Notebook update:

Leonardo's Art and Garden Design - a story. Added 9/8/2020 (for the full draft of the story as it is so far with images please visit https// by clicking on the link on the home page. I have just tried putting this in my browser, and it is not pulling it up, but the link on the home page is working)

DRAFT: SEPTEMBER 7TH and 8th, 2020.

This is a story of fiction.

It contains an essay, based on some facts (facts from other people's essays, researchers who likely worked from original documentation, and it is also from my observations of looking at the Codex Atlantica, which is documented to be a collection of original documents, and from having looked at paintings published online of Leonardo's works.  My observations are unlikely to be fully accurate - the essay is part of the story).

This first draft was begun the beginning of September 2020, but have been thinking about it for a few years. Here is a link to an essay begun in 2008.NOTEBOOK - click on the link for La Gioconda, top of the page.

 September 3rd, 2020. Here the story begins.

I have not decided whether or not to write anything more about the Mona Lisa.  Or rather, I might not.  If I've understood more about his life, then so have others.  Has it been written down?  It begins (one morning) in a small town in the foothills of the mountains, and continues (much later) in the same place, in the foothills of the mountains. Let's start the story in a garden, however.

There were two gardens, not far from each other (maybe only a day's ride by horse?).  These gardens were designed by a team of artists, artisans, and designers, over many many years, though, all in the same century.  A century is long enough a time though, that the men that began the gardens were not the men who finished designing and constructing the gardens (though, there may have been a few people who might have worked in the gardens as older children, and finished working at the gardens as older people).

(Aside:  This story is about a man and indeed most of the artists and designers would have been men  - perhaps there were some jobs women did as well during all this, including meal preparation and helping with useful opinions about household and garden functions.  A few women may also have directly contributed to the art and design by making drawings and paintings, and if so, the architects and lead designers would have known this.  One such woman was Ippolita Pallavicina-Sanseverina, a designer; one documented work of hers is  the entrance portal to the Palazzo Sanseverini in Piacenza, designed in the 1550s (McIver Fig. 2.1),

[and if I find my book by McIver, then I will be able to read about one female family member that also was a painter, and another, a writer - the writer I believe was Gerolama Farnese Santivale - who had a coin minted of her, with a reverse of a man lounging in a wooded landscape such as the statues in the fountain at the end of the water chains of Villa Gambara and Villa Farnese, and it was minted about 1555).]

All these women accomplished in art and design were related or known to Cardinal Gambara, who completed the garden of Villa Lante.

One day, or was it week, or yet longer, Leonardo painted the portrait of of Galeazzo da Sanseverino, son of Roberto Sanseverino (1418 - 1488) and Elisa Sforza.  Galeazzo had a son from his third marriage named Giulio who married Ippolita Pallavicino (who lived until 1563, the designer mentioned above, not to be confused with the Ippolita Pallavicina who died ca. 1526, and was Cardinal Gambara's grandmother, and sister to Laura Pallavicina, whose son married Gerolamo Farnese, a niece of Pope Paul III, who thought of Ippolito's daughter Virginia, like a daughter, and she was mother to Cardinal Gambara).  Impolita Pallavicina-Sanseverini's grand-daughter Giulia ( - 1577) had a room in her grandmother's house and often stayed with her.  In 1578 the garden was almost complete, and the Pope visited. (McIver 46).

The images in the Codex Atlanticus do not tell names of people, or how Leonardo da Vinci might have met people to paint for, nor who he lived and conversed with.  Thinking of the above though, imagine gardens filled with plants, animals, and people - people of many different professions, and family associations enjoying the garden paths.  There are a few images of people in the Codex, however.>

The images in the Codex Atlantic's do tell some of the garden's design story however  (as in this story, the drawings were made by Leonardo for these gardens, and in real life, maybe it is also so).  As for the text written backwards in 15th and early 16th century Italian, Leonardo da Vinci's writing would add more detail to the story.  The images though already make a vast story, and only the images have been considered.

