Tag Archives: architecture

Built-in bookshelves

My driving, unrelenting, over-arching motivation is to get stuff off the floor. I’ve had books sitting in cardboard boxes in the hallway for way too long. My dad uses a walker to get around, so floorspace needs to be opened up!

I had these bookshelf units in my studio for years. They’re even painted. I never had an opportunity to install them until now. These photos show the process of mounting them to the wall and trimming them. I live in an old farmhouse and I like everything I build to look like it’s always been there. I used wood from other parts of the house that I either tore down or renovated. The trim here is a little bit beat-up.

Last night I dreamt I read Manders’ blog again

Run away, girl!

Side note: The Gothic novel is a genre of 19th-century literature that is dark, moody and creepy-romantic. Horror novels like Frankenstein and Dracula fit into the genre. Gothic stories often take place in castles (a ton of them feature a young woman who comes to live in a remote, haunted mansion full of dark, shameful family secrets), so maybe that’s how the genre came to be named. Lots of dark shadows, lots of bats. Not for nothing does Batman operate out of Gotham City.

https://reedsy.com/discovery/blog/gothic-literature
https://bookriot.com/what-is-gothic-fiction/
https://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/gothic-romance
https://www.thebookseller.com/feature/rebecca-extract-338986

Back to the beginning of The Western Civ User’s Guide to Reading & Writing.

How barbaric

Kind of funny: the ‘Renaissance’ is the historical period in Europe following the Middle Ages. It’s a French word meaning ‘rebirth.’ This cultural rebirth was of everything Roman: frescoes, sculpture, poetry, the sciences, and architecture. Promoters of the Renaissance thought to make their new movement look good by making the preceding centuries look bad. The Mediæval period got dubbed ‘the Dark Ages.’

Renaissance architects started using Roman arches again (instead of the pointed Gothic arch). They liked the old southern Roman basilicas and disliked the northern mediæval style of architecture and calligraphy. Those fancy-pants Renaissance promoters thought the northern style looked barbaric, so they called it by the name of the northerners’ barbarian ancestors—Gothic. The insult stuck. We still use ‘Gothic’ today to describe the buildings and the typeface.

Apologies to Robert E. Howard
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_E._Howard

Back to the beginning of The Western Civ User’s Guide to Reading & Writing.

Black Letter

This is rough—just the lowercase letters. You can see that the space between the letters equals the width of a vertical stroke. When they’re together, it’s hard to distinguish i,m,n,u,v & w. I think that’s why they started dotting i & j.

I imagine at some point a German scribe looked at a tall, skinny cathedral and thought, “Huh. If I made lettering tall and skinny, we’d fit a ton more words onto a page. Think of the parchment we’d save!” and so Black Letter was born. Black Letter (or Gothic, or Fraktur, or Textura) typically has the exact same thickness of white space between vertical strokes as the thickness of each vertical stroke. The effect on a page is pleasing but a little hard to read.


http://www.designhistory.org/Handwriting_pages/Blackletter.html
https://jakerainis.com/blog/the-history-of-blackletter-calligraphy/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blackletter
If you’d like to try your hand at writing Blackletter, here are free downloadable worksheets:
https://jakerainis.com/blog/learning-blackletter-alphabets/

Back to the beginning of The Western Civ User’s Guide to Reading & Writing.

Tall & skinny

I may exaggerate slightly, but you get the idea.

The years and centuries toddled on. In the north, a new style of architecture (building design, that is) was replacing the rounded, grounded, low-center-of-gravity basilica which was the Romanesque style of church. The miracle of a basilica had been fitting an enormous circular dome onto a square church without the whole thing collapsing into itself. This new style was entirely different—strictly vertical. If you want to get closer to G-d, you build taller churches, right? You design tall, taller spires that go up and up with pointy arched windows to let in sunlight through stained-glass windows. You keep everything from falling down by attaching more spires—flying buttresses—to relieve the outward pressure and outsmart a building’s biggest enemy: gravity.

So tall and skinny is the new look.

Here’s an excellent article about Romanesque vs Gothic architecture—
https://courses.lumenlearning.com/atd-sac-artappreciation/chapter/reading-romanesque/
https://aleteia.org/2017/10/29/what-is-the-difference-between-a-basilica-and-a-cathedral/
https://study.com/academy/lesson/pendentives-squinches-in-architecture.html

A tip of the hat to the memory of Rolly Ivers, my high school art teacher, who introduced me to church architecture all those years ago.

