Thursday, December 27, 2007

A new drawing...

Here's a Christmas present that I did for my sister. I used this image, which I found on the internet, as inspiration...
And here's my drawing...

Untitled, by Brendan Koop, vine charcoal on off-white paper, approx. 5x7"

I used an enlarged print of the image at top to draw from sight comparison. The main artistic ideas I wanted to impart to the drawing were to remove the figures from the background and set them on a white page so that as the eye moves from left to right you have two totally different edges on each side of the figures. The left-hand edge is obscured by the light source, making it a soft transition and an uneven, jagged edge. The right-hand edge is in the shadow, but set on a white background it's a hard edge transition from dark to light, which balances the left-hand soft transition. Overall, the figures on a white background provide good contrast, which adds a modern artistic element.

Here's the drawing in it's frame...

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Busy, busy...


Just a quick note to say blogging will be (and has been already) sparse in December and early January. Obviously during the Advent season there is lots of other things going on that make the computer roughly #23 in priority, but also I am already off of work (from Dec. 18-Jan. 6!) and so we'll be doing lots of family stuff during this time (including celebrating the birth of our Lord -- for the full 12 days! -- and also going to Florida with my parents and siblings... 4 kids ages 5 and under on a plane to Florida... everyone on the plane better be prepared). I'm sure I'll get a couple of random posts in here and there. Thanks to all those who have kept commenting on our previous posts, we read all our comments!

God bless you during these seasons of Advent and Christmas!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Slowly starting to make some decisions about the house...


Our goals are to keep things as low-cost as possible, while strategically spending more for quality and finish on items that we will never be able to change after home construction (i.e. we'll really try to have a basement, even if we have to wait on other things like the patios, because you can never go back on choosing to not have a basement for storage). There are lots of exterior things we can wait on if we have to (patios, landscaping, etc.), and there are other things we can be economical about with the knowledge that we can improve or upgrade at some point in the future.

One of those things is the kitchen, and I believe we have decided, after a trip to our local store in Bloomington, MN, to go with an IKEA kitchen. At first, I had thought we'd never go with IKEA, simply due to my perception that it wouldn't be durable enough. We love IKEA furniture, and we have a bunch in our current home (painstakingly assembled by me). But a whole kitchen?

The more we thought about it and investigated, the more we thought we should give it a look at the store. From my own research, a whole IKEA kitchen (including appliances) would cost 30-50% less than if we were to, say, have a Home Depot kitchen with Home Depot appliances. That's some serious savings. And, once we saw the kitchens at the store, it seems a no-brainer. The design is certainly vintage IKEA; easy to use, well thought-out, lots of options, simple process (can't necessarily say all of these things about Home Depot or other standard retailers, especially in regard to design). What I show below is basically the process of kitchen design with IKEA, and some of our own preferences, using the IKEA kitchen brochure for 2008.

First, there's arrangements to consider for optimal work flow and usability, along with organization (click any to enlarge):

With the design of Scheme D, we would have the "L" shaped layout above (with an island), which is probably the best arrangement.

One thing that is awesome about IKEA is the thought that they put into organization, with tons of options for storage (click either to enlarge):
And how can any large family go wrong when they can supply everything we need for childproofing! (click to enlarge)
As far as style, most of what they display is too Scandinavian for our tastes, with really modern looking finishes and light woods. But, they have so many options that we can certainly design to our tastes. Er... or should I say, we can certainly design to MOLLY'S tastes. She has complete veto power when it comes to the kitchen, that's like her office. So, when we visited the store, out of the cabinet styles we saw, Molly (and me too, actually) liked the style and color I marked below (click to enlarge):
And with the different options one can select, it could look something like this:
Or this...
But, Molly has said she's always liked white kitchen cabinets as well, especially since they really brighten the room, so we can't rule out something like this yet...
Stress wise, what I really love is that IKEA is a one stop shop. You can literally get everything you need there (appliances, fixtures, you name it). Here's some examples of faucets (below). I'm partial to the industrial, "take-no-prisoners," "we-have-a-huge-family" faucet on the far left (seriously), but Molly doesn't like it. There's still time.
And as far as appliances go... alright, so I will divulge one splurge (albeit, a nice-to-have for a large family type splurge). Molly would LOVE the little number below:
The one thing we probably won't get through IKEA is countertops; though we will still go the inexpensive route, we're not sure IKEA really has what we would want.

As for my quality concerns, there's a 25 year warranty, and lots of other info (click to enlarge):
I think the need to upgrade any of this stuff in the future is going to be minimal, if not zero.

To top it all off, they have kitchen planning software that you can download to arrange things yourself (see here). And they can do installation.

I think at least we know what we're doing for one room of the house!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Happy Feast of St. Nicholas! (Dec. 6th)

Though as of this posting we are only at the eve of the feast of St. Nicholas, commemorated on Dec. 6, I thought I'd do a post wishing everyone a happy feast! We attended a St. Nicholas party with two families from our parish yesterday for the kids to learn about St. Nicholas and celebrate his holy example in following Christ. And our kids will be setting out their shoes this evening, hoping for a visit from St. Nicholas with traditional gifts left inside!

Here's a brief summary of the life of St. Nicholas:
This glorious saint, celebrated even today throughout the entire world, was the only son of his eminent and wealthy parents, Theophanes and Nona, citizens of the city of Patara in Lycia. Since he was the only son bestowed on them by God, the parents returned the gift to God by dedicating their son to Him. St. Nicholas learned of the spiritual life from his uncle Nicholas, Bishop of Patara, and was tonsured a monk in the Monastery of New Zion, founded by his uncle.

Following the death of his parents, Nicholas distributed all his inherited goods to the poor, not keeping anything for himself. As a priest in Patara, he was known for his charity, even though he carefully concealed his charitable works, fulfilling the words of the Lord: Let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth (Matthew 6:3).

