Sunday, March 6, 2016

I'm no Michelangelo!

My biggest accomplishment this weekend was doing a little art work on the ceiling of my library. Recently, a ceiling fan was installed there, which will be a blessing once the really warm weather returns (it is warm yet still comfortable now, but I remember how hot it was when school started in September). I decided that this new ceiling fan looked like an airplane propeller. With a school that is over 80% boys, I thought it might be interesting for them if I were to create an airplane on the ceiling behind the fan blades.

I mentioned Black History Month in one of my February blog posts, so it is appropriate that I acknowledge that March is considered Women's History Month. An important phase of women's history in America is how a lot of women stepped up during World War II and took jobs previously performed by men, many of whom at that time were serving in the armed forces overseas. These “Rosie the Riveters” helped to set the stage for the future freedoms that my daughter and other young women now enjoy in America.

My own grandmother was one of these women who proudly took jobs on industrial assembly lines during the war. My father's family had moved to Akron, Ohio, during the war years, and my grandmother got a job working at the Goodyear Aviation plant. Goodyear was under contract to help the Vought Corporation build F4U Corsairs for the U.S. Navy. She was a “Rosie the Riveter” who worked on the area between the cockpit and the engine.

So it is only fitting that I should choose the iconic design of the Corsair to draw above the ceiling fan. It's uniquely designed “inverted gull” wings make it readily identifiable from other planes (this was done to allow for a larger diameter propeller). Another connection is that the term "Corsair" is means pirate or buccaneer--of which there were many in these Caribbean waters. That plane means a lot to me, and it was worth spending several hours of my day off drawing it on the ceiling. At the end, I laid down on the floor underneath the ceiling fan to take this picture.

It wasn't easy to draw, considering I had to work around the ceiling fan. I stood on a chair with four layers of old encyclopedias placed on the seat to give me a few more inches of height. I used a broken plastic ruler (about 9 inches long) and an unwieldy triangular meter stick. I had to guess at the angles and measurements, as I had no protractor or any other tools. I roughed it out in pencil, and then used a black marker to finalize my lines (I had intended to put some curvature on the gull wing angles, but started following my pencil lines and forgot all about it—oh well!).

Thus, it isn't perfect, and the purists will note that the main wing angles are too extreme, but it gets the point across to the students that this is an airplane screaming straight down from the sky, and that is all that matters to them. I think I will leave it as this simple black and white drawing, because painting on the ceiling is very challenging, what with worrying about dripping paint and other problems (Michelangelo made it look easy in the Sistine Chapel, but it isn't). Leaving it as it is makes it a bit like a blueprint, and might provide an opportunity for me to explain mechanical drawing to my students. [I will try to use some "White Out" to get rid of some of the extraneous pencil marks that were hard to erase off the ceiling.]

A few folks might question whether it was appropriate for a Peace Corps Volunteer to draw an American military airplane at his school. Well, I can justify it because of the history involved—not just my own personal family history with this plane, but also this famous plane's place in aviation design history. Plus, after the war, some Corsairs were converted to use as racing airplanes (one of the characters in the air racing Disney film “Planes” was a Corsair). I purposely left all the armaments off the plane so that it could be considered an air racer, just in case anyone might question it, but I can't imagine there is any problem with it. I just hope it provides something new for the imaginations of my students!

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