Monday, December 31, 2012

Year's end

 I haven't blogged much lately. I've either been too busy, or not had a lot to say--but mostly, too busy.

The girls have been taking music lessons, and the first photo comes from the night of a piano recital. There were some fine refreshments.

Christmas was great. Kim and I spent so much time trying to get stuff done and, like every year, we were up very late wrapping gifts and cleaning. This year we actually got done before 3:00 a.m. (though not by much), which I'm not sure we've managed before. The girls had a lot of fun on Christmas day, and I really enjoyed family coming over. By the time Christmas morning arrived, all the hard work was done, and we mostly hung out all day long. It was very pleasant.

There was a tiny bit of snow Christmas night, but we didn't get anything worthwhile until the 28th. We got just about three inches at our house, enough for some front yard sledding and snowman building. Also, snow penguin building.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

At the game

We had to look down between our feet to watch the game, but at half time we were able to move much closer.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Friday, November 30, 2012

Thumbnail sketch

 Preparing for another house portrait...


Once again, I’ve been spending some time cross-referencing features on an old map, satellite photos of the same area as it exists today, and a park map.  I’m looking for places to metal detect, but the detective work involved itself is lots of fun for me.

The area I’m looking at is near the old farm buildings in my last post. The 1879 map, of which I show one close-up here, shows four different home sites in the woods. I think either A or B closely corresponds with the bird’s-eye view below it, in which you can see some kind of building remains in the trees.

 Here's is a broader view of the area, on which I drew a circle around the location of the site above. I think the house sites for A. Drescher, Stephen Jones, and W. Ellingsworth are close by in the trees south of the circle.
I really want to check out this area, and plan to go as soon as I get the chance. It won't be quick: this spot is about a mile through the woods from my parking spot to the southwest. It's hard to find the time. I have two art projects, plus Christmas planning, and family weekend events. I also need to clean the gutters, clean the house, and finish off the mowing and raking for the year. I'd love to go out there this weekend while the weather is decent...we'll see.

edited to add: I just realized I drew the orange circle in the wrong spot, a little too far NE.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Old Farm

Here are some snapshots of the old farm area I was poking around in recently. I metal detected there for a short while one day, and went back and poked around the place with my friend Gregg on another day.

Metal detecting, I only found aluminum cans, nails, and a hunk of melted lead.  It's one of those situations in which I feel there must be some interesting stuff there, but there is so much junk in the ground that hunting for it is very frustrating.  There are lots of cans, and also coal, which often makes my detector ring.  Also, it has the problem that I've often encountered in farm fields: much of the ground just seems to make the detector ring for no reason at all, like it's heavily mineralized, or full of buckshot, or something.

There are a number of small ponds on the property, but I don't think it's likely they hold fish--they are small and mossy (mossy in the summer, at least.)  However, I haven't found all the ponds yet, and there are barns and other structures I haven't looked at, including shomething that shows up in satellite photos that might be some kind of dam or mill spot on a nearby creek.  There are also lots of woods and fields, and I'm interested in going back to explore some more before it's developed into the new parkland.

The tobacco hanging in the barn wasn't there the first time I visited, or at least, I'm pretty sure it wasn't.  Gregg and I tried to figure out whether it was still good. Much of it was extremely dry and crumbly, more desiccated than we thought would be useful, so I don't know if anyone is coming back for it. I'm completely ignorant of tobacco farming.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Marina on the Ohio River - pen & ink

Here is the last of the house drawings I've been working on for the same customer (the first they got through a charity auction bid, and after that they asked me for three more.)  I had to get the last three done by Thanksgiving, and I made it just under the wire.  This was finished last Friday night, and I delivered them yesterday.
They wanted the marina side of the house drawn, which presented a bit of a challenge: How do I make it a house drawing, but still do justice to the great view of all the boats?  Well, I had already done the front side of the house in an earlier drawing (the back of the house is towards the marina.)  I felt that freed me up a little to make the boats more dominant, but I still wanted the house clearly visible and to stand out a bit, even if it was in more of a backing role.
I find that each drawing presents its own set of challenges and tough decisions. There were plenty in this one, but the two that seemed to stand out the most to me were how to handle the water (consistent, flat pen strokes to emphasize the plane, or more varied strokes to give more of a sense of "shimmer" and shifting light? And, how do I shade the large white areas of the boats?
This drawing is 11 x 15 inches, drawn with .05 and .1 Sakura Pigma Microns, a .1 Staedtler Pigmentliner, and a .03 Copic Multiliner.
This might also be the first pen and ink drawing in which I used a straight edge for a notable portion of the inking. I used one to get straight lines on the rigging.

