The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘umbrella

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The compositional virtues of the Umbrella, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A thousand years ago, when a humble narrator was still a boy and a young Joe Piscopo was teaching America how to laugh, one of the classes I took in art school involved the finer points of composition and drawing perspective. The perspective part of this, as taught by cartoonist Sal Amendola, was highly technical and involved the underlying theories behind the physical representation of three dimensional spatial relationships on a two dimensional plane. Composition, alternatively, was discussed as how to break up the illustration in the name of forcing the viewer’s eye to go where you wanted it to. One of the bits of advice offered by Amendola, and by legendary cartoonist Gene Colan as well, is to stick an umbrella into the shot.

There’s something about the shape of an umbrella that’s “interesting.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m not drawing comics anymore, but as I’m waving the camera around at the various sections of the City of Greater New York which suffer my periodic habitations, I keep that old set of rules in mind. You really just can’t go wrong with an umbrella in the shot, framing the subjects with an interesting shape and subdividing it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Historical records suggest that the first folding umbrellas were a product of the Chinese culture, and there’s direct evidence of them dating back some 2,400 years. Umbrellas are related to, but distinct from, parasols (designed for sun protection, not rain). They were even used in ancient Ninevah by the Persian kings, parasols were. The umbrella spread from east to west, and there’s evidentiary material suggesting that the Romans and Greek cultures used them. The democratization of Umbrellas to the masses began in 1710, when a french merchant named Jean Marius began selling a folding model not dissimilar to the sort of thing we carry today.

Looks like tomorrow will be a good day to carry one, as a note, so now you have some small talk about the things to offer. Such conversational fodder and minutiae is a public service – as offered by this – your Newtown Pentacle.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

October 10, 2018 at 11:00 am

Posted in Photowalks, Pickman

Tagged with , ,

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