Sunday, January 29, 2012

What is it about Bright Colors?

I feel that it's time for a colorful post. I'm going to run my curator's eye over a collection of bright and brilliant art that we have assembled. Bright colors appeal to me. (Is it genetic? inherited from the Mexican side of my family?)

I like these flowers assembled for my mother-in-law's memorial service.

And this rubber Michelin Man clock I got in Paris about 20 years ago.

Our friend Joe Nyiri is a Wisconsin-born but San Diego-loving artist who has had a long relationship with the San Diego Zoo. He paints, sculpts, welds, and plays tennis. Here he is showing his customary attitude towards the world.

We got our first Nyiri artwork by accident - won in a raffle at my wife's school. Joe had donated this piece for the school's annual fundraising campaign. I had no idea what it was about. I wasn't sure I liked it. I tried to give it back.

But we took it home and hung it up in the bedroom. When I get that feeling "I'd rather gouge my eyes out than go to work, or do the dishes, or ..." this painting makes me think twice. "No, eye gouging won't help."

A few years later Joe invited us to his annual painting sale. He does dozens of artsy animal pieces, then sells them out of his back yard on the Friday after Thanksgiving (when real shoppers are at the mall). About 10 years ago I bought this goat with my own money. No raffle, no pressure. Some people think it's a dog, but Joe and I agreed it's a goat, so GOAT it is. I liked the ear assymmetry, and the attitude. I also like the aggressive brush strokes.

The Cat came the following year; chosen for the blue-green-purple color range and its expression (we've had cats for 35 years).

Then the Crow, I think, chosen primarily for the explosive orange-red. I don't really like crows, but lots of visitors to our museum home seem to.

This "Dog" joined us this Fall, although Joe painted it about 10 years ago. Personally, I don't think it looks much like a dog, but I liked the color themes in its hair. I failed to buy it at least 5 times before, but this year it grabbed me, and it complemented my new hanging scheme.

The Berkshire Pig was painted outside a field where the "model" pig resided. This was purchased for the yellow-orange tones, and his thoughtful eyes and set of his mouth and chin.

This Dog is named Iris. It looks like a Dingo to me, and it's not afraid to stare right back at you without giving away a clue as to its thoughts about you.

I like the bright green tones of this Cow and its friendly face.

These are baby Cooper's Hawks. Joe painted a whole series of Cooper's Hawks as a memorial for the parents of a young boy named Cooper who died recently.

These two Crows were our most recent purchase - chosen primarily because we liked the way Joe painted the branches down and over the edge of the picture frame, and secondarily because they would fit nicely at the top of our collection. We're almost scraping the ceiling, but that's ok with us.
The collection looks approximately like this today. We have it in our main hallway so we can enjoy it as we run up and down the hall. It's hard to get a photo of all the pieces together because you can't back away enough, even with a wide lens. (The painting of two birds looking down was taken back and traded in for a new image.)

As you can see, we have a wide range of colors. Since the color tones run freely up and down and across each painting, I have enjoyed the challenge of moving them around in this composition - to get a mix of vertical and landscape formats as I blended the colors and shapes across the whole wall.

Leaving Joe's works beyond us, we move on to the following painting which also came from my wife's school. Painted on butcher paper for a school play, it lay in a cupboard for more than 10 years. The principal found the picture and put it up for auction. I failed to win the auction, but the high bidder let me make a digital photo and we printed a life-size copy.

I used to hang it at my office, but some ladies complained that it was too spooky - glaring at them all day - so we brought it home. It's 20 x 30 inches and has real presence.

My wife found this fish scene in a different closet at school. The upper corner was missing, and kids had inked grafitti on the bottom, but I wanted to keep it. We asked Joe to repair it, and several other painters, but they all said "Not mine, I won't touch it." So I learned something valuable about painters ... and I decided to restore it myself.  I glued some heavy paper into the corner and let it dry. Then using paints left over from my mother's "painting phase" I covered up all the grafitti, and touched up the rest of the scene. Here's the result:

I'm could go on and on, but I will finish now with a piece that I love very much. I bought this in 1988 on our first trip to Europe. It's a Swiss school poster entitled "Dangers of Disorderly Traffic." It was designed to teach kids how to behave safely around crowded intersections.

It shows everything they could do wrong (incentive to fool around, I think). It's been hanging directly across the room from my desk for the last 10 years.

We have another 50 or 60 pieces of art that do not have bright colors. I'll get to them someday soon.

Telling Time VI: In Wacky Ways

In this sixth of a series of posts, I'll present a few wacky ways of telling time.