Back to the beginning of The Western Civ User’s Guide to Reading & Writing.

The Royal Observatory

Wren tore down the castle standing here and built the observatory out of the recycled stone. What a guy!

By now all 17 of you weirdos who’ve been reading this history have gotten the idea that time/distance/astronomy are interlinked—at least if you want to know where you are.

Eratosthanes, then Ptolemy, then just about everybody who drew a map chose their own prime meridian. That’s fine so far as it goes. But to be useful, a prime meridian needs to have an observatory. An observatory is where astronomers can keep track of the stars and regularly publish charts showing their positions and movements. Navigators can use those charts to check the stars’ positions and tell time from that information.

In ad 1675, King Charles II realized how important astronomy would be to all those ships who were expanding England’s trade around the world. He commissioned an observatory in Greenwich (a section of London) and had it designed by Sir Christopher Wren, the architect who designed pretty much every building in London.

Something I never knew before this morning: Christopher Wren was an astronomer as well as an architect. One of those professions was his side-gig. Makes one’s life achievements seem somewhat inadequate, doesn’t it? You’re welcome.

https://www.rmg.co.uk/royal-observatory/history

Back to the beginning of The Western Civ User’s Guide to Time & Space

The amazing fantastic clock of Piazza San Marco

In 1493, the Venetian Republic commissioned the clockmaker Giovan Paolo Rainieri, from the town of Reggio Emilia, to design and build a clock. This clock would be big and beautiful and expensive—a tower would be designed and built on Saint Mark’s Plaza to house it. It would face the lagoon and the sea beyond, so the whole world could see how prosperous was Venice.

If you visit Venice you can see the Rainieri clock. Its face is decorated in gold and lapis lazuli (a mineral you make blue out of—blue paint ain’t cheap); the hand tells what hour it is and the current zodiac sign; above the clock is a statue of the Virgin Mary and Baby Jesus (made of gilded copper); twice a year a mechanical angel and three wise men parade in front of Mary and tip their crowns to her; above Mary is the lion of Saint Mark with his paw on the Gospel (the statue of the praying doge isn’t there anymore); and at the top, every hour two bronze giants ring an enormous bell with their hammers.

The entire contraption from top to bottom used a verge and foliot escapement to regulate the gears.

https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/torre-dell-orologio-venice-clock-tower
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St_Mark%27s_Clock

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St_Mark%27s_Clocktower

Back to the beginning of The Western Civ User’s Guide to Time & Space

Mystery!

Here’s a piece I did just for self-promotion. Every couple of months, my agent asks her artists to produce an image based on a theme. This theme is Mystery. When generating ideas I stayed pretty loose. My first sketches were kind of Sherlock Holmes-ish, Mystery-of-The-Sphinx-ish with Holmes opening an antique Egyptian box in his famous rooms in Baker Street. It wasn’t grabbing me, so I thought to move the whole scene to the inside of a pharoah’s tomb. Sort-of Holmes and Watson became sort-of Indiana Jones and Short Round. The rough sketch shows Egyptian antiquities—chariot, scrolls, statues—for flavor, but as I drew I thought to heighten the suspense by having the deities’ eyes light up at the same moment the casket is cracked open. Indy is unaware of the danger while Short Round watches in alarm.

I didn’t take the sketch to a tight version. I wanted the painting to be fresh while I worked out the lighting. I have 2 sources of light here. One of them is the red lantern I had with me on countless camp-outs when I was a Boy Scout in good ol’ Troop 92.

Hide and shriek!

Here’s the opening spread from Where’s My Mummy? This scene shows Mama Mummy getting Baby Mummy ready for bed—but Baby wants to play one more round of hide & shriek.

Since they’re mummies, I designed an interior to look like the inside of a pyramid, with lots of Egyptian details.  The legendary art director at Candlewick, Caroline Lawrence, felt the setting didn’t convey enough ghoulishness, so she asked me to redraw the scene with a gothic interior.

mummy0607

Revised sketch with gothic details below.  Architecture geeks will note the new shape of the columns, rough-hewn stone walls and groined vault arched ceiling.

mummy.revise.0607

I changed the oil-burning lamp to a candelabrum, but doused the candles in the color version because they were causing me lighting/shadow problems.  I kept the sarcophagus bed from the first sketch.

mummy_01

The light is coming from a single source.  More dramatic and easier to paint.  Also, the viewer’s eye naturally looks to the light source, which is where I put Baby Mummy.