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.

Sometimes Systems Fail

Do you ever wonder how a writer gets to be famous? I do. When I read a so called best seller I wonder why it became popular? Most times it is obvious even to me that it is popular because it was a damned good, and well told story. Today, I completed a reading of James Patterson’s first book The Thomas Berryman Number. The library has several shelves of Patterson stories, and most I agree are good. The Thomas Berryman Number is not one of them, it is average at best.

To test an author’s credibility I will read his first work. Years ago, I was hooked on author James Michener. The first of his works I read was Poland. It was a great history of the country dating back to the time God created planet Earth. I learned, by reading thirteen of his works, that all of his novels began the same way, the first three chapters deal with creation, and evolution. The history and detail in his historical tomes take an average of a thousand pages of regular print. They are not books you can read in a weekend. I still remember reading Poland. It was a Memorial Day weekend, and once I got into the story I couldn’t put it down. After three days of non-stop reading I was half way finished at 500 pages. I put the book down down on an end table, and there is stayed for twelve months. After a year had passed without touching the book, I decided it was time to return it to the owner, but I had to finish it first. After another marathon reading session I finally finished

Then one day, I looked at Michener’s book list to see what I was missing. I never read his first stories. I ordered his very first one from the library and immediately immersed myself into Tales of the South Pacific published in 1947. Surprise, surprise, I knew the story from beginning to end. Rogers and Hammerstein used this book to produce the musical play titled South Pacific. The play followed the original exactly, and played on Broadway for 1,954 performances, and then was followed up with a movie.. The only exception was the book went into far more detail about the war in the South Pacific. I still rate this book at five stars, and it was a lot shorter than a thousand pages.

I used this same principal to decide if Patterson’s first work would turn me on as much as Michener’s did. Patterson’s first work disappointed me, yet he has written dozens of mystery stories which are all hits. I guess I’ll have to revise my system.

Where the Heck is Bhutan?

Not long ago I watched an Academy Award nominated movie titled Lunana, A Yak In the Classroom. It is a cute story about a young man from Bhutan who complained about his teaching job to the state supervisor in charge of teaching assignments. What was funny about this story was that the kid wanted to quit his job, and the Super held his feet to the fire by reminding him he had one year left on his contract. She then proceeded to change his assignment to Lunana the most remote school in the country. To give an example of how remote it is he took a train to the end of the line, then hiked uphill for eight days. (Hint: Never complain about your job to the person who can change it.)

The movie used local people to act, so in effect this was a reality film except it was acted to a script. One question kept rolling through my mind, “where the heck is Bhutan?” The scenery surrounding the village of Lunana is amazing, mountains, valleys, and streams. The people were friendly and made the story believable.

The teacher finally arrives, and is shown the school. It is a one room stone building with open windows and a door. He is then taken to his room where he will live. He falls asleep. At 8:30 the following morning he is awakened by a little girl who announces that school starts at 8:30 every morning and ends at 3:00 pm. He groggily dresses and finds his way to the kids who are all sitting on the floor in the classroom waiting for teacher.

After several weeks teacher is making friends and exhibiting some depression about his plight. The young woman he unloads on tells him he needs a Yak. The next day she walks into his class with a Yak. It is a favorite from her herd (a Yak is something like a cow). The Yak lives in the classroom for the remainder of the story. The story has a sad but happy ending.

I had to do a geographical search to learn where Bhutan is located. It is between China and India near Tibet. The population of Bhutan is 788,6015 and it’s Himalayan mountain peaks soar to 23,000 feet. The capital is Thimphu, population 114,551. Lunana has a population of 810.

And now you know!

The Movie Will Be Even Better

Wow! I just finished reading a lovely story based in Venice, Italy.The author Rhys Bowen held me spell bound throughout. Her story titled, The Venice Sketchbook spans several generations of family in England and Italy and begins just before World War Two. Lately I have been enamored by tales that involve the Big One. Ms Bowen’s characters are real and believable. The heroine is someone I wouldn’t mind dating myself. The theme of using artists, art, and Venice together kept my interest in this page turner. The plot of young love between a middle class English girl and a very rich and titled Italian boy stretches into middle age love. Life in Venice seemingly was untouched by war, that is until the Germans invaded Poland, France, Belgium, and began bombing England. That is when the real story begins, life suddenly became different.

I am an amateur artist and I studied art appreciation in my early college years. I still have a bent for the medium and more than ever frequent showings, and galleries and appreciate good artistic ability. To me this plot to put the central character into an art school in Venice filled a void in my mind.

I also love knowing about Italy. Another favorite story of mine is Under the Tuscan Sun by author Frances Mayes. The bucolic scenes painted of the in Tuscan countryside make me want to live there or at least visit. When combined with my recollections of twenty-four hours in Italy back in the nineties these stories are fueling my desire to travel and roam the countryside on a bicycle, or at least a Maserati, Ferrari, or Fiat.

