The Monitor Wreck, on this day.

Line engraving published in "Harper's Weekly", 1863, depicting USS Monitor sinking in a storm off Cape Hatteras on the night of 30-31 December 1862. A boat is taking off crewmen, and USS Rhode Island is in the background.

United States Naval History and Heritage Command, #: NH 58758

The Wikipedia article.


And .... again.

And ... better .....

A little more of the aluminum leaf is showing, and the color is closer. I may be done?


Once again ...

Well, that was quick ...

I like this version a lot; it's "dry", it has the colors of the painting, but isn't the color of the painting ... it's on the wall, maybe I'll let it sit for a few days.

Wiped all the previous toning, and scumbled an acrylic wash, with some rottenstone and cerulean blue pigment, dusted on after the wash was dry.

The photo is more 'intense" than it is in person, though the painting is pretty accurate ....

Changes in frames

Both of these paintings have had the finishes on the frames modified. I'm pretty happy with the top one; a stippled on wash of raw umber, then some rottenstone with yellow ochre added. I'm a little more ambivalent about the bottom one; I like the "dryer", duller feel, but the scumbled on color ... I may need to soften it, though I will hang them back up and see how I feel in a day or two. Both of these finishes have antecedents in the modernist frames of the 1940s and 50s, such as this one: Peter Blume at The Art Institute.


Repairing a broken ornament.

This ornament is the only one of the four corners still there, though it is broken and loose, held on by the nails that the composition was anchored too. Sometimes I can get the ornament back in position but this one was stubborn.  In the next photo, below, I've removed the broken part so I can clean the fracture and remove the nails.

These last three photos show the back. For reinforcement, and to replace the now missing nails, I cut some slots using a saw blade in a Foredom tool, (a fancier Dremel tool) Thin welding rod will be cut, and glued into the slots, cyanacrylate, both to glue the ornament and the rods. The next photos show masking tape in the perforations of the ornament, and the the slots and lacunae being filled. I'm using catalyzed polyester resin, more commonly called Bondo as the fill material.

Once that is cleaned up I'll do what repairs are needed to the face so I have a corner to make a mold from. The next photo shows the top of the ornament with its undercut. This would have been cast separately, as will the replacement ornaments.

The last photo shows the top of the ornament ready to be molded, with a plastilina dam surrounding it.

Mold material will be alginate; ornaments will be cast from Bondo, thinned with liquid resin.

Float frames

Some samples of "float" frames.


Another Painting

And, another painting that needs a little something to the frame.

More trees

How exciting, more trees!

A close up of the tree from yesterday showing its scabrous bark. It appears to be a brand of Oak.


Painting ReDo

I've done a little more work to this painting, and changed its title: "What?" This was prompted by some thoughtful and sincere critiques from friends and relations. Of course, being the decider, I decided Shrek was more appropriate than the "Mother Ship" from Close Encounters.

Diseased Tree?

The morning walk sometimes takes us past this tree. From that first limb on the left, almost to the top of the photo, there are strange growths, burls, accretions. iPhoneography; maybe I should take a "real" camera next time. I should also try and figure out the species. I would be very curious to see what the wood looks like.


Another painting


Another painting and frame, though this is not completely done, as the frame is a tad too bright; I need to tone it down, and make it more matte. Egg tempera on panel, with a basswood frame, carved and aluminum leaf gilt. 

Painting based on an older watercolor. I'm very pleased with this version.This is darker, more brooding, with much removed; a minimalist version. Edward Hopper called this "cannibalizing".
I think of it as just part of the process, especially if I feel the earlier version could be improved upon.

If you've come here from my main site, you'll notice the frame is quite different. Other versions. Here. And again,


Painting with frame. By Me

Painting is egg tempera on a gessoed hardboard panel. All traditional, though I use an air brush for the smoothly graduated sky. Painting is SW Lake Michigan, looking at the dunes with a lowering sun, very loosely based on photographs. I'm trying more for a "feel"and emotion of place than an accurate depiction of place.

Frame is butt joined basswood, with floating mortise and tenon construction. (Biscuits). The shape was done with a bandsaw, including cutting the "rays", then carved. The bottom has had an additional 3/8 of an inch extra laminated on, as it was unbalanced at first. Feels better now. Gesso, acrylic color as a base coat, shellac, metal leaf, shellac and japan colors in VM&P Naphtha, as a wash.