The Codex Atlantica (for a website see, is a complilation of pages from Leonardo's notebooks which Leonardo drew in the late 1400s and 1500s, and not organized by year. During this time (2020 minus say 1520, is five hundred years ago!), very large sailing vessels were sailing back and forth between coastal towns from the west side of the Atlantic Ocean to the east side of the Atlantic.

Five hundred years ago is 5 times one hundred years, so, only about five very long-lived life-spans of time ago.  It is also half of one millennium.

Five hundred years ago gardeners probably both sides of the Atlantic were sowing seeds from cross-Atlantic seed exchanges. Though, considering the world is ancient, wind blows, animals soar and swim, and waters move, these were not the first of the cross-Atlantic plant exchanges.

Before the mid 1400s, it is not well documented that people traveled to and fro across the Atlantic - though, perhaps they did, especially if stories of old such as the story of Atlantis has some truth to it, and probably many others. The Vikings, for example, traveled across the Atlantic to Vinland (off the northeast coast of what is now called North America).

Looking from above at Italy's central coast, there is a sort of line of volcanic lakes, that almost look round like lakes made by meteors, however, they are confirmed to be volcanic in origin. Near one of these is Caprarola (Villa Farnese), and not far from it is the Villa Gambara (now Villa Lante). The building at Caprarola was begun by architects Antonio da Sangallo the Younger and Baldassare Peruzzi, and completed by Giacomo Barozzi da Vignola. Villa Gambara was perhaps begun by architect Tommasso Ghinucci, but soon overseen by Vignola.

These two somewhat nearby villas were built during the same 100 year period. Who built Caprarola was documented - Giacomo Barozzi da Vignola, and maybe some of the artists, designers, and artisans working with him also were documented for the gardens and Villa at Caprarola; Vignola's elegant, balanced, Villa Giulia, was designed with a team known to have included Michelangelo as a consultant, and Ammanati.

The craftsmen and artists of the Villa Gambara perhaps are not well documented. The gardens there were started (even if not started with gardens in mind), in 1498 by craftsmen who built a wall around about over fifty acres to make a hunting preserve for Cardinal Riario (the wall's location defined somehow, by Riario, the craftsmen, or another - drawn first maybe as a wash on paper, or just set by someone local who knew the land well, or several other possibilities).

Fifty years later architect Tommasso Ghinucci was hired by Cardinal Ridolfi, and this architect, Ghinucci from Siena, was talented enough that he was also hired to work for the next Cardinal (Cardinal Gambara), and yet Ghinucci is not considered the primary architect for the villa and grounds - as for Caprarola, credit, and maybe rightly so, goes to Vignola who was asked by Gambara to visit his Villa and talk about prospective gardens. Elements from Caprarola can be seen in the garden and buildings of the Villa Gambara (now called the Villa Lante of Bagnaia).

About a hundred and fifty miles north of Bagnaia, outside of Florence, is a town called Vinci, and in Vinci, Leonardo da Vinci was brought up (his first three years spent in a hamlet right outside of Vinci with his mother Caterina).

The notebook pages of the Codex Atlantica was made by Leonardo over many years of his life. Who Leonardo shared his notebooks with, I am not sure of. Artist's notebooks are notes to make works shared from - notebooks are not necessarily shared.

Leonardo gifted his notebooks to his student and assistant Francesco Melzi– and who Melzi showed them to during Melzi's life I know not. When Francesco passed, the notebooks went to his son, who according to an article about this (found at, not long after, allowed a tutor of the house to take them from the attic, and offer them to Francesco de Medicis (who was advised not to purchase the manuscripts). The notebooks then made their way back to Melzi who refused them and gifted them to the man attempting to return them - Ambrosia Mazzenta. Does Mazzenta then have them for about a decade, from about 1571 or so to 1582?

