Thursday, 27 March 2014

Jan van Rymsdyk Drawings

Every so often I come across work which which both excites me through its skillful execution and draws me in through it fascinating subject matter, instilling in me a range of emotions running from wonder to downright repulsion and terror; in short it keeps me coming back for more and more. Van Rymsdyk's drawings certainly falls under this category and are my main inspiration right now for my own work.


 Images sourced from and

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Quote of The Day

A rational study of various master's working methods them to be preoccupied with efficiency. Their goal: Produce the highest quality artwork in the least amount of time. Thus, they enthusiastically embraced any useful method, tool or new device -such as the camera oscura. Camera oscura means "dark room." Oscuro means dark, not obscure. Years ago, the artist went inside a room with a lens installed in the wall facing the subject. The image was projected (upside-down) onto the opposite wall. The artist could trace the image, saving hours of toil.
In later years, the camera oscura became smaller and evolved into a portable box with a lens projecting the image onto a mirror which was fixed at 45 degrees. The image bounced off the mirror onto a piece of glass, like the viewfinder in a modern reflex camera. The artist would draw on the glass or transparent vellum. A later development, the camera lucida (light chamber) consisted of a prism held above the paper and aimed at the subject (more about that, later).
Today, we have an astounding array of aids for the production of art. Photography, projectors, Xerox, computer generated graphics, and rub-down type are just a few of the new tools. It's interesting to ponder how the Old Masters would have made use of these new tools. One thing is certain, as working professionals, they would have no qualms about using them.
There are still some artists who equate Art with a sporting event. They try to impose arbitrary rules, as though Art was a game of volleyball or bridge. They say you can't use photographs, or tracing is cheating, or a real artist should be able to draw solely from the model. Rubbish!
Remember, unlike volleyball or bridge, there are no rules for producing art. Yes, plagiarism has a bad odor to it but there can be no such thing as "cheating" at drawing. The truth is - the better you can draw without visualizing aids, the better you can draw with them. Many unskilled people try them only to be shocked and disappointed by their results. They draw as badly with the aid of a visualizer as without one. No mechanical device can compensate for a lack of skill. You just can't fake it!
The 35mm SLIDE PROJECTOR is the most commonly available visualizing device. The model we use is Kodak's CAROUSEL with zoom lens and remote focusing. Rather than move the easel back and forth towards the projector, the zoom lens allows us to easily enlarge or reduce a slide. The remote focusing option allows both focus and advance to the next slide. When the projector is positioned 20 feet away from the easel, remote focusing can save many footsteps. We always have some lights on in the room when drawing from a projected image. It's more important to see how the drawing is progressing than to see the nuances of the reference slide.
When projecting the image we don't get carried away trying to fill in all the details. After the drawing is blocked in, you will want to be able to refer to the slide. Hand-held slide viewers require you to 1) stop, 2) lay down your brushes, 3) pick up the viewer, 4) look away from the canvas, 5) re-focus your eyes and peer through an eyepiece. If that doesn't slow you down, nothing will! Frequent re-focusing will fatigue your eyes.
The best way to view your slide is through a rear-projection screen. You can use a sheet of frosted glass for that purpose but we tack a sheet of tracing vellum next to the canvas. In that way the image is projected on the tracing paper and you can draw of paint alongside it. If you're interested in maximum detail, slides yield sharper images and more accurate colors than color prints.
The stand-alone visualizer- the LUCY, looks like a photostat camera. Indeed, you could use a photostat camera as a visualizing device. Like a photostat camera, the Lucy has a copyboard, a lensboard with attached lights, and glass plate for viewing. By adjusting the distances between those three elements, you can enlarge or reduce any opaque image (photos, books, etc.) onto the reverse side of a piece of tracing paper. Small 3 dimensional objects can also be accurately traced. A number of manufacturers produce their own version of the Lucy. The most common are complex, oddly designed chain-driven affairs which frequently slip out of focus. They're very expensive. The best designed Lucy is the Lucygraf. The 18"x22" work surface is bigger than most. It's half the price of its competitors and, in 20 years of service in our studio, it's never slipped out of focus...never!
Electricity and photography have allowed us to turn the camera obscura inside -out. The opaque projector looks like a camera obscura with a light bulb on the inside. The image is projected outward, rather than gathered inward. High -quality opaque projectors range in size from the eight-foot tall ARTOGRAPH 1000K to the ASTRACOPE 5000 (which is not much bigger than a toaster). Our preference is the Artograph DB400 which mounts to a drawing table.
