Friday, February 27, 2009

The Over Coffee idea fairy

About a week back, I read 'Coloring a Pencil Drawing in Painter X', at Over Coffee, Barb Hartsook's blog. Two questions, or rather one question and one statement, almost off handedly made, caught my heart. This post is about them.

I carried my pencils and large drawing pad into the newly-formed “Sketching Sessions” class five minutes late and was told to sit anywhere and draw something.... Big arm movements, he instructed. Hand and arm off the table, he said.... I ended up standing most of the two hours. (Have you ever tried to draw big arm movements sitting down?)

Have you? Are you an artist, or perhaps aspiring to be one? Or maybe you have nothing to do with art whatsoever, but like to look at it? Or, even, mayhaps you don't like to look at 'ART'? Nevertheless, I still challenge you to pin up a paper, a large paper on the wall and draw, moving with your arms, not fingers. The very idea of it frightens me, for I know how circumscribed my doodles are: on tiny little margins, squeezed against phone numbers and sundry information on notepads. Whatever drawing I did was basic school grade, and I do mean basic, and although I have dabbled in photo-art since, it is not the same. If I was given a piece of canvas, and the sudden unconstrained ability to draw, I would still be making small sketches, finely detailed but - restricted. The idea of drawing from my shoulder rather than the wrist seems uplifting and freeing, utterly fascinating, and frightful, like the prospect of vast skies may seem to the caged budgie. But that is what art is about - about letting our restrictions go, about freeing ourselves from the boundaries we have created. But do you know the most terrible thing about these boundaries? When they are left unchallenged, they shrink with age, constrict us even more. Even a decade ago, perhaps, given a large paper, I would have had grander visions than I do now. On the rare occassions I have set up a proper painting session for my little one, I have been surprised at the free shoulder movements, the easy mid-brush grip like of a painter, the strength of the brush marks. And when I try? Trite little landscape scenes, or maybe faces, or cartoonish illustrations. Till I read this post of Barb's, I was at a loss to explain, even recognize my own caging, but that one little question at once showed me what was happening here, and the solution. It is as simple as a paper on the wall....

Part II

Thanks so much for stopping by. If you’d like to comment and leave a link to your work, I’d love to see it. Or maybe you’re taking a life-learning class of some kind. Please tell us about what you’re learning.

A life -learning class! Aren't we all taking one, all the time? Such a beautiful way of thinking about the lessons we learn from our life day after day. Each exam we take strengthens us for the next; there are revisions and new lesson plans; there are rewards and promotions, even failures. It is just that it never ends, this learning. And isn't that a great thing? That it is possible to keep on learning as long as you live - and perhaps beyond? That learning doesn't have to end just because you are out of school, of college, or vocational refresher courses? That learning is not all book bound, not at all limited to what others can show you in one way or another... The class doesn't end, ever, at any time: there is no limit to the amount you can grow. You still have to work at it though...

So, what have I learnt? What is my life-learning class now?

There are so many that I hardly know where to begin. Today, this moment, stolen from my baby's sleep time, I remember the lesson I was taught yesterday, when the weight of cleaning, cooking, washing, dusting, bathing, feeding, and folding, and such tasks took me so far away from my child that there were many teary requests for hugs when I couldn't take the time for them. And so, in the evening, came the retaliation when visiting grandparents - "I want to live here! I don't want to go back!" Of course, even mummy must stay, but the point was clear. A clean house is great to look at, but a fun house is better, and a loving house the best. Point taken, little darling! And yet, I still need many revisions before I am fit for the exams...

P.S.I would like to make this a tag game, the Over Coffee tag, but because I don't have many readers, and even fewer readers who comment, and because I don't like to tag someone not knowing if they are interested or not, I would like to make it open ended. Ponder and post if you wish, or just ponder. But it would be lovely if you were to post about it further and let us know :)

P.P.S. Where do you get your ideas from? Richard Bach in his novel, One, talks of the idea fairy who makes these huge blocks in her factory, of crystal clearer than daylight, stronger than steel, its planes and angles hardly visible save for the 'sparkling fascination'. And within, ideas made visible, each connection, each ramification there for you to follow should you have the inclination.Whether or not you agree with him, or love or hate his ideology, there is no denying that this is such a lovely way of looking at ideas. I love the idea of a cute as a button, ever charming idea fairy nudging us in the supermarket checkout queue, whispering in our ears as we struggle towards consciousness in those early coffee-less hours of the morning, banging on our heads through some blog we read...

