Dance and Kinesiology

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The most fascinating thing to me about dancers is more than their coordination, grace, and balance, but their flexibility. It is a physical attribute that dancers have to work on in addition to physical exercise. Flexibility is about more than just the muscle, but also joints, ligaments, tendons, and connective tissue. Babies are extremely flexible because they have more cartilage where adults have calcified bone. Some factors will limit flexibility such as age, bone structure, fatty tissue, and injury. Ligaments and tendons do not stretch, they tear and cause injury which leads to a shorter range of motion. Avoiding injury is very important to a dancer because it will set back their training while their body heals. As with any physical training, if flexibility is not maintained it will be lost.

Kinesiology is the the scientific study of human movement. This is an important topic for scientific fields including healthcare and biomedical research and development. Kinesiology incorporates the physiological, mechanical, and psychological mechanisms of movement. Understanding how it all works not only helps us to develop within sports and exercise, but for rehabilitation as well. Adaptive plasticity is a principle in kinesiology that describes how practice will improve performance. Physical activity effects the brain and damage to the brain, such as following a stroke, can have a negative effect. Flexibility and strength are more complex than just muscle, the brain and nerves are key contributors.

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Regardless of the tools an artist uses, the most important factor to being successful is to practice. Dancers need to be flexible, but they also need balance, timing, coordination, and strength.  The choreography is just as important as the dancer’s skill. Just as a music piece must be composed, dance also needs to be written to arrange the movement, steps, and patterns of the dancers. Dance and competition have been emphasized by television networks with shows such as Dancing with the Stars, So You Think You Can Dance, and Breaking Pointe to name a few. I prefer to watch performance arts live in theater because that is the most impressive place to witness this beautiful art form.

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The Art and Science of Filmmaking

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There is  a reason why movies have been called motion pictures; It is because they were pictures. Images were consecutively placed next to each other and shown at 16-24 frames per second to create the illusion of continuous movement. We can mimic this by drawing consecutive pictures on the pages of a pad of paper and then flipping the pages. The faster we flip, the faster the images move. Cartoons were made the same way. Etienne-Jules Marey invented the chronophotographic gun which was a camera shaped like a gun that could take 12 pictures per second. The term “shooting” a film seems like a relevant term. Marey’s interest in film was brought on by scientific curiosity about bird flight and resulted in the first series of images taken with the same instrument as opposed to multiple cameras.

We have come a long way since the rolls of film stock were used for making movies. Now everyone with a smartphone also has a video camera. Cinematography is the art of making films and there are a lot more aspects to the craft than pushing the record button. The aspect ratio is the proportion of width and height of an image. With an inappropriate ratio, images can look squished or stretched. Lighting is extremely important to visual story telling as it can determine the mood. Movement of not only the subject matter, but the camera itself will have an affect on the feel and fluidity of the movie. Slow motion scenes or a freeze frame can have a dramatic effect. Deciding how to use all of these tools to make a film is truly an art.

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Special effects are my favorite part of film. I like the older movies where I can tell the special effects are fake. That makes the movie feel more like a play to me. There are two categories of special effects, optical and mechanical. Mechanical effects are usually part of the live action shooting of the scene. That includes makeup, weather, set, and explosions. Optical effects are how they can place actors against a different background from where the film was shot. Computer generated imagery (CGI) uses computer graphics to create the special effects of a film. That is how they created the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park and the planet from Avatar. There is no limit to what we can do with film now. The ideas that arise from the creative power that film has given us could have practical application in the science world and not just the science fiction world.

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Perspective and Perception

Perspective is what makes a picture look real. It is how we are able to take a flat piece of paper and make the image look like it is three dimensional. Understanding how to use size, shadow, and angles in a piece is the key to making the subject matter stand out. There are many different types of perspective in artwork such as one-point, two-point, and aerial. those are just a few examples. Perspective can get much more complex if we add more points of perspective. It is much simpler to explain how to create perspective by looking at a photograph. Objects that are farther away are smaller than objects closest to the viewer. With practice, perspective will come naturally without as much thought. Using a picture of what we are trying to draw or paint will help as a reference guide for how to place objects, shading, and highlights to get the result we are looking for.