I'm not talking about making the day 11 hours, or putting 45 larger minutes into the existing hour - just displaying the same old time in an unconventional fashion.

This is a Silberstein Wandering Eye watch. The hour appears within the eye, and the outer edge of the eye points at the minutes. The second hand revolves conventionally, with a few twists and turns for amusement. I came very close to buying this but passed it along to my friend Alec.

Keeping to our same watchmaker, this colorful watch is called the Titanium Pikto Smileday. A single hand (the red end) takes care of the hours and minutes (carefully marked on the perimeter of the dial), and the wavy yellow hand indicates the seconds.

The smileday indicator above the date and 6 lets you know the day of the week. The watch is displaying Friday, when people smile at the thought of the weekend.

This is an Audemars Piguet Starwheel watch owned by my pal Graham. A set of 3 transparent discs, interlinked on a lower wheel, indicate the time on scale at the top of the watch. As the discs rotate, the hour number (printed on the wheel) appears against the white background, and a small arrow points to the minutes.

A Urwerk watch uses a similar concept (but different mechanism) to indicate time. This Model 110 is one owned by my buddy Jonathan. Revolving rectangles with pointers are moved along a scale to indicate the time. Notice the scale is on the right side, so it's most likely to peek out from under your cuff if the watch is worn on the left arm.

This Ferrara watch belonging to Graham uses two separate tracks and wandering hands to point out the time. A conventional second hand in the center revolves as usual.

Although there are dozens more ways to indicate the time, I'm going to stop with a watch from MB&F. This model is known as the "Chocolate Frog" because it's brown - and well  - I think you can see the frog-eye appearance for yourself. Revolving domes indicate the hours and minutes.

Max Busser (the creator) calls this watch a work of art that happens to tell the time.

Telling Time V: In the Dark

In this fifth of a series of posts, I'll review methods for telling time in the dark. The last post covered using your fingers - most often done by blind people. But there are ways commonly used by sighted folks too. Read on ...


This Sinn aviator watch displays the most common approach - put a luminous (glow-in-the-dark) material on the hands and display markers. If they are "charged" with ambient light before you go in a dark place, you can see them glow. This particular watch is exceptionally efficient and is readable all night long. 


Another way to do the same thing is to have a light-colored dial that glows in the dark. This Sinn watch uses a luminous material on the entire dial. It's not very long-lasting illumination, but you can read it for about 2 hours after you've gone to bed.


 The Timex Indiglo watch uses a battery and special dial that glows when a button is pressed.


Finally, some watches, such as The Ball watches, or this pile of Prometheus watches, use tubes of glowing material. They do not need a battery or a sunlight charge in order to work, but make a nice display on your dresser at night!


Another way to tell the time, and a much older way, is to listen for bells ringing. On your wrist, we call this a minute repeater, or chiming watch. This is an extremely nice watch (a friend of mine has one of these). You press a sliding button on the side of the case to check the time, and it rings the hours, the quarters (15 minutes) and the minutes. The watch in the movie is going to strike 9 hours, 3 quarters and 13 minutes.

Clocks commonly strike the quarters and the hours - although modern ones have a blocking feature so the chiming doesn't wake you in the middle of the night. I have at least a dozen striking clocks - here is one that we have in our living room, about to strike 12.

Telling Time IV: With Fingers

In this fourth of a series of posts, I'll review a few of the ways that we can tell time with our fingers.

Fingers? you ask, in wonder. Yes, how do you suppose blind people tell the time without asking?

Of course there are "talking clocks" where you press a button and are told the time, but this post is about telling the time yourself with your fingers.

Here's an analog Wakmann watch (with hands) that uses Arabic numerals AND a tactile display. A button at 2 o'clock releases the spring-loaded, hinged crystal, so the wearer can touch the hands and feel what time it is. There's a raised bar at 12, pairs of raised dots and 3, 6, and 9, and single dots at all the other others. You might wonder if I own this and all the other crazy watches I'm showing you. Not all, but most of them are mine.

This pocket watch is read in the same way, but is carried in the pocket.

This is a Seiko quartz alarm clock for blind folks. They can touch the hands to tell the time (orange is minutes, yellow is hours). There are bumps on the hands and on the hour markers. The 12, 3, 6, and 9 markers are raised bars rather than dots. There's an extra indicator (barely visible near 9 o'clock) which is the alarm time. A large button at the left turns the alarm off and on.

Personally, I find this clock very handy next to the bed as the alarm on/off button is the most convenient of any alarm clock we own. And there's no light glaring at me.