The features to look for when buying an opaque projector are; (1) a high quality lens, (2) a front-surfaced mirror, (3) high output lights, (4) an internal fan (to keep from burning your reference photos and drawings). There are opaque projectors designed to project horizontally onto an easel. Others are designed to project vertically onto a desk or drawing board. Some can do both. Before you buy any opaque projector, test it in a partly lit room. Is it bright enough to allow you to see the image while some room lights are on? Don't try to scrimp on the price of an opaque projector. Nobody ever got rich by saving money on an opaque projector, it will quickly repay its cost.
The lowest priced opaque projector that I'd recommend is the ARTOGRAPH SUPER AG100. The lens is serviceable and the 2-200 watt lamps provide adequate illumination. The Super AG100 has an optional stand and reduction lens to allow it to project vertically, onto a drawing table.
The ASTRASCOPE 5000 and the ARTOGRAPH MC 250 have superior quality lenses, powerful halogen lamps and 6"x6" glass copyboards. They're similar in capabilities but the German-made Astracope 5000 is somewhat more expensive. At the top-of-the-line is the ARTOGRAPH TH 500. It has a larger copyboard (8"x8") and a super-powerful 500 watt tungsten halogen lamp, and a tack-sharp color corrected lens. The cover is designed to accommodate books and 3D objects. It's the best horizontal opaque projector.
Distortion can occur when the horizontal opaque projector and easel are not aligned. Our eyes naturally compensate for any distortion. Thus, the image might look correct when it's being projected, but when the projector is turned off to view the drawing, distortions become apparent. Many illustrators go for years not understanding why they get unwanted distortion in their projected images. The cure for distortion is simple - just put a grid on the copyboard. Here's how we do it. We project the reference onto the drawing surface, getting it properly scaled and in focus. Then, we replace the reference with a 1/4" grid. The grid makes any misalignment apparent. If we're projecting onto an easel, we shift the easel until it is in perfect alignment with the projector. Once they are aligned, we remove the grid and replace the reference. The grid also shows any distortion inherent in the lens (remember to bring a grid when shopping for an opaque projector).
Overhead, or Vertical Projectors do not require frequent alignment. The best models are solidly made affairs which are aligned at the factory. Artograph dominates the market. Their top line model is the giant (8 feet tall) 1000K VERTICAL ART PROJECTOR. Unlike earlier models, which needed to be attached to the wall, the 1000K is free -standing. The 1000K has two powerful 500 watt tungsten halogen lamps, two fans, a 12"x12" copyboard, and a color corrected lens. At well over $10.00 a pound, this 200 pound projector represents a considerable investment.
My favorite is the ARTOGRAPH DB 400. Evidently, most illustrators agree with me, because it's one of Artograph's best selling models. The DB 400 has a range of 300% enlargement to 33% reduction with a 10 12"x11" copyboard, 2-200 watt lamps, a fan, a five element lens and a viewing light. The 38 pound DB 400 attaches to the drawing table. It can be projected onto the floor for an 800% enlargement. The hinged copyboard will allow you to project opaque artwork, transparencies and 3 dimensional objects. The DB 400 does not slip out of focus during long drawing sessions. Since getting a DB400, I seldom use any other opaque projector. This tool will boost your production and accuracy more than any other tool in the studio. It will pay for itself in a very short time.
The camera lucida creates an optical illusion, making the subject appear to be projected onto the drawing surface.
The CAMERA LUCIDA consists of a prism which has been mounted on an adjustable arm. By looking down through the prism the illustrator can transpose an image onto the drawing surface. It's something of an optical illusion and takes a bit of practice to master. The Camera Lucida consists of a prism, an adjustable arm, and a series of lenses packed in a velvet lined box, it's elegant!
The Camera Lucida boasts a feature which no other visualizer can; the artists can draw directly from the subject. No interim photographs are needed. It's portable and it's FAST! Besides allowing you to draw directly from the subject, you can draw the subject reversed in mirror image, or create anamorphic distortions. The Camera Lucida also lets you enlarge and reduce photographic reference (this takes some practice). The Camera Lucida is a valuable addition to any illustrators studio. Previously made by the LEON company, the remaining supply of Camera Lucidas is distributed through HOLBEIN.
Rob Howard: Some people get all bent up when artists use anything other than a burnt stick on a cave wall, so a computer is a definite no-no in their eyes.
William Whitaker: ...I have a 17" video display which I use on the road.
My main studio display is the 23" version.
It is incredible and has really changed my life. I come up with new ways to use it practically every day.
For those of you who have been living in a cave and drawing with a burnt stick, take a look at Bill Whitaker. He draws and paints like an angel."

