Furniture drawings

Louis XV period 'duchesse brisee'

Does anyone living in the London area own a cherished piece of antique or ‘classic’ furniture, willing for it to be photographed and measured in order for me to produce a complete technical drawing of it? I’m looking to record the exact dimensions and details of ‘classics’ which were common to their time so they would have to be authentic .. not repro .. but it may not matter in what condition they are, in fact this may serve as a more interesting record of how and where they ‘wear’. But also I’ve included these two examples here just to illustrate that the piece doesn’t have to be ‘mainstream antique’ or particularly valuable, as long as it has some general significance, and dating from anytime up to the 1970s.

1930s school desk, possibly French

In my article Template drawings for furniture model-making in the Methods section I make reference to a gem of a book Masterpieces of Furniture by the American architect Verna Cook Salomonsky which features a clear photo and a measured drawing for selected examples from the 16th to the 19th centuries. This was published first in 1931 and then taken up by Dover from 1953 onwards .. but as far as I know there has been nothing quite like it since!

The drawings in Salomonsky’s book are in Imperial and in any case rather difficult to read due to the book format. She also chooses not to include anything from even the early 20th century, and it may be that some of the ‘masterpieces’ are American versions of classic patterns .. which I have to check once I get my only copy of the book back! Nevertheless it’s an invaluable book, and it deserves some form of transcription into metric .. with better drawings, and covering some of the craft pieces or everyday ‘milestones’ in furniture since!

If you do have something you think would be suitable and you don’t mind my spending a few hours there recording it .. please let me know! Once the measured drawing is finished you will receive your own copy for a start. If you do get in touch via WordPress I won’t publish the post .. because you probably don’t want it advertised if you own something like an original Chippendale!

Template drawings for furniture model-making

At last I’ve had the chance to clean up and improve some of the furniture drawings I’ve always used for model-making workshops, and so I’ve gathered them together as Template drawings for furniture model-making in the Methods section. The page includes this mid-18th C ‘rococo’ armchair which has always been popular .. though a bit challenging to make at 1:25! I’ve drawn most of the plans and reproduced them at 1:10 scale for greater accuracy though some simpler ones, such as those for ‘folded’ furniture using stencil card, are 1:25 scale.

1:10 scale rococo armchair drawing

I think I’ve sorted out the problem that has been occurring of ‘thumbnail’ images not responding i.e. normally a better quality image can be opened by clicking on the images here, but I’ve only just found out that it hasn’t been happening for recent posts. So hopefully if you ‘click and save’ any of the drawings you’ll get the size they’re supposed to be. I’ve given the source resolution so that you can compare it and I’ve also listed key measurements in the text so that you can check accuracy in the printout.

Template for making 1:25 scale folded chair in stencil card

 

 

Making a panelled door in stencil card

Recently I was asked by a friend to cover for her on the ‘Foundation in Art & Design Diploma’ course at Central Saint Martins. The day was intended to deal with aspects of model-making relevant to a project the students are currently working on. Each is designing an enclosed space with particular emphasis on the doorway leading into it, so we took the opportunity to focus on doors and the different methods of simulating surfaces.There was no budget available for materials so I had to devise a short practical using whatever small leftovers I could spare. The most promising idea seemed to be working with stencil card since I had a lot of small pieces, and stencil card was available at the CSM college shop if the students wished to take it further.

making a panelled door in stencil card

So I spent a bit of time working out the easiest way to make the traditional panelled door above. I’ve already looked at layering stencil card to create the wall panelling effect below and I also discovered some time ago that stencil card could be scraped with sandpaper leaving a fairly convincing ‘woodgrain’ effect, but I hadn’t combined them much. Also, the panelling below was made by carefully marking out and cutting the layers separately, then just as carefully aligning them while gluing. This is quite demanding! .. I wanted to make it more achievable.

using stencil card for wall panelling and windows

The improved method involves four layers (but as yet only dealing with one side) and the only ‘graining’ done is on the top layer and on the bottom layer where the ‘panels’ are seen. Everything is led by the ‘second layer down’ .. the one shown first in the line-up below, on the left. This is the one which needs to be carefully measured, marked out and cut. These doors are 1:25 scale and I’ve rounded off the UK average for a traditional interior door as .. 198cm high by 76cm wide. If you want to be either very specific or if you’re working in feet and inches, it’s properly 6′ 6″ by 2′ 6″! What happens within that outline is more a matter of taste .. there are no similar ‘standards’ for the size or arrangement of the panels. I’ve cut the first piece of card according to what looks right, but also I’ve observed with 4-panel doors that the top pair are usually longer than the bottom and there’s most often a broader strip across the base of the door for strength. The long thin panel in the middle is not meant as a letter box but it could house one, and the handle or doorknob would be positioned roughly halfway up the door which makes it on average a little less than 1 metre up.