The next post in this series will tackle telling time in the dark, without fingers.

Telling Time III: Without hands

In this third of a series of posts, I'll review one of the most common practices in time-telling today:

As described in the previous post, we use the term "digital" for the watches and clocks that don't have hands. They simply display the digits. It's important to know that digital displays are NOT new. We have had them for over 100 years.

This  Chronoswiss Delphis watch displays time in a combination of ways - it's a jumping hour display at the top, a 180-degree minute display with jumping retrograde minute hand in the middle, and conventional second hand at the bottom. This is a mechanical watch with no electronic parts.

This is the display on my mobile phone. The date is spelled out underneath. It's an electronic display with no mechanical parts. The Apple guys have also created analog clock displays for these digital devices, because some people just can't do without hands.

Here's a watch for athletes and Timex fans. It dates to 1994 and was in near-perfect condition until it was passed along to a teenager. I haven't had the courage to ask him how it's doing. We can see the day of the week, the month and day (top line) and hours (24 hr), minutes and seconds (bottom line). The array of buttons around the watch control other functions.

This big titanium Swiss Army Watch has both analog and digital displays. You can read the same time either way, or show something else on the two digital display panels. In this photo, the digital panels are showing a stop watch counter (Chronograph).

The Cartier clock in this photo is on the dashboard of a 1970's Lincoln. Revolving drums with numbers show the hours and minutes. The colon separator is stationary. On the right, there's a drum with 10-second intervals in gold.

This digital flip clock demonstrates one of the first digital display technologies. No LEDs are required, just a constant-speed motor and some gears. Two wheels with cards that have numerals on them rotate toward you, and the cards flip over and fall down to show the time. Tiny fingers at the top keep the card from falling too early. This has been running on my desk for about 5 years.

This elaborate digital clock gets its signal from the GPS satellite network. It's designed to stay within 10 nanoseconds of official time! The small indication at the top shows the consecutive day of the year (073), then the hour in 24 hour format (22), then the minutes and seconds. The larger display at the bottom is currently interpreting the days, and showing us that 073 = March 14, 2011. It can also display the time in large numerals, or show consecutive seconds of the year, etc.

I have to admit that I've gone a bit overboard on my master clock array, although some of them are now deployed around the house so I can set all the wind-up timekeepers to nanosecond accuracy! I may devote an entire blog to the stack.

This wild Heathkit clock from the Sixties shows digital time with Roman numerals formed by light-emitting diodes. It's showing 11:33 and 46 seconds.

Finally, the Nixie clock uses heat- and numeral-generating vacuum tubes (valves) to display the time. I tried to catch 3:33:03 but wasn't quick enough. Nor bright enough to wait for 3:33:33. So you see I ended up with 3:33.09.

I could go on and on, but let's advance to the next post where we will tell time with our fingers!

Telling Time II: With Roman Hands

In this second of a short series of posts, I'll review:

As described in the previous post, we use the term "analog" for the stereotypical round clock or watch with 2 or 3 hands. Let's look at the possible variations with Roman numerals:

This classy gold Daniel Roth two-hand watch has all twelve hours indicated with Roman numerals. There are no other features (date, seconds, etc.) to confuse us. It's not a round case, but the dial is round.

The Admiral Swiss pocket watch in this picture shows classic very tightly-spaced Roman numerals, but has Arabic numerals on the small seconds display at VI. The blued steel hands are long and thin, matching the numerals. This is a typical pocket watch.

This beautiful new watch was completely hand-made by Roger Smith, in England. It has a small seconds indicator at VI and a date window between IX and X.  The hands are carved from gold rods. It costs a fortune and is a real work of art. That's my hand holding it.

My wife's Sinn watch has a mother-of-pearl dial, a date window in place of the VI, and raised Roman numerals for all the other hour indications. There are dots on the outer perimeter of the dial to indicate minutes. The hands glow in the dark (faintly).

This Chronoswiss Regulator watch has three hands on separate arbors (shafts), like old "grandfather" clocks. The hours are shown on the top subdial, indicated with Roman numerals. The minute hand is in the middle with Arabic numerals every 5 minutes around the outside of the minute track. The seconds are on the bottom subdial, which is also labeled with Arabic numerals.

Here's a last sample, a dressy regulator watch with hours at 2 o'clock, indicated by tiny Roman numerals. The minutes hand revolves around the center arbor, the seconds are on the subdial at 6, and the phase of the moon shown at 10. The hands are made like arrows, to reflects the company's name, which translates in English as Gold Arrow.

In the next post we will move on to telling time without Hands.