Photo of painting is not the best, but egg tempera is, probably due to it's luminosity, hard to photograph accurately, as are frames ...

Frame is loosely based on, loosely being the operative word, inspired by might be more accurate, by the bottom front frame on the book cover above. It's the only frame of those six not in the book ... ???

Edited 12-13, changed picture for a better version.


Frame Restoration

I haven't talked much of frame restoration, but there was a question about courses in frame restoration on the Grumble, and I thought I should post my reply here. It has always been a part of what I do. I don't do puzzles but I remember spending several hard days piecing back together hundreds and hundreds of broken frame ornaments from an early 19th. c. mirror frame. It was both challenging and enjoyable. Most restorations don't involve a lot of replacement ornaments, as the example above, though quite a few involve regilding.

 "The hard part is gilding and there are classes and workshops offered here and there. Smooth-On and their distributor, Reynolds AM, offer both the materials and knowledge on how to use various casting and molding supplies. There are a few books on frames available now, including this which covers methods. "The Encyclopedia of Picture Framing Techniques: A Comprehensive Visual Guide to Traditional and Contemporary Techniques". There have also been reprints of the two classic books on ornament, "The Encyclopedia of Ornament" and "The Grammar of Ornament". Once there is some feel for the language of ornament, it is possible to reconstruct missing ornaments when there are only fragments left. Basic knowledge of woodworking, carving and some modeling skills are all helpful."

The frame above, showing the bole on some replacement ornaments, prior to water gilding. The frame is from the Albert Milch Co., New York, and is a fine example of the "Art of Framing"; beautifully ornamented and water gilt, with extensive burnishing.


This Day

Abraham Lincoln, by Daniel Chester French, Sculptor
Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C.

Today, November 19th., in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln delivers his brief remarks, The Gettysburg Address, at the dedication of the National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

The "Address" is famous for it's succinct summation of the war.

The battle is controversial as to whether it was the turning point, ( No, Antietam ), or was it the "high-water mark" for the confederacy. ( Yes ). Though the war would bloodily stagger on for almost two more years, it was the last time the confederacy had the men and material to actually win the war, and after Antietam, world opinion seemed unwilling to support slavery, thus losing the political war.

Contrary to Robert E. Lee's "Old War Horse", James Longstreet, I believe Lee had a very good plan, which was why he was willing to take the offensive against a good defensive position. Unfortunately, JEB Stuart, and his troopers, seems to have been "tired" from gallivanting around gathering glory, and were stopped by a ferocious little "Wolverine", George Armstrong Custer, preventing Stuart from getting into the rear of the Union lines. Had he done so, the outcome of the battle may have been far different. There are markers for the "high-water mark", commemorating a Lieutenant Alonzo Cushing, and General Lewis Armisted, who were mortally wounded at the farthest breach of the union lines.

At Gettysburg, Lee and Longstreet seem to have been at "odds", though I think the south has been negligent in it's appreciation for one of Lee's very trusted lieutenants, "Old Pete", "Lee's Old Warhorse", who had his bad days, as do we all. Fairly recently, there has been an Equestrian statue erected at the battle field at Gettysburg; seems it took a while, but better late ...



This morning, chill, damp and foggy.

Today, in 1864, Arch-villain or war hero, William Tecumseh Sherman begins "The March to the Sea', abandoning his supply lines while in enemy territory, and unusual for that era, a winter campaign.

Civil war reading; about the one year, and selected individuals, including Major Robert Anderson, of Fort Sumter fame, and Colonel Elmer Ellsworth, leader of the New York Fire Zouaves. Ellsworth was the first well known death in the Civil War. In Danville, Illinois, I lived once, on the bluff above the North Fork of the Big Vermilion River, and just down stream from Ellsworth Park. His name has graced much since his early death. Danville is the county seat, and was a part of the law circuit that Abraham Lincoln traveled as a prairie lawyer. Danville is where I developed a taste for reading county histories, variable from all the excitement of the best thriller, to the sleep inducing quality of watching paint dry.