Perspective
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I have heard the terms perspective and perception used interchangeably. For example, altering your perception means to look at an issue from a different perspective. The same perspective can look different if your perception changes. Looking at an object from a different angle will change both the perspective and perception of the subject matter. The same is true for things that are not tangible such as approaching a problem, for example. Many factors can affect our perception such as mood and alternate stimuli. Smell and sound can have a strong influence on how we perceive something in addition to the visual aspect of the subject. Various color schemes will change the mood of a piece which will have an affect on the viewer.010

Perception is not just physical in terms of senses, it is also the way it is interpreted which will vary for each individual. Places we have been, experiences we have had, and expectations will all alter perception. The way it all works is not so simple. Psychological and brain sciences are subjects of interest that have been pursued by researchers, philosophers, and universities for quite some time. Knowing how a piece of artwork will be perceived by a particular person is seemingly impossible. It is best to be concerned with accurate perspective in a piece rather than to try and force a perception out of a piece. As an artist I know what my perception of my work is and I do not expect others to “see” what I do in it. In fact, I am more interested in what others perceive.

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Science and The Art of Glass Blowing

I have been fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to see real live glass blowing. Until I got a chance to see the Museum of Glass in Tacoma, WA, glass blowing was something I had only seen on the Discovery channel. The possibilities for what can be made from glass are endless.

Museum of Glass
Museum of Glass

The Museum of Glass features artists in addition to their permanent and outdoor collections. The artist designs the piece, and then it is forged in the hot shop which is open to the public for viewing. The hot shop is a unique feature that I have not seen at other museums. While the team works, the audience can learn about the process and ask questions. The shop is kid friendly and provides opportunities for children to submit design entries for a chance to have their design made.

Silica is the main ingredient in glass which they refer to as sand. Soda ash is added to the Silica to lower the melting temperature and increase fluidity. Calcium oxide increases the chemical stability and strength of the glass. Additional ingredients are added to soften the glass, prevent the formation of crystals, increase the durability, and increase the brilliance. The Museum of Glass compares the glass recipe to that of chocolate chip cookies, however glass is not edible no matter how delicious it looks. The glass is heated to over 2000 degrees Fahrenheit when it is ready to blow. If you really want to see real life magic The Rupert’s Drop is a must watch. Hitting the drop with a hammer will not break it, but breaking the tail causes the drop to explode.

Chihuly Garden and Glass
Chihuly Garden and Glass

The Chihuly Garden and Glass in Seattle, WA is another breathtaking glass museum featuring indoor and outdoor glass artwork. If you have a chance to see it in the evening, I strongly suggest it because that is when the garden really comes to life. It is a long-term exhibition near the famous Space Needle in Seattle Center. The displays are enormous and the most extravagant and appealing that I have ever seen. Dale Chihuly has an exhibition of his drawings on view at The Museum of Glass for a short time. Mediums for these drawings include graphite, charcoal, and acrylic. Any design that can be drawn on paper can be transformed into glass which is truly amazing. This is an opportunity to see the science of glass blowing and art come together.

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The Chemistry of Acrylics

Acrylic paint is my favorite media to work with. It dries quickly which makes it easy to layer and cleans up effortlessly with soap and water. The paint is not as diluted as watercolor, but can be manipulated to produce a sheer look. The colors available are unlimited and can be mixed to create unique hues. My favorite acrylic paints are Liquitex professional acrylics. I also use Liquitex Basics which are still great paints at a reasonable price. The nice part about their paints is that they are formulated to be inter-mixable which removes any worry about compatibility. There are also many types of mediums available to change the texture and transparency of the acrylic paint.

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Understanding how the type of media we are using works allows us to manipulate what products we are using to achieve a desired result. Acrylic paint is water soluble which means that it can be diluted easily with water or used with other water soluble mediums. Since oil and water don’t mix, it is important to use media that is compatible. Mixing chemicals can not only be dangerous, but also affect the way the paint behaves when it is used. Only hydrophilic materials will dissolve in water. Water is a polar molecule with the Hydrogen ends slightly positive and the negative ends slightly negative. Non-polar molecules have a neutral charge and have neither a positive or a negative end. These non-polar molecules are hydrophobic and get repelled by water.