stages in making a panelled door in stencil card

The drawing below should print out on A4 at exactly 1:25 scale and if you’re using this design as a template only the first one needs to be traced or pasted, as I’ve said .. the others are just there to illustrate each stage of layering. It goes like this .. after the first is cut out it should be stuck down onto another scrap of stencil card leaving a small margin around it. Spraymount works well, as long as you don’t intend to treat afterwards with a spirit-based medium because this will dissolve the glue .. otherwise superglue applied with care (very thin lines or dots) works perfectly. Pva wood-glue will grip but not bond very well with the stencil card surface. Trim around the outline of the door using the top stencil layer as a guide then judging by eye cut out all the panel areas a little inside the top-piece outline all around making a little ‘step’ .. as illustrated by stages 2-3 above and below. It may take some practise to get an even strip but it’s too slight to measure/mark. I’ve used the smallest division on the 1:25 scale ruler as a visual guide.

stages of making door using stencil card

This piece is then stuck onto another piece of stencil card and the outer edge trimmed again as before .. before doing this the stencil card which comes underneath needs to be ‘grained’ first because this will show. For these examples I’ve used a small piece of 120 grit sandpaper to grain, pressing firmly down and straight along, using the edge of a metal ruler as a guide. Once all three stencil card layers are stuck together and the door outline trimmed around once more (stage 4 in the line-up above), the fourth and final layer comes on top. This one is applied differently though, in separate pieces. It has to be because the grain of each strip must follow its longest edge .. essential for a convincing look! The task becomes a bit like marquetry in wood, but much easier because the stencil card is easier to cut. I grained a much larger piece of stencil card first and cut the strips from it, and I made these a little narrower to form a final ‘step’ around the panel areas.

colouring stencil card door with ProMarkers

There’s almost no end to what one can use to stain or paint stencil card because, in spite of the linseed oil waterproofing, it will accept both water-based, oil or spirit-based media. I’ve detailed a number of these already in my post February 2015 The art of alternative staining where I’m working with wood, but all will work well on stencil card. In fact many will work better because although a fine-grained wood is often the best option for a good ‘wood’ look when it stains well, it can also be difficult to eliminate the scattering of light specks where the polish or stain has failed to penetrate. Generally stencil card accepts stain a lot better and more evenly.

For the two samples above I used Letraset ProMarkers. The alcohol ink in these covers well and dries quickly, though it stains so well that the lighter scratches tend to disappear. These are ideal if you want something subtle. The ProMarker ink itself dries matte but there is a very slight sheen from the stencil card.

staining stencil card with Marabu GlasArt

If you’d like more shine or even brighter colours another option is using Marabu Glasart glass paints above, or ‘vitrail’ as they’re often labelled. These are spirit-based and, in the case of the Marabu, can be diluted or cleaned up with white spirit. One has the choice of either a silky or a glossy finish dependent on how much is applied. Here for example I brushed the vitrail on thinly and also went over with tissue and cotton bud to remove the excess collected in the raised edges .. if I’d just left it the effect would have been more glossy. Vitrail doesn’t work well as successive coats, because like shellac a further coat just starts to dissolve the one underneath and the results could be patchy.

colouring stencil card with shoe polishes and wood-stains

As shown above, if you’re intending a worn or ‘distressed’ effect I would recommend either a liquid shoe polish (which are almost always water-based) or a water-based wood varnish. These will tend to sit more on the surface rather than staining, and with each of these samples I started to rub or gently scrape after only a few minutes, before fully dry .. achieving a properly ‘chipped’ look fairly easily. These are, from left to right, Wickes ‘Quick-dry Woodstain’ mahogany; Cherry Blossom brown shoe polish, Kiwi ‘Wax Rich’ black shoe polish. Stencil card will warp a little with water-based media but not as much as other cardboards and, once dry, it is easier to bend carefully back into shape.

