Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Conclusion (for now) of Photos of Russell M. Blood's Marquetry Posted by Dwight Blood

Well, I finished the project, at least for now.  There are a few pictures with color casts or backgrounds that I don't like, but they'll have to wait for further fixing.  I'm glad, however, that I had this opportunity to take all of the pictures that have passed down to me off the walls where they have hung and study each one carefully and reproduce them in photography.  Without preparing this family archive of Dad's woodwork, much, if not most, of his incredible work would be lost to others and never seen or appreciated.  This task has brought home indelibly to me the incredible talent that Dad had and his lifelong devotion to wood and wood craftsmanship that began during the heart of the Great Depression in the 1930s and continued until his death in 1993.  As a youngster, woodcraft projects in various stages were always under way.  Even though Dad made our family living as a farmer and dairyman, his true love was art and marquetry.  Some how he found the time though working a grueling lifetime of hard farm work to generate a continual flow of work. 

When Dad died, we six siblings cast lots and drew numbers to see who got which pictures.  We all coveted the castle masterpiece that Ann was lucky enough to get, but the method was more fair than in olden days when I managed to fix the best easter egg transfers and valentines so that when my turn came around I was more lucky than others.

The greatest legacy we children received, besides the love and nurturing we received through difficult and some times heart wrenching years of our growing up , is our share of the inlaid pictures.  When they hang on the wall forever, they sort of become a part of the scenery and we take them for granted.  Then, when we take them down and oil them and study each one carefully for pattern and wood grain and fit and incredible artistic talent and craftsmanship, we are blessed once more with an acute awareness of how much Dad's talent meant to each of us.  He had hoped to make a living with his woodwork.  He would be incredulous if he realized how much some of these pictures are now worth.  Of course, none of them will ever be sold outside the family because their personal worth to us and to our descendants far outweighs any monetary reward we could ever receive from them.

And so my Dad sitting on the white stool in front of the scroll saw that somehow he managed to acquire even during the Great Depression and cutting out intricate pieces of inlaid picture after inlaid picture is an indelible part of my growing up.  And the legacy of the pictures I now possess is one of the most important gifts I have received in my life.

Small Mountain Scene with Moon

This small picture, measuring  5 1/2 by 7 1/2 inches, is an example of numerous small pictures that Dad made.  I think probably he was using up wood scraps and also that it was fun for him to play around with something different and relatively simple.
These two pictures of mountain scenes with trees and a stream make a beautiful pair to hang side by side.  Each of these pictures measures 15 x 12 inches and were made in 1968.

Trees by a Mountain Lake with Boat

While one of Dad's least complex pieces, this inlaid picture of a peaceful mountain lake is one of his most popular inlays and portrays an idyllic scene to which everyone can relate and long for.  Measuring 10 1/2 by 8 1/2 inches, the picture is undated though you can see that Dad burned his name on the bottom of the oval.

The Pony Express Rider

The Pony Express Rider was one of Dad's most popular designs.  He usually paired this picture with the companion Cattle Roundup picture below.  The pictures I have were made in 1976 and measure 15 x 19 inches.

Riderless Horse in Mountain Scene

This inlaid picture of a riderless horse in a mountain scene was the second most difficult picture to get a decent shot of.  I'm sure more expert people know how to get a true square in a light box with a large picture, but I haven't figured that one out yet.  The picture measures 18 1/2 by 26 1/2 inches and was completed in October 1990.  Dad gave me this picture for some reason that escapes me now but which I wish I had noted on the back of the picture.  Again, study the wood grains and veneer patterns to appreciate what a tremendous accomplishment the making of a picture and work of art like this is.
This inlaid picture of a tree with bare branches on a snowy day with an ice-clogged stream is another of the most familiar images in our family.  Dad made many duplicates of this picture and it has always remained a family favorite.  The picture measures 12 x 18 inches and is undated, although Dad burned "Garland Wyoming" on the back.

What was involved in taking these photographs of my Dad's inlaid pictures

I have four sisters, and they tend to be bossy at times, and to hand out numerous instructions at other times.  Liz started this blog as a way to provide an archive of the incredible body of artistry through inlaid veneers that our dad created during his lifetime.  Ann, who tends to know a lot of stuff, opined that it was no big deal as she whipped out a light box and took a batch of photos, I presume, in a half hour or so.  It took me a bit longer as I had to make a big enough light box to accommodate the stagecoach picture which is nearly 36 inches wide.  I said a couple of words along the way, but nothing that Dad would not have approved of.  In my case, I bought 5 sheets of foam board by hazarding visits to the Hobby Lobby and hunted up a couple of shop lights at Lowes.  I used white foam board tape to put the miserable thing together.  The photos were shot with a Canon 7d camera which I confess I do not know how to use but intend to learn how it works in the near future.  My wife has been appalled at the mess my den has been in for the past 58 years or so, more or less, and now she is sorry that I took over the entire family room in the lower level of our house for my artsy craftsy stuff, as attested to in the above photo.

I will have a few more things to add later to the blog.  Each of my children have several pictures, some of which are not duplicates of what I have shown here.

I suggest that siblings who have comments on the pictures do so under "edit posts" rather than the comments section, which many people never look at.  Especially, Steve, and maybe Liz, you may have comments on veneers and technical aspects of how these pictures were made that should be of interest to anyone who looks through this blog.

Small Wall Plaques

Dad made many, many of these and similar small wall plaques over the years.  The care and effort that went into these small inlaid pictures was just as skilled as were the large inlaid pictures.  Note especially the beautiful veneers in the bottom plaque just above.

