Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

This was one of only two pumpkins in our garden that grew to adulthood, and the only that was fully orange by Halloween. He was happy to get carved, can you tell?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Costumes and pumpkins

I recently learned that there is a large costume contest down at 4th Street Live! this weekend; I think I'll head down to compete.  Maybe, with a little luck, I can turn my Halloween-themed work into a cash prize.  The only trouble is, I'm not sure I'll actually be able to enter any of the establishments in-costume without bumping light fixtures.
I'm really not very familiar with 4th Street Live! since I don't have little money or time to spend drinking in downtown nightspots.  Therefore, I'm not too certain of the layout.  I'm guessing walking around in my costume would be a little more awkward than walking in the Baxter Avenue Halloween Parade.
I'd love to see what other costumes show up; I bet competition will be stiff.  In light of that, I may have to do some tweaking of my own outfit before the weekend.  I'm thinking of adding an eerie glow to the inside of my skull, some painted decorative trim to the robe, and improving the paint job on the chain.  Maybe I'll add a little ornamentation.
Yesterday I went to my girls' school and gave an art class demonstration on pumpkin sculpting.  I brought a couple of pumpkins that I had started, and let the nine or so kids in the class finish them off.  We ended up peeling the skin off the backs of the pumpkins, too, so that there were a total of four faces to work on.  The kids really sailed into them, gouging and scraping.  They seemed to enjoy it.  Only two of my fine-point tools were broken, which is better than I dared to hope beforehand.  I had fun with it.
By yesterday afternoon, I felt a little burned out on pumpkin sculpting, but it's coming back.  I could do another tonight, if I had time.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Pumpkin sculpting

 I tried my first sculpted pumpkin last Halloween; it was crude, but I was pleased with the results.  This photo is of my second attempt, last night.  It, too, is crude. I need to refine my technique.  I like it, and I'm proud of it, but it's far from the dazzling, polished ones you can find online.
I also need to get some better tools.  I hope I can find some that don't cost too much.  My one ribbon sculpting tool started falling apart last night (I'll have to try super-gluing it, and maybe sharpening it.)  Reading on the internet also just taught me that a scouring pad would really help.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Free book

My friend Ed alerted me to this free on-line collection of short stories, readable as a PDF file.  I've only read the first couple of stories. Odd, slightly ghastly fun. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Dining room table artwork

Sent on the Sprint® Now Network from my BlackBerry®

Halloween costume and parade

Well, I finally walked in the annual Baxter Avenue Halloween Parade this year. My dad helped out; not only did he hold the chanin that was around the neck of my 10-foot-tall monster, helping me present a ferocious appearance, he also helped out in driving back from the end of the parade, and provided back-up in case I had costume trouble. It was very helpful to have a "spotter" to let me know if I was falling too far behind the float in front of me, or to let me know if there was someone I needed to pay particular attention to (or avoid) along the route, or to simply point out an object I might trip over. The costume is manageable as a one-person affair, but assistance really makes it easier.

We got a few photos, but it was dark and people were moving, so the pictures aren't great. The last photo here is actually from last year. The first one is from the parade last Friday.

I've been trying to find a few photos of my costume as it was under construction, but I think most of them are on our external hard drive at home, and that is inaccessible right now because our home computer is out for repair. I do have, however, a picture of the arm being made. As you can see, it's made with a framework of scrap wood and cut-up wire coat hangers. To this, I hot-glued cardboard and shreds of cloth. I used lots of hot glue. Then I added a little paint.

The head of the costume is a plastic pretzel bucket to which I glued stiff packing foam, sculpted to a general skull shape.. Over that went a few layers of paper mache, then latex caulk, then paint.

The whole skeleton is scrap wood held together by screws, with eye-screws and carabiners for articulated joints. The beige fabric is an old bed sheet combined with the remains of the fabric from a collapsible gazebo that was destroyed in the Hurrican Ike windstorm, given to us by the Schrodts; most of the black fabric is a sheet given to me by the Ailstocks. It's held on by glue and staples.