Conventional wood-stains also worked well .. both spirit and water-based. The middle one has a light coat of Colron ‘Georgian Oak’ and to the right I have used a water-based ‘Dark Oak’ wood-stain from Flints in London. The spirit-based stain has remained fairly matte whereas the water-based dried to a slight sheen. Spirit-based stains will also infiltrate quickly to the other side, even when more than one layer .. worth bearing in mind if this will be seen.

colouring stencil card with shoe polishes and wood-stains

Lastly, for the pale sample to the left I tried Osmo Dekowachs ‘Transparent White’. This is a specialist wax-based paint I was using in Germany which I still have some of, though these paints are also available in the UK. Like Humbrol enamels I’ve found that these paints will fix on almost anything. The first coat of Dekowachs is always matte and one has to build up a shine with further coats.

Agatha Christie’s ‘And Then There Were None’ BBC December 2015

How long does one have to wait for stunningly good design work to get the acknowledgement it deserves .. a few weeks, half a year, a couple of generations, until the next century? Although it’s only been a matter of days I feel I’ve waited long enough for any direct mention of how bold yet subtle, how grim yet beautiful, how risky yet fitting the visual work on And Then There Were None was!

'And Then There Were None' BBC 2015 soldier figurines

It’s not by chance that I’ve put an image of the figurines here first .. they are the initial reason why I was compelled to write this. I kept asking myself  ‘Am I really the only one who found these figurines so captivating?’ Although with hindsight I realise now ..yet again .. how biased my viewpoint is, I was half expecting a nationwide reaction, a flood of questions online .. where did they come from, who created them? After all, they played a central role in the piece, as much as any of the actors did, and they obviously meant a great deal to the programme makers .. they are the subject of the title sequence, and the camera lingered on and revisited them more than was necessary for the storytelling.

'And Then There Were None' BBC 2015 title sequence

'And Then There Were None' dinner scene

'And Then There Were None' BBC 2015

But I’m also surprised that the figures haven’t excited more comment yet due to their unusualness, at the very least .. their departure from convention. Maybe it’s because they seemed to be quite at home there .. odd yes, but fitting, in keeping .. because although nothing much like them existed at that time, they could have been conceived in extremis from the period ingredients. As if, a young Reg Butler had been locked in a room of American deco under the influence of Futurist narcotics!

'And Then There Were None' BBC 2015

'And Then There Were None' BBC 2015

So I just want to both thank and congratulate the, as yet for this, almost completely unsung stars who conceived and created these .. along with every other finely crafted, well-considered, delicate or brutal visual moment.

'And Then There Were None' devil's cauldron

And that’s basically all I wanted to say! .. except that, if you’re one of the 5 million or so who didn’t watch it between Christmas and the New Year .. you should .. and you’ve got another three weeks to watch all episodes on BBC iPlayer for free. If you’re at all interested in design it’s a must, and you should watch it first without pausing, for pure enjoyment, as it was intended .. and then a second time to study how powerful design, camerawork and music can be when they’re properly working together; how little is actually needed to achieve this, but how delicate the balance can be.

Recommended websites for visual research

You’ll find this list now under Visual research in the Methods section, and I’ve illustrated it with examples taken from some of the websites listed. I’ve compiled it with scenic designers in mind .. set designers for theatre, film or television .. but I’ve included a section on ‘Costume and fashion’ and the list should also be of relevance to prop-makers. Apropos ‘subject divisions’, I think I still need to work on these .. I’ve divided it according to instinct and feeling, but it may need a bit more logic. Like many things on this site, it is a work-in-progress, meaning that it is meant to develop over time even if this is hardly perceptible.

The so-called 'Hobbit House' built by an eccentric artist in the Cotswolds

Above from derelictplaces.co.uk .. the so-called ‘Hobbit House’ in the Cotswolds Below from collectorsweekly.com .. Eric Eakin’s collection of bedpans.

Eric Eakin's bedpan collection

I will always be on the lookout for interesting additions to this list, so if you’d like to recommend any yourself don’t hesitate to get in touch. I’ve given preference to websites with high visual content obviously, but the quality of supporting information has been almost as important. The Internet is a vast and far-reaching resource for all of us .. the task of making it more ‘responsible’ is one we all share!

 

Why not just Google?

A while ago I thought it might be useful to put together a list of websites most valuable for visual research, either those I’ve used and favorited in the past or some recommended by others, and I posted in Facebook groups such as the Society of British Theatre Designers (SBTD) asking for suggestions. Many thanks for the comments I received! .. I’m still working on the actual list and I will put it in a new folder Visual research in the Methods section very shortly.

For the time being I wanted first to provide a sketchy illustration as to why one shouldn’t confine one’s visual research to Google .. at least, not to the extent I’m accustomed to seeing from my undergraduate teaching. Don’t get me wrong! .. I don’t believe that Google Images can be .. or should be .. ignored! It all depends on how one uses the tool. For example, it is often my first port of call if I first want to define exactly what I’m looking for or to locate sites which are likely to give me better images and more information.