-Rob Howard

Monday, 17 March 2014

Traditional Scottish Oatmeal Porridge

FIG. 5. A typical "black house" of the Isle of Lewis derives its name from the smoke of the peat burned for heat. The splendid physical development of the native Gaelic fisherfolk is characterized by excellent teeth and well formed faces and dental arches.

" The basic foods of these islanders are fish and oat products with a little barley. Oat grain is the one cereal which develops fairly readily, and it provides the porridge and oat cakes which in many homes are eaten in some form regularly with each meal. The fishing about the Outer Hebrides is specially favorable, and small sea foods, including lobsters, crabs, oysters and clams, are abundant. An important and highly relished article of diet has been baked cod's head stuffed with chopped cod's liver and oatmeal....... In Fig. 5 may be seen three of these fisher-people with teeth of unusual perfection. We saw them at the fish-cleaning benches from early morning till late at night dressed, as you see them pictured, in their oilskin suits and rubber boots. We met them again in their Sunday attire taking important parts in the leading church. It would be difficult to find examples of womanhood combining a higher degree of physical perfection and more exalted ideals than these weather-hardened toilers. Theirs is a land of frequent gales, often sleet-ridden or enshrouded in penetrating cold fogs. Life is full of meaning for characters that are developed to accept as everyday routine raging seas and piercing blizzards representing the accumulated fury of the treacherous north Atlantic. One marvels at their gentleness, refinement and sweetness of character."

-Excerpt from Nutrition And Physical Degeneration by Weston A. Price


From Kasha in Eastern Europe to Champurrado in Mexico humans have since the dawn of the Agricultural revolution been serving chopped grains, cooked in water or milk as a source of nourishment and sustenance. With the variety of porridge products available to us today, numbering into double figures in most supermarkets, and the raging debate currently taking place around the dangers of grain consumption for human health, one can be left confused as to whether something as simple as a bowl of porridge for breakfast is or is not a good choice to start your day. The truth of the matter is that both parties, pro grain and anti grain, are right. Grains can and do have negative consequences on our health. Conversely though they obviously offer key nutritional support, echoed by their long standing use on every continent bar Antarctica (to my knowledge) up to this day. The challenge as I understand it then surrounding grain consumption originates in the way grains are prepared, the varieties used and the frequency with which they are consumed in our culture presently. Essentially the problem lies not with grains themselves but more with how we use and adopt them now in the 21st Century. In looking to the wisdom of our ancestors we see grain dishes prepared in certain ways to minimise health depleting qualities and to maximise health giving qualities. In following this guidance we too can reap the benefits that grains have to offer to our health. What follows then is a recipe based on maximising nutrition uptake to your body using the simple oat; a cereal grass of powerhouse proportions which has offered itself so humbly as a food source to the people of Northern Europe for these past hundred years. 


As always I enjoy adapting and evolving my recipes based on my own ongoing research and experimentation. As a result my recipe differs a little both in ingredients and in process than the original from the Nourishing Traditions cook book. I have included a copy of this original recipe by Sally Fallon in the further reading section at the bottom of the page for those interested.