Mazzenta gives the notebooks eventually to the King of Spain's court sculptor (from about 1582 – over 10 years after Francesco passed - to 1590) and this sculptor keeps most of them, takes them apart, and puts together the Codex Atlanticus (to present them in this large Atlanticus Atlas map format).

The date 1570 was in the middle of Villa Gambera's gardens being constructed – 1578 work was stopped on Cardinal Gambara's gardens after the Popes visit, and was not restarted (well, maybe a little work was done?) during the Cardinal's remaining eight years of life.

[image of animals and people outside the wall, and animals and people inside the wall]

When Riario put his wall up (and I do not know what the place was then called that was to be Villa Gambara, and now Villa Lante), he blocked local use of the land from just any point, forcing entrance at entrances. This might have blocked local people from much needed plants, which perhaps grew there, in this land of springs, and so the wall might not have been popular, though, perhaps it was anyway, and perhaps all local plants were retained (grass was unlikely the predominant ground cover at that time). Did the local Monk's approve? Maybe the reasons for the wall were many, including to keep exotic plants, or even a few animals, for example, brought back from voyages afar, enclosed. This enclosure defined a perimeter with an inside, and an outside, for better, or for worse - all in all, fifty acres of what remains a beautiful garden.

[Image of many gardens outside the wall, and the one garden of many gardens inside the wall]

In 1452 a baby had been born by the name of Leonardo da Vinci to his parents Caterina and Piero, at his father's home in Vinci, Tuscany, many miles (about 150) from this garden, and as you see, over 45 years before the garden's wall was built. His father was called Ser Piero, but his mother had no other titles. When very little this baby had a dream about a bird that he never forgot, and when older, he began to dream up ways to fly.

[image of Leonardo's dream, and of his flying machines]

Below is the list of some pages of the Codex Atlantic's which support that Leonardo da Vinci had interest in gardens and had ability for garden architecture (without drawing specific conclusions.

This list also makes one consider whether Leonardo was drawing specific features that many architects of the time drew, or, if the drawings and ideas were largely (many drawn often quite small), original to Leonardo, and if original, might the drawings have had influence on the gardens of Villa Farnese and Villa Gambara (did they have influence on Vignola, and who he worked with)?

Before beginning the list, so that it is simpler to view the pages with Villa Lante in mind, consider that Villa Gambara is a garden which has a walk commencing with a winged Pegasus in a curved excavation , with two perspective stone square edged poles, a long basin, possibly black berries, raspberries, a flower with (five? I need to look again) petals. Does the underdrawing on page 909 (year 1485) depict a man with a cub on his shoulders? Not all seen might be what is drawn (and without reading the text, the images are all guesses). This is especially true for page 633 depicting paramecium – or rather, depicting boats and birds. Another example of some ambiguity is page 586, year 1486, which is reminiscent of textile machinery, but is labeled a musical instrument, and also looks like a musical instrument - Leonardo's drawings inspire across disciplines.

Visit the Codex to see how it is drawn. Fronts and backs of every page in the online Codex are viewable. Some of the back sides are blank, some are not. I have looked at more fronts than reverse sides, and have read little to about no text.

Here is a partial list, starting with page 592 of the Codex, at the following awesome site:

