.
The Great Divide may be a song, it may also be a long trail in the Canadian Rockies, but surely the urban living vs country living divide is just as great. The cultural disparity between the two, not only precedes industrialization, in the time of de la Fontaine, it is probably as old as cities themselves, within long lost civilizations. A few enduring, current and developing events make it worthwhile asking ourselves what it will be like for children, growing up in cities or in the country side, during this century.
Worldwide urbanization has been an ongoing trend for generations and has also been accelerating, along with mass production and population growth. “By 2050, with the urban population more than doubling its current size, nearly 7 of 10 people in the world will live in cities” according to the World Bank, in 2020. The emergence of slogans like “Farmers feed cities” or “Farm to table, buy local” or “Stop urban sprawl” indicates that the relationship between city and country dwellers is evolving. We should probably add suburbanites to the mix, since they have had such an impact on the expansion of car culture and the undermining of urban cores as inhabitable spaces.
Two current events may signal that we can now contemplate with fresh eyes, the aforementioned irreversible trend. One is the scare COVID-19 gave to city dwellers, imposing on many to work remotely from home. It remains to be seen what percentage will continue to work from home, but some have already chosen to adopt this new lifestyle, and even left the city for less densely populated areas. This, coupled with the limited access to cities by country dwellers, exacerbates another issue that has long been denounced by rural citizens: lagging internet connectivity and poor bandwidth access. Small town folks have long decried the inequitable connectivity that they endured for too long. It is predictable that ex-urbanites will not accept losing it, no matter how far from the city they move, and work. As recently as last April, the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA) said that “since the pandemic started, rural speeds have been between one-fifth and one-tenth urban speeds (…) rural download speeds hovered around 5.5 Mbps, compared to roughly 50 Mbps in urban Canada.” Canadians already pay more for their communication service, than consumers in similar countries.
Sign of the time maybe, a group of young Canadian women have taken upon themselves to help students coming from remote areas to have better access to urban institutions, without losing their roots and identities. Meet the Foundation for Rural Youth Empowerment (FRYE). It is not uncommon to see rural youth abandon their studies and return home from a large centre. This brave group takes upon itself to breakdown barriers this population face. A mirror group for city youth who are foreign to the rural experience, would be a good idea. Just saying.
We should probably expect a new urban-suburb-country dynamic, with renewed cultural experiences, from now on. It looks like while the cities adapt in post-pandemic, so will everyone else outside the cities. This can prove to be quite interesting to watch, as far as intergenerational harmony or conflicts go. Soon, the urbanite’s weekend escapade from the city to cottage country, and the villager’s photo-safari in the city, might all tell a different story. It is even possible that these two worlds merge into one, at last.
Counteracting prejudices and discrimination is a serious and urgent matter that should concern each and everyone of us. But we are not yet out of this dreadful global pandemic, and many of us feel saturated with “serious and urgent.” So be it. There are ways to challenge prejudices and discrimination in colorful and playful ways. The Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) came up with a great educational tool, that will delight anyone who is fond of animated colors on the screen. Titled The Bias Inside Us, this project will tour the USA until at least 2023. It addresses crucial issues for our times, in a most engaging and accessible way. Enjoy, and tell us what you think with a drawing.
One of the motivations for establishing our Collection, was to contribute engaging curatorial practices to conversations about cultural development. We hope that through our efforts, children have a greater say in where we are heading collectively, through their own cultural contributions. This blog entry is about culture and the underlying question “What do you make of children’s culture or culture itself for that matter?”
The current pandemic, and subordinate recession, already have profound psychological effects and will impact our cultural environment for years, maybe generations to come. The global crisis is challenging the nations’ ability to cooperate, and at the same time is triggering all sorts of antisocial impulses, while exposing many inequalities and systemic shortcomings.
During the past twenty five year or so, the notion of a culture specific to children has made its way in fields such as social psychology and anthropology. It is debatable whether the concept of “culture” should be attributed to children socializing and building common knowledge together. Even if we admit that such a culture is a fact of life, we can argue at length how autonomous from the surrounding multigenerational culture it really is. Still, how today’s children see themselves and the society in which they grow up during these circumstances, is something all of us should pay close attention to.
Before we can visit far away relatives again, re-orient our professional life, retire earlier than initially planed, or go on a leisure trip, let’s take a moment to think about what culture means to us. Assess for yourself how inclusive of children your culture is and could become. Explore in depth what professor Lawrence A. Hirschfeld says on the subject, in his stimulating article The Rutherford Atom of Culture (Journal of Cognition and Culture, 2018, p.231-261) We find him quite apropos when he says that “cultural life may demand that we hone new psychological tools to account for a kind of existence that is not individual difference writ large but literally foreign to the psychological toolbox.” Professor Hirschfeld’s articles are available online at ResearchGate, as well as OpenEditions Journals. He teaches at the Departments of Psychology and Anthropology, New School of Social Research (New York City).
The long title of this post is: Great news from Macaire’s worldly driveway. Indeed Macaire Everett and her muse brother Camden make the news again this Spring 2021, by publishing an amazing book, filled with more than 120 full page photos of chalk drawings by Macaire.
