Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Warhammer 40K

It was Warhammer 40K on our dining room table last weekend. My small detachment of Space Marines evaded David’s semi-sentient floating mines and torched the three small bio mine factories in the area, allowing for the safe escape of the lieutenant who bore the valuable gene seed that would aid in our eventual victory against the encroaching Tyranid enemy. The models were all David’s. I had a lot of fun, and it was a quick little skirmish.

Space Marines, using a lone flame thrower, head towards the first of three mine factories. The mine that is hitting them in this picture shook them up a little but caused no fatalities.

There is glee in mayhem.

This is a somewhat odd JFK half I found. Note that JFK’s part is unusually wide, and he appears to have shaved the side of his head from his temple to above his ear.

This isn’t from normal wear; it’s on the deepest part of the design, which translates to the highest points on the die used to mint the coin. This makes me think that this results from over-polishing, or some other form of wear, on the die. The high points on the die wore off, leaving the low points on the coin with pronounced flatness. (“Pronounced flatness”—pardon the oxymoron.)

[I was unable to take a decent photo of it today. The pics came out sort of rotten.]

A gentleman in London whom I recently made contact with via a coin discussion forum recently mailed me a bunch of “extras” he had no use for in his collection. I have yet to go through them in any detail, but there is some fun stuff. It was very, very kind of him to mail them to me. If we send Christmas cards this year, he’ll have to be added to the list for sure.

Likewise a forum moderator on the same Web site. He ran a random drawing contest on his forum, and I won a 1963 Cyprus proof set of five coins. I received them in the mail yesterday. Very cool.

Not even December yet, and it already feels like Christmas!


My glads are still pretty green, so I haven’t touched them. After the foliage turns brown, though, I think I’ll be digging them up and spreading them out a bit. I guess I’ll store them in the garage this winter, which may be a bit of a gamble. I don’t know the best way to store bulbs (or “corms,” really; glads don’t technically grow from bulbs), but I suspect that digging the bulbs from the ground with the intention of keeping them warm in the unheated garage all winter might only slightly lessen the risk of freezing them. It worked a couple of years ago, though. I left them in the ground last winter. I think, after I dig them up, clean them, and let them air out a little, they should be safe if I wrap them in something like newspaper and box them up.

The rosemary that I have growing in a pot is now at my office. Last week I brought it in and placed it by a consenting co-workers cubicle, next to a window. I hope it over-winters well, because a grand two-year-old rosemary plant should be nice to have next summer.


I watched the critically acclaimed “Army of Shadows” last week on DVD.

It’s a French film from 1969, about the Resistance during WWII. It was not released in this country until early this year.
I was expecting greatness, but my reaction was tepid. There were some very good things about it, but overall I can’t really recommend it.

Thanksgiving night I went to the theater with my brother Kevin and saw “No Country for Old Men.” Really, really good. I’ve had it on my mind quite a bit since viewing it.


I still need to finish the Cherokee Park landscape that I started the weekend before last. I haven’t touched it in a week.

I bought some black sumi ink to augment my ink experimentation. I’m eager to break it out, but so far I’ve only smudged it around a little. I wonder what a drawing done with both sumi ink and walnut ink would look like.

Carrie has loaned me some lino cutting tools and a brayer, which drastically reduces the already fairly modest start-up costs for doing some relief prints. I’ve really wanted to do this for months now, but now that the real opportunity is here, I’m not sure what I want to do.

At first glance, linoleum block printing seems quite a bit different from the way I normally work. I think of lino prints as typically depicting a self-contained object, or small group of objects, graphically clean and somewhat simplified. But when painting or drawing, I tend to work very sketchily, with a large variety of marks, and somewhat improvised. This method of drawing doesn’t directly translate into block printing. Also, the subject matter I keep thinking of doesn’t seem to reflect my general subject interests (that is, landscapes, vegetation, and buildings.) However, it just occurred to me that there really isn’t any reason at all that I can’t do a landscape as a block print. And it had already been on my mind that interesting buildings would be great to work on (I keep thinking of churches for some reason.)

I want to launch into a multi-color block print, but it seems wiser to do at least one single-color print to sort of feel my way into the process. It’s been a long time—more than twenty years—since I’ve done it.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Random cute kid stuff

Jill’s longest sentence, to date: “Peach jelly momma buy p[l]ease,” said to Kim at the grocery. I guess the syntax could use a little work, but I’m still impressed, especially with the use of the word “buy” and the considerate addition of “please.”

