Tuesday, October 31, 2006

This is my thirteenth winter of this, so it is easy to do, but harder to draw. I will have another go tomorrow as I am sure to be stuck for ideas again on the wednesday. There is something about the sliding hand on the axe and the compound curve that the hands make, which is very satifsfying. Some of the pine I was chopping today was pretty saturated, so had an added bonus of moisture blasting from the axe tip at the end of the blow. Of course it is nice when the wood is narrow enough to split in a single thwack, but also satisfying to hit smack on the same line on three blows across a wide chunk and hear the sound change on each blow as it gives in. Wood really does warm you three times before you sit and watch it burn, collecting, splitting and stacking all get a bit of a sweat going. The tree behind has witnessed a lot of carnage, but it doesn't seem to have stunted its growth, some kind of self hypnosis therapy program I suspect.

Monday, October 30, 2006

I have a friend with a son at this kindergarten and today I got volunteered to help out at a little plaster casting session there. The young lady at the top put me to shame with her hygiene habits. Several times I thought she had run out of steam as she started to rinse off, but she would get another squirt of soap and start right up. No wonder her hands were so small, I am surprised she hadn't worn them down to little dibbers. I tried to start up a friendly convo session in search of tips to take home and share with the family, but she was of the strong silent type, like myself when young and simply gave me the polite smile that indicates words are not to be trifled with.
The other young lady was rather more forward, I am sure she would have climbed on me if I had stayed down there much longer, she definitely had some kind of plans in mind, perhaps she was a sociable cat that had its career cut short in a former life.
How nice it is that children are still so trusting, ever may their trust be rewarded by a consistent supply of people who are worthy of it.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Distracted again today, so a scrappy effort. I have this machine for drilling out mortices for wood joints. It has a big handle that you turn to drive a rack and pinion on the drill body and push the drill and hollow chisel into the wood. It has lots of little knobs to control movement in different directions and position the hole, which makes it quite fun to use. It is certainly faster than drilling and chiseling out by hand, but it is very noisy, so I wear ear protectors. I quite often work on the floor, so I am crouched down by the machine where it sits on a little trolley with an end piece for a table clamped in it.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Returning home from a work meeting in the little truck I was reminded of a comment by one of neighbours. He said it makes him feel at home when he drives past our house and sees the light in the round window and the smoke from the chimney.
The chill coming down from the mountains makes the smoke blow down the valley and somehow gives the impression that the house is making good headway like an old steam ship.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Back to looking in the mirror again, it is hard to get the imagination running sometimes. I am afraid I am still operating under the concept that anything is better than nothing. Still, I suppose the change of seasons can be observed in the changing wardrobe. The fleecy stuff is of the essence at present as the evenings chill down and I hold off lighting the stove as it isn't quite cold enough to warrant it. Off to a meeting about a possible work project tomorrow, so perhaps I will try to store some scene from that for tomorrows effort.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Me son with his hat on again. Studying physics apparently, I couldn't really see what he was looking at and anyway it would all probably be squiggles to me even if it wasn't in Japanese.
He has university entrance exams coming up, so keen to fill his head.
The rubbish men took the plastic cases of the computers I smashed up, so I will try them with the metal bits, all the cables and half the glass from the CRT display tomorrow. There is still a pile of junk someone has thrown away up the mountain, it is right by where the rubbish truck does a U turn up our road, so the guys must see it every time they do the route. The council have put a yellow tape around it like a crime scene, but it will probably sit there for quite a while longer. They only took the last pile away when it started to grow. Some people leave receipts and whatnot in the junk they chuck and the council chase them up, but I don't think they get fined as yet. Japan has been fairly recycle conscious for a while, but there is still a lot of fly tipping.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Seems like I must have breathed in a bit too much of that computer dust. Feeling a bit under the weather, so no energy for crayon drawings or even filling a whole sheet of B4. Luckily there was no manual work to do today, just work on a newer computer listening to an interview and typing out a transcript to be translated. Not actually floor bound, but I remembered thinking about drawing nap time before, and a pencil effort was about all I could manage, so I drew that. Not sure why Wednesdays always seem to be a bit squiffy these days. This carpet actually has a load of persian patterns on, but they will have to wait for another day. I remember drawing my brothers and I rolling around on a new carpet in the News book from school. All the furniture had to be shifted out of the room and it was a kind of orange and flame pattern, so we had great fun with all the space to play about in before the stuff came back in.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Switching drawing mode from the computer to paper. I found my crayons and a pad of B4 paper while I was tidying up, so I will try and use that from now on snaping with the digicam, or switch again to something bigger. These days the stove is starting to need lighting every day. I noticed this evening I could see my reflection in the window while I was lighting the fire and fiddling with the vents. Adding another layer of vision to the imagined view from behind.
I felt like a proper little ludite today smashing up three computers to sort them into their various materials. I actually stuck the cases in the press to squish them down a bit smaller. I hope the gentlemen from the rubbish place will take it when I put it all out on the proper days.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Today's job was the soul destroying task of tidying up the space under the widow. Hoovering is not so bad, but this is one of those spaces that ends up being home to all the junk that we have not been able to decide whether to throw out or not. Courtesy of a consumer society that doen't work properly, we haven't consumed these things, they are still here, just no longer viable for use, old computers that still work fine, but are too slow for work use, a whole nest of those black adapter things for all sorts of stuff that no longer lives here, miles of electric cables, old clothes etc, the sort of stuff that people throw away on our mountain roads when they move house or spring clean. I didn't understand how they could do it before, but I see that if I was in the city and faced with all this stuff I might grow desperate enough to be tempted to ignore everything I ever learnt about righteousness and skulk off and chuck it all out next to a lovely clean river. Understanding doesn't make it right just as it is not right that it will all end up at the junk yard. I will do my best to break it all up into daily rubbish units, plastic, metal, etc. But there are limits and we will have to pay thtough the nose for some of it like the computer monitors I expect.
I spent most of the day sorting and tidying and there is still loads to do. I think it will take longer to tidy than it did to put in the window. I hope one day this won't happen anymore, there must be a better way of manufacturing, facing up to these nasty realities of waste management.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Well, the weather cleared this morning, so I got the copper flashing made up and fitted, here I am just popping the last screw back in the window just in time for lunch. I spent the afternoon painting the inside. It is raining hard out there now, so it is a good job I got the waterproofing organised. The roof is pretty slippy even when it is dry, so I usually go out there barefoot, I had to keep one leg over the ridge to stay put with both hands on the job. I have found those last dumb little jobs can be the ones that trip you up, so I tend to take excessive care with them, something like slipping with the driver and chipping the glass would be a major mess up. That should be the last of the window theme, I wonder what I will get up to tomorrow. Time for a drop of shuteye now.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

