SLEIGHT OF HAND: The use of digital dexterity and cunning to deceive.
The sleight of hand artist relies upon digital skills to accomplish his illusions. These techniques are invisible to the audience. The juggler openly displays his hard earned skills. The sleight of hand artist hides them. They are concealed within natural movements and actions.
Beyond the finely acquired skills of his dexterous fingers the sleight of hand artist also relies upon other subtleties to accomplish his deceptions: Psychology and timing, language both verbal and physical, help him in deceiving all of the audience’s senses.
Sleight of hand is synonymous with the art of close up magic. It’s a form of magic performed within close proximity to the audience. The objects used are common everyday items, playing cards, coins, paper currency even cell phones. Though anything that fits into the artist’s hands becomes magical. This impromptu style of close range magic makes deception seem totally impossible, yet amazingly, the totally impossible still occurs.
What is close up magic? What is a close up magician?
Close up magic is the intimate art of producing astounding illusions by sleight of hand performed within close proximity to the audience.
The magical objects or props need to fit in the close up magician’s hands. The traditional props are playing cards, coins, cups & balls and even dice. However, anything that fits into the magician’s hands is fair game for his miracles; a cell phone, a pen, paper napkins, a saltshaker, a coffee cup or a dollar bill.
Unlike the stage performer the close up artist brings his magic right into the audience space. There’s no stage or curtains, no boxes or mirrors, simply an object in the magician’s hands held inches away from the spectator’s eyes. The magic often happens right in the spectator’s hand!
Under these strict, close up and challenging conditions, deception seems utterly impossible. Yet, miraculously, the totally impossible still occurs! Close up magic is by far the most demanding form of the magical arts and when done perfectly it is the most astounding!
Close-up magic is best performed for an audience of 30 or less and can be performed sitting at a table or standing. With the arrival of LSV (large screen video) technology larger groups can be accommodated.
Another form of close-up magic is strolling magic. This style has become popular for social and cocktail hours where guests are standing and mingling in small groups. The close-up magician moves around the room entertaining these smaller groups of guests. Street magic is also a form of close-up magic.
Photo & art credits:
Photo art manipulation by Steven Paul Carlson, portrait photo by Nick Olson
The Coin Magician’s Dream, photo art by Steven Carlson
In the art of close-up-magic, coin magic easily finds its place toward the top of the most challenging skills.
Coins, along with playing cards, are the primary objects in the close-up magician’s repertoire.
Historically coins predate playing cards by a good three to four thousand years.
Coins were first introduced as a method of payment around the 6th or 5th century BC and have been in the magician’s bag of tricks ever since.
In the magician’s hands coins appear, vanish and multiply. They magically move from place to place or from hand to hand, visibly and invisibly. Coins change from sliver to copper and even grow in size. The possibilities of magic with coins is limitless.
Coin magic relies upon the intricate dexterity of the artist. Dexterous skills acquired through years of practice, training and performance.
A master sleight of hand artist’s technique is never seen. To the audience it is invisible. These graceful methodologies lie gently hidden beneath the surface of natural movements and gestures. Only then does the coin magic appear effortless and impossible.
My name is Steven Paul Carlson, I have been practicing magic since I was 6 years old and I have been performing magic professionally for over 40 years.
So sit back and relax and enjoy the magical ride.
Oh, and please, fasten your seat belts. 😉
Photo & art credits:
Coin and photo art by Steven Paul Carlson, portrait photo by Nick Olson
Alexander Herrmann, better known as Herrmann the Great, came from a family of magicians. He was the youngest of 16 children born to Samuel Herrmann and Anna Sarah (Meyer) Herrmann. His father, Samuel, born in Germany, was a magician but also became a physician. As Samuel’s family began to grow he gave up his magic to practice medicine full time. Samuel moved his new family to France.
Samuel’s first son was Compars “Carl” Herrmann. Compars, opposite from his father, left medical school to go into magic full-time.
Alexander also had a great interest in magic and Compars, took him on as his magic assistant at the young age of 8. They traveled throughout Europe with a very successful show.
Alexander, began his own independent career in magic in 1862 in American. He had a number of very successful tours in England and Europe. But out of respect to his older brother Compars, Alexander moved back to America settling into his own successful magic career.
Alexander was tall and thin and always dressed immaculately. He had wavy black hair and wore a magnificent handlebar mustache with goatee which added to his Mephistophelean appearance.
According to H. J. Burlingame, Alexander Herrmann’s personality presented “an atmosphere of mystery about the magician.” Burlingame also noted that Herrmann was one of the kindest and gentlest of men.
Herrmann died on December 16 1896 at the age of 52. Herrmann’s wife Adelaide, continued her husband’s show becoming the Queen of Magic, the first lady of magic. She performed for 25 years retiring at the age of 75.
Herrmann the Great performed a large stage illusion show but he was best known for his elegant sleight of hand.
A Magician’s Walk in the Park – by Steven Carlson
Being a traditionally trained artist and illustrator I’m more familiar with brushes, pencils and pastels. However I do enjoy experimenting with the digital medium through Photoshop.
I recall the days when manipulating photography involved lots of time in the darkroom a steady hand with an X-acto knife and skill with an airbrush…. 40 years ago Photoshop would have been a true magical miracle!
Another title might be… Bicycles on the Walking Path.
As a sleight of hand artist, or close-up magician, I occasionally get to perform at really fun venues. Such was the case last month in Minneapolis, MN at The Theater in the Round.
It was an evening of magic, manipulation and illusion. In the photo, shown here, I am finishing my close-up magic performance with a classic magical effect called, The Cups & Balls. Here, in a finale I created back in 1975, one of the cups magically fills with pennies and pours out on to the table. Who says, magic doesn’t make any sense… (cents )
The priceless expression on the face of my audience helper, makes this one of my all time favorite magic photos. I hope you enjoy it. 🙂
Sleight of Hand Artist, Steven Carlson, performing his elegant style of close-up magic for guests at the beautiful Forepaugh’s Restaurant in St. Paul, MN. The magic event was on Halloween night, a tribute the great escape artist, Harry Houdini.
in 1899 Houdini’s career was going nowhere and he was seriously contemplating retirement from entertainment. But his big break came in St. Paul, MN at the Palm Garden beer hall, (less than a half mile away from the Forepaugh’s mansion) when he met manager Martin Beck. Beck, impressed with Houdini’s handcuff act, advised Houdini to concentrate on the escapes and booked him on the Orpheum vaudeville circuit. The rest is history.
Houdini died on Halloween in 1926 he was 52.