If you've just stumbled onto this blog, please forgive the appearance; it's still under construction. If I've used one of your photos (found on Google) in a lecture and you don't approve, please write a comment and I'll remove it.

The purpose of this blog is to explain the basics of art and culture to English language learners in secondary school in Slovakia. This is not for profit. If you look to your right, you'll see a long list of topics that I plan to cover. This is a large project that will most likely take years to complete, covering some topics I know little about (like dance), so I will be borrowing heavily from other experts, with their permission, giving credit wherever possible. Please be patient, and, of course, all advice is greatly appreciated.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Art in Sports

Many people think art and sport are polar opposites, but they actually share many qualities. Both art and sport focus on training and perfection. They require dedication, patience, and humility. But, beyond this, every sport is the result of creative thinking. Imagine if there were no sports in the world, and you and your friend wanted something fun to do - you could be stranded on a deserted island. What do you do? How do you make a game? It's a question that makes you look at the world differently. A coconut can become a ball. A couple rocks can be a goal post. A few trees can mark the size of your playing field. Many people don't realize this. They think of sports like football, basketball, and hockey as if they've always existed. We forget they were once invented, and that inventing games is half the fun.

The main difference between art and sport is that art results in the creation of something new, whereas sport results in the setting of a new number, or record - a final score, a final time. However, some sports, like figure skating and gymnastics, blur these definitions. These sports incorporate dance, jumps, and tricks where creativity is just as important as physical ability.
Sports that Incorporate Dance
These include figure skating, gymnastics, acrobatics, aerobatics, and synchronized swimming. Fun to watch, hard to judge, these sports mix physical qualities like strength and endurance with dance elements, such as choreography, expression, interpretation, and grace. A common saying in skating is, "Your feet can learn the steps, but only your heart can skate them." The idea is central to all these sports.

Figure Skating – is an Olympic sport. There are four events, men's singles, women's singles, pair skating, and ice dancing. Ice dance has more to do with footwork, and you're not allowed to lift your partner above your shoulders. Tricks in figure skating include spins, turns, jumps, lifts, throw jumps, and death spirals. Jumps include loops, toe loops, salchows, flips, lutzes, and axels. If you can do the trick twice in the air, it's a double. Some skaters can do a triple or quadruple jump.

Gymnastics – is another Olympic sport. There are a number of different events including floor exercises, the vault, balance beam, pommel horse, still rings, parallel bars, uneven bars, and the high bar. One of the most important skills is landing. At the end of each exercise, the gymnast jumps high in the air, does a number of spins, twists, and flips, and must land gracefully on his/her feet.

Acrobatics – is similar to gymnastics, but is not really a sport. It's a form of entertainment, usually seen at circuses, mixing dance, gymnastics, contortion (bending the body in extreme positions), and spectacle (wow factor). Acrobats, also called contortionists, can jump and flex in all kinds of crazy positions.

Synchronized Swimming – is a form of water dance, requiring excellent timing, sense of space, and breath control. For some reason, the Olympics only allows groups of women to compete. I guess men don't typically want to dance with each other in the water? Imagine that.

Aerobatics – This is the sport of flying stunt planes. The many tricks and stunts put a great deal of stress on the plane and the pilot. Aerobatics started as a way of training pilots for war, and progressed to flying circuses, airshows, and sport competitions. Tricks include barrel rolls, half rolls, loops, spins, spirals, the lazy eight, the chandelle, the side slip, and the hammer-head stall turn.

The Art of Jumping
Sports that revolve around creative jumping include diving, surfing, freestyle ski jumping, snowboarding, skateboarding, freestyle bicycling, parkour, and dirt bike jumping. Athletes constantly try to invent new moves and jumps, while hoping to land safely.

Diving/High Diving – is the sport of jumping from a high springboard. Depending on the tricks you want to do, there are four starting positions: straight, pike, tuck, and free. Tricks include somersaults and twists.
Surfing – is a water sport where the surfer stands on a board, riding on the forward face of an ocean wave. Surfing requires balance. The three main kinds of surfing are long board, short board, and paddle surfing. Maneuvers include sharp turns and cut backs, carving, aerials, the floater, off the lip, and tube riding. Hanging Ten is exclusive to long boarding and is considered the hardest stunt in surfing. It’s when the surfer stands forward on the board with all ten toes off the edge.
Freestyle Skiing/Freeskiing/Newschool Skiing – Freestyle skiing is an Olympic sport and consists of aerial skiing, moguls, ski cross, and half-pipe. Aerial skiing is like diving on skis. You ski off a 2-4m jump and do twists and somersaults before landing. Mogul skiing is going down a hill with uneven snow. It’s arranged into a grid pattern which is harder to ski down. Ski cross is a race with obstacles and jumps. Freeskiing is like skateboarding on skis. Skiers do similar tricks in special parks designed for it.
Snow Boarding – combines the ideas of skateboarding and skiing. Jibbing is when you do tricks on things like boxes, benches, and rocks. Competitions include slope style, big air, half pipe, boardercross, big mountain, and rail jam.
Skateboarding – is riding on a skateboard. Tricks include: the ollie - a jump starting with the front wheels, the aerial – a jump where you do a handstand with your board in the air, flip tricks, slides and grinds which use railings, and lip tricks – using the edge, or lip, of a ramp.
Freestyle BMX biking/Dirt Jumping – These are high jumps for bicyclists. There are too many tricks to list. A couple include the tire grab, tabletop, Euro table, ET, Cannonball, Suicide No Hander, the Superman, and the Nothing – where nothing touches the bike.
Freestyle Motorcross & Big Air – These are motorcycle competitions where riders do tricks similar to the bicycles above. One of the most dangerous tricks is the back flip, considered the “holy grail” of Motorcross.
Parkour – is like street gymnastics, involving running, climbing, swinging, vaulting, jumping, rolling, and using your hands as well as your feet.

Sport & Design
All sport requires some degree of design, to find the best shoes, the best uniforms, the best skate design, materials, etc. Some sports rely more heavily on design and technology, such as racing cars, boats, and planes. Teams carefully design their cars and keep their plans secret. But these designs aren't merely the most practical and efficient. An element of aesthetics goes into them as well. Car designers don't just want the fastest car. They want something that looks good on a poster. And athletes want to look good when they win the race. So, art is a big part of sport design.

Sport Illustration
Illustration is a big part of sports, but today it’s dominated by photographers. Photos are fast, they can capture live action, they show great detail, and it’s all readers really want these days. But, before photography was big, there were some great artists who focused on sport.
One was Bob Peak (1927-1992). After working in advertising illustration, he designed posters for the film West Side Story, and such sci-fi posters as Rollerball, Star Trek, Superman, Excalibur, Apocalypse Now, and James Bond, The Spy Who Loved Me. He designed 30 stamps for the 1980-1984 Olympics.
Another was Bernie Fuchs (1939-2009). Bernie originally wanted to be a trumpet player, but lost three fingers in a work accident the year after finishing highschool. He started drawing, went to University for it, and began a career in advertising and magazine illustration, working for Redbook, Ladies Home Journal, and Sports Illustrated. Gaining fame, he became portrait artist for John F Kennedy.


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