Thursday, December 16, 2010

Back to the Drawing Board

These long winter evenings find me making another series of Maps for the new book on the Battle of South Mountain by my friend, Civil War historian, John Hoptak.

The maps are coming along swimmingly, and its always fun to render in two dimension that which John does so well in three dimension.

Though John, is tiny in stature, (only eight inches tall) he looms as an authority on the Battle of South Mountain and I always enjoy working with him.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Like a bad penny

I'm again being visited by a recent acquaintance, for the last time, I'm hoping.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Getting Organized...

is the theme of this winter.  Now, happily, I'm in a two-person household so I'm looking to reduce clutter and maximize sensible storage space.  This weekend (my weekends are Tuesdays and Wednesdays) I started to tackle my studio/study room.

A cast-off metal locker was crammed with lots of miscellaneous stuff.  The shelves really didn't lend themselves to efficient use as a storage asset.  I decided to make it my art supplies cabinet and set about making uniform and sturdy containers that would fit nicely into the locker.

Add to the mix was an old file cabinet that good friends gave me earlier in the year.  This pre-war beauty had seen too much time in barns and other non-climate controlled spaces over the years.  As a result it was filthy, dry-rotted in places, warped, and de-laminating.

I disassembled the entire thing and found some useable lumber including the sides of the drawers, which although very grimy, were still useable pieces of oak.

 There was also some interesting hardware.

Utilizing these salvaged materials I set to work with a plan to make an initial four storage boxes.

The first has stepped compartments to hold the tubes of liquid acrylic paint I frequently use.

The second got a lid for taller things.

The last two got sliding lids...

this one has an upper-storey tray that lifts out.

I think I'm off to a good start for this winter of getting organized.  Recycling sure is a lot more satisfying when you can immediately turn junk into useable materials...

    that also look so interesting.

Staying green(ish)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

When Art and Life Intersect

(photo by Marleen Brooks)
Susan, Rev. John Schildt, Mannie 

(photo by Marleen Brooks) 

Dunker Church
Antietam National Battlefield

Monday, November 1, 2010

Adventures in mrsa land

Sometimes the cure can feel nearly as bad as the cause.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Tales of the unexpected:part two

Ended up spending a week in Washington County Hospital (yuk)  Got home two days ago.  Needless to say our wedding is rescheduled.  The happy event will now be on November 20th.

I got health insurance (through my employer) last January, imagine if this had all  happened prior to then...

and this is just for the prescription.



Monday, October 25, 2010

Tales of the unexpected

Hospitals are filled with people who didn't expect to be there.  For the past four days, I've been one of them.

Staying optimistic (with a nasty knee infection)

This Sunday's bridegroom-to-be


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Speaking of Lucky...

Ran across this 2009 cartoon in the search for something else.

(click on it)

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Art + maple = flaky crust

Here's a humbling reminder from the shop that wood does, in fact, grow on trees.

Early this spring my brother gave me an assortment of two-inch limbs he'd trimmed from a maple tree.  I cut them into usable lengths, waxed the ends (to prevent checking), stored them in a dry place to wait until the moisture  left them.

Along comes my friend Alann who asked me to make a rolling pin for his mother's birthday, and out came the maple, off came the wax, and into the lathe went this nice 18-incher.

This piece locked up really nicely.  It was a really clean piece that turned like a dream.

Maple has a distinctively sweet smell as you turn it.

Starting at a 60 grit and ending up at a 220 grit, it sanded up nicely.

Dowels await the turning of a pair of cherry handles.

Finished, with an "old school" tattoo design, this rolling pin is destined for a collection rather than a kitchen drawer.  I'm still hoping though, for a slice of apple pie.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Friday, September 3, 2010

Those benches

The bench-building continues at a brisk pace.  I'm taking advantage of my last free week before returning to taking classes to knock out some knockout projects.

After recently seeing a delightful documentary on old-school tattoo artist Norman Collins, better known as "Sailor Jerry" I was inspired to bring a little more color to my bench project.

I've already made five of these classic American benches, the first batch finished very plainly and the second (gifts for my sweetie) were decorated with routing, woodburning, and color.

I wanted to bring a little more design to the five-board benches I'd been making.  