When he gave himself over to solitude and silence, thinking to live that way until his death, a voice from on high came to him: "Nicholas, for your ascetic labor, work among the people, if thou desirest to be crowned by Me." Immediately after that, by God's wondrous providence, he was chosen archbishop of the city of Myra in Lycia. Merciful, wise and fearless, Nicholas was a true shepherd to his flock. During the persecution of Christians under Diocletian and Maximian, he was cast into prison, but even there he instructed the people in the Law of God.

He was present at the First Ecumenical Council of Nicaea [AD 325] and, out of great zeal for the truth, struck the heretic Arius with his hand. For this act he was removed from the Council and from his archiepiscopal duties, until the Lord Jesus Himself and the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to several of the chief hierarchs and revealed their approval of Nicholas.

A defender of God's truth, this wonderful saint was ever bold as a defender of justice among the people. On two occasions, he saved three men from an undeserved sentence of death. Merciful, truthful, and a lover of justice, he walked among the people as an angel of God.

Even during his lifetime, the people considered him a saint and invoked his aid in difficulties and in distress. He appeared both in dreams and in person to those who called upon him, and he helped them easily and speedily, whether close at hand or far away. A light shone from his face as it did from the face of Moses, and he, by his presence alone, brought comfort, peace and good will among men. In old age he became ill for a short time and entered into the rest of the Lord, after a life full of labor and very fruitful toil, to rejoice eternally in the Kingdom of Heaven, continuing to help the faithful on earth by his miracles and to glorify his God. He entered into rest on December 6, AD 343.
Easily my favorite part is imagining Bishop Nicholas of Myra giving the heretic Arius the proverbial back of his hand during the council of Nicaea! Somehow I don't think Old St. Nick was too "jolly" right then.

Part of the origin of "Santa Claus" is the fact that Nicholas secretly gave money and other items to families in need by dropping them through chimneys or through the windows of homes.

For more information on St. Nicholas, definitely go to this site. It's one of the best web sites I've ever seen on any topic; extremely well done.

And check this out. A feature film is coming Christmas 2008.

St. Nicholas, pray for us!

St. Nicholas of Myra, preventing the falsely accused from being executed, by Ilya Repin, 1889.

Monday, December 3, 2007

A coveted book has finally arrived at my doorstep...


I've previously posted on my love of art, and my own desire to learn drawing and painting in the classical tradition, with the hope of one day being proficient enough to create custom sacred art for our chapel and the rest of our new home. I've read many books this past year, and done many drawings (each one a little better than the previous) and so, despite time constraints and needing to take long breaks to deal with other things, I am making good progress toward my goal. However, one very large omission to this point in my self-education, both in terms of reading and drawing, has been the fabled "Drawing Course" (or "Cours de Dessin" in its original French) by Charles Bargue and Jean-Leon Gerome, originally published as a set of lithographs in the 1860's and 70's. This was THE drawing course in France and many other parts of Europe during the period in the 19th century just before the onset of modernism, and it was used to train expert realist artists in the truthful rendering of nature. The course is a set of lithograph master drawings of steadily increasing difficulty that a student is to copy, by sight and using the "sight-size" method, informing their mind's eye of the nuances of the human form. Most students had to reproduce all 197 lithographs, in the process becoming a master draftsman, before moving on to painting. The formation in drawing alone could take over two years before painting, and only afterward was a student allowed to transition into putting their own spin and expression in their artistic composition (having now had the foundation from which to make those expressions coherent).

Of course, "copying" has an awful connotation for us moderns. How can one "express themselves" and be "creative" if you have to copy something? This is the mindset of modern education, and it's no surprise that the Bargue Drawing Course was quickly discarded as a method of education in the early 20th century. Great artists were no longer made; each person was expected to show some sort of innate creativity to be a good artist and thus one need not go through formalized training in accurate representation. In fact, "great art" itself became subjective, and any art based in the classical tradition was labeled as "pandering to the viewer," or "rigidly dogmatic," "stifling," or a "relic of the past." (See any connections to the mass rejection of Church teaching in the 20th century?) Thus we have almost an entire century devoid of objective beauty in art, and a whole legion of artists that were never given the chance to have the training that those in the past received.

But, through that whole upheaval of the 20th century, small artistic workshops called "ateliers" quietly kept the classical traditions alive, and these ateliers survive today and in fact are now flourishing with a renewed interest in classical training and art. It was mainly for ateliers, and for art historians, that Gerald Ackerman painstakingly researched and gathered images of all 197 lithographs of Charles Bargue's original Drawing Course and published them in 2003 in a massive, extremely well-done volume, along with the history of the course and the method of how to move through it as was done in the 19th century.
Here's some examples of the plates that make up Bargue's course:

For the first time in decades the Bargue drawing course was now available for use as a teaching tool, and, seemingly to the surprise of those at the Dahesh Museum of Art in New York (who published the book in the United States) and even the author, the book sold out within a year or two. Now I come along, in 2007, voraciously learning anything I can about classical drawing, and upon learning that this book was by far the most recommended book on classical drawing and one that is used widely in ateliers around the world, I immediately wanted to get a copy (even at its $95 price). Being out of print, the only way to get a copy was through small book stores that were selling it at a price of anywhere between $300-$1,000! So, I've been on the waiting list at the Dahesh Museum of Art for a new printing for months (probably with every atelier in the country).

Finally this Fall a second printing was completed, and I received my own copy at the end of November! The book is fantastically done, with excellent graphic design and heavy, quality paper. It's an awesome read in itself, but its use as a training method will be even more valuable in the coming years. Anyone interested in drawing, or anyone interested in art, should definitely buy a copy while they are still in print now (here or here). It's still $95, and it's worth every penny!