P.P.P.S. Nap time is over, and my lap is in demand. The second part of this post - the 'real' one, shall have to wait, sorry!

A real P.S. this time - do check out the beautiful painting on Barb's post: click on it to see a full size image for full viewing pleasure!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Blah-rah and GameGoo***

Ok, peeves for today - mouse which gets stuck from time to time, Photoshop which crashes, impending no-maid weeks, my crankiness, lack of time for anything. To counter: sunshine, light breeze, one more holiday tomorrow, child at home, opportunities for sharing, books ready. One would think these are enough, but no, I am cranky and need to sleeeeeeeeeeeep, and won't, because equally I need to day-dream, think, imagine, read, be stimulated, create, feed inner hunger. And sleep. Still sleep wins, is the best antidote to crankiness, and still I ignore it. Sometimes I remember that robot from this movie - must be 10-20 years old, which I saw drifting around on HBO maybe 7 years back - the one that super-flipped through huge phone books, chanting 'Input, input, input' all the while. I feel that hunger: constant, gnawing, never satiated...

In accordance with the wishes of the mouse that sticks, I was going to feature a one game site, but then I found this, and didn't remember what it was, and clicked it, and - how can I not share it now? It has been ages since we played these, so hopefully I myself will remember to click through on this next meal time :) Game goo is an educational game site with the catch phrase 'learning that sticks' created by Earobics, which I think is a part of Houghton Miffin Harcourt. They make educational software, so this would be just a showcase for them, hence the lack of adverts or other distractions.

The index page and all the games are on a deep purple background, which I might not have chosen myself, but it works! The home page is laid out according to level, which is pretty useful. But if your kid is anything like mine, there need to be at least three times these many for each level! Hover over each game to hear a funny little sound, and to read a mini description at the top of the game board. (If you want a detailed description of the game and the level, try the 'description' or the 'educational standard' page.)

The beginner level has five games. You can try to arrange the bears in right alphabetical order, which reinforces both the correct order as well as the pronunciation. Or you could connect lost baby kangaroos with their parents by choosing the correct lower case - upper case combination (kangaroo confusion).

You could follow Teena's directions to collect bugs - simple directions like 'check under the bridge and behind the trees'. Or you could play Teena's make believe or real game, which asks children to differentiate between two scenarios, only one of which is real.

Sassy seals will feed and collect the fish whose spoken word starts with the same letter as the word said aloud by papa seal.

Of the middle level games, two are nearly the same, both involving clicking on the components of the given component - space trash and letter bugs. The words are not always very clear to our Indian ears, and the letters fly too fast for someone just learning. Which is probably why it is not the beginner level :) Monkey business is even more complicated, involving laying down the various parts of sentences in correct order.

We haven't tried the advanced levels at all, giving up at this point! But, there is also the fun goo page (from the right lower corner link). It has links to game previews (games coming soon), screen savers and wallpapers. Colouring goo has printables, so no good for us :( Goo tunes has tiny little tunes that play when you click and
drag a coin on the left to the 'tune' machine. Not a very fulfilling game as the tunes are neither child friendly simple ones, nor complete in themselves. And finally are the gooey games! There are half a dozen games I think, each opening in a separate window.

Catch a piggie is a cute little maze game, with no time limit, but the piggie keeps running away, and you have to master the trick of moving to another part of the maze to find him. Interesting idea for children to grasp.

Some of the other games are creative but not so cute - create a Frankenstein for example, but they will do fine. There is even a musical game. Compose a goo has seven of these - goos - in a row, and according to the goo face you click in the top row, they will either sing proper notes (do-re-mi) or something really silly, using which you can record and playback your composition. You can't change the kind of notes midway though - not from do-re-mi to ah-oh-ouch for example.

Overall, a site I would recommend especially to teachers! And oh, although this too is flash, it doesn't take any time to load at all!

The url -

P.S. I think sleep is vastly underrated as a healing tool. Witness poor Beetle -