Friday, November 16, 2012


I have too many hobbies. To make matters worse, my brain always seems to be trying to add more to the list. I don't have the time or money, really, to treat even one hobby with the attention it deserves.
Fortunately, they take turns rotating to the front of my brain. Metal detecting is always floating just off to the side, waiting to jump on an opportunity, but it's not an obsession right now. Coin collecting mostly stays on a back burner, where I stir it and watch it but mostly keep it out of the way until later. Gardening has been at a lull for quite a while now.
The thing that is stuck out in front right now is board games.  I don't even play games!  I've always had an interest in challenging games (ones that involve strategy and planning and interaction). Yet I rarely play them, except with my daughters, and they aren't quite at my game level yet (though they are rapidly getting closer).  This is mostly due to a lack of time.
Probably the main reason I've been thinking a lot about games lately is that I've been listening to podcasts of The Dice Tower ( and some affiliate shows, in which people just sit around and talk about games (game reviews, game mechanics, game aesthetics, theories, anecdotes).  Over the past few weeks I have spent many nights up late working on my sort-of-hobby, sort-of-profession of ink drawings. While doing this, I've alternated between listening to the BBC World Service and The Dice Tower podcasts.
It has really whetted my appetite for obtaining and playing more games.  It sounds like the well-reviewed train-themed game Ticket To Ride is a popular game for playing with friends and families who aren't really into lots of board games, so that is on my very short list; it might be a good one to try to break out with various family and friends when we get the chance.
I'm also very interested in Pandemic, a cooperative game (in which the players, instead of playing against one another, are working together to try to beat the game); X-Wing Miniatures, a Star Wars space combat game that a lot of people seem to like; various war games such as Julius Caesar; Tichu, a card game that my friend Travis said he and his friends are getting a lot of mileage out of; Carcassone, a tile-laying game that we played with the Sparkses and which I really enjoyed; and there are a lot more.
I think I'll focus on setting aside a little more time to play, and  plan on very slowly building up my game collection (many of these games are fairly expensive, with $40-60 being the typical range for new store-bought boxes).
Fortunately, some of this itch is scratched by occasional, irregular roleplaying game nights with friends.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Two more houses

 These are 11 x 15 inches. These are the first two of three for the same customer; I am working on the third and plan to have it done this week, if I can keep my eyes propped open with toothpicks while I work late at night!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Second Pumpkin

This was my second pumpkin this year. I particulary like the forehead and the lips.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Pumpkin sculpting

This is my first attempt for this year.  I found it to be a particularly tough one to carve; it was coarse-grained and fibrous.  I also ended up going too deep on the eyes. I had no intention at the outset of going all the way through.  Overall, though, I think he looks pretty decent.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Last tomatoes, and stealing daffodil bulbs

Last night was taco night at home.  In preparation of this meal, I was able to pick a handful of cherry tomatoes from our bushes in the yard.  I am eating the last three of those with my lunch today.  I seems very probable to me that these are the last three until next year, but there are still some green ones and the weather is warm, so maybe I’ll get a few more.

One evening last week, as I was running some errands, I found myself with a few minutes to kill in the Springhurst area.  I remembered that there was a spot nearby where I had seen lots of daffodils in the spring.  This spot is pretty neglected; it is near the base of a telephone pole on the border of a vacant lot and a small strip mall, where a house stood until a few years ago.  I had made a mental note of it in the spring, because I had the idea of slipping over there and swiping a few bulbs.  I don’t know who owns the property, but I find it hard to believe that they cared one tiny bit if some daffodil bulbs were heisted.

So that’s what I did.  I happened to have my metal detecting gear, including my hand spade, in the trunk.

I wasn’t exactly sure where to dig, because the spring vegetation is completely gone after summer sets in.  So I dug one test hole…nothing.  A second hole…nothing.  I thought I’d try one more, and give up if it was still non-productive.  The third hole had a big clump of daffodil bulbs.

I hosed them off when I got home, and now they are in the garage.  I’ll plant them soon, but I still need to figure out where.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Jack-o'-lantern turnip

Before our European ancestors discovered pumpkins growing in the New World, they were carving faces in turnips and putting candles inside them.  It’s a holiday tradition that dates back thousands of years.  In recent decades, pumpkins have supplanted turnips in almost all corners of turnip-carving Europe, but it still hangs on, in spots.

I’d never carved a turnip, and decided it was time to give it a try.  I used X-acto blades for the cutting, and a clay working tool to hollow out the turnip.

It’s certainly more challenging than carving a pumpkin, but a turnip jack-o’-lantern comes out looking about the same, just on a smaller scale.