Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A Visit to Asheville

This past week, my friend Sandy and I went to Asheville, North Carolina to visit a mutual friend, and to tour the Biltmore Estate (I'll save that for the next posting). Here's where we stayed, a log house built in the 1970s.

And here's a partial view from the front porch. Florida was humid when we left, so the cool mountain air felt wonderful. Bill, our host, said that he came out on his porch one evening and discovered a bear trying to get to a bird feeder in one of these trees.

Bill's living room.

Bill promised that if we were up for a hike, we'd be rewarded with a great view at its end. So here I am, ready for the hike and looking as rugged as you'll ever see me!

click to enlarge
This is the top of Bearwallow Mountain, at 4,242 feet. The view is for 100 miles and includes The Great Smokey Mountains. Because this mountain top is crossed by the Eastern Continental Divide, water falling to the left of it will eventually flow into the Gulf of Mexico, and water flowing to the right of it will flow into the Atlantic Ocean.

We enjoyed Bill's friends, including the couple who owns this magical house, also made of logs.

Roger is a sculptor, and the property is filled with sculptures, flowers and every sort of vegetable. I wish I'd gotten a photo of the tomatoes that were the dark color of eggplants!

This is a guest cottage on the same property.

photo by Sandy Gonzalez
How many interesting and convivial conversations have taken place in this circle, I wonder?

Asheville is a town that supports the arts, and we saw musicians everywhere. Conde Nast Traveler rates Asheville as the 4th friendliest city in the U.S.

Every Friday, from 6:00-9:45 p.m., Asheville's Pritchard Park hosts a drumming circle. This photo was taken as things were just getting started. By the evening's end, the perimeter's tiers will be packed elbow-to-elbow with drummers, and the space in the middle will be filled with dancers.

And you might imagine that when the scene above is multiplied many times, the sound is both awesome and mesmerizing.
We fell in love with the Battery Park Book Exchange, located in the Grove Arcade. It's also a champagne bar — how cool is that?! We didn't imbibe, but I did buy some art books.

Stay tuned for a look at the Biltmore,
home of George W. Vanderbilt.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Marking an Anniversary

Dear blogging friends, this past Tuesday was the third anniversary of All Things Ruffnerian, and I'm "marking" the occasion by shutting down the computer today, and spending a week on the road.

If you recognize this gentleman, you'll know whose famous house I'll be visiting. In the meantime, I look forward to sharing images when I return, and I wish you a great week — see you soon!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

My "Pub Sign"

One of my good friends is Jillian, an English lady who owns The Chattaway, a dining establishment that has graced St. Petersburg for decades. Earlier in this blog (here), I posted about how old-fashioned bathtubs have become the quirky signature of Jillian's restaurant.

Today there are more than 40 such tubs, of which this is but one. (I took this photograph one morning before the place opened, otherwise you'd see a good crowd.)

When The Chattaway was in need of new signage, and given Jillian's heritage, I suggested the look of a classic British pub sign. Jillian produced a favorite note card that was just six inches wide, and that became the basis for the design.

Unfortunately, when a design that small is blown up to nearly 40" wide, it rasterizes, which is another way of saying that it degrades into an ugly blur of pixels.

So I took the image into Adobe PhotoShop and put it through a series of filters that posterized and enhanced the edges, with a result that looks as clean on close inspection as at a distance.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

12 Interesting Historic Signatures

As I've mentioned before on this blog, I'm fascinated by graphology, the study of handwriting (which might more aptly be named "brainwriting"). While graphologists believe that handwriting reveals a lot about our personalities, they say that our signatures reveal how we want to be seen.

So I thought it would be fun to present a dozen rather elaborate signatures from history. While each of these is unusual in its own way, I think you'll agree that the whole grouping makes quite a dance!

I'll present them in alphabetical order .  .  .

The Duke of Alba, Ferdinand Alvarez de Toledo (1508-1582). A Spanish soldier, he suppressed the Netherlands with great cruelty.

Vasco Nuñez de Balboa (1475-1517). A Spanish navigator, he discovered the Pacific Ocean in 1513.

Boris III (1894-1943). The king of Bulgaria from 1918 to 1943, he brought his country into World War II on the side of Germany.

Sir Noel Coward (1899-1976). A British playwright, actor and composer, he was celebrated for his wittiness.

Gabriele D'Annunzio (1863-1938). The Prince of Montenevoso, he was an Italian writer, poet, journalist, playwright and soldier.