The wishes of yesterday did not come true. A very grey day with drizzling rain. I think the caulking I stuck in under the tin roof held OK, but I couldn't get out on to put the copper on. The roof is slippery enough when it is dry, so in the rain it is a health hazard. I made up the interior instead, put in a bit of backing and did all the putty around the inside of the frame where I cut the roof. I noticed that a bit of wall was impinging on some of the light that I could see from my futon in the morning, so I cut a hole in it and made another little blue window, like the ones from last week. That will be part of my morning viewing each day from now on. Putty and backing around that too. The sun did come out for about five minutes in the afternoon, but I shall have to wait for another day to find out where the sun lands in the mornings. It was noticeably brighter this morning, so when its sunny it should be lovely.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Well I got the window in OK. It was nearly dark when I called it a day. It is not quite waterproof yet as I have a bit of copper flashing to make. It was a very tight squeeze to get down in through it. I used the spirit level to prop it open. It is only supposed to be a ventilator, so it only usually opens about half this much with a little extender chain thing. Fortunately it was possible to take the glass part off to fit the frame as it was about 28kg with the glass in and obviously a lot more care would have been needed with the fragile stuff in place while fitting. It has made a big difference to the mood of the space inside, I am hoping the sun will shine tomorrow morning so we can see how much lighter it is. The sun did come out just for a bit in the evening, so I got a glimpse of that before it got dark. I expect the moon will be fun to watch through it as well. I was surprised that I could still see the tops of the cedar trees between us and the river from inside the house even with a window that almost points straight up.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Up in the roof today. I ordered a skylight window to light a little space we are going to make. It is one that opens for ventilation, so it should also make the roof area a bit cooler in the summer. We basically have one big room that is used for four little spaces, two of which are kind of mezzanine areas. The wood stove heats the whole area with a fan that blows the heat back down into the lower spaces. I wanted to check the spacing of the rafters to see what timber I have to make up to fit the window so I stripped off the plasterboard from the area where it will go in to make some measurements. I guess I will make the hole in the roof tomorrow and fit it and then make up any flashing I need. I can just pop a sheet over it if the weather goes downhill

