Archive for June, 2010


More Scribner’s Magazine Engravings

June 30, 2010

Here are a few more examples of the fine engravings I found digging around the site, these coming from the 1890 edition as I recall. I’m including some cropped closeups. |Link to previous post|

While researching the artwork in publications from this era, I discovered that most if not all of them were made using wood rather than copper plates. That surprised me a bit, since I had always associated wood engraving as looking more crude than these. The species of wood was typically boxwood, whose small size forced them to use multiple square blocks screwed together for large prints. The wood surface would be either drawn on for the artwork or have photographs printed directly on them, and then the individual blocks would be given to several artisans to engrave in order to speed up the process. This was no doubt why single names of the engravers don’t often appear, or even if they did, those artists sometimes had “factories” of people working for them as well.

I’ve read that some original wood blocks still survive from this period, but the wood hasn’t aged well, making new prints difficult to get from them. In most cases, metal castings were made after the wood was engraved so that the wood didn’t have to go through the press. It’s doubtful if those castings still exist.

I found a couple more sites that have other online editions of these magazines, but the scans tend to favor the text more than the artwork. It’s still good to see them, and the text is interesting reading also.
Cornell University
Haiti Trust Digital Library


Recent Sketches

June 28, 2010

With the show wrapping up soon, I’m ready to get back to the art making again. There are a few painting ideas smoldering. In the meantime, here are a few recent sketches…


19th Century Magazine Engravings

June 26, 2010

I’ve been spending time recently looking through some online copies of Scribner’s Magazine from the late 19th century editions, and pondering the loss of the fine art of the engraver’s needle. (Blessings to for placing all those old publications online.) Look also at copies of The Century magazine for more of the same.

Engraving detail


The skill of some of these artisans was extraordinary, but the credits were not always clear. In the case of this splendid engraving “John Wilson’s Home at Elleray” circa 1889, the name of the artist is only given as “Andrew.” Sometimes the credit would just be the printing company it came from, such as Bartlett & Co. It leads me to believe that the editors bought the plates from printers in advance for the article, and that the artist’s name was only known by the signature, if it had one. In this article from an 1878 Harper’s Catalog, however, it shows they had their own printing plant.

Within a few years photographs started to appear, and the engraver’s role was reduced to touch-up art on the brighter values that photo printing at that time couldn’t handle. The quality of the work declined noticeably. As printing technology improved, their services were no longer required.

In order to reproduce some of these engravings as an ink drawing using the smallest quill point would mean scaling the image at least 5 or 6 times larger than its original printed size. A letter-sized engraving would wind up being 4 or 5 feet. I actually rather like the idea of that, but that would be quite a load of ink. Remember that these engravers worked at print size using tiny needles. It must have made them cross-eyed.


Casein Paint Demonstration Press Release

June 17, 2010

It’s official! In connection with the current gallery exhibition of my artwork at ARTSPACE in Round Rock TX, next week I will be demonstrating how I make my own casein paint. Here is the official press release issued about the event:

Who knew you could make your own paint?

June 23: ARTSPACE hosts art demonstration & introduction to paint‐making 

WHAT:   Art Demonstration & Introduction to Making Casein Paint by 
David Blaine Clemons
WHEN:   June 23 from 6 to 7:30 p.m.
WHO:  Artists and aspiring artists of all skill levels encouraged to 
attend. (media welcome)
WHERE:   ARTSPACE, 231 E. Main in Downtown Round Rock 
COST:    $10.00 at the door. Bring cash or make checks payable to 
Round Rock Area Arts Council.
RSVP:    Limited space available. RSVP to or 
(512) 689‐2450.
This demonstration will be an introduction into the procedures artists can use to make their own casein paints. There will be a presentation of necessary tools and supplies, as well as a thorough description of how they are used, and where they may be purchased locally or online. Finished paintings will be on display, and a small selection of paint samples will be available for purchase.
Although the paint medium of casein has an ancient history, not many people are familiar with it, even artists. It is amazingly simple to use and to make into a professional grade medium that is as stable as any other and more versatile with its multiple applications. The source of this paint binder is milk, one of the most easily accessible materials on the planet. Using a few simple tools and supplies the artist is able to make their own paints that can rival the quality of any available on the market, safely and economically.

About the Artist:
David Blaine Clemons has been a practicing professional artist for more than 30 years. He has an exhibition history in galleries across the country, and has been a commercial artist in print, film, theatre, and video games. He invites artists of all skill levels to come and discover the simplicity found in the powerful painting medium of casein.
About the Arts Council: 
The Round Rock Area Arts Council formed in January 2009 as a 501(c)3 nonprofit with a mission to encourage, support and enhance arts and cultural activities in the Round Rock area. Visit


Casein Paint Binder: Raw Milk or Powder?

June 11, 2010

As I mentioned last time, I’ve been planning a demonstration of how to make casein paint at a local gallery. I’ve been making more casein binder for the paint and my preference is to use raw milk and extract the casein protein directly from that.

Paint binder from raw milk

Above you can see a glass jar holding the end result of casein made into a glue using raw milk as the source and a small amount of borax. It has the consistency of a thick yogurt, but dries extremely clear. I get the milk from Dyer Dairy up in Georgetown, TX. Kudos to their cows.

Casein powder

I think it’s interesting to see the difference between some previously made casein binder using dried powder and compare that to one using raw milk. The milk-based one is on the right in the above image. Notice how much whiter is appears.

Both of these mixtures are made exactly the same way. The only difference is one began as a dried powder. However, if you look at the binders painted on a sheet of paper they’re both equally transparent. For painting purposes, the amber or white coloring is inconsequential.

If we go back to the image above with both samples in the picture, you’ll notice a small amber square shaped object in the center. That’s a sample of “casein plastic.” Essentially it’s two tablespoons of dry powder made into a glue and left to dry on a plastic lid for a few days. It became extremely hard. A small bubble of air got trapped beneath it as it dried and you can see a thin membrane of it that is also hard but more transparent. The shape is about an 1/8 inch thick overall. I’m making a similar one from the milk based casein that’s still drying. So far it’s very white, not surprisingly.

If you search on the term “casein plastic” you’ll see other similar things. Also search on the word “Galalith.” Those who think of casein as a brittle substance should especially take note. It aint necessarily so.


Paint Demonstration Being Planned

June 10, 2010

I am in talks with the ARTSPACE gallery where my exhibit is now running to have a demonstration talk in the next couple of weeks showing how I make casein paint. We haven’t confirmed the date and time yet for the demo, but I’ll announce details soon.

Part of the plan is to allow me to sell some of the paints after the demo, which was agreed to. Over the past few days I’ve been cranking out a few different colors with a target of at least a dozen. The sample above is PY1 Monazo Yellow that uses my own casein binder.

I also picked up this porcelain slab at the hardware store. I ground it with a little silicon carbide (aka “carborundum”) to rough it up some more, and it works really well, better than the glass pane I was using before (that broke.) I also grabbed this rubber padding that is designed to be placed under carpet to keep it from sliding around.


ARTSPACE Opening Reception Photos

June 4, 2010

Here are a couple photos from my art opening reception at ARTSPACE in Round Rock,TX.

It was good to see some old friends and make new ones.

See? I’m so happy I’m almost smiling.