Yesterday at her preschool, Erin’s teacher, Ms. Kathy, had the students paint paper plates with a mixture of tempera paint and spices. The result was a painted pumpkin pie: A coppery-brown painted plate that smelled strongly of pumpkin spice and cinnamon. On the way home, Erin told Kim, “We painted with a [s]poon!”

“You painted it with a spoon?” responded Kim.

“Yeah,” said Erin. Pause. “I don’t think Ms. Kathy knows.”

“You don’t think she knows what?”

“what a ‘poon looks like and what a brush looks like.”

Last night Erin begged me to get out some grown-up games. She has been very interested in some old games that Kim’s dad brought over from storage a few days ago. She’s asked both Kim and me to get them out and just play them by ourselves; I suppose she wanted to see what they looked like, and was intrigued by the boxes, especially “The Game of Life.”

So I consented, first getting out a chess set. She and I played chess (she now knows that the horses are called knights, and that the king is important, and that you can capture other pieces on your turn.) Then we played Life, spinning the spinner and moving the little cars around the board. She’s a pretty good counter, and can recognize many of the numbers on the spinner without my help.

Also last night, Jill and Erin were playing with electric musical toys in the kitchen and dancing. Jill started doing this chicken dance--tucking her hands in her armpits, flapping her elbows, and saying “Ock, ock, ock” as she rapidly stomped in circles. The effect was very, very funny.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Cherokee Park

I dressed warmly and went to Cherokee Park today. Here's a decent (I think) start to a painting.

I also sketched some airplanes at Bowman Field, but the scenery just wasn't frosting my brownies. It's something I may come back to. However, for the time being, the notion of painting parked aircraft on the tarmac is more appealing to me in theory than in practice.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Usually when I hold the camera at arm’s length and snap a picture of myself, the results are awful. This photo turned out very nicely, though. I think it helps that my head is turned and the highlight of the picture is my much more photogenic daughter.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Monday, November 12, 2007

Two ink drawings

Here are two sketches I started on lunchbreaks and then worked on a little more at home. These were done with my homemade ink, homemade bamboo pens, brushes, forythia twigs, and crowquill nibs.

The ink not being as dark was I want has forced me to work a little more in layers. I don't think these come across as "finished" works of art, but I'm pretty happy with the results. Since they were mostly done on lunchbreak, I had to work fast, and I like the look of fast work.Sycamores and Black Walnuts, 16 1/2 x 11 1/2, walnut ink on paper

Gravel Path, 16 1/2 x 11m1/2, walnut ink on paper

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Rearranging the cold goods

Yogurts are never big enough to satisfy.
The bottle of margarita mix
from back with the crumbs
four years, an unused seƱorita
now dumped to make room.
Some things aren't made in Jelly Belly flavors
Things unmentionable to some
hot fantasies,
Things so savory.
When was this meat from?

How to Make Black Walnut Ink

Homemade Black Walnut Ink11-8-2007

I recently began making my own black walnut ink for use in drawing. There are various recipes around the Internet, and all of them are similar.

This is a long process, but most of the time is devoted to waiting. Very little of it actually involves doing something.

The basic process for making black walnut ink is this: Get rotten black walnuts, husk and all. Boil the heck out of them. Strain the mess and use the brown juice for drawing or writing. That’s all there is to it, really, but I’m always game for elaborating…

Step 1. Find your walnuts. Black walnut trees are fairly plentiful here in Louisville, and that seems to be true for much of the eastern half of the U.S. In October, one can spot the green, leathery, round fruit (usually just a little smaller than tennis balls) on the ground or getting ready to fall. One doesn’t use them when they are green, however. Gather the blackest, rottenest, gunkiest ones you can find. If there aren’t any that are black and icky, gather the green ones. Gather the entire fruit. The small, hard shell with the nut in the center is a non-essential piece for the ink. What one needs is the leathery rind. Just pick up the whole thing.

Newly gathered walnuts. Eat 'em? Naw! Get back, squirrels! I'm an artist!

(Warning: Black, oozy walnuts will stain hands and clothing, so use some caution.)

Step 2. Put them in a plastic bag and let them rot. The green ones will turn black over a few days or weeks.

