Draw Like an Old Master

draw like an old masterMove over Leonardo! You too can draw like an Old Master. And you don’t need a studio, an aristocratic benefactor, or an artistic temperament. You just need one of these…

overhead projectorYup, it’s an overhead projector. Remember these things? They used to be a fixture in classrooms. Now, you can probably find one in a forgotten corner of a school storage closet, or buried in the back of a library office, its head peeking out from a pile of mimeograph sheets like the Loch Ness of the office realm.

I rescued this overhead projector from the surplus pile at my library and am proud to house it in my stable of useful outreach tools. Among other things, I’ve used it to make inexpensive event signs, salvage presentations when PowerPoint went kaput, light up shadow puppet shows, and replicate iconic pieces of Renaissance art. Here’s how it works.

First, select the image you want to replicate (we used Leonardo da Vinci’s helicopter sketch). Then, print the image on transparency film made specifically for printers…

transparancy filmLoad the transparency film into a computer’s printer like a regular piece of paper, and lo! It comes out with the image printed on it.

transfered drawingFire up the overhead projector, drop the transparency film in place, aim the projected image at a piece of paper, poster board, foam board, or wall and…start tracing!

katie tracesWhen you’re finished tracing, simply fill in the outlines with markers or paint.

katie drawsVoila! You now have a lovely image that requires zero artistic ability.

finished artTo make inexpensive event signs, simply print the titles of the signs on transparency film, trace them onto the top of a piece of foam board or poster board, and fill the outlines in with paint. Once I had the title, I’d use computer print outs to create the images and/or copy I needed for the rest of the sign. Our most popular event sign ever was created this way (and you can see it here).

If I hired a professional printer to have the titles of the sign printed on foam board, it would have cost between $15 – $25 per sign. Since I would typically create 10-15 signs for a large event, it added up pretty quick. On Amazon, transparency film is about $20 per pack of 100, 8.5″ x 11″ sheets. Vinyl letters and/or stencils are another option for creating signs, but they don’t always come with the widest variety of fonts (and they can get a little pricey too).

The overheard projector tracing method does require some time. If you have an event with a small budget and volunteers looking for work, however, you might just consider trying this method. It also works for theater sets and/or murals. Or you can just, you know, whip yourself up some classic art for the fun of it.

katieThis person featured in this post, by the way, is my new part-time assistant Katie! You actually already met her foot in this post, when she was operating a skeleton marionette. Katie was my temporary event assistant for 2 years before I managed to reel her in to work for me on a permanent basis.

So she’s way used to my odd requests and strange job requirements. Such as selecting hundreds of specifically-sized rocks at a local quarry, folding 500 origami hats, helping me shove University students into 8′ cardboard tubes to install archery targets, developing a tax game for kids, locating an Etsy artist who could make a cuddly Ichthyosaur, and dressing up as a Victorian Steampunk spelunker at a Journey to the Centre of the Earth event.

So she was totally game for throwing on a doublet, taping on some construction paper facial hair, and posing as an Old Master. No problemo.


Special thanks to the Lewis Center for the Arts’ costume shop for the doublet and hat loan! Thou rock!

Live By The (Foam) Sword

crossed swordsEvery pirate needs a cutlass, every musketeer needs a saber, and every knight needs a sword! But the combination of kids and swords can get a bit… dicey. Someone always get dinged, bonked, poked, or conked.

So you need a sword that will hold up in battle but that won’t bruise on impact. Foam is usually the way to go but foam swords can get a little pricey and fall apart quickly.

I have a solution for you. Straight from the plumbing section of your local hardware store.

foam tubesIt’s tubular foam pipe insulator. Also called “that gray foam tube that gets wrapped around pipes.” It’s made out of polyethylene (the same stuff as pool noodles and kickboards). I use the 1/2″ diameter foam, which comes in 6′ tubes and costs 97 cents. You can cut it easily with scissors. I can get 3 good-sized (i.e. 20″ – 21″) swords out of 1 tube. That’s 32 cents a sword. Oh yeah.

You can wield the sword as a plain tube, or you can create a “hilt” by wrapping the base with colored masking tape. To reach the pinnacle of royalty, try hot gluing a large gemstone to the hilt as well.

hiltsPssst! If you’re looking for another amazing find in the plumbing section, check out this post. If you’re yearning for a cannon to go with that pirate sword, you can find it here. Looking for a dragon to adventure with? Click here!

Avast!

pom-pom cannonIf you do programs with kids, inevitably, you’re going to do something with pirates. Now, you can come well-armed with this amazing pom-pom cannon!

I created this project for a large-scale Treasure Island event, so it’s designed to be quick to make, cheap to produce, and fun to play with. It was a huge hit. The brave crew at the Historical Society of Princeton helped kids make 500+ cannons at the event. Arrr!

You’ll need:

  • 1 paper towel roll
  • 1 piece black construction paper
  • Metallic markers for decoration
  • cannon wheel template printed on an 8.5″ x 11″ piece of card stock
  • 2 jumbo paperclips
  • Hot glue or glue dots
  • Tape for construction
  • 1 jumbo 2″ pom-pom (any color)

Wrap the paper towel roll in black paper and tape to secure. Then use the metallic markers to decorate the cannon and the wheels. We used metallic Sharpie markers.  Silver showed up the best on the black paper.

Slide the two jumbo paperclips on one end of the tube. These are the “weights” on the base of your cannon so it won’t slump forward when sitting on a table. I found it’s best to put the clips side by side, like so:

Paper clip placementNow it’s time to attach the wheels. I used hot glue for the version you see here, but we used glue dots and/or tape at the event (while I love hot glue, I’m not big on running a hot glue gun for 5 hours amongst thousands of kids).

You’ll notice that the wheels are attached almost in the center of the cannon. You’ll have to play with the placement of the wheels a little to get the cannon to tilt just right.

pom-pom cannonReady to fire? Hold the cannon aloft in one hand, push the pom-pom into the “mouth” (i.e. the non-paperclip end) of the cannon, and then blow a big puff of air into the opposite end. The “cannonball” will launch!