This Will Make Your Head Spin

Take special note of the rotating hands, only one hand goes through the cutouts. The second hand is there to confuse you.

The Movie Will Be Even Better

Wow! I just finished reading a lovely story based in Venice, Italy.The author Rhys Bowen held me spell bound throughout. Her story titled, The Venice Sketchbook spans several generations of family in England and Italy and begins just before World War Two. Lately I have been enamored by tales that involve the Big One. Ms Bowen’s characters are real and believable. The heroine is someone I wouldn’t mind dating myself. The theme of using artists, art, and Venice together kept my interest in this page turner. The plot of young love between a middle class English girl and a very rich and titled Italian boy stretches into middle age love. Life in Venice seemingly was untouched by war, that is until the Germans invaded Poland, France, Belgium, and began bombing England. That is when the real story begins, life suddenly became different.

I am an amateur artist and I studied art appreciation in my early college years. I still have a bent for the medium and more than ever frequent showings, and galleries and appreciate good artistic ability. To me this plot to put the central character into an art school in Venice filled a void in my mind.

I also love knowing about Italy. Another favorite story of mine is Under the Tuscan Sun by author Frances Mayes. The bucolic scenes painted of the in Tuscan countryside make me want to live there or at least visit. When combined with my recollections of twenty-four hours in Italy back in the nineties these stories are fueling my desire to travel and roam the countryside on a bicycle, or at least a Maserati, Ferrari, or Fiat.

The Venice Sketchbook is filled with complex plots told using a time traveler theme. An modern day English niece inherits her great aunt’s estate, and begins a quest to learn of her aunt’s mysterious past as a covert intelligence agent in WWII while trapped in Venice. Intertwined in both the past and present stories are love interests keeping the aunt’s and her niece’s lives interesting and alive.

I give this story five stars. * * * * *

I can’t wait to see the movie version.

Immersed in Van Gogh

Today, I spent with my youngest grand daughter Jenna. A few months ago we agreed to take a day to visit the Art Institute to see the Van Gogh exhibit. We had missed the Monet show because of the COVID shutdown, and vowed to see the next one. In my mind we would go to the famous Chicago Art Institute, find the room with the Van Gogh exhibit, ogle the paintings for a while and come home. Life treated me to a giant surprise when I visited the A.I website without finding the show. Instead my trusty computer led to something called “Immersive Van Gogh.” I popped the $131.98 for two Premium tickets and printed them out. I had no clue as what was meant by Immersive except that it is something like jumping into a pool and are covered with water. That is exactly what it was. We were completely covered head to toe in Van Gogh artwork.

The Germania Building competed in 1889 is a Chicago landmark located at the south edge of Lincoln Park. I never knew it existed, nor have I ever want to know it existed. Evidently it was built by German immigrants as a place to hang out. There were so many of them they could afford to pay for this elaborate building. Based on the entry fee charged of people like me going there to visit Immersive Van Gogh, I’d say the owner recovered his cost for the building.

The most adventurous part of our trip to the Germania was finding parking. That part of town consists of streets that never see the sun because they are in the shadow of high rise apartment and condo buildings. Street parking is almost non-existent but there are cars parked all along the streets. We finally found an obscure hotel at 1325 North Astor Street with parking on the third loop around the neighborhood. It was a beautiful morning to take a walk.

We arrived at the entrance to the Germania, now renamed the Lighthouse ArtSpace, at 10:00 a.m. sharp. It took another ten minutes to negotiate the lobby, gift shop and the ticket taker to get into the immersion. The show was in progress. The grand ballroom of the Germania was painted solid white, walls, floor, ceiling. Somewhere hidden in the woodwork there were a myriad of projectors pointed such that we sat in a 360 degree orabal screen. As far as sitting went, there was seating for about a couple dozen people in a room that held several hundred. At the ticket desk we were handed a cushion which came with the premium ticket. We sat of the floor atop the cushion. Aside from hearing my joints crackle when getting into a yoga position the pictures were accompanied by a musical score.

I have to admit that even though I was disappointed that I didn’t get to see Van Gogh’s original works, but what I saw was something magical. His works in their full glory magnified beyond a wild imagination were also animated. The seeds cores for the Sun Flowers were rotating spirally, as were the stars in Starry Night. The gulls in a shore scene were flapping their wings as they flew out over the water. The reflection of shore lights on the bay next to a village twinkled as did the stars above. In the few of his works that I have seen I never realized the amount of detail that he put into the humans that worked the fields, but magnified to several times life size it was clear that the man had a talent for human form.

I thought to myself that we were seeing not just the works of a great Dutch Impressionist but of a great digitalizer. The work that went into creating the animation, the fades in and out, the transitions from one painting to the next all took a huge amount of creative energy as well as technical ability. We were truly immersed, and then suddenly the credits appeared and the showing was over. I looked at my watch it was ten-thirty. We got up from the floor, waited until a seat was free and sat to we watch the whole thing again. The engineer in me calculated that the $0.0366 per second that we were entertained was worth it.