(Another warning: At any step in this process, one can set all these walnuts aside. They are already rotten; it’s not like putting one’s ink-making on hold for days or even weeks will ruin the batch. If you store the walnuts outside, however, critters will be drawn to them. Squirrels will tear open bags and gnaw on pots.)

I refer to the walnuts in disgusting terms, and they are pretty gross. They get slimy and moldy, and you’ll probably find all kinds of strange little bugs living in them. Don’t worry. It all cooks down to the same brown sludge. Except for those little pale brown beetle larvae. They stayed shiny and intact even after hours and hours of boiling. If the ick factor is too high, just remember that you must suffer for your art. So must those with whom you share your kitchen.

Step 3. After they are black, put them in a large pot for which you don’t have any great affection. I used a large aluminum pot that we use very infrequently. I was surprised that, after I was done, the pot cleaned up very well; other sources, however, say that their pots and pans can become discolored. Stainless steel or enamel-coated pots seem to be the general recommendation, but my aluminum one worked just great.

Cover the walnuts with water and let them soak for at least a day. The longer they soak, the better. My first batch soaked for a day, and my second batch soaked for several days. I plan to make a third batch which I will allow to soak for several months.

(Another warning: The walnuts, water, and ink all have a high capacity for staining anything they come into contact with. This includes kitchen counters, fingernails, dishes, wooden spoons, and your clothing.)

Step 4. Dismantle the walnuts. Tear, mash, and break them up. The more little pieces one can get, the better. Remember, the rotten, black pulp material is the stuff that turns the water into ink.

With my first batch, I tore them up before I soaked them. With my second batch, I didn’t really break up the husks until they were cooking. Step 4 can kind of be inserted anywhere in the soaking step, or early in the cooking step (Step 5.)

Use this water, which at this point has started to turn black from the walnut juice, for the next step.

Step 5. With the walnuts still covered in their (now-blackened) water, put them on a medium-low heat. Let them simmer for a long time—hours. If the water gets too low, you can add more. The goal, though, is to let it slowly cook down.

Periodically, dip a brush into it and test the liquid on some paper to see how dark it is. Once the liquid is as dark as you want it, your ink is nearly done. It has probably cooked down quite a bit by this point.

The smell of the boiling walnuts is distinct, but not especially strong or unpleasant. It reminded me of rotten logs and damp forest.

Step 6. Let the dark brown mess cool for a while, and then strain it. The best method I’ve found so far is to stretch an old pair of nylons over a glass or plastic container, and pour the walnut sludge into it. Squeeze the sludge in the nylons to get as much liquid out of it as you can. Empty the walnut crumbs out of the nylons into the garbage (or your hedge, or compost heap, or your neighbor’s porch) and repeat until you’ve strained all the liquid into your container. Your container should now hold ink, free from all but small bits of sediment. This sediment, which will settle at the bottom of jars, shouldn’t be a problem.
I tried letting the muck drain through coffee filters. I don't recommend it. It was painfully slow and messy.
A page from my sketchbook, where I was testing and playing with the walnut ink.

Straining the ink. I put an old pair of nylons over the opening of a large plastic can that pretzels came in. After I filled it partially with walnut sludge, I pulled it out and squeezed it over the glass bowl. By the time I was done, the glass bowl was nearly full of the ink.

Step 7. You might want to add a preservative, since the ink can grow mold. The best recommendation I’ve heard so far is to add a small amount of denatured alcohol (add it so that it constitutes 5% of the ink). Salt would also work, but salt can lead to corrosion in metal pen nibs. Vinegar also can retard mold and bacterial growth, but its acidity renders the ink non-archival.

Optional: Most black walnut ink makers recommend the addition of gum arabic to improve the ink’s flow.

Results so far:11-8-07: After a couple of batches homemade black walnut ink, I am unsatisfied with the ink’s darkness. I tried taking a couple of jars and boiling them down further, and the ink did become more concentrated. The ink also became a little thicker and didn’t flow as well. This might be where the gum arabic would come in handy, but I haven’t bought any yet. A 2 ½ jar at the art store runs about twelve dollars. If I had that kind of money, I wouldn’t be making my own ink! Heh heh. I may try buying some powdered gum arabic on Ebay.

Even though the ink isn’t as dark as I’d like, it still is pretty nice. I think I might be able to make the next batch darker by letting the walnuts soak a lot longer—months, instead of days.