The Morning Dog Walk

Sun up and frost on the leaves, and talk of snow later in the day. Later, a post on one of my current projects; counter tops made from ... bowling alleys.


No Comments

Some Jack-o-lanterns, though Halloween has passed. I got distracted whilst doing the previous post, and failed to mention that I've turned off comments for a variety of reasons, with probably the most important being that a lot of what I write is in the form of brief essays, and are not part of a conversation. If you would like a conversation or have questions, please email me; the link is posted.



More monochrome, arcane minutiae

The start of a sketch, a riverine landscape, on my drafting table that I use for sketching and painting. I was working with my Pelikan pen, Richard Binder nib, Noodlers ink, on Strathmore plate Bristol, when the gentleman who sold me the pen, called me on my picture viewer to discuss some frames. ( I'm using my iPhone as a picture viewer ) I work from photos, as I have children, dogs, old houses, cats, leaky studios, and old vehicles all requiring some attention, not to mention the occasional customer. Looking forward to when one of the kids gets an iPad, so I can borrow it.

The sketch is where I rough out the general composition, the sweep and flow. This will, if I make a painting from it, will be planar, horizontally, of a plain, undramatic landscape. I seem to enjoy a certain undramatic scene.

Photos are a start; I'm not trying to duplicate the photo, and I often combine elements, as I'm trying for a feeling of place and time, and the emotive qualities of a plain and simple landscape ...  the above may be a touch too dramatic. It's not that I can't be dramatic ... just my best stuff seems of the ordinary.



Over on TOP, there has been a lengthy discussion on the subject of a B&W only digital camera, with quite a bit of technical nuance and minutia; and frankly I didn't get it until the third post on the subject, where it really got into the minutia. My "ahh-hah" moment was realizing that I have always done a certain amount of work in monochrome; only not always photographically ...

My monochrome, black and white, tools of choice; Strathmore Bristol board, plate, or smooth finish, and one of the two fountain pens I use for sketching, filled with Noodlers "Heart of Darkness" black ink (In photo). The pen above, a Parker Vacumatic, circa 1935, with a nice nib. My other sketcher is a Pelikan from the late eighties, with a custom, very flexible nib, from Richard Binder.

Enough arcane minutia?

These sketches are seldom seen, as only occasionally will I do proposal sketches in pen and ink. It is personal work, enjoyable for the discipline of all lines are permanent, and the "grays" require some effort.

I have avoided making this a lecture on pen and ink, the dip pen nibs in their hundreds of variety's, the holders, the actual quills and reeds, and the multitudes of ink ... what you see above is the culmination of a practice I started in my late pre-teens.



Walnut wood

Two Legged Rocker, Black Walnut

The above is an example of furniture made from the "King" of American cabinet woods, Black Walnut. The wood carves beautifully, finishes very well, and has a lovely , warm color. Working it can , however, stain the hands, and in fact strong dyes have been extracted from walnuts and their cousin, Butternut. Butternut was a very common dye in antebellum America, that during the Civil War, enough of the Confederacy's uniforms were dyed with butternut dye, that the troops became known as "Butternuts". Walnut ranges from a milk chocolate to a dark chocolate, and will have a purple hue in air dried lumber, as opposed to kiln dried lumber.

A corner of the studio, with some miscellaneous wood; birds eye maple, some knotty pine, some oak, some mahogany from a dismantled piece of furniture, and some walnut planks, and a walnut frame eventually to be a mirror.
In earlier times, the walnut was prized for the nuts, while the wood was a utilitarian material; used for fence rails, rail road ties, and I've seen a house in east-central Illinois, that was all framed in walnut. The nuts are still collected, prized for their rich, and distinctive flavor, though it is a difficult process. There are tools, nineteenth c., hand cranked, for the removal of the hull from the nut, but we moderns seldom want to work that hard.

A picture of a fresh nut in it's husk, one that has the husk mostly rotted off, and the nut after being ravaged by squirrels. This has been a good year for the two walnuts in my back yard; the "thump-thump---thump,thump,thump" of nuts smacking on the studio roof has been going on for a few weeks, followed by the skittering sound of the industrious squirrels, who are busy chewing off the hulls and burying the nuts.