As an illustration, if I’ve really no idea what a ‘duchesse brisee’ is I can type it in and Google will very likely correct me if I’ve got the spelling wrong. That’s a great help in itself! Most of the images then displayed will give me a clear and immediate indication of what it is but also give me a wide choice of period interpretations. It may help at this point to change the search size from ‘Any’ to ‘Large’ because this often keeps the more informed sites and cuts down on the Pinterests and Flickrs. Now Google can be .. and should be .. left behind to refine one’s choice; checking the period and country of origin, and generally acquiring the kind of supporting information that sensible designers need to have! Here for example is the one I might have chosen  ..

Louis XV period duchesse brisee

The website it’s from.. Antiques.com ..tells me that it’s Louis XV period or mid 18th century, carved in walnut and even that it’s attributed to the maker Pierre Nogaret. A quick Google of ‘Pierre Nogaret’ shows me many other pieces of furniture of the same feel and period. Unusually Antiques.com doesn’t provide measurements in this particular case, but many other antiques or restoration sites do for similar pieces. Here Google repeatedly offers an invaluable ‘means’ ..but not the ‘end’.

Or to take another example, if I want specific information on what a tenement dwelling in New York looked like in the 1890s I might also try Google first just for fun. In this case, because typing ‘1890 New York tenement’ could bring up too many irrelevant results it may be better to choose the ‘Advanced’ search option and type one’s search words in the ‘all words’ box. When I did this I was presented with this image from someone’s Flickr page, which looks pretty authentic and is entitled ‘New York tenement 1890’, but as often with Flickr or Pinterest there’s no other information and no indication of source so that I can verify that it’s authentic! For the serious designer this is a rather ‘blind alley’ and therefore a waste of time.

photo from Jacob Riis 'How the Other Half Lives' first published 1890

What one needs to do is either scroll down to see whether the image appears again from a more ‘official’ source in which case there is likely to be more information about it or, failing that, click on the thumbnail and use the ‘Search by image’ option in the window that appears to find other sources. Luckily this image appears on a number of reliable sites such as the Smithsonian, Britannica.com or Wikipedia and further clicking on any of these will reveal the fact that the photo comes from a priceless social document How the Other Half Lives published in 1890 by the American journalist Jacob A Riis (although initially the photos were reproduced either as line drawings or halftone and wouldn’t have had the impact they have today).

photo from Jacob Riis 'How the Other Half Lives' published 1890

The point I am making is that someone intent on the ‘fast-food’ method might not even discover that, or the wealth of other relevant photos from Jacob A Riis that might not fall within the search terms used. Sure .. Google, Flickr or Pinterest will deliver instant results which can be effortlessly collected. It’s so easy to ‘click and save’ that even the thought of having to halt one’s happy gathering in order to check and document weighs curiously heavy!

The way we used to work as theatre designers before the establishment of the Internet could be admittedly arduous at times .. we had to go to libraries! We had to first search through catalogues arranged by subject or browse the shelves to locate books that might be helpful. If we found images we wanted to ‘keep’ we would have to take them down to the photocopier .. often just black&white, if there even was one and if it was working! But that meant that we had to become very focused and selective in our responses to images and the choice of them! We had to make conscious notes of where we found things, rather than trusting a computer to save that info ..which meant we were accustomed to reading and digesting it first! The books we found the images in would usually tell us all we needed to know about them and suggest yet other sources in their bibliographies. More often than not, writers were both circumspect and thorough when it came to the printed word! All this could be time-consuming, but on the other hand we could assess the quality and relevance of a book in mere seconds, just by flicking through it .. try doing that with a website!

Jacob A Riss understood not only the value but the necessity of ‘hard graft’ .. as a humanitarian, a pioneering journalist and a documentary photographer he was essentially optimistic, driven and persistent! Any serious designer, especially for theatre/film/television, has to operate in much the same way as an investigative journalist like Riss .. leaving few stones unturned. The problem with the Internet is that there are far too many pebbles!