Knowing how to use mediums will produce more flexibility in how the paint can be used. Since acrylic paint dries so quickly, it can become frustrating to work with if you need it to dry more slowly. The amount of time the paint stays wet and workable is referred to as open time. Gel mediums will increase the open time, add body, and extend the volume of the paint.

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Fluid mediums reduce the viscosity of the paint making it thinner and increases the flow of the paint. They can be used to dilute the paint instead of using water and will ensure the paint does not crack when it dries. Over diluting with water could break down the viscosity of the paint too much for the desired result.

The surface you choose to paint is just as important as the paints you choose to work with. I prefer to work on stretched canvas that has been coated with a layer of Gesso. This is a very inexpensive surface primer that works best on porous surfaces such as canvas, wood, and paper. The stretched canvas available in common craft stores are ready to use and already have a coating of Gesso on them. If you plan to make your own canvas, I would suggest at least two coats of Gesso to prepare it. Once the painting is complete I suggest using a water based polymer protective finish such as Minwax Polycrylic which can be purchased at a local hardware store. Given this basic understanding of acrylic paints, it is now time to create; Happy painting!

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Music and The Human Body

The affect that music has on us is a media that film makers are very familiar with. An exciting action packed scene could have a quicker beat such as techno while a sad scene will have a slower rhythm. The power that music has to make us feel is obvious, but it leave the question of why it has an affect. We perceive images differently based on the music that is playing in the background. Emotions are often tied to memories or personal experiences that had an intense resonance on our lives. Certain songs or musical artists that we listened to dominantly for a certain period of our lives can bring back emotions and memories tied to that time period that had been forgotten for so long. That cannot be the only reason that music makes us feel a certain way. We feel emotion through music even when we have never heard that particular song or genre before.

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Before a person has had experiences or even experienced the world outside of the womb, music has an affect. An unborn fetus responds to different types of music. Their preference is for rhythms and tempos that are the same as their own heart rate or their mother’s. A rhythm similar to their mother’s heart rate or voice has a calming effect. Many researchers believe that the earlier we are exposed to music the better because it helps us to develop memory, language, rhythm, and coordination. Music arguably has an extraordinary positive affect on learning, self-expression, and self-esteem. Unfortunately, when budget cuts come into play, music is one of the first subjects cut from school curriculum.

Dr. Alfred Tomatis used music and sound to assist patients with learning disabilities, depression, attention deficit disorder, and autism to name a few. There is a real and scientific reason why children learn better through song. Anyone that has had children or remembers school as a child knows that children remember songs; that is how we learn our A-B-C’s. Popular children’s shows, such as Dora The Explorer and Sesame Street, use song to teach children. Music is fun and children often don’t realize they are learning while they are singing. Children are not the only ones that benefit from the power of music. We use music to market products, give us the motivation to power through exercise, and create an emotionally triggering piece of film among many other things.

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How it all works is remarkable. The sound waves vibrate the ear drum, are amplified, and sent to the cochlea which causes the fluid inside to ripple. Hair cells create electrical signals from the ripple that travel to the brain, and that amazing brain of ours translates that signal into the sound we recognize. From there we are affected based on both individual and social psychology, tempo, pitch, and much more. Explaining why it affects us is more difficult than explaining how we physically hear. It would be beneficial to use this powerful tool to develop our society, our children, and our quality of life.

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The Brain and Creativity

It is a common misconception that left-brained thinkers are more logical and better at mathematics while right-brained thinkers are creative and artistic. The information that your left eye receives does not just go to the left or right side of the brain where it is connected either.

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In reality the left side and the right side work simultaneously. It is true that different areas of the brain are responsible for particular functions, and damage to areas of the brain can effect their ability to function properly.  If we are going to separate the brain into it’s functional areas, it would be more accurate to describe the lobes of the brain and their functions.

The frontal lobe, parietal lobe, occipital lobe, and temporal lobe are responsible for problem solving, motor function, judgement, sensation, body position, memory, hearing, and visual processing. Just as we generally have two arms and two legs, we also have a left and a right hemisphere of each lobe. Excitatory and inhibitory Neurotransmitters send signals throughout the body and control their processes. Alcohol, for example, effects neurotransmitters and their influence on the chemical signals to the brain and body which causes what we know as a drunken state.