  • 592, year 1505 – On the right side, a strip, with a Villa, plan, section, elevation, planting, garden vase sculptures
  • 604, year 1508 – water basin
  • 629, year (no date) - Plans, perspectives, elevations, text.
  • 633, year 1508 – paramecium (barques/boats, and birds flying, dream-like drawing)
  • 649, year 1495 – ink or watercolor stain, or other pigment (did I read a text saying it was something attempting to preserve the paper?)
  • 664, year 1508 – arcs, plumb bobs
  • 693, year unknown – barque and
  • 698, year 1513 – bridges
  • 703, no year – dividing a circle for object placement perhaps
  • 704, year 1480 – map? “l'immagine troppo veloce non penetra nell'occhio” 705, year - target, 706, year - hexagon study- 3d 707, year – hexagon study - 3d 708, year – 3 dimensional form, with columnar void – with hexagons, and a square plan on another page, together, studies for Caprarola, the villa itself. 709, no year – 3 dimensional form of crosses, hollow, VERSO – 2d, elevation-section, VL 711 – no year, circle and triangle, reverse – ship? 719, year - architecture, domes, trusses 723, no year – pullies to raise a _ - see also 738, year 1495 727, ocean, island, earth 731, year 1515 - 732, year 1508 – recto - 735, year 1495, man in red chalk 740, year - Laghi di Brianza 741, year 1513 – Ducia di Vinci 747, no year – Instrument of Flight 748, year 1486 – Bridges 763, year 1486 - “fortification” , water fountain? 767, year 1500 – used a red wash (from crushed insects brought across the Atlantic Ocean?) 768, no year – tempietto 784, year 1506 – landscape 785, year 1503 – rivers 786, year - river on head 790, no year – fountain 796, year - chain 798, year 1486 – fountains 806, year 1517 – fortifications 824, year 1485 – flight machine 848, year 1486 – wings 850, year 1486 – shaped interlocking bricks for vaults, and drawing of vault – he works more on these in other drawings 853, year 1493 – flight wing 855, year 1486 – bridge and trusses, landing bridge off the bow of an ocean vessel 858, year 1480 – flight instrument, whale bones? 860, year 1480 – fli __ - from back, with boat/oars 864, year 1515 – chains, curves – (studies towards water chains) 865, year 1515 – dove l'onda, waves, chain 866, no year – fountain sculpture figure? (Perhaps not.  Bearded figures were common.  See the reverse side of the coin engraved by an anonymous engraver, for a portrait medal of Gerolamo Farnese Sanvitale (McIver 61). 867, year 1497, plant like a mayapple, which is like an umbrella, or fountain in form 869, year - portico 871, year - lean to , folds of cloth studies (for sculptures?) 875, year 1497 – portico and fountain 877, year 1503 – lower left, fountain, water drops 880, year 1486 - 882, year 1493 – water - 878, no year – head with ll , verso 880, year 1486 – brick design, hollow under with supports, or maybe sprays – water surprises through brick, or heated floors, or other 884, no year – boats, turning 885, year 1503 - 888, year 1480 – helmet head with water chain design, and same page, there is water, and a parterre, like the old design, before the carved hedges went in. 899, page 1508 – canali de sviano l'eccesso d'aqua da un'ansa di fiume 901, year 1516 - “seas”, mountain chain, river, and looks like a glacier 903, year 1513 – perspective studies about perspective drawing (there are more perspective pages) 909, year 1485 – man with cub, plan, and elevations, man turned three ways in one man, leonine 910, year 1502 – map of rivers Arno and , hydrology of region 911, year - river with island and (I can not read my writing) 917, year 1486 – artillery, underground and above, or, is it for water 918, year 1502 – three fountains and design in landscape, on map 919, year - map of area, 3 islands, with flightways for winged machines (that is, pleasure gardens include the option to fly) 926, year - giant equipment, table with water perhaps 935, year 1485 – Rampart walls, canals 942, year - pillars at VL – (back left corner, near blackberry patch, to the left of the summer house, old design had many pillars there), along with a doorway in wall 946, year - interlocking bricks , such as for domes and arches 951, year 1497 – R – entrance to a garden 952, year 1505 – map of a territory 969, year 1500 – R – villa design, architecture 971, year 1480 V – basin, cross section, on bottom also, such as towards water table 977, year 1485 , year - Bear on one knee, ring 983, year 1503 V, joined blocks 992, year , child on ground – something seems amiss, as in not sleeping 995, year , woman, right hand, corner, on knees, hands open 993, year 1495 – looks like a shower head 1007, year 1490 – R – Bridges of Stone, sluices, aqueduct 1008, year 1485 – James and the Giant Peach sort of peach, or nut, in box – not sure what it is 1019, year - raising a church bell with a counterweight 3, year 1503 – excavator 4, year 1503, device to make a curved excavation 19, no year - “per sollevare acqua” - many ideas about raising and moving water (this, or next, there was a drawing of a small cup with water, near a water-chute) 23, year 1504 – plant with a berry 26, year 1480 - “sollevamento” , Man “sott 'acqua e sopra” - wide watershoes/flotation devices for water, along with for poles, so that can walk on water , giant bellows to move water, not air 27, year - barcone 28, year 1485 - canals 35, year 1497 – pyramid 36, year - pyramid 40, year - vases 44, year 1517 – pyramids, between baluseters 1040, no year – octagon with pyramid 1060, year 1513, architecture also 1065, year - cupola, pendulum, architecture 1069, year 1480 – breathing tube for underwater 1097, year 1510 – water, canals, drawing with blue pigment 1098, year 1514 – architecture (reminds me, though very very uncertain, of the building in Bagnaia for clergy, monks, cardinals) 1099, year - waterworks

