Libre Released

This week I had the distinct honor to set my American Bald Eagle free to the world. After laboring for seven months cutting shaping, fitting, sanding, finishing, and framing I finally completed an intarsia project that I call Libre. In Spanish that means free. Since the Bald Eagle is the national bird of the United States of America, and freedom is the name of the game I found Libre a fitting title for this piece.

The work is based on a calendar photograph in the Heritage Foundation yearly calendar for 2023. It struck me when I saw it and immediately stopped, and set aside the eagle I was then working on in favor of this one. Libre is more animated than the work I abandoned which was a soaring bird at level flight. Libre is an action bird. One can vision him as in the act of landing, trying to gain altitude, or getting ready to pounce on prey.

As I cut the pieces and began to see the bird come to fruition, I was disappointed by the colors of the wood I selected. I felt they were not as accurate as I would like them to be. It wasn’t until I began to apply the finish that the true colors of the wood and the direction of the wood grains popped into view. Another disappointment came when I lifted the weights off the final feathers that I glued on. One of them was out of place by a millimeter. I lost sleep over that defect while mentally developing fixes to cure the problem. I decided to wait, and to hang the piece “as is” before attempting to disassemble the work to make a correction. Thank God I did that because the defect is barely perceptible from a few feet and only another intarsia artist would find it from up close. Since I’m the only intarsia artist I know I think I am safe to leave Libre alone to remain “free”.

Parallel Lives

The challenge today is to describe my life in a parallel universe. I can do better than that. How about three parallel lives?

Number One is a life here on earth, but idyllic. The main character is a fifty something perfect body specimen who lives with several women, and partakes of bodily pleasure often. Enough said about number one.

Number Two is about a man who loses his wife, and is living through deep grief. In this grief he gets an idea to find his wife in heaven. He truly believes that heaven is real and exists somewhere in the universe. In the meantime, the widower meets a stranger while transporting his newfound dream truck home to Illinois from upper Michigan. His mission is to rebuild the new-old truck into a modern street rod. The stranger learns of his dream to convert the truck, and also to find his wife. The two of them become fast friends and agree to allow a third man to build this truck into a vehicle that can help lead them to find find heaven.

This story jumps into the universe outside the realm of planet earth, and as one might guess the lonely man gets involved in many outer space skirmishes as he tries in vain to find his dead wife’s soul in heaven.

Number Three is an alternate-history tale which takes place in the 1776-1976 time period. America loses the revolution and remains under the rule of the English king, and the U.S.A. as we know it today has never existed. England loses World War Two to Germany. Life is very different in Europe and in North America. The story tells the tale of a single family from Illinois who refuse to give up on the dream of Washington from 1776. The father of this family finds a copy of the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution, and decides to rekindle the flames of revolution but this time against Germany. The story is complicated, intriguing, and suspenseful. The ending leaves the reader thirsting for more, and the writer contemplating a series.

Too many ideas, too little time.

Hooked on Series

Two TV programs have sunk their hooks into me and won’t let go. The most recent one I began watching is House of Cards with Kevin Spacey. The story line intrigues me as I want to believe that our Congressmen are not as stupid and conniving as depicted. Because I love conspiracy theories this program gets my attention because it deals with behind the scene activity of our Congress. It highlights the politics of getting bills passed. More than that it highlights the amount of back stabbing and favor trading that goes on between congressmen. Spacey uses the trick of giving “asides” where he looks directly at the audience and explains what is going on in his mind during dialogues with colleagues in negotiations.

The second most watched series is New Amsterdam a story about New York City’s first hospital which treats all people. The theme is definitely pro-socialist medicine. What saves the show is the main character who is played by actor Ryan Eggold. He plays the part of Max Reynolds the hospital Director not as a stiff suited administrator but as a scrub attired doctor whose main mission is to help people.

I must admit that I have a penchant for medical drama dating back to Dr. Ben Casey in black and white television days. Maybe it is because I spent a big chunk of my life in hospitals as a patient, a parent, and a spouse.

