Saturday, 24 December 2011

Building an Acoustic Guitar

The guitar bug seems to have taken hold as I have recently bought a copy of Build Your Own Acoustic Guitar by Jonathan Kinkead.  It includes full size plans for a steel string acoustic.
Already feverish thoughts are coursing though my brain about what guitars I'm going to build and in what order.  A Spanish classical guitar in the style of Torres or, better, a 1937 Hermann Hauser (as played by Segovia himself)?  Perhaps a Panormo or other early 19th century guitar as per my previous post?

Going through the book, which gets good reviews, is clearly written and has nice colour pictures in it (check out the preview on Amazon), I could possibly tackle the Kinkade Kingsdown Acoustic (a Martin OM variant) to start with, which is the one he builds in the book.  It's actually quite a handsome guitar although I do lean towards the classical and therefore nylon string guitars, which are of course different in style and in details of construction (having a integral neck for one thing).  By the way, his guitars are called 'Kinkade' rather than 'Kinkead', so it's not a typo.

Having gone through the book a few times it all seems very straightforward - all I need to get are some (more)  tools and I'm off!  I've even found myself looking at second hand bandsaws and routers on ebay.... OK, maybe that's going a bit far.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Panormo Guitar

One of these days I'm going to make a classical guitar and if I do it may well be one of these, a Panormo guitar.  Louis Panormo was a guitar maker active in London in the 1840s and 50s.  His instruments are actually based on earlier Spanish designs.
This one happens to be in the collection of Edinburgh University and I think that it is one of those on display at St Cecilia's Hall, an 18th century concert hall in Edinburgh's Old Town (in the Cowgate, just off Niddry Street).  We went to a guitar concert there during the 2011 Edinburgh Festival and were amazed to see all these early guitars on display in the area that they served coffee in at the interval.  They were in glass cabinets, mind you.

Actually, I've no idea how to make one but did come across a luthier (a maker of stringed instrument, especially guitars) called Gary Demos who had made one and shows how on his website. Another interesting website that discusses many 19th century guitars can be found here.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Admira Malaga

I've always loved classical guitar music and after my son was given a guitar and started lessons I thought I'd learn too, so I bought a guitar.  It's an Admira Malaga and I think that it is a beautiful instrument.
It has a solid cedar top and the sides and back are made from a wood called sapelli (a tropical African wood similar to mahogany).  The neck actually is African mahogany and the bridge and fingerboard are made of mongoy (another hardwood from west and east Africa).

I'm still learning and try to play every day (using Frederick Noad's Solo Guitar Playing (Vol 1)) which I think is excellent.   A long way to go yet but I'm enjoying it!

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Lichen Photos

I'm a Zoologist by training and am currently involved in managing ecology projects.  Back when I was at school I had an interest in lichen and it's never really gone away.  I took some nice pictures of these interesting symbionts whilst I was on St Helena earlier in the year (there's one in an earlier post on this blog about 1541 banners) but here are some that I  found in Scotland and Northumbria over the summer (the latter place being in the north of England as opposed to north-Umbria (i.e. Italy), which sounds (and in fact is) much more exotic).
The picture above is from a hill (actually an extinct volcano - and it looks like one too) called North Berwick Law in East Lothian (to the east of Edinburgh).  The orange lichen is probably Xanthoria sp. or similar.  Not sure about the various grey ones.
This one was on a stone at Housesteads Roman fort on Hadrian's Wall.  You can see how the various lichens are pushing up against each other like a map of central Europe a river catchments or something. They do make nice abstract patterns I think and I will be using these and others in future graphical projects, even if it's just for making new labels for my home-brew.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Another 1541 Banner

It's been a hard week this week, although with the reward of a few work-related days in Bucharest (maybe) in December to look forward to my thoughts turn to pleasing colours and shapes.  Funny that.  One of these is an image I've used on the company website which I thought I'd share.
It has tone and direction and movement and a story perhaps and is calm and I like it.  Strange to think then that it is just a random collection of paint marks on a wall that when framed and photographed looks a bit like art!

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Extreme Worlds

I'm trying to improve my drawing skills and having discovered and installed MyPaint, the GIMP painting addon-on GPS and also Google Sketchup, I think I'm pretty set up to do anything I like.  I had Blender installed for a while too but removed it as it was a bit complicated for me although I think it's an excellent open source programme that I'll reinstall again and get into one day.

