Illuminating letter D



gilders cushion

gilders cushion

As mentioned in a previous post, I have dragged out some old tools and materials and started gilding again. In my previous life as a bookbinder, I bought a very old gilders cushion that actually sits on top of a drawer. I have not seen this anywhere else; it seems a well spent USD30. Supposedly, a bookbinder needed one, and made it himself.

I ordered some gesso and a burnisher from an online calligraphy shop, but had everything else. It is a good thing, that gold will keep for decades :) (not so with silver leaf or other metals, obviously. You get some amazing cool metal foils and leaves. Problem is that you need to seal them to prevent corrosion.).

So. I sketched out a Romanesque D, outlined it with a Faber Castell pitt dark sepia, as Indian black gets a little too harsh. I am just posting images of the process without comments on how. If you have questions, feel free to use the comment field. Questions like “are you insane?” are also entirely valid.






Of Jokers, Fools and Margins

“A joker is a little fool who is different from everyone else. He’s not a club, diamond, heart, or spade. He’s not an eight or a nine, a king or a jack. He is an outsider. He is placed in the same pack as the other cards, but he doesn’t belong there. Therefore, he can be removed without anybody missing him.” ― Jostein Gaarder, The Solitaire Mystery

Jokers. Living in apparent harmony with the rest of the cards, yet utterly different, and always surrounded by mystery. I have collected them for years, and I probably always will.

Nobody knows for sure how jokers came to be, they are actually not that old -the first one registered is from around 1860 and it was used as the highest trump. They might come from the tarot Fool, sometimes depicted as a beggar, or a vagabond. Experts say he might also be a wild man, or Woodwose, due to his unruly beard and feathers.

There are many fascinating details about this little character. In the Rider-Waite Tarot deck (used for cartomancy), the Fool is shown as a young man walking unknowingly toward the brink of a precipice.  The tarot Fool is almost always unnumbered, and when it has a number, it’s a zero. He is believed to represent holy madness or ‘crazy wisdom’, a lover of beauty represented by the flower in his hand, and a free spirit, like the dog that sometimes accompanies him. 

The joker is both the beginning and the end, an insider and an outsider. He inhabits the margins, and winks at us holding a secret we always fail to grasp.


Words of gold

This stack-exchange question inspired me to dig out old skills and tools. Untouched for years, I got out my bookbinders gilding cushion and related paraphernalia. Getting back into the fiddlyness of handling gold leaf, I have squandered a few sheets. But it is fun. One thing: you cannot be impatient handling it, breathing is forbidden, and sighing spells catastrophe.

It is impossible for a photograph to capture the glittery shinyness of polished gold. What I really want to get done well is raised gilding, so I am waiting for some tools and mysterious chemicals to give it a proper go. As of now, I am using PVA glue (wood glue, childrens glue) for gesso,  and a jade goldfish for polishing. Not the best solution. Updates later.

PVA as gesso - real hassle to get it to flow and shape well.

PVA as gesso – real hassle to get it to flow and shape well.

Attempting to combine raised and flat gilding

Attempting to combine raised and flat gilding


Different lighting for raised and flat gilding

Different lighting for raised and flat gilding

Laying of leaf gold

Laying of leaf gold

Brushing away excess gold

Brushing away excess gold


In memoriam: Quinton Hoover

I can’t talk about inspirational art for very long until I brush the subject of Magic: the Gathering. I’ve been playing this geekery-heavy card game for almost twenty years now. In that period, a humonguous amount of fantasy art has been produced by a myriad of artists.

It was this art that drew me to the game. Especially the early sets’ art quality is hit, miss, or something squarely in between, but when it’s good, it’s amazing. Names like Mark Tedin, Anson Maddocks and Melissa Benson still give me shivers of recognition.

This post is to one of those early artists, shaping the game in its infancy: Quinton Hoover. Originally a comic artist, Hoover’s style is markedly distinct from the other artists’. He was able to marry fantasy with Art Nouveau in a way that was as beautiful as it was organic. His work reminiscent of Alphonse Mucha’s, Hoover used colored pencils and ballpoints besides his inks and watercolours. Strong, flowing lines, soft but rich colours and some daring compositions made him stand out in the crowd.

Doppelgänger (redubbed ‘Vesuvan Doppelganger‘ for the game’s release) was long my favourite piece of fantasy art ever, and finally acquiring a copy of the actual card was a kid’s dream come true. Other favourites from his Magic work include ‘Elkin Bottle‘ (those ribbons!), ‘Tragic Poet‘ and ‘Whispers of the Muse‘, of which a print adorns one of my walls.

Magic begot other card games, and Hoover made a lot of art in the next few years. The quality of his art soared, especially off-card, with larger formats and truly Mucha-esque compositions. I’d post some, but it’s hard to choose. All I can say is that it’s worth the while of checking his game art gallery (and more) on facebook.

On April 20, 2013, Quinton Hoover died unexpectedly at the age of 49. This post is to remember him and his amazing art.



Machinarium: details make perfection…

…and perfection is not a detail

I am a great fan of the work of Amanita design and their games. Because of this enthusiasm, I have been told that my drawings are heavily influenced by Machinarium and Samorost. But here is the thing; I loved that sort of humour, aesthetics, whimsy and craft long before Amanita came along.

I do indeed learn from them, in my opinion they are masters of creating ambiance in what is basically simple point-and-click-adventures. Quirky characters, bizarre surroundings. The plot of Machinarium is pretty straightforward: the robot girlfriend of a little robot man gets kidnapped by evil enemies. Go find her. But to me it is not really about the storyline, it is the details. The delicious use of texture. The endless details, the craft that goes into the simplest of illustrations of background and elements. An example is the railing below. What makes it work is that it is not generated. All the sections are wobbly in its own way. Continue reading


Squirrely squirrels

I love squirrels. They are cute, funny, playful. They are also quite adept at solving problems and will go to great length to get to the food that is the most nutritious.

They collect food for the winter, hence the name of this blog. What I find endearing is that they collect and hide a lot more food than they eat over the winter: they forget where they put it. This results in dispersal of seeds and nuts, and trees growing in odd places. So they are a little scatterbrained, not unlike myself. And as they forget food, I forget the visuals I collect.

The images below are all my own, and taken in Washington DC. They are eastern grey squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis). I have a great fondness of the Eurasian red (Sciurus vulgaris), but they are hopelessly shy and difficult to get close to.