The entire brain is responsible for the creative process. As with anything, the only way to get better at something is to practice. Seeing impressive artwork and thinking that you wish you could do that is an excuse not to try. The best artists are practicing all the time. They constantly doodle, paint, play music, build things, brainstorm, and learn from other artists. I’m not saying that all painters can play music, but whatever their media is, they work on it every day for years; Not every song is a hit, and not every painting is a masterpiece.

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The talent for art exists because the brain has the ability to learn and adapt. Our muscles strengthen as we use them and our fine motor skills are refined with use. It is the same for what we consider to be logical fields such as mathematics and science. The more the brain works through the process, the easier it is to recall information that we can use to be excellent in any field. If you want to be able to do something and do it well, the only thing that is stopping you is you.

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Using Art to Learn Human Anatomy and Physiology

Anatomy and physiology are not the easiest subjects, but the learning process can be assisted with the help of art. We retain more information if we write it down, so it makes sense that drawing or coloring will help us learn the anatomy and physiology of the human body. Being able to say what an organ is and being able to point it out in an actual human body are very different experiences. What it is, what it does, how blood flows through it, where it is, and what it is connected to are fundamental to understanding how the human body works. One of my favorite tools is a human anatomy coloring book.

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When learning how to draw the human figure, we consulted anatomy books to accurately portray the human form. The ability to use anatomy in an artistic piece can really make a difference. Anatomical body painting has allowed us to design disturbingly realistic tattoos that look like muscle is exposed. Applicable possibilities include special effects and costumes that can seem gruesomely real. To create that effect, an understanding of anatomy is key.

In an actual corpse the muscles, veins, and organs are not as easy to decipher as a coloring book or picture from an anatomy book. There is no substitute for the real thing when it comes to the human body because of variation and disease, but artistic renditions can help students visualize anatomy before they get to the laboratory. Anyone that has studied anatomy and physiology knows how complex the human body is, and veterinary students need to learn it across species.

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There is an opportunity to see human anatomy at an event in the U.S. called “Bodies: The Exhibition“. These are real human bodies that have been preserved using a polymer so that they can be used for education. Certain health issues are highlighted in the exhibition such as cancer, ectopic pregnancy, osteoporosis, and cirrhosis of the liver. Not only is this exhibition a great learning experience for medical students, but artists as well.

Another great way to learn human anatomy is by using flashcards that have been artistically designed so that they components are easier to decipher.

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Exploring connections between two worlds

I was taught growing up that art was a hobby and not a real career choice. Math and science, I was told, are the paths to success in the real world. Those are the subjects that I was allowed to pursue growing up and my love for art was just a hobby. I could not ignore my need for art in the world, so I attempted to indulge as much as possible. Over time I realized that art is in everything. It is more than a pretty picture, a vase, or a song. My world was never absent from art, I just did not realize how much I was surrounded by it.Slide 1

I started playing the violin when I was only four years old. It was one of the few outlets I had to express myself and explore my creativity. Still, I found it was more related to mathematics than I initially thought. Time signatures, Rhythms, beats, counting, and keys are tools that make music fluent and appealing. Without structure in these areas the sound is chaos and not pleasing to listen to.

I chose pursue a career based in science after taking human anatomy in college. It was a difficult course, but I was enthralled. Studying for it came naturally because I loved the subject matter. I was no longer forcing myself to learn something because I had to, I was learning something that truly interested me. Studying included painting, coloring, drawing, and mapping the human body. Each one of us is our own piece of art; nature’s artwork.Slide 2

The world beneath a microscope is beautiful and fascinating. Something as simple as a section of human tissue stained with hematoxylin and eosin allows us to see specific structures unique to that structure. There are many different types of stains which result in a different staining pattern based on the method used. Understanding how those methods work allow us to utilize tissue staining to cure and treat disease.

I am bridging the gap between the art and science worlds. I hope that you will see, as I have, that the gap does not truly exist. The misconception that they are separate entities can be snuffed out once we open our minds and our eyes to the world around us. There is an art to science and there is science in every piece of art.

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