Top, the big walnut, and bottom, an example of the "trashed" state of my backyard. It is, in fact dangerous to walk in our backyard now, as it is very easy to twist an ankle from stepping on a walnut, and if the hull is getting soft, you can slip. And the leaves and hulls are toxic to other plants, and kill many other plants in the back yard. Usually the squirrels do a pretty good job of keeping them under control, but this year, a big crop, and then there are some little Pine squirrels running around, and I am told they are very aggressive with the bigger gray and fox squirrels.

I'm tolerant of the walnut mess, because I have an appreciation for the wood, the nuts, and their interaction with the history of our country, though I do not avail myself of the nuts at my feet. It's a time factor.


The Very Littlest Dragon

 Frame, courtesy Baer Charlton, Art,  Laura Reynolds.

This is one of the rewards for the revamped Kickstarter project mentioned below, and repeated here.

The very first novel about a picture framing shop, really. The book was written by Baer Charlton, published photo journalist for over 20 years, professional picture framer for over 40 years, multi-medium artist since diapers, and illustrated by Laura Reynolds, a terrific sci/fi and fantasy artist. They are doing a Kick Starter project to fund the publication and distribution of the book, here. They need some help, so check it out.

Kick Starter is an All or Nothing method of funding creative projects, involving pledges of support and rewards for your pledge. Projects range from Art to inventions, books, films; anything creative that needs a little "Kick".


Regular programming. On Wood

Above, two boards of basswood in the rough.  Below, a planed board, showing the very subtle pattern. For carved frames that are going to be finished, basswood is my preferred wood, as it mills readily and carves with and across the grain easily. It does not dull tools, and only occasionally is the wood "difficult". The Wikipedia article.

I've carved from walnut, oak, mahogany, maple, ash, hickory, butternut, and they all have worthy attributes, but for finished picture frames, basswood is supreme. It can also be clear finished, having a subtle but distinctive look. Much of the work of the celebrated English/Dutch carver, Grinling Gibbons is carved from basswood, or lime, as it is known in England.

The wood is useful as a secondary cabinet wood; its flowers produce a high grade honey; basswood is considered to have medicinal qualities, and the name "bass" is derived from "bast", a product of the inner bark, which native Americans used to make rope.

It is a large tree, growing wild and as a cultivated street tree.

Addenda: A large basswood in the tree lawn a block over from my home.



Civil War Monument, Cassopolis, Michigan

Today, September 17th. the bloodiest single day of the American Civil War, Antietam, or Sharpsburg. Tactically inconclusive, though considered a Federal strategic victory, it led to President Abraham Lincoln's announcement of the Emancipation Proclamation.

On September 22, 1862, Lincoln announced that he would issue a formal emancipation of all slaves in any state of the Confederate States of America that did not return to Union control by January 1, 1863. This effectively ended Confederate hopes of a European intervention.


She's back!

This is a photo from 2 years ago, but  "Victory" is back atop The Soldiers and Sailors Monument in Indianapolis. More, here, at Indy Star.

And, in the "how quickly we move on to really important stuff ...", the news this morning was all atwitter about Madonna having "dissed" one of her fans over some flowers. PFUI.


Kickstater redux.

Cover, courtesy Baer Charlton, Laura Reynolds.
This project didn't reach it's funding goals but there is a lot of interest in it still; soon, hopefully there will be more news, including some alternate methods of publishing.


Kick Starter Project

Note: This post is sticky for the balance of the project. Scroll down for more recent posts.

Cover, courtesy Baer Charlton, Laura Reynolds.

The very first novel about a picture framing shop, really. The book was written by Baer Charlton, published photo journalist for over 20 years, professional picture framer for over 40 years, multi-medium artist since diapers, and illustrated by Laura Reynolds, a terrific sci/fi and fantasy artist. They are doing a Kick Starter project to fund the publication and distribution of the book, here. They need some help, so check it out.

Kick Starter is an All or Nothing method of funding creative projects, involving pledges of support and rewards for your pledge. Projects range from Art to inventions, books, films; anything creative that needs a little "Kick".




More Civil War

284 feet in the air above The Soldiers and Sailors Monument, Monument Circle, downtown Indianapolis, stands "Victory", or sometimes "Lady Liberty", with flaming torch in her left hand, and a mighty sword in her right, and wearing an eagle as a headdress. She recently has returned to the circle from a visit to the "beauty shop", where she has undergone restoration.