Anyway, I quite like science fiction and all that CG sort of sci-fi stuff and this book by Frances Tsai has some great ideas and techniques for drawing all that sort of thing.....
It gives an overview of techniques and then actually takes you through the step by step process of creating those drawings, from figures, vehicles, interiors, scenes and landscapes.  Very useful indeed and to be honest it's the best drawing book I've got (and I've got a few).  His website is pretty interesting too...

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Z3TA+ ModernRetro

Much that I like my new soft synth Z3TA+, it's appearance is a little dull, and even a bit pale (see earlier post).  So, I had a search aound for a new skin that was more exciting.  I didn't have to look far as I went straight to Flavours of Lime's site and found this:
It's called ModernRetro and it has a bit more contrast and colour than the original skin. Nice.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

1541 IPA Bottles

Just evidence that I actually did use the labels I'd designed for my home-brew project.  I stuck them on with Pritt-stick so I hope they come off again when I have to re-use the bottles.
You may or may not notice that I have two types of bottles there: the outer two formerly contained Deuchars IPA and the middle, slightly more elegant one, had Harviestoun's Bitter and Twisted in it before I put them to good use.  I should add that both are excellent Scottish beers - and the bottles are quite useful too.  My beer is now conditioning in the shed and should be ready by mid-November, I reckon.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

MyPaint Sketch 2

After a rather long hiatus I've got back into playing about with MyPaint.  Part of the trouble was that my Wacom Bamboo tablet had been acting up for some reason.  It seems to work OK with GIMP GPS (a painting add-on for GIMP) but sometimes doesn't register properly with MyPaint.  Could be a MyPaint problem then, although this is forgivable considering that MyPaint is open-source and entirely free. 
Anyway, here's something I started, just to try out some watercolour brushes; actually they're some of the brushes that David Revoy made for MyPaint (v4, I think).  Importing new brush packages on MyPaint is really simple by the way and just involves pointing it at a zip file of brushes and it does the rest.

As for this sketch, like most of the things I do this is just a start and will be added to the stack of unfinished creative projects that are piled up about the place.  So many projects, so little time...

Thursday, 27 October 2011

1541 IPA

Being a rather eclectic chap I'm always looking for new activities and interests.  The latest is beer making.  This has been prompted not only by my creative urges but also the exasperation that a pint of decent beer in the pub in Edinburgh (Deuchar's IPA, for example) currently costs £3.30.  Yes children I can remember when beer was less than a pound and in fact recall fondly the days (c.1986) when a pint (of McEwan's lager, admittedly) cost 64p in the Queen Margaret Union Bar at Glasgow University.
The exasperation comes in when you consider that, even with blatant profiteering by the oil companies a pint of beer is still four and a half times more expensive than a pint of petrol (at £1.35 a litre say, or approximately 78p a pint)
The point here is that petrol is the finite resource, not the beer, unless there are whole bunch of beer wells in the North Sea or (crivens!) Saudi Arabia running dry that we weren't told about. Anyway, once you've collected the kit and the empty beer bottles, making beer is not only cheaper (it works out at about 50p a pint) but it also allows one to be creative, as mentioned above.
In preparation for bottling my first batch of India Pale Ale (IPA) I decided to make up some labels in GIMP and as an added wheeze I'm going to use them as light-hearted marketing for my partner's new business (mentioned below).  So here are the labels I've designed using the banners from her website (which I designed), the company name (well, I am a Director, you know) and even the fonts we use (Georgia and Lucida Sans Console, if you must know).

You can see how they link to the 1541 banners I posted about earlier and also the heading of this very blog.  I'm intending to bottle it tonight so here's hoping that once conditioned (takes about two weeks) that the beer tastes as good as I think the labels look....

Sunday, 23 October 2011


Yes, I know. It's another post about virtual synthesizers, but I couldn't keep this one to myself.  I managed to pick this up for the cover price of the latest Computer Music magazine (No. 171 - it was on the DVD).  It was formerly retailing at about 69 dollars/euros, I think.  Anyway, I've had my eye on it for a while, particularly as there was a KVR Audio One Synth Challenge (OSC) using this very synth a few months ago (see link).  Actually you could use the recently released Z3TA+2 if you wanted instead.
This OSC was unusual in that it was the first time that the competition had been held using an out-and-out commercial synth.  A lot of the regulars were no show because of this (I count myself as a regular although I rarely participate), but it did attract a lot of new people to the competition.  Might have had something to do with the tasty prizes too.