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

I thought I ought to study my face a bit to update my mental image of it. It is good excercise when there is nothing better in the mind to latch on to. Very backlit with my foot holding the mirror against the arm of the sofa, so three quarters in horizontal and vertical.
I had another go at welding up some insect life today, actually a spider, so more legs, as well as fiddling with some shelves in a storage space. I want to move the snow tires up there, so the shelves have to be quite sturdy as we have two sets of tires to store. I think it will be a few months yet before we need ot swap over for the winter. I have the stove lit today as I think it might get chillier as the evening wears on. I shall move over to the piano for a little go on that next. Nobody home at the moment except me and the dog.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The funeral was this morning. In Japan things happen pretty swiftly. In our village there are a few community units, and the chap who died wasn't in ours even though he lived just down the road, so I wasn't required to help out at the doo. I did go round with a neighbour to see the body. That happens when only close family or village folk are about and everybody is making plans for where to do the ceremony. The body is led out on a futon just aside from all the goings on and you sit by the head and light some incense. Most houses in this area have a big living room that opens out onto a garden area and this is all opened up with the flowers and coffin and whatnot at one end, so there is a lot of furniture and whatnot to be shifted to make way for all that. This picture shows the bit where the coffin is carried out with everybody kind of praying. There are a couple of priests at the back of the car, usually there is only one priest, but this chap had three, so a big doo. The hearse is like a smart pick up truck (really a cut off limousine) with a very ornate copper roof and wooden gubbins at the back. Most communities have a load of canvas tents to loan out for events like this and the big circles are rather tacky plastic flower decorations that feature very large at funerals. The name of the donor is given underneath on a banner. Before the car departs the horn is sounded to kind of ward off evil I think. It is a superstition to clasp your thumbs under your fingers when you are out and about and see one of these cars passing. Your thumb is your oya yubi, or parent finger. So hiding it is a kind of expression of the wish to be buried before your children, or in other words a wish for their long life. What else is there..The coffin is usually white for purity I suppose, the family ceremonialy nail it shut before it leaves the house using a pebble instead of a hammer, not sure why. Most people are cremated here, after the body has been burnt the bones are not crushed up, the family pick some of the bones from the pile using chopsticks, two people pick up each bone, so there is a tradition that you never pass food or anything else from chop sticks to chop sticks except at this time as it is bad luck. As you might guess I do rather stick out at these events as the only foreign chap on hand. People in the village have been very accepting of me and I have helped out at several funerals and other events over the years I have lived here. It is certainly a shame that those people didn't get to attend their own funerals. Obviously there are many aspects of the funeral ceremonies that are just plastic commercialism, but it is a very emotional time for everyone and there is a real sense of community in these rural areas as everyone helps to prepare for the departure.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Me son playing the piano. It has been a long day in the shop welding up another one of those insect things and another funeral in the village. This time an 88 year old gentleman who I did many sessions of work for cutting down trees or trimming branches. A few of those were in preparation for his death, in his own words, "Nobody is going to bother with it once I am gone, so we had better get it done before I get in my grave". Of course he said it in Japanese being that is the local lingo. He used to wear a hat a bit like the one our kid has on when he went up to tend the fields each day. Very much a sense of the old chap pulling the bedclothes up around the chin before slipping under the moss. The last time I met him taking a little stroll he said he felt ready for bed and I think we even shook hands on the deal.
Anyway I am fresh from the incense burning evening session the day before the funeral with a slight intake of beer, so slightly freer of vocabulary than normal.
The piano playing is pretty much an evening ritual for the young un and me. I am a hopeless case as my tadpole reading days may never come. Yer man there still has a chance at that, so I encourage him to try. Whichever way, as long as it continues to be fun and a means of expression that is moving forwards even slowly it is one of our deepest human rights even beyond speech to have a whack at the music with vim and vigour and ignore the fact that we have it driven into us as kids that it is not fun and definitely not our right, it is something you have to train at and study. I guess the study is good, but I believe you get better at what you enjoy doing, there is a natural selection at work in all of us that means we follow a path of least resistance, the slightest inclination toward something will gradually magnify as we pass through life. When left to our own devices I think that is a good thing and our own individual talents come forward, but when it comes to the sarcasm of every music teacher I ever met I draw the line and call it unnatural selection.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