Max is the perfect example of a positive thinking problem solver, and the writers do an exemplary job coming up with solutions to his many difficult situations. The only thing I don’t like about this series is the emphasis on socialized medicine. The stories are usually balanced between the staff wanting to help everybody against the Board of Directors who seem to only care about cost and payment.

Also, within the characters there seems to be an inordinate population of home-sexual medical staff whose personal relationships become the story. The program also highlights the difficulties encountered by hospitals during the COVID pandemic. The entire staff suffers from PTSD, and battle fatigue. Another theme that they do an excellent job with is addiction.

At third place is a program called “The Blacklist” with James Spader as notorious most wanted by the FBI character Raymond Reddington. The entire premise of this series is preposterous and unbelievable. First the most wanted criminal lives within the country yet never gets caught, second because the same criminal is partnered with the FBI in a special mission to catch criminals. Usually, the criminals on the black list are creative entrepreneurs who exist to aide other criminals. The series lacks imagination when it comes to story telling. Each episode is played off a standard outline and the entire story seems to be solved in minutes. The cast has some interesting characters such as the computer, internet expert Aram Mojtabai who can find information on anybody seemingly within seconds.

Good Old Boys

Yesterday I go the surprise of my life as I opened the door to Ryan’s Pub. It was Friday, and during lent I abstain from eating meat. Lovely had just returned from a doctor’s appointment where he performed a biopsy. She was not a happy camper. Our plan was to go to Ryan’s for a fish dinner, but that fell apart when I had to go alone.

Just inside the door of Ryan’s is a section of bar, and sitting there were four of my very best friends. They were just as surprised as I was and greeted me with open arms. Naturally, I had to have an adult pop while I waited for my fish order to go. I felt like a teen ager gabbing away with my buds. The biggest difference was the topic of conversation. As teen agers we would have discussed the girls and their mammary protrusions, but as octogenarians we discussed aches and pains.

My new intarsia project is taking shape, I promised myself to have it finished by May. I have completed the cutting and moved on to fitting. With over a hundred pieces there is a whole lot of fitting going on. At this point the picture is not very pretty, there are too many wide spaces between parts and it isn”t a picture yet. I feel good about the wood colors I selected this time the object should look pretty natural.


Making Dust

Intarsia is considered a craft, but it is also art. It is a little known art form which evolved from fifteenth century marquetry. Although marquetry is usually a picture in wood made from very thin and flat wood which is carefully inlaid onto another flat surface like a tabletop. Intarsia is very similar except the wood is thicker and shaped to give the picture three dimensions. Both Intarsia and marquetry came into existence somewhere in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. A more modern form of Intarsia has come into being in the twentieth century. The latest form is less formal and more whimsical. It is what I endeavor to practice.

Many pieces that I craft are my original designs. So far the most pieces I made are from patterns designed by gifted artists. After making several pieces from patterns I began to experiment by adding a small touch of whimsy of my own. This practice is now evolving into completely original works.

My first Intarsia work circa 2000 A.D. Two Dolphins from a pattern

More work from patterns

Work from a pattern that has been embellished

COVID 19 Nurse, Thermometer added to a pattern design

The cloud, sky, grass, and the dandelion are touches to a pattern

The lure is an embellishment

My first original work. The image is from a calendar photo.

Horn Man from a photo of my grandson practicing his trumpet

Three Red Roses, from a photo

Cecil the Lion from a photo

Night Hunter, from a photo of a Barred Owl in Flight

Hummer Snack, from photos taken in my garden

Two White, One Red Rose, from photo

Coming in 2023 but to be unveiled later because I am just beginning the pattern design. A typical original work like Horn Man, Cecil the Lion, or Night Hunter can take up to five hundred hours of cutting, shaping, sanding, framing, and finishing. Because I pride myself on being a wood worker, I also make the frames. The round frame shown on the last photo has been my biggest challenge to date. Cecil the Lion is my favorite, and Horn Man took the longest.

I have gotten my inspiration from Intarsia artist Judy Gale Roberts.