Erle Stanley Gardner (1889-1970). The creator of Perry Mason, this American detective-story writer would dictate up to 10,000 words a day.

Ferdinand Marcos (1917-1989). As President of the Philippines from 1965-1986, he initiated reforms but also embezzled billions of dollars. His wife is the noted collector of shoes.

Jan Van Riebeeck (1618-1677). This Dutch colonial administrator founded Capetown.

Mayer Amschel Rothschild (1743-1812). This German Jew, who lived his entire life in very humble circumstances, was the founder of the banking house of Rothschild. His signature reminds me of the art of Saul Steinberg.

Johann Strauss, the Elder (1804-1849). While he was known as "The Father of the Waltz," his son was known as "The Waltz King."

Francisco "Pancho" Villa (1877-1923). A former bandit who became a Mexican revolutionary leader, his name was actually Doroteo Arango.

Wilhelm II (1859-1941). Emperor of Germany from 1888 to 1918, the Kaiser was defeated in World War I and lived in exile thereafter in Holland. His signature is very similar to his father's, Wilhelm I.

And because that was so much fun, I'll give you a baker's dozen! Graphologists and forgery experts alike will tell you that the hardest signatures to forge are actually the simplest, primarily because such signatures tend to vary very little. A prime example is the unusual signature of King Louis XVI of France, below.

This unusual signature, which to my mind resembles the aftermath of an execution, was so consistent that the king's secretaries never attempted to copy it.

All signatures in this posting can be found in
The Stein and Day Book of World Autographs,
by Ray Rawlins

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Fooling George Washington
Charles Wilson Peale (1741-1827) had the distinction of painting this, the first portrait of George Washington, in 1772. Peale had been a saddler, but when he failed in that business, he turned to portraiture. And Washington was a natural choice as a sitter because the two men had served together in the military. They formed a friendship that lasted the rest of Washington's life, and Peale eventually painted dozens of Washington portraits.
Peale, who was the patriarch of a family of artists, was a man of many interests and many talents. Here's a self-portrait from 1822, with Peale showing off his museum, the first in the United States. The Peale museum was particularly significant because it displayed assembled mastodon skeletons from scientific expeditions that Peale had organized.

Charles Wilson Peale's portraits of George Washington are his most important work, but the painting that probably generates the most appreciation is the 1795 painting of Peale's sons Raphaelle and Titian, below.

photo by Don Juan Tenorio
A masterpiece of trompe l'oeil, the stairway painting is surrounded by a real door frame and includes a perfectly matching real bottom step.

In his last days, George Washington visited Peale's studio and came across this painting. The courtly Washington was used to gawkers and as he passed by, he turned to the boys and bowed.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

A Menagerie of Cast Iron Banks

As a sentient being, I am doubtlessly evolved from a magpie! So far, I've shared about two dozen collections with my blogging friends, and today I'll share another — cast iron animal banks.

In the 19th century, cast iron banks were a popular way to encourage children to be thrifty, and so banks were often produced in the form of animals. Sometimes, like the eagle and eaglets below, the banks were mechanical.

I love the fact that this bank has taxidermy eyes. This is a reproduction of a bank that was patented in 1883. One places a coin in the eagle's beak and then turns down the handle on the side.

As the handle is turned down, the eaglets rise slightly, the eagle bends forward, spreading her wings, and the coin drops into a slot in front of the chicks. The entire movement does give the impression that the eaglets get fed.

Here's another bird and reproduction.

This bank is "Nipper," the mascot and logo of RCA Victor. I use it in my studio as a paperweight.
At one point, I had nearly three dozen cast iron banks in the form of animals, many of them reproductions. In a spirit of downsizing, I've narrowed the collection to those I'm sharing today, including the following antiques.

This was one of my first banks; it came from a friend of the family who was ironically a democratic judge who collected elephants.

This Newfoundland dog has both a wonderful patina and a slight sheen; it's obviously been handled often. Wouldn't it be interesting to know all that has transpired around this old object?

Here's another marvelous patina. One is tempted to take these old banks apart, but putting a screwdriver to a bank like this could ruin that beautifully even patina.

With the cock of the head and her stance, this little doe has a natural look of alertness. All of these banks are between 4" and 6" in height.

I've saved my favorite bank for last. I find the design of this fox head unusually elegant — less a child's toy and more an object d'art.