The Venice Sketchbook is filled with complex plots told using a time traveler theme. An modern day English niece inherits her great aunt’s estate, and begins a quest to learn of her aunt’s mysterious past as a covert intelligence agent in WWII while trapped in Venice. Intertwined in both the past and present stories are love interests keeping the aunt’s and her niece’s lives interesting and alive.

I give this story five stars. * * * * *

I can’t wait to see the movie version.

Into the Spotlight

COVID BEAR- Judy Gale Roberts Pattern

If I could jump into a time machine and transport back to nineteen fifty-two I would. There has been a question the answer to which has bothered me ever since I took a test to determine what profession I was suited for. I was registering for high school. The particular school had several college directed curriculums. I chose to go into pre-engineering. The guidance counselor told me that my scores did not indicate that I would become successful in that kind of career. Being strong-minded and strong willed I rejected their advice and began an education that eventually yielded a career in engineering. What I would like to know is what my test scores actually pointed me toward. No one would ever tell me. So for the past sixty-nine years I have lived in the dark abut whether I made a mistake by pursuing engineering.

The direction could have been any number of directions which might have been easier to come by. I was always tinkering with mechanical things, so I could have chosen to become a mechanic, or maintenance man. In between building model airplanes and sniffing a lot of glue I was always doodling artistically, and loved doing artsy things. I learned that I was a natural at mechanical drawing and had a strong ability to view three dimensional things and being able draw them in two dimensions from many different views, and vice versa. Printing and lettering by hand came almost as easily as cursive writing in the Palmer method. I hated all things like social science so that would have been out. Yet, today I seem to have a penchant for political science, and history. What did the test scores say? Should I have skipped going to college in favor of barber school like my dad recommended? What?

In high school, I learned that I loved to write stories, but hated grammar, sentence diagraming, and punctuation. Skip all the Shakespeare stuff along with all things to do with English literature. In college I definitely loved calculus, solid geometry, and art history. What a combination that is, art and math. I struggled through the many physics and high level math courses, but eventually succeeded in getting my Bachelors in Science, Mechanical Engineering (B.S.M.E.)

Horn Man-Original

In my aged wisdom I have concluded that what my real direction could have been doesn’t matter anymore, because my chosen career was my passion, and I succeeded in making a living, raising a family, and putting three kids through college and into careers in science.

For the last twenty-five years i have been dabbling in an art form called Intarsia. I like it because it incorporates art, with the use of my hands, and skill with wood cutting tools. I began with simple projects and slowly, ever so slowly my skill level has been improving. The early projects were all based on another artist’s vision of things like fish, teddy bears, and flowers. I bought patterns and used them to make pictures from wood. In the last ten years I have decided to develop the art form into something more. I go beyond two dimensional forms pieced together from different colors of woods with some minimal shaping to original designs based on photographs. I convert a photograph into a pattern then shape it into wood sculpture. The very first work I did I called “Horn Man.” It is based on a photo of my grandson Dan practicing with his trumpet. I felt so proud of this work that I have gone in this direction since. Today, I only use pre-made patterns when I like the subject. In fact I will take a pre-made pattern depicting something natural, and then add something special to make it mine. My second attempt at doing this combined a Judy Gale Roberts pattern of two blue jays drinking at a bird bath with my vision of the bird bath in an endless green lawn which has a single dandelion growing at the base of the bird bath. I call it “An Almost Perfect Lawn.”

A year ago, pre-covid era, I entered an arts and crafts show. I priced the pieces so high they would never sell. I needed to learn if anyone else besides me liked any of these works. Although no one bought anything I learned that my works have some appeal. One visitor told me that I was at the wrong show, and that my work should be exhibited at the Frankfort Fine Arts Show. Then COVID hit. All shows were cancelled.

Last month I decided to enter a couple of pieces into a show titled “Emerging Perspectives” at the Tall Grass Arts Association Gallery in Park Forest, IL. Still unsure of myself, I labeled the pieces NFS meaning not for sale. Since then, I have decided to enter as many shows as I can just to give my work some exposure. This morning I completed the entry for my piece titled “Three Roses,” into the Frankfort Arts Association Member Exhibition “Into the Light.” I love the show names, they really pump me up. Anyway, all this excitement about showing my art has raised the question I posed above, did my career interest test indicate that I should have pursued art as a profession? I’ll never know and I really don’t care any more, I like what I am doing: blogging to practice my writing, and using my wood working skills to produce some interesting art.

Three Roses-Original
An Almost Perfect Lawn-Judy Gale Roberts Pattern, Embellished