Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Spring Cleaning

Granted, the spring season seems particularly far off with the colder temperatures we're seeing, but why not take a moment to consider the yearly tradition of amusement maintenance? Traditional parks are marvelous places, and are skilled at conveying a sense of escape through beauty, dizzying motion and childlike frolic. Historic carousels are perfect examples of all three elements, and require a lot of work to remain operating smoothly and attractively. Here we have an artisan and a handyman, polishing and painting a standing carousel horse.

The handyman wears 1920s-styled overalls, and the painter an early-1920s day dress, trimmed at the hem for free movement. The carousel horse is loosely based on the figures carved by the beloved Philadelphia Toboggan Company, one of the finest manufacturers of carousels. Let's have a look at the trappings, which aren't unlike the beautiful, complex details that PTC's carvers created so long ago...

As well, a quick glance at the material in the painter's dress. Fabrics of this era were often woven with lightly colored, at times metallic, threads, in order to create interest as the dress moved with the wearer's body. With a simple draped lapel and full skirt, her dress is simple and graceful - the perfect thing to don on a warm spring day.

Sadly, Texas is rather lacking in the historic, Philadelphia-style carousel category - an acute aggravation to a true fanatic for such things. However, plans are in the works for a summer visit to a true bastion for these machines - Knoebels Amusements in Elysburg, PA. Even if the moment is fleeting, my fix will be attained, and my mind will once again be rampant with the joys of whirling glory. Here's to these marvelous pieces of history, and the stewards who keep them happy and healthy.

Brisk and Blissful

Though I am a touch late in posting about it, I recently created this year's holiday card - a frosty tribute to the arrival of winter... centering around Coney Island, once again. What can I say? The traditionally summery spit of shoreline comes to life for me in the coldest months of the year, and I love drawing the billowing surf and skies. Here, before the shuttered amusements of the quiet landscape a vivid, happy winter swimmer frolics in the surf, weightless and alive. Her beach umbrella boasts icicles - and while such an accessory is unlikely to be carried by a seasoned Polar Bear, we have seen frost on at least one swimmer's hair! Three stray spectators in heavy coats are left behind on the sand - a scene that continues to this day.

Here is a close up of the seafoam-laden waters, complete with metallic accents. The blend of blues, greens and greys of the ocean is a hell of a lot of fun to illustrate.

Familiar buildings and amusements, past and present, are shown in the background - the Parachute Jump, Steeplechase Park, the Thunderbolt, Stauch's Baths, the Wonder Wheel and the Cyclone - as well as a couple of small concessions. Even the structures that have stood the test of time seem like tangible phantoms - living relics from a magnificent era in popular culture.

And so, Greetings, and wishes for a Brisk and Blissful season indeed!