It's awkward, and I worked up a bit of a sweat in the parade, but it's really not very heavy or uncomfortable. I guess my years of on-and-off planning and experimentation paid off in that regard.

I keep getting ideas for improvements, or for whole new costumes. I'd love to make others in the same vein, if I only had the time.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


This was a great find for me.  I picked up this ancient Roman at the coin show last weekend for $8, which I think was a great price, considering the detail and full legends.  The photos don't do it justice: in real life, it has a nice, even, clean look to it, although it's very dark (I think someone cleaned it with olive oil, which often darkens old bronze.)

Anyway, it was unattributed when I bought it, but the legends are so clear that researching it was quite easy.

This was minted under Emperor Licinius sometime around AD 321-324.  It was minted in Heraclea, in present-day Turkey, on the Black Sea.

The legend on the obverse ("heads") reads: IMP C VAL LICIN LICINIVS P F AVG, which is the abbreviated "Imperator Caesar Valerius Licinianus Licinius, Pius Felix Augustus."  The portrait strikes me as having a little more natural feel than some of the ones I've seen.

The reverse says IOVI CONSERVATORI, or "Jupiter the Protector," and depicts Jupiter holding a statue of Victory. To his right is an eagle holding a wreath, and to his left at his feat is a captive.  Beneath his feat, in exergue, is the mint mark: SMHA, representing Sacred Money of Officina A of the Heraclea mint.

Next to Jupiter is an X over II plus a broken I, referred to as "mu" (as in the Greek letter.)  This is the denomination: 12 ½.  The thing is, nowadays, no one really knows for sure: 12 ½ of what?

Licinius ruled a divided empire. Toward the end, his big rival was Constantine the Great. Licinius held out for quite a while (he became emperor in 308), but Constantine was always looking for ways to undermine him.  In 324, after a war, Licinius was captured, but briefly spared due to the pleading of his wife, Constantine's sister. A year later Constantine had him hanged on suspicion of plotting against him.

Ah, history.


Two nights ago I got a call from a lady affiliated with the annual Baxter Avenue Halloween Parade.  She was apologetic; she was having to call everyone who had signed up for the parade and explain to them that the reason parade starting details (float order, starting point, that sort of thing) had not yet been sent out because the parade organizers were scrambling to find a new venue.  Their normal starting point and the Midcity Mall was unexpectedly unavailable, and they were trying to work it out.  I hope they do.
The day before yesterday I worked a little on my Halloween costume.  It's the same as last year, but I had to replace a carabiner that held an elbow together; it had been taken out for one of the girls to use at day camp this summer.  I also added a little more paint to the fabric in front.
I also bought a long plastic chain to go with it.  The chain was white, but I spray painted it. I decided on black, since I could also use black on the fabric, and it was cheap.  I'm afraid it might have been too cheap, because I don't know if it is adhering well enough.  About an hour after I sprayed it, I could easily scrape it off with my finger nail.  Maybe a little more drying time has helped "cure" it, but I have my doubts.
In spraying all the paint, I got a newfound respect for graffiti artists/vandals.  My wrists are sore from holding down the button on the spray can.  How could my arms be sore from spray paintings?

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Metal detecting on lunch break

 The past two days, I metal detected on my lunch break in a yard near where I work.  The house, which is now a business, is one of the older homes on the street it's on, but it's hard for me to gauge the age; I'd guess it was built in the 40's.  The first day, I only found scrap and nails and a car ignition switch. 
Yesterday, I found another car ignition switch, and small piece of metal from a Packard (I assume that's what it is, since it has the word "Packard" stamped on it), a 1950-D cent that would look really nice if it weren't all dinged up on the reverse, and an 1873 British penny that is very, very worn.
I feel pretty confident that the British penny was lost more recently than 1873, and it's too worn to be of use in any coin collection, but it was still fun to find.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Another house portrait

I have completed the black and white version of the same house I drew in black walnut ink before.

This was done on Bristol paper with Pigma Microns, a Staedtler pigment liner, and sumi ink wash. It's about 8 x 15 inches.