The walk back to our car was taken at a leisurely stroll but seemed to be much shorter than the hurried one at the beginning. We people watched the residents walking their dogs, running, bicycling, carrying plastic shopping bags with food purchased from God knows where, and some just sitting on a stoop enjoying the morning sun.

I took a scenic way to the interstate and gave Jenna a quick tour of the Gold Coast neighborhood, Rush Street, the Magnificent Mile, Millennium Park, the real Art Institute, the Museum Campus, a very brief stint on the Outer Drive, and finally onto I-57 where we literally flew home.

We pulled into Frankfort to find the town loaded with people and cars. Luckily, I parked within a block of Fat Rosies Taco and Tequila Bar. The hostess seated us immediately on the rear patio. Together we polished off three tacos apiece along with a generous scoop of refried beans and fried rice. KETO be damned, I don’t lunch with my baby girl often.

Impressionist Puns

The Price Of Gas In  France

A thief in  Paris planned to steal some paintings from the Louvre.

After careful planning, he got past security,

stole the paintings, and made it safely to his van.

However, he was captured only two blocks away when his van ran out of gas.

When asked how he could mastermind such a crime yet make such an obvious error, he replied, ‘Monsieur, that is the reason I stole the paintings.’

 I had no Monet
to buy Degas
to make the Van Gogh.
See if you have De Gaulle to send this on to someone else.
I sent it to you because I figured
I had nothing Toulouse

Broken Promise

Back in 2011 I made a promise that I couldn’t keep. My daughter-in-law asked me to make her an intarsia hummingbird. Like always, I dove into the project only to learn that I was not skilled enough to make a hummingbird out of wood. Hummingbirds are tiny. This month I searched the internet for the smallest bird on the planet, only to find out that the Ruby Throat hummingbird is not the smallest. There is a species that is found only in Cuba called the Bee Hummingbird. It is almost half the size of a ruby throated humming bird. Nature just raised the bar on me.

Over the years, I have acquired more skill in Intarsia, and some better equipment too. I decided to give the bird a try. I began by finding the old pattern I had from 2011. The bird on the pattern is huge I thought. Not a realistic hummingbird but one that would be relatively easy to cut. I searched for more patterns only to learn that most intarsia artists make the birds large, almost like I am looking at the bird through a microscope.

I never found a pattern that I liked so I set out to make my own. Google images has pictures galore of humming birds and I found one that was in the correct pose for my piece. I matched the bird against a hibiscus flower which is one of its favorites to feed from. I made a pattern for the flower, a single bloom, and another for the bird, in scale or as close as I could eyeball the true size.

One problem I had with the bird pattern was to get a good photo of the wings. When a humming bird hovers and stands still his wings are beating at 200 strokes per second. Yep you read that right it is 200 hundred strokes per second not minute, they are a blur. For someone like me who is trying to copy the bird in wood that means I have to find some really slo-motion pictures to get an idea of what they look like while beating. I finally decided I can make the wings look like whatever, and no one can challenge me because no one will ever be able to see these wings standing still. That took some pressure off of my mind so I could proceed.

The next challenge was in trying to make something that tiny in two dimensions but looking like it is in three dimensions. I started out that way but changed my mind when I could not see the beauty of the bird in clunky two dimensional wood. I had to make the bird in three dimensions. the next challenge was to determine how to position the bird so it looked real against a flower. When a Hummer hovers up to the flower to suck the nectar out of its stamen he is virtually motionless and not touching the flower in any visible way. I could not see how to put the two forms together in a way that the final product would be believably real. The only way out was to make a flower, and a separate hummingbird and to design a way to make the bird seem like it was hovering in mid-air just microns away from the flower stamen. I won’t divulge my secret, but I made it look real.

When I finally began this work I was coming off a piece titled “Three Roses” which wore me down. The pieces were very tiny and delicate and there were too many of them. I thought the humming bird would be a vacation piece. My initial estimate was two to three weeks. I jumped into the pattern and made it quickly, then selected the woods and began cutting. In about a week I had the flower and the bird cut from the woods. I set it aside for what reason I do not recall, but it sat from May until November, and then I took it up again. And I spent three more weeks finishing the bird and flower.
As in all art work the frame is important in order to showcase the center piece. I decided on a rectangular frame with an elliptical opening for the art. I am an amateur wood worker even after seventy years of practicing. The damn frame almost broke me. The simplest of all cuts became a nightmare, the 45 degree corners. For the life of me I could not get the 45 degree cuts to match when put together. I think I was at 44. 85 degrees and not 45.00 degrees. The end result was a frame that had large openings between sides. I started with an 18 x 14 size frame and before I finished it was down to 17 x 13. I had to continue to trim the pieces until I could get the corners to match perfectly. Since I only make one or to frames a year I will never be able to afford the precision equipment I need to make forty-five degree cuts perfect. The result is in the photos below. I’m still deciding whether my daughter-in-law will get the work.

Enough talking it is time to unveil the masterpiece. “Hummer Breakfast”


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