I am also running a lightfastness test with the ink on the dashboard of my car.

I will edit this post periodically as I learn more.

2-7-2012:  I guess I should add another update.  A couple of months ago I made another batch of ink from walnuts that I had sitting in a pot in my garage for about two years. Or was it three?  Anyway, they were sitting covered in water for a very long time.  I've read that there are chemicals in walnuts that discourage mold growth, and that must be true, for there was no mold in the walnuts. (Then why does the ink grow mold, I wonder?)

       These walnuts had also been soaking with some old nuts and bolts to add some iron content, on the theory that it would darken the ink.  I don't kow whether it was this iron, or the age of the walnuts, or a combination of the two, but the ink came out noticeably darker than previous batches.

6-27-13: Another brief update.  I am still using ink from previous batches and have not made any ink since that mentioned in the update above.  But to elaborate on the above point, I recently had four drawings side-by-side: three done with the newest batch of ink, which had very aged walnuts as well as rusty metal added to the mix, and one drawing done with an older batch that had not sat around soaking as long and which had not metal in it.

   The first three were brown, but were more of a charcoaly brown, whereas the the one had more of a burnt sienna appearance.

   My goal had been to make a darker ink, but comparing them, I think I actually like the browner one more.  It just has a more vibrant feel.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Pastimes and interests, waxing and waning:

-Making art: /\ 5 points
-Coin collecting: \/ 1 point
-Roleplaying games: \/ 3 points (commentary: Despite my recent excursion into Dan’s Cthulhu-land, I’ve not invested the time I want into RPGs. I really need to do some DMing soon before my players forget what they did last. Writing a long recap is a pain in the butt.)
-Gardening holding steady at seasonally low value.
-Boardgames: \/ 1 point. (commentary: I haven’t played much lately, although I did get the opportunity to play a really cool card game with the Sparkses last weekend.)

I’m working on assembling my pictorial tutorial for the creation of black walnut ink. Over the past few days I’ve made a couple of landscape drawing with it, and I’ll post pictures of those, too. Unfortunately, with the time change, I don’t have any decent daylight to use for photographing them when I get home from work.

The basil in the garden has all flowered and turned ugly. Between drought and then torrential rain and then cold, the tomatoes are all split and yucky. I was kind of burned out on them by early October, anyway, although I have a few green ones that I intend to fry.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The Call of Cthulhu, Part 2

We had arrived in the fishman cult room unobserved, for the monsters were absorbed in their diabolical ceremony. In a short moment, the waters of the great pool stirred, and a colossal beast arose: Something like a bipedal eel, a fish-man-demon of immense proportions, matching the golden statues of the altar. The chanting increased in volume as the beast strode from the water and sat his obscene bulk upon the golden altar. It was the fish-god’s chair.

Our stunned amazement was broken by Police Sgt. Willis, whose military rifle thundered to life. His blasts ripped the demon’s eyes apart, sending it into a frenzy. The others of our group produced weapons as well, and I pulled Willis’s pistol from his hip holster for my own use. I think I acquitted myself well, considering that I have almost no firearms experience. I killed one of the fishmen, and wounded two others. The photographer used his large photographic apparatus to blind the fishmen with flashes, and I think that had he not done so, we may have suffered greatly. As it was, we slaughtered the mutants as they closed in on us.

As we fought, the great fish demon struck the three captive girls with its tail, killing two of them. It then vanished back into the water.

After a hail of gunfire, the fishmen were dead. The one surviving girl was beside herself with fear and babbling incoherently. After a brief talk, it was agreed that the doctor and I would accompany her quickly back to the sunlit world. The rest would hurry down another tunnel, seeking the rest of the missing girls.

The doctor and I fled with the girl we had rescued back through the dank tunnels. We had come a long way through these menacing sewers, and the way back was sure to take at least an hour. It seemed to go on forever, and we hoped to encounter other rescuers.

Suddenly, our hopes seemed bourne out, as we spotted a flashlight ahead of us. We encountered a large man with a light and a gun, hurrying in our direction. We greeted him gladly, but he leveled his gun at us.

(Here the story ends, and Fr. Duddlesworth’s account mysteriously leaves off. How did he present this story? Was he dictating? Who knows? I kindly invite one of the other players from the night to put the ending on the tale, as I was not present. Yet I’ve heard how it ended. If no one else recaps in a few days, I’ll tack it on myself.)