For reasons why to soak oats and other grains first in acidic medium go here.
Which stevia is best? Go here.

Oats do not contain gluten but more often than not are processed alongside gluten containing plants such as wheat which is why they are sometimes labeled as not advisable for gluten sensitive people. If you are gluten intolerant then either find oats which are certified gluten free or try working with a gluten free non contaminated grain such as millet.

*1 cup organic whole oat groats
*2 Cups hot spring water
*3 Tablespoons of live, unpasteurised cultured liquid. Choose from organic whey, yoghurt or kefir. If not available then lemon juice or organic raw apple cider vinegar can be used as an alternative
*2 Tablespoons sweetener of choice (I used a combination of birch xylitol and Organic Powdered
stevia, raw organic honey is also a good choice).
*2 Tablespoons of raw organic fat of choice (I used udos oil, organic coconut oil is also a good choice)
*3 cups of spring water or favourite raw organic nut/seed milk
*1/4 teaspoon sun dried sea salt


Soak oats, acidic medium and hot spring water for 12-24 hours (overnight is ideal if you desire to have them for breakfast the next morning). When finished soaking drain and rinse oats well, washing until water is clear. Add oats and further 3 cups of liquid (water or nut/seed milk) to blender and pulse until oat groats are broken down slightly (they can be blended less or more depending on preferred porridge consistency). The oats are now ready to eat and can be eaten cold either as a muesli with the sweetener, oil and salt mixed in or they can be heated through in the pot for 5 minutes at a low heat until thickened and warm. If heating through add the sweetener and oil at the end to preserve the delicate heat sensitive nutrients.


Further Reading

Monday, 10 March 2014

Homemade Sauerkraut

image taken from

"Green and purple varieties: slightly warming thermal nature; sweet-and-pungent flavour; mucilaginous; moistens the intestines; benefits the stomach; improves digestion; and is used in many cultures to benefit the skin. Is also used for treating constipation, the common cold, whooping cough (cabbage soup or tea), frostbite (body temperature wash of cabbage tea), mental depression and irritability; helps rid the digestive system of worms (take cabbage with garlic for greater effectiveness against parasites). Contains vitamin U, an ulcer remedy. For either stomach or duodenal ulcers, drink one-half cupful of freshly made cabbage juice two or three times a day between meals. Continue for at least two weeks even though symptoms may disappear sooner. If too pungent-tasting, mix with celery juice.
Cabbage owes many of its healing properties to its abundant sulfur content (sulfur is warming, destroys parasites, and purifies the blood).
When eaten and simultaneously used as a poultice, cabbage treats skin eruptions, leg ulcers, varicose veins, arthritis, and wounds; eating cabbage regularly helps overcome chronic cold feet. To make a poultice, grate the cabbage, mix it with water, and wrap it onto the effected area with a cloth. Another method is to bruise the leaves and wrap these on directly. This method of application was used by a yoga teacher we know in Switzerland who severely cut her leg in a skiing accident; gangrene set in and her doctors recommended amputation. Instead she used continual cabbage poultices and ate a great deal of raw cabbage daily. The wound healed rapidly.
Cabbage contains iodine and is a rich source of vitamin C (more C than oranges); the outer leaves are concentrated in Vitamin E and contain at least a third more calcium than the inner leaves. Cabbage in the form or raw sauerkraut is excellent for cleansing and rejuvenating the digestive tract, improving the intestinal flora, and treating difficult cases of constipation.
Compared with round head-head cabbage, Chinese (Napa) cabbage has neither a pungent nor warm thermal nature; it is cooling with a sweet flavour and is useful for many kinds of inflammations, yellow mucus discharges, and all other ailments that have heat symptoms. It also moistens the intestines and treats constipation. Chinese cabbage contains just 20% of the sulfur of round head types. Studies indicate several of the cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, broccoli, and brussel sprouts) inhibit cancerous growth in the learge intestines."