There were many pages studying geometries, including more with pentagons, hexagons, with circles, but I did not write several of these pages down, but if looking at the Codex, you will see them. So, much is missing. Many more of the drawings might apply to the water-works, or other needs for the gardens.

Having read through the list, you probably have now made your own story, and this is actually good.  I would like to make sure though that you saw that there were flyways below the park of Villa Lante?  Did you see them in the drawing?  If Leonardo's flying machines had been successful, one of the park's pleasures would have been flying with the birds.  Though someplace I've read that Leonardo purchased birds in cages to release them, it should be said, that there was a large bird cage at Villa Lante, top of the garden, and in it grew delicacies for humans and birds alike.

The garden of Villa Gambara/Lante is at the foot of the mountains.  And so, the story started at the foot of the mountains, and if I end it here, then the story has also stopped at the foot of the mountains, as promised.  The very large hill behind Villa Lante, however, is not the mountain the story begins and ends at.  That mountain, actually a mountain range, was in a place he dreamed of in childhood.  Leonardo hoped one day that his story would be known. Though, much more of his life is remembered by his fellow men than for many, as the beauty and interest that he left the world endures.  It would be better to let his children tell any more of his story, but it is said, that he had no children.

Maybe the best story ending is to share a few photographs.  Here are two. The first, a photo of Leonardo's earth pigment wash painting (maybe painted on the spot?), overlayed on a google map of the park he contributed (in this story) to designing, and a father and child - might it be his father? (And look closely, there, you will see the plan similar to both Villa Lante and Villa Farnese, and an elevation similar to Villa Lante. Unless I am reading the elevation backwards, like Leonardo's text.

A park and a father? A plan and an elevation.  Map, by Google Earth. The second photograph is a map that Leonardo made, overlaid again on a map of Google Earth. I hope its ok to use this map which belonged to Leonardo, though, that said, maybe it did not, as it might have been paid for before he even began it.  It was based on another map which he had access to in the Vatican's collection, though, the Po River in his map flows backwards (

Flows backwards, like his writing - perfect, and the Po, it looks a bit like a hand, its tributaries, along with the edge of the ripped corner of the map, fingers.

There is not much blue pigment used, but might it be lapis?

(On image rights:  I believe, to use some maps permission needs to be granted, for for profit, but this article is currently not for profit. This map of Leonardo's has also been  rotated, and for the representation in the middle, its transparency has been changed, and it has been pasted into a collage,so, I am hoping that it is fine to use. )

See that in the north-east of Villa Lante is a forested area, which possibly once was a lake, or, which Leonardo envisioned as such, with three islands in it, probably one for the father, one for the son, and one for the holy ghost - but, to be practical, three fit, and were needed to assist flyers to dry land quickly, once they had landed their flying machines in the water.