The book The world from our driveway (on Amazon) depicts the journey of two siblings facing the imperative remote learning, imposed by the pandemic. With its behind the scene section, the book shows how what started as a home remedy against boredom, turned into a family and community effort for promoting resilience and bringing smiles and joy around the world.
Macaire had largely shared her work digitally on social media. One of our earlier posts last Summer linked to her busy Instagram. It is such a relief that Macaire’s work, though ephemeral by design, can be preserved on paper. Maybe the driveway itself will some day receive a heritage site designation from UNESCO. And we are only half kidding, because we heard that museums around the world are racing to document life during this pandemic.
The compositions are so inspired and engaging, that picking a favorite is mission impossible. With Mothers’ Day coming up, see Macaire’s touching birthday drawing to her mother. It will melt your heart. For us at the Collection, if we had to pick one, it would the one titled We are all in this together. Not only is it a propos because of the pandemic, it is also one for which Macaire digged into her own personal archives, and in which she staged herself with her muse. In this image more than in all the other ones, personal and universal appeals come together and come full circle.
Drawings are known to be at the heart of our Collection. However, it is not limited to them and our blog has also touched upon other formats in the past. For instance, see our recent entries about collages and writings, such as notebooks and diaries. One format that we had yet to touch upon is photography by children.
Normal, we may say, because if access to paper and crayons is not universal, access to cameras by children is more than marginal, to say the least. Certainly, allowing children to handle expensive, fragile equipment comes with a stress most parents do not want to endure. Still, there are ways to do it and choosing the right time to make a child responsible for a camera, is the first step. Giving a purpose and an end goal, is also I way to engage the child. Take for example, combining the photographic activity with a drawing class, or a holiday documentary project. Even more engaging is making sure that parents and the rest of the family take part in the project and that the images are shared and discussed with family members. Taking photos can be a short easy-come easy-go activity that bores just as quickly. For the child to maintain and develop an interest in it, a broader purpose should be understood and shared. It can be a great path to deeper visual literacy for the child and improve observation skills, critical thinking and drawing abilities.
A nonprofit organization took it even further, by setting the stage for photography by children as a team effort, community-based program for personal growth, and a channel for social change. Meet 100 Cameras. Based in New York City, it operates globally to provide young people with cameras, so they can tell their own stories visually. Images are then sold online to fund local community-driven initiatives. Programs for educators are also available. We do not know yet whether the photographer gets to keep the original digital file, nor if an image only gets printed after a purchase is made, or if the photographers get their own prints. If you find out, make sure to let us know.
The connection between children’s drawings and education, art education or developmental psychology may appear to be a given. At the Collection, we like to argue that tighter connections to anthropology, history and ethnography would benefit the advancement of knowledge.
The interest in children’s drawings occasionally emerge from unexpected places. Alina Gabriela Tamas, who teaches in a kindergarten, made a surprising and stimulating connection between children’s drawings and the study of geography. Published in the Romanian Review of Geographical Education (Vol. III no. Feb. 2014), her article presents an analysis of 42 drawings of trees, by 21 pre-school children aged 4 to 7. It is concise and illustrated with all the related reproductions. Who would have thought that we should throw geography in the mix too?
In a large urban setting on Earth, 2060. Sophia, 10, is watching her grand father clean up and sort things from a dusty closet. “Papi, what’s this?” she asks. “This my dear, is a crayon” he answers absentminded. She continues, “And that?” He realizes that he must pay attention. “Oh that is a sheet of paper with a drawing” and he sees that she waits to know more, but he is not sure if he could find a blank sheet of paper so that he could demonstrate further.
Is it too far-fetched to muse that in 30 years from now, we could find a ten year old child who will have never seen a pen and paper combo ? It is not hard to imagine if you consider the increasingly paperless world many of us live in, be it at work or at home. Computers and mobile devices proliferate and allow us to produce, authenticate, share and store documents without any paper or ink. Even office and home printer sales are decreasing steadily. We now make each single printing device print less than before. That is if we bother to own one at all.
Is there still “trash paper” in the homes, on which children can draw? Do blank sheets of paper now only come from the school? In their play, children often mimic what they see adults do. If grown ups at home or at school no longer use pencils and paper, what will inspire kids to do so?
In 2015, the Washington Post published an article by Michal S. Rosenwald. It describes how the paper industry was developing a campaign and public relations in order to keep the “brand” paper relevant against the odds, and to protect production levels or at least slow down its decline. The article explains how harmful digital culture has been to this product, and how the industry intends to fight back, namely by incrasing paper visibility online, of all places. Now a few years, plus a year of pandemic down the road, and the decline of print and writing paper accelerates. At least that’s what we see in industry reports such as one at Fisher International. As for office and home printers, all bets are off. In the past year, journalist Roberto Torres wondered in CIO DiveWill the pandemic spell the end of the printer? Shortly before that “predictionists” Duncan Stewart and Nobuo Okubo foresaw a rosy future for home printers in the new work from home era: Printer Charming: COVID-19 TMT Predictions. As our relation to the pen and paper combo changes, so it does for children. Print “single sided” and let them draw, for art Sophia sake.