5 favorited in January – VandA Collections, Nikon Microscopy, CGTextures, Nick Cave, Anatomy For Sculptors

V&A Collections

VandA Collections Search

http://collections.vam.ac.uk/

The Victoria and Albert Museum is Britain’s flagship museum of historical and contemporary art and design, and one of the world’s largest collections of its kind. Its online database contains almost half a million images which can be searched by keyword. If you’re looking for something very specific it’s best to enter general keywords first .. i.e. ‘armchair’, which will bring up thousands .. and then refine from the drop-down choices given. Medium-size images can be easily saved by right-clicking, but high resolution versions are also available for personal or academic use on signing up. Although the choice has its limits, the main advantage of using this first over Google is that one will receive accurate and often detailed background information including provenance, dimensions, makers and materials. It is particularly useful for furniture or prop research as many of the entries include multiple views and detail close-ups.

18thc side table

Above and below  Decorative side table, mid 18th c, originally from Ditchley Park, Oxfordshire. England/Italy (base designed by the architect Henry Flitcroft 1734-1743, table top made in Italy 1726). Photos © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

18thc side table detail

 

Nikon Microscopy

Ralph Grimm 'Chrysopa (lacewing)'

http://www.microscopyu.com/

Nikon’s Small World Competition was established in 1977 and has taken place every year since, featuring the best and often the most beautiful examples of photography through the microscope. The Small World image gallery contains all the prize-winning and commended entries for each competition since it began.

Stephen Nagy 'Section of diseased ivory'

Apart from this the site is a textbook resource for those involved with microscopy and contains a huge amount of technical information which will be far beyond the casual visitor. However, the brief summaries of the different imaging techniques employed are clearly written and well worth looking at. The site is a must for anyone interested in the subject, whether professionally or otherwise.

Jacek Myslowski 'Acari (arachnid)'

Photos are from Top Ralph Grimm ‘Chrysopa (lacewing) head’ 130x reflected light, image stacking Middle Dr Stephen Nagy ‘Section of diseased ivory’ 15x polarized light Bottom Jacek Myslowski ‘Acari (arachnid)’ 100x polarized and oblique light

 

CGTextures

CGTextures homescreen

http://www.cgtextures.com/

This is a huge, free database of photographed textures, in its own words ‘striving to be the world’s best texture site’ and in my opinion succeeding! It is founded/managed by Marcel Vijfwinkel and Wojtek Starak in the Netherlands and has been conscientiously maintained and added to for a number of years now.  What characterizes the site .. apart from its vast range! .. is its simplicity and fairness. Basically it allows any form of private or commercial use unless the texture image itself is just being re-sold unmodified or bundled with a product as it is .. but you need to read the ‘Conditions of Use’ because it can get complicated! You have to register for free membership which allows up to 15mb per day or paid membership starts at 100mb. There are more than 100,000 real surfaces to choose from, organized into clear categories, and most are available in resolutions up to around 3,000 x 2,000 for free. It’s well worth a look in the ‘Showcase’ section to see how CG artists utilize these textures. During its development CGTextures accepted masses of photo contributions from enthusiasts (and these are dutifully still credited on the site) but now it has a select team of photographers which include the founders. There are also some useful tutorials, including tips on how to take one’s own surface photos properly.

CGTextures 'rust' album

 

Nick Cave

sd_nickcave_0309

http://www.jackshainman.com/artists/nick-cave/

Why should the fashion and performance designer Nick Cave adjust his name just because there’s a famous musician with the same one? That was the second thing that impressed me about Nick Cave .. for the first I just had to get a glimpse of his truly extraordinary work! He’s one of these artists that makes you sit up and wonder what else you might be missing .. I’m dumbfounded that I hadn’t heard of his work until last year although he has been exhibiting his ‘Soundsuits’ since 1999. These are costumes designed to be performed in, but are often exhibited as sculptures. Nick Cave spent some time as a dancer before turning to the visual/design aspect and is currently a Professor of Fashion Design at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Photos courtesy of Jack Shainman Gallery

NickCave4

 

Anatomy For Sculptors

Anatomy For Sculptors 'Main landmarks of back of the torso'

https://www.anatomy4sculptors.com/

There are a great many figure reference sites out there, most having similar names, but this one struck me as one of the most organized and .. there’s no better word .. sensible! It concentrates on the fundamentals one needs to know rather than merely re-trawling from the vast sea of figure photos like the others do and it instructs mainly through diagrams, keeping text to the minimum. Because of this you need to study the visuals to understand what is being said, but that’s a great deal of the point .. and it’s well worth it! Some may find it a bit simplistic, and some may disagree with the choice of priorities, but I can say that these visuals have been useful for me and they have stuck in my memory while working.

Anatomy For Sculptors '3D scan of middle-aged woman'

I’ve always found 3D figure scans a particularly valuable source of reference and the site makes good use of these for some of its illustrations.