Anyway, it sounds good and has some interesting arp (arpeggio) patches to add movement to the mix.  I have far too many virtual synths as it is (all free-ware) but have decided to remove all the extraneous ones downloaded on a whim and concentrate on just a few to really get to know them.  This one (and Oatmeal, below) are on that select list.  There are a few others that I have retained and I may get around to posting about them if I have time.

Friday, 15 July 2011


I dabble a bit in making electronic music and contribute very occasionally to the KVR Audio One Synth Challenge (OSC).  I use Reaper for this and have tried quite a few synths, almost all free ones, available from the web.  One of the best is Fuzzpilz's Oatmeal, which I used for one of my OSC entries, which effort is actually on my sound cloud page.  The synth looks like this (hence the name, presumably).
However, you shouldn't judge a synth by its cover, although it can be a bit off-putting.  Luckily Fuzzpilz, with great prescience (or maybe he was just being realistic) included a button which allows you to change the skin very easily, and there are now various skins (as well as hundreds of patches) for the synth out there including the one I've been using.
Finally, the point of this post is that flavours of lime has released a new two-in-one skin pack which looks like this (well this is the dark version, or the 'Derek' version as he calls it), and it's the one I'm using now.
And it still sounds as good as ever it did...

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

MyPaint Sketch 1

Just something I started with MyPaint.  I was experimenting with the various pencil brushes and wanted to practise a bit of figure drawing.

Friday, 13 May 2011

Harmony WIP

Via the MyPaint page I came across this limited but interesting web based graphics utility, Harmony.  I produced this in about 2 minutes.  The idea would be then to take this and work it up in GIMP, in some way..
  Just some concept design stuff I'm working on.  Not sure where it's going but it's fun finding out.
Yes, you're right. Those clouds do look like croissants but I'll soon sort that out.

Pretty Cool. Out.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Big Blue Hippy Cats

One of the things I'm interested in is Computer Generated Art, particularly animation. I think this stems from first seeing stop frame surrealist animations by Jan Svankmeyer when I was at university, the kind of thing that somehow is still coming out of eastern Europe (particularly), but in a slightly more sophisticated guise.

Anyway, the following is more West Country than Eastern Europe and is a clever take on big budget CG movies, teenage callowness and whatnot. What is amazing is how lifelike it is and yet it's all 'just' CG.

Greg Mutt: Avatar Review from Audiomotion Studios on Vimeo.

Impresses me every time I see it. "Marrowbone." "Sweet!"


Monday, 9 May 2011

1541 Banners

My partner has recently set up her own business and I've been working on her website in Drupal.  I'm not an expert in such things but I have had fun designing her site.

The simple website template we chose (Danland) has enabled us to emphasise the modern, intelligent and interesting approach that the company is taking.  One feature of Danland I liked was the slideshow type banner where we could select what images were shown; and one of the things I've been doing is tracking down, and/or trying to make, what I consider to be interesting images for the banner.
I was keen on orange as this gives a website impact (well, I think so - see the picture at the top of this blog) and of course orange complements blue.  The above banner was adapted from a royalty-free image I found on the web.  In contrast the following image is based on a photograph I took (copyright me!) whilst we were on the remote South Atlantic island of St Helena earlier this year (March/April 2011).
This shows two distinct species of lichen we found at the top of Flagstaff (a hill), at an elevation of about 650m.

If I can find out what species they are I'll let you know.  Or in fact if you know please feel free to comment on this post. That said, one of my colleagues recently discovered eleven species of lichen that were formerly unknown on St Helena, eight of which were previously undiscovered by science.  Now there's something to have on your website.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Falling with Style

I thought I'd start with something I thought was amazing the first time I saw it, and even now I still think that it is awesome. A number of things: the speed, the adrenaline, the vertigo, the scenery, the light and the music "Disappear Here" by Hybrid. Just great.

Wingsuit Basejumping - The Need 4 Speed: The Art of Flight from Phoenix Fly on Vimeo.

And you know, the best of it is, it's not dangerous at all (it says here).