Here, in her hoisting gear, before her floodlit, towering base, she stands waiting for the winds to settle so she may be lifted back high above the city. When she first arose atop  the monument, it was in over 40 separate pieces, pulled aloft by horses and pulleys, with a system of pins to hold her together. Now, she has been welded together and will ride this to her perch:

Sorry for the bad photo, but I didn't have a handy tree or pole to brace the camera with, as in the previous photo, and it was windy.

We were in Nap Town for a family expedition, and I've not been following the news, so I did not know she was still on the ground. After dinner, though, we were able to drive around the circle, and I had to stop and take a few photos.

Indianapolis is home to the tallest Civil War Monument, quite possibly the finest Childrens Museum on the planet, a wonderful State Museum, with a delightful series of sculptural plaques depicting each of the states counties, and what is becoming a world class art museum, with it's new, 100 acre Art and Nature Park. And dolphins and ellyphants at the zoo. Oh, and the Eiteljorg Museum of Western Art, and something named after an oil company, Lucas?, where some football team plays, US football, Colts, and some guy named Manning, some sort of celeb. 8-)


On this Day, September 3rd.

The Civil War monument in Cassopolis, Michigan. On this day in 1862, General Robert E. Lee begins the Maryland campaign, which would end at Antietam, a battle many consider the true beginning of the end for the Confederacy. Somewhat related, in 1838, future abolitionist, Frederick Douglas, escapes from slavery.

Off Topic, Electronica

Above, a screen shot from my iPhone. Recently, on the Picture Framers Grumble, there was a discussion about QR codes, which I've talked of previously.

I'm a fan of QR codes; there's one with my contact info to the right, so I thought a little history. I'm not an early adopter, waiting in lines for the latest gadget, but I was pretty quick to move from a paper "Day Runner" type organizer to an electronic one, in the form of a Palm gadget. I think I went through two of them before going to an even better gadget, the smart phone. The Palms were searchable, had their own "shorthand", Graffiti, which was intuitive and fairly easy to pick up, and they could sync with a desktop computer. Later models also had an infrared port, which allowed for electronic information exchange between Palms. No typing or shorthand data entry, which until recently is missing on smart phones.

Now, finally, we have the QR code, and simple generators and readers for the codes, which allow for electronic information exchange between devices, with out the need for data entry.

A screen shot of the reader and code generator on my phone, Qrafter. Codes can be any bits of information, but the real value is they put the information where it belongs, and they are not platform specific, though a smart phone is needed. Once scanned, the info can be used to create a contact entry, link to a website, sent as an email, text message, or tweet, or just to offer a "special". By eliminating data entry, errors are eliminated, and the need for business cards could be eliminated, though there will always be some hold outs.

I'm seeing them more often, on shop windows, magazine advertisements., etc.. They offer both information and specials, such as links to special offers, but any information that one wants to pass on can be made into a code.

I recently scanned one from a guitar magazine, "waiting for the kid's lesson to be over", that linked to a website for Gretsch guitars, and specific to Duane Eddy, The King of Twang, with videos of some of his songs. Those of a certain age will know what I'm talking about, though he is still very active. The QR code:




Whilst looking for photos of my polydactyl cat, I ran across these and decided they needed to see the wide open spaces of the interwebs.

Probably 19th. century, a Chippendale style "Chinoserie" mirror frame, carved and gilt. The above is the after picture.

The frame in process. It had extensive lacunae (losses) at the arrises (edges) (just trying to educate everybody), numerous fractures and numerous cases of lost carvings. The frame is hand carved. The white is new gesso fills. The entire frame was regilt, 23K, water and size gilding.

I had to "make up" some missing ornaments, as there was only the one, and it was gone, but if you study frames, ornamentation is a language, that once learned, makes it relatively easy to fill in the missing "words". Of course, it took some time to learn the language. Just looking at frames is a start; then there are the classics; "The Grammar of Ornament", Owen Jones, and "The Encyclopedia of Ornament", A. Racinet. Both have modern reprints. Obtaining a catalog from Decorators Supply, in Chicago, is worth the price of admission, though not focused on framers needs.