All that Leonardo did in the drawings in his notebooks seems to have assisted towards the design Vignola and his team finalized of the two gardens which have given people great pleasure for five hundred years.  How sad if anyone passed trying the flying machines, which Leonardo, and the people of that century, hoped to experience flight with.

A river which has been expanded into a lake and looks like a bird flying can also be seen on Leonardo's map. The bird points out towards the ocean.

A photo-collage of a google map and a map by Leonardo Da Vinci.  The map by Leonardo da Vinci is now named "The Rivers and Mountains of Central Italy" (and is held in the Royal Collection -Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2019 ” -" Maybe this collage needs more work., but then again, it is pleasant and good.  It shows either proposed changes, or the way the lakes already were at that time, or both.  The collage at the top  starts with the contemporary map. The middle map is superimposed and translucent. At the bottom the map is opaque, superimposed, rotated, not fully covering the contemporary map -  geologically, over time, all earth profiles change and develop, but some aspects remain, and likewise, looking at these maps, one sees change, and that much remains the same.

I do not believe that Leonardo excavated (with his excavators)  the lake with the three islands, and the other looking like a bird in flight,  though, that might be incorrect.  The area is visibly there, but was it there also in Leonardo's time, similar to as it is today?  Whether or not he did or did not excavate these particular lakes, these lake plans might have helped him or others develop future projects, just as  his ideas and designs for the gardens did become part of the gardens at Villa Lante and Villa Farnese , and maybe others.



Earth colors and Minerals of New England as pigments

The earth and mineral pigments that I have begun to use in my paintings originate from around the world. Many of the minerals and earth colors can also be found in New England, and specifically in New Hampshire, very close to the Squam Lakes Region, including purpurite and heterosite, malachite, azurite, and vivianite.

Pictured below: Purpurite (small piece from Groton, New Hampshire), and Malachite (from Brooksville, Maine):

New Hampshire PurpuriteNew England Malachite

Pictured below:Soil pit profiles, colored with natural earth/soil (from a summer Field Ecology Notebook, summer 1993, University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Fine Arts (now PennDesign); i.e. A little soil was rubbed on the notebook paper , and its color/pigment was transferred to the paper. Similarly, earth can be prepared as pigment for painting with.

Pine and birch woods soilSoil with schistNew England spodosol



On Heterosite:

heterosite-purpurite heterosite
Heterosite is a mineral that turns a beautiful purple color in an acid. As I understand it (++), Heterosite is part of the Heterosite-Purpurite Series, in the Triphylite Group (see Triphylite and lithiophilite, are primary minerals, which alter or weather over time, to become secondary minerals, such as heterosite and purpurite. Triphylite, for example, can be a beautiful blue grey green color with flecks of pyrite running through it on the inside, but the weathered outside can have a slightly reddish-purple-brown color to it; I think a thin layer of heterosite++(see below for credits). On the way to becoming some other mineral, triphylite passes through stages, for example, becoming the "alteration products" ferrisicklerite or sicklerite (, which I hope to find this summer for my rock collection!

Heterosite is usually described as an iron phosphate, and purpurite as a manganese phosphate. However, as Dennis Durgin of Mount Marie LLC, has explained, it is more likely that as heterosite also turns purple, that heterosite is an iron manganese phosphate, and purpurite, a manganese iron phosphate. This is similar to marking one side of a paper red, and one side blue, and then blending the two colors from left to right, or right to left, to make a spectrum in between. Dennis has written "It would seem that it makes little difference whether one has heterosite or pupurite... as long as the heterosite has enough Mn+3 to produce the lovely color. Purpurite would have less iron (and more Mn+3) so should take less acid treatment..." (Dennis Durgin, miner, Mount Marie LLC, e-mail to M. Price, J. Matolcsy, S. Sniffen, 11/05/10).