-Excerpt from Healing with Whole Foods by Paul Pitchfod



Cabbage is a powerhouse of nutrition and like other Brassica member families is often overlooked in peoples eating style due to its unpleasant smell and taste. We know it is great for our bodies yet getting it in daily can be a challenge. A way round this is to process the cabbage via fermentation which increases massively the flavour and nutrition uptake in our bodies. Problem solved.

Pages and pages have been written on fermented vegetables extolling their benefits for human health and explaining their long use in many cultures as both food and medicine. So to keep it short and to summarise, and in doing so save you much time and money ; have one daily serving (one palm size full) of raw organic unpasteurised sauerkraut and your health will transform dramatically. Easy. For those seeking more in depth explanations do explore the further reading links provided at the bottom of this page.

A note on store bought sauerkraut's. Dont waste your money or your time and just make your own. Most are pasteurised, nullifying their pro-biotic benefits, and contain questionable additives. Acetic acid anyone? No me neither. In saying this there are some companies which are worth investing in such as Raw Health or  Rejuvenative foods. So do give them a go if you are challenged for time or want to test the water so to speak on flavour before diving in and making your own. Again though nothing compares to home made for health and taste. 



True sauerkraut as I understand is just three simple ingredients; cabbage, salt and caraway seeds. I prefer to mix things up a little though to add more variety, flavour and nutrition. So what follows is my interpretation of sauerkraut.
*1 pound (500 grams) organic purple and/or red cabbage
*1 pound (500 grams) of assorted seasonal organic vegetables (This morning I used, Jerusalem artichoke, celeriac, black kale and baby beetroots)
*200 grams of dried and washed seaweed (I like dulse)
*1 teaspoon of sun dried sea salt
*Fermentation agent/starter. Choose from either; 1tsp of probiotic powder, 1 tablespoon of organic raw unpasteurized apple cider vinegar or 1 teaspoon of organic live unpasteurized miso. I used a combination of the three.



Using a food processor (and/or grater, mandolin, knife) grate and chop cabbage and vegetables into small fine pieces. Add chopped vegetables to a large glass mixing bowl with salt and massage thoroughly for 5-10 minutes until vegetables soften and release their water. Correct massage technique can be found here. When softened add all other ingredients and mix thoroughly and pack tightly into a glass jar such as the one found here. An old jam jar can be used too. Essentially anything made of glass that can be closed is good to use, just dont use plastic as it leaches into the food during fermentation.


Then What?

This is where the agreed path tends to split in fermentation circles in regard to how to store your sauerkraut. Some people say the vegetables must be completely submerged by their own juices to stop mold growing on top. Others go for a no sink method leaving the vegetables as they are, floating above or in their own juice scraping the mold of the top when ready if it has formed during fermentation and eating what is underneath. My own choice is to compact the veggies as much as possible in their own juices and then if they do mold I just scrape this off and eat whats underneath. Do experiment with the different styles to find your own flow. If they do mold on top do not panic and throw out the whole lot, just scrape this layer off and eat whats underneath, it is perfectly fine. If the mold is to much to bear then just make sure the cabbage is submerged under liquid for the complete fermentation cycle, either via a weight on top pressing down on the veg (such as a clean rock or another jar), or you can top the jar up with water to completely cover the vegetables.


How long to ferment for?

Again another heated topic. Really there is no exact time as to when your sauerkraut is ready due to multiple factors such as ambient temperature (based on your local), quantity of salt used, how tightly vegetables are packed and one of the most important ones your particular flavour preference. So what I tell people is to ferment for a minimum of one week and then taste. If the vegetables have a slight tang to them then you can be sure they have begun to ferment and are good to begin to eat. As you leave them longer they will develop more complex and interesting flavours. Again experiment till you find your own perfect combination.


Further Reading

For the enthusiastically and inquisitively minded amongst us, do dive in deep till your heart is content at the following links:

*The Art of Fermentation: An In-Depth Exploration of Essential Concepts and Processes from around the World
*Dr. Joseph Mercola interviews Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride and she discusses all of the important information about gut and psychology syndrome and the autism in children.

*Doms Kefir Site

*Cultures For Health

*The Body Ecology Diet