01 July 2014

( summer sunsets stimulate the senses )

portraits of nature
( summer sunsets stimulate the senses )
by “porcupine pat” mckinney

mauve, bisque, vermilion, and puce are names of colors that don’t easily come to mind when speaking of summer scenery. all of the above can be found in a virtual artist’s palette featuring striking summer sunset scenery, though for a fleeting moment.

you’ve seen a sunset change in three blinks of an eye, especially on these longer days that are becoming shorter as we are now well into the south side of the solstice (google “sunset today in philadelphia” to see the exact minute of the sunset and how the time gets earlier and earlier, as summer weeks pass us by). breathtaking views tantalize the eye with resplendent colors, and prominently in this niche of the commonwealth, with its gently rolling landscape and huggable horizon-lines of treetops.
“red skies at night, sailor’s delight; red skies in the morning, sailors take warning” is an age-old adage that speaks the truth to the student of nature and its inner workings.  a red sunrise can possibly speak of an impending weather change in a negative direction, meaning to expect showers, high winds, and blustery conditions.

those sailors should heed this natural warning for choppy waters, as a thunderstorm is not safe for life or limb ! no sailor should find an express route to davy jones’ locker too soon !

but, it is those red skies at night that add to the thrill of teasing that “inner artist” within us all. connoisseurs of sunsets typically love fireworks with that blaze of colors, and of course, flame-spent fall foliage. 
why do sunsets happen ? this is a good question which has answers in how light and skies work together.

sunlight that we see shining is actually a compilation of all colors of the rainbow. daytime finds sunlight shining through the atmosphere with some of the blue light being scattered by the molecules in the air. this is called “rayleigh scattering,” and this is the blue that you see scattered across the sky during daytime. it leaves sunlight looking yellowish as opposed to being a whitish hue.

( a sky-view from douglass drive in douglass township, berks county

during sunrise or sunset, that sunshine is blazing through a much thicker section of atmosphere because it has to pass across the width of the earth as well as through the vertical thickness of air to get to your eyeballs.  (note: wildlife biologists call sunrise and sunset “crepuscular time,” and it is the time when most wildlife is active. you have both the day shift and then the night shift of critters active at this time.)

because of this, more and more of the blue light is scattered, so that there are only the red, yellow, and orange wavelengths left to reach your eyes because these hues move less quickly and stay more visible. different types of cloud formations and varying density and composition of the air dictate the specific colors, shapes, and patterns that you enjoy. sunsets are like mulberry leaves—no two are alike.  

this is the “science” behind the ingredients that comprise our sunsets. the general spectator of sunsets is simply thrilled with the pageantry unfolding before their own eyes. summer sunsets “rock,” as some sky-spectators have stated !

there are plenty of places to prop up a lawn chair or a spread out a blanket to enjoy the show. why not make it an evening “after-work” picnic ? 
there is no better way to end the day than to take advantage of the summery conditions and a freebie show in the sky.

experience a sunset along a water habitat such as green lane. the water’s mirror-like surface reflects, in fact, echoes the skies above the horizon. even along the schuylkill river trail which parallels the river are some spots to check out the sunset scenery.  

higher ground is also a good idea, although be sure to leave before it gets too dark. one favorite spot are the lookout rocks at monocacy hill. what a treat !

summer is ripe for minutes spent outside, or even hours, if your schedule permits. make it your time to enjoy all that nature offers, especially the sunsets and sunrises, too.

an ode to those little orbs of rainbow parts.

bubbles are everything that is fun in the world. 
go make some happen. seriously, though.

( art class -- through the eyes of a teacher )

by jennifer hetrick

in 2012, ronald butt retired after teaching art in the boyertown area school district for 33 years. while he spent time teaching at several elementary schools throughout the district, new hanover elementary school along route 73 and hoffmansville road is where he spent the majority of his time bringing a love of art to students.

in earliest memories tied to art, he says he recalls drawing a picture of his whole family, as a child, and that a black crayon played a major role in the piece.

an art teacher named alice gerhart, who butt had one quarter for basket-weaving at boyertown area senior high, is a lot of how he finally decided to pursue art and also teaching. her enthusiasm and art appreciation easily transferred to him, and while he originally thought he’d pursue a degree in business, gerhart’s influence led him to make the best choice he could have made.

“there weren’t many jobs out there in 1979,” he says, noting that he felt grateful to land a career teaching art in the boyertown area after graduating from kutztown university

“i respect individuality and everyone’s unique qualities,” he says, pointing out that he has always admired those who push forward with creativity in a world where that very part of life is often unconsciously discouraged, unfortunately. his appreciation of the great and wide-stretching value of creativity is a lot of what made him such a successful art teacher and an inspiration to so many children throughout the years.

pablo picasso and vincent van gogh are two artists whose work butt says he enjoyed teaching to students because they loved working in those styles and doing their own interpretations on paper. keith haring is another artist he gladly taught students about in the classroom, noting that haring grew up in kutztown but had become famous on a national level.

henri matisse is yet another artist he named as one of his favorites.

in his final year of teaching, pennsylvania dutch folk art became a part of the curriculum, given its strong ties to local history and culture. butt says he found this part of his teaching especially rewarding, even more so as pennsylvania dutch culture in general is seeing less attention nowadays as the larger pop culture takes hold more and more, decade after decade.

“i feel blessed to have taught in an elementary school setting,” he reflects. “i loved watching students play with clay and paint. there aren’t any problems with motivation. they just dive into it, and they’re so enthusiastic.”

self-portraits are something butt says always fascinated him as he encouraged children to explore how they view themselves. making them think about themselves in such a different way carried a value all its own.

( a snowlady by the ever-lovely sammi mason 
from art class with ronald butt in her childhood days

photo courtesy of abby mason )

and seeing the younger ones wearing grown-up shirts where the sleeves were always much too big, all to keep their regular clothes clean during art class, stood as just another perk in working with such ecstatic kids.

“it’s a lot of work to accomplish something, and they learned that it was hard work that benefitted them,” butt says in noticing how elementary school students learned the lesson of starting from scratch and finally seeing a finished product as a piece of their own individuality on a piece of paper in art class.

this delighted frog enjoying time around cattails 
& a pond is art from the childhood of james mason 
of new hanover township, in art class with ronald butt

photo courtesy of abby mason )

“i learned to laugh more and that it’s okay to be off task sometimes and take a laugh-break,” he adds in what he took away from teaching children for more than three decades. children are often great at setting an example for others in this way, when we all get too serious as adults.

“art opens our minds and makes us more accepting of things around us,” he reflects. “art is the most important subject. kids need the opportunity to express themselves and the chance to think outside of the box. they need something different than math class sometimes, where you have to get the answer right every time.”

art is fortunately something different and more human, where right and wrong and what’s correct or not slip out of the picture, and instead, people are allowed to grow and understand more about themselves and the world—an unspoken necessity that’s important to all hearts. ronald butt is grateful for seeing this and spending 33 years of his life helping children to learn what joy art is and how it keeps us more alive.