On this latest batch of four the relief cuts on the legs are valentine hearts rather than simple holes.  I used a hole saw on my drill press followed by a band saw operation to make these little hearts.

The second variation was the brace between the legs, what I'm calling the 1/2 board in my "five and a half board benches".  These are the fully assembled benches awaiting staining, decoration, and varnishing.

This bench is a gift for two very good friends who raise chickens - as pets, so I thought I'd start with a very generic hen outline and then spruce it up a little.

Using a wide range of Prismacolor pencils I came up with this fanciful creation which I call...

the Chilean Goldenback.  Needless to say, It was very well received by my friends this afternoon.

Then next one was for me, very much a tattoo and very much a nod to my time (tattooless time) in the U.S. Navy.   

This is a faithful copy of a classic Sailor Jerry design.
The Prismacolors are remarkably vivid on wood and I'm really pleased with the result.

The next bench, or "tattoo bench" as I'm calling them, is also based upon a Sailor Jerry design though with my own variations.  That's my little mountain home in the center of the valentine with the Cumberland Valley in the background.  Sunset around these parts looks remarkably like the drawing.

I think the bench reflects the happiness of the couple who live in that little house.

After two coats of spar varnish the image is locked in and smudge proof.  Again, I'm really pleased with the effect of the colored pencils on stained wood.

What a satisfying way to close out the summer.  Now I have all winter to plan new projects for the springtime.

Check in again,


Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Old School Ink

For my latest run of five-board benches I'm using some classic Sailor Jerry tattoo flash for the design work.  I render them in color pencil and seal them in with spar varnish.

I was in the Navy so don't bust my chops about the design.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Staying humble

I'm a Ranger at a National Park, and I give tours and talks explaining the historic event that occurred here and why it remains significant to us nearly a century and a half later.

I really enjoy what I do and I'm good at it;  though I find it never pays to take yourself too seriously.

One afternoon, a couple of years ago I was giving the two-hour battlefield tour and everything was really clicking.   The weather was beautiful, I had a big energetic crowd, they were asking great questions and I was really on a roll.

As their enthusiasm and interest continued to increase, my energy level also began to build, before you knew it, I was giving one of the best talks of that summer.

And man-oh-man did my audience respond.

They were getting more into it and excited by the minute.

It seemed that everyone was taking pictures of me...

lots of enthusiastic pointing...

and smiles all around.  People were really, really, into what I was telling them.

As I wrapped up that part of the tour and headed back to my van to lead them to the next stop, one of the visitors tapped me on the shoulder and asked...

"Did you know that there was a butterfly on your hat for much of the time you were talking to us?"

Humility is a lesson learned daily at your National Parks.



Sunday, August 8, 2010

Wipeout! my Guamanian bicycle adventure

Bicycling on Guam in 1971 was one of the many pleasures of being stationed on that beautiful island. 

 One day, after watch, I set out for the beach that was near the Naval Communications Station.  It was at the foot of a long and winding steep road.  It was fun to coast down that road, gaining great speed only to plunge into the surf at road's end.  I'd done this once before.

Guam is rich in culture and history,

A. the mysterious latte stones, left from earlier cultures on the island, or

B.  The  remaining Japanese holdout who wasn't captured until 1972, the island was, and remains, one of wonder.

C.  I was pedaling, then coasting, then careening down the coral-surfaced road toward...

D. NCS Beach.

E.  Needless to say I was making great headway.  According to the cigar I was using as an air-speed indicator I was going about thirty-five miles per hour, when, quite unexpectedly, I hit...

F.  some minuscule discontinuity in the road surface which turned the bike into a catapult, sending me hurtling over the handlebars and onto the abrasive coral road surface still at a great rate of speed as the bicycle crashed, rolled, bumped, and clattered down hill with me.

I ended up heaped in a ditch as the bike landed on top of me.  I've no idea how long I was in that position, when I heard an approaching car.

A very nice Chamorro lady, driving by, stopped to give me some water and to summon an ambulance from the base.  Within thirty minutes I was at the base dispensary, quite dazed, having a hospital corpsman removing the coral particles from my bleeding road-rashed arms with a laundry scrub brush.

Although the bike was totaled, I was back to work at my regularly scheduled time, arm in a sling for about three weeks.

And that's what I did in the war children.