No energy left for drawing today, pictures of todays squiggling on the insect theme and the stove back in place as mentioned last Tuesday. The little scoop on the top of the stove is what I am making in the drawing on wednesday. The cricket type insect is very vocal in the evenings making a long whizzing noise that ends with an explosive pop or snap. He has his claws stuck in the wall just above the stove.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Another change of plan, this little chap was sitting on the welding bench when I went down to the shop this morning, so I got my daily drawig done early and tried to make up an armature thing of him. I think it will work OK in the end, experimenting with the different metals, I guess if I look up how to get a green patina on copper I could even get that color.
Some technical points. The copper steel joints are not very strong and copper is not too good for filling in areas as it conducts heat to well and tends to drip off even with careful torch use. I am using 4mm wire for the frame and applying steel welding wire of 1mm. The copper wire is from scrap electric cable of 1.6mm I think. It is quite good fun for drawing in 3D with steel, but the copper is really just for paterning. It is worth brushing or sanding every now and again to convince yourself of the results as it all turns black while working. Anyway, this is as far as I got today.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Change of theme, I saw a deer like this when I was back in England for a brief stay during the summer. I wanted to try and draw that in preparation for a little project.
I have been experimenting with TIG welding different metals, like copper onto iron. And I was trying to think of a good theme for either some relief work or something more sculptural when this deer sprang to mind.
My welding helmet bust a few months back and I have just got a replacement. One of those automatic darkening ones that means you don't have to play peekaboo all the time with the mask to see what you are doing. So I want to try something a little bit more artistic than usual to celebrate the new tool. My son, my brother and self were watching the deer at dusk and it was beautiful how the details of form were all hidden leaving lovely smooth abstract shapes that all faded into eachother, which will hopefully emerge under the welding torch.
I did get on and plaster the walls around those windows today in case you were wondering, but no drawing of that.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Today I had some translation stuff to do in the morning. Once that was done I made some little windows in the wall. This is a 180 degree twist staircase up to my daughter's space. I had some off cuts of blue wavy stained glass left over from a furniture job. The wall is plaster board on both sides, so I cut a big hole right through both front and back and make a sort of frame piece out of polystyrene and then cut that into two U shapes so that I can fit them up in the hole and glue the frame to the inside of the front board. Then go round the other side and glue the glass to that. I fill up the gaps around the other side with bits of card and mesh and then putty over the lot to make it all homely again. It doesn’t matter that it is made from fish boxes and cardboard inside.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

I think if I were still at primary school, today would have been one of those days when I just drew a pattern. The brain box is not too hot. Yesterday and today I have been making tools for the fire with spiral handles. Iron is not a good heat conductor, so the spirals make the handle stay cooler and give a bigger grip for little extra weight. These were my first two goes at this technique. Kind of grahically portrayed in the little heiroglyphs. In the drawing I am just doing the last bit, pulling the spiral out from the two flat scrolls wound on top of each other drawn in the diagram. As with all round or 3D work, when it is fixed in a vice or too big to move around, you need to make a point of shifting yourself about to see it from different view points to check you have the form you want, so I am kind of crouching down to see from the side as I tweak the hot iron with a pair of grips.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Kind of pooped this evening after a day of varied activity. So, just a rough sketch. I have been making improvements to my wood stove and this morning my son helped me carry it back up from the workshop so that I could set it up for the winter. I am using Artrage for the drawings on a Toshiba Tablet PC. Some days I manage to make time in the day for drawing from something real, but usually I end up drawing a remembered scene from the day's work. This is a mix of both, putting myself on the sofa in the scene of the stove lit for the first time this season. The stove is made from an old compressor tank for the body and an old steak grill for the top. All the fittings are made by hand and it is gradually getting more decorated as the years go by. I added a better chimney outlet, a baffle plate under the top, a grate for the front to protect the glass and a vent system above the window that allows a curtain of cold air to keep the smoke away from the window when it is first lit. All those things seemed to work well on the first try out. There is usually one day in the week I don't get around to drawing, so the next time that happens I'll stick in a photo of the puppy.

Monday, October 09, 2006

This is me heating up a piece for the fender to bend it a little. This is now fitted around the wood stove area at home. I wear these safety specs a lot working on hot stuff, they have those flip down shades for gas welding and cutting. Sometimes the flames form the torch make really pretty patterns as they spread and split and the different shades of light and color on everything in the dark shop are very nice.

Sunday 8/10/2006

Sunday was another beautiful day after the Typhoon that ripped through on Thursday and Friday. The moon is not quite full, but the clarity of the air was great and the clouds near the moon had that faint rainbow of colors in them. I stopped to try and remember the scene for drawing later walking down to my house after picking up my daughter from the train station.