Inlaid Tray with a picture of the Teton Mountains

This picture of the Teton Mountains inlaid into a tray (the handles have been cropped off) was our wedding present from my parents in 1952.  Since I had reached the advanced age of 20 when I got married, that means the tray is now 58 years old.

The Mexican

The Mexican picture was usually paired with the picture of an old rancher which, regrettably, I was not able to purloin over the years.  The picture measures 12 1/2 by 17 inches and was completed in 1974.  Dad made a number of pictures of these two memorable characters over the years.  You can see what the picture of the rancher looks like by scrolling down to an earlier post by Steve Blood titled "Old Rancher Revisited" as he was planning to use the picture on some cupboard doors.

The Big Horn Sheep

This inlaid picture of a Big Horn Sheep's head is one of the most familiar pictures that we children remember because it was on our wall at home for so long.  Dad drew the design based on the Big Horn Sheep's head printed on a bag of pinto beans, one of the largest crops in the Powell Valley where we grew up.  I took the above photo of the pinto bean bag at the Homesteader Museum in Powell WY.  The picture measures 13 x 16 inches.  Dad burned "Ralston Wyoming" on the back, so it would have been completed between 1941 and 1944.

Victorian Mansion

This incredible marquetry art was completed by Dad in 1976 during his "Victorian home phase."  Dad liked to pursue different topics, and when he started on one new picture featuring a new subject, he often searched for and completed several others of the same general kind.  How many hours would it take you to cut each individual piece of veneer for each window and structural detail and then piece them all together?  Not to mention sorting through piles of veneer to find just the right shade and pattern of wood.  This picture measures 19 x 22 inches.

Elk in Mountain Scene

This picture is worth studying carefully just to appreciate the incredible choices of veneers and veneer patterns.  The veneer in the frame is incredibly beautiful.  Dad completed this picture, which measures 20 x 26 inches, in 1988.  When we were young and lived near Ralston WY during WWII, we children shared a large room for a time that was originally intended for a garage.  Dad's scroll saw and work bench were on one side and in one corner of the room, and I remember going to sleep at night while Dad was cutting out intricate patterns of pieces of veneer on the scroll saw far into the night.

Winter Farmstead Scene in Moonlight

This scene is much loved by family members, showing a farmstead in winter under a full moon.  The picture is 18 x 18 inches and was completed in 1989.

Bookends with Cabin Scene

Dad liked to play with different woods to present different views of the same scene.  Here are five different bookends portraying the same scene but with different veneers in each bookend.

Lovesick Cowboy with Victrola

This inlaid veneer picture by Russell M. Blood completed in 1976 was designed by Stephen M. Blood from an illustration by Norman Rockwell.  Apologies if it is a copyright violation.  We can delete if necessary.  However, the ingenuity of using many different shades and patterns of veneer to portray Rockwell's lovesick cowboy is certainly worth studying.  Again, the quality of the marquetry is impeccable.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Clipper Ship

This inlay of a clipper ship is one picture, and perhaps the only picture, that Mother made.  Mom's name "Minnie Blood" is burned in the lower right corner, and Dad labeled the back as "Russell M. Blood, Western Woodcraft, Ralston Wyoming."  This labeling means the picture was completed between the years 1941 and 1944. The clipper ship hung on my bedroom wall all the way through high school and when I left home in January 1950, I just assumed this picture was mine and took it with me.  That was a regrettable oversight, as Dad and Mom searched for years to find it.  Once I told them that I had it, Mom very kindly just said that as long as she knew I had it and had taken good care of it, that was fine with her.
The marquetry in this picture is flawless as, of course, Mother never accepted any job that was less than perfect.  It holds a special place in my life because I have had it for nearly 65 years and because it was such a priceless gift from my mother.  It has hung in my bedroom, wherever I lived around the United States, for all of these years.  I have seen it every day, a reminder of days gone by and of the hours that went into the completion of this inlaid picture.

Cowboy with Rifle Mounting Horse

This picture of a cowboy with a rifle mounting a horse is one of Dad's larger masterpieces.  The picture measures 22 x  38 inches and was completed in 1976 in Olympia, WA.

Old Barn

RThis picture of an old barn is 18 x 21 in size.  Dad burned his name and date of completion on all of his completed inlays.  The date on this one in the lower right hand corner is very dim but I believe it is 1969.  It is worth your time to double click and study the different veneers and shades of wood to see how skillfully the picture was designed and finished.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Cabin in Mountan Scene

This inlaid picture is a beautiful piece of work.  The choice of veneers and the patterns they make in the final picture are perfect.  The pieces are tight with little gap.  No date on the picture, but probably in the 1950s or 1960s.  I'm still learning about light.  I've finally figured out tight cropping.  My pictures still have a bit of a cast, but I'll keep working on it.  Not as easy as Ann implied.

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Stagecoach

I had to start out with the largest and most difficult picture I have just to see if I could do it.   Dad gave me this picture in about 1963 when I received my Ph.D. degree from the University of Michigan, so it is especially treasured.  One can only imagine how many hours it took to choose the veneers, cut all of the pieces, and put this masterpiece together.  I took at least 150 photos of this picture before I got a decent one without light flashes and extreme color cast.   The picture is 34 x 20 inches, necessitating a light box large enough to accommodate it.  I finally came up with the above photo which is reasonably true to the original.  I doubt if anyone ever got a graduation present that involved such a labor of skill and love.