The question is, whether one starts with heterosite, or purpurite, is it possible to make a stable purple pigment. Perhaps Dennis Durgin will have the answer to this one day. Michael Price has also done some thinking on this. In the meantime, Dennis has been very generous with his donation of some heterosite for me to make pigment from, as well as some heterosite to keep as a sample. Others have also been generous with gifts of heterosite or purpurite, however, these I cannot grind into pigment, as I do not have multiples of these from their places of origin; each rock is part of a story of the geology of New England and New England pegmatites, and one should not, so to speak, tear out chapters of a book one is lucky enough to have to read.

Above is work begun mid December 2010, with some of the rock containing the mineral heterosite, from Mount Marie.

++(thanks to the miners and minerologists at Palermo mine, Mount Marie, and members of the Capital Mineral Club, and the website, and the "Amethyst Galleries" website)


Some Pictures from April 8th, 2011:

log with resin

dripping resin


closer in

clear resin

Oil Trials

Spring 2011: I am still interested in the Pacheco recipe. Recently I have read a translation of the Pacheco recipe, by Zahira Veliz, which has added some ideas and thoughts, specifically about the lavender, and about the straining of the lavender out of the oil.

Grains of lavender:

dry spike of lavender

I do not speak Spanish, and so rely on dictionaries, translations, and some basic romance language navigation skills I do have.
Veliz translated the word "grano" as seeds, rather than buds. This has prompted me to learn a little more about lavender seeds. I started with a dictionary.

In the "Common Usage Dictionary", a short "Living Language" Spanish-English dictionary, the word "grano" is translated as grain. A "grain" is translated as:

"A hard seed or kernel; especially, that of any of the cereal plants....Any very small, hard mass...The smallest possible quantity of anything...The color, usually red, produced by a fast dye; also, the source, as cochineal or kermes, of such a dye..."(The Reader's Digest Great Encyclopedic Dictionary, 1966).

A Spanish dictionary written in the early 1600's would be best. I wouldn't be too surprised if one could be found at a nearby university, but I haven't looked yet.

Here, is one view of what a lavender seed is.

calyces of lavender

These seeds pictured above, as I understand it, are actually lavender calyces possibly containing seeds, and are called seeds, or buds, likely depending on when they have been harvested.

Virginia McNaughton writes " The flower of a lavender consists of a corolla or petals, which in lavender are fused together, and a calyx or sepals which are also fused together. The part seen 'in bud' is the calyx." (p.35 Lavender, the Grower's Guide). Before flowering, therefore, the calyx is essentially the bud. When in flower, the calyx sits below the corolla. After the flower/corolla drops, the seeds in the calyx continue to (?or start?) to develop and mature.

Pictured below, 2 ounces of "lavender seeds" in packets.

2 ounces lavender seeds

100 seeds weigh about .1 gram (see picture of 100 seeds framed between some lavender spikes below).

100 seeds

1000 seeds therefore weigh 1 gram. One avoirdupois ounce is equal to 28.34952 grams, or 1 gram is equal to .03527 ounces. .03527 goes into 2 ounces of seeds 57 times. Therefore, 2 ounces of seed should contain about (57grams/2 ouncesx 1000 seeds/gram)=57,000 seeds/2 ounces. Do I have this correct?

Lavender oil is often made with lavender flowers, and so one might wonder if Pacheco used lavender flowers. In The Volatile Oils , published in 1900 in English with Edward Kremers as translator, it is written, "The French lavender oil is obtained in the higher mountainous regions of southern France...As the lavender blossoms cannot be transported, the distillation is carried on as near as possible to the place of collection, as a general rule in portable stills"( 600, Gildemeister and Hoffmann). The flowering and distilling begins in lower regions the authors explain in July, and ends in higher regions, toward the end of September, at an altitude of 1,500m(600). I imagine that in the 1600's, the calyces in flower were not transported either, rather, only the calyces were transported, either in bud stage, or after flowering.

Straining the lavender

According to the Veliz translation of Pacheco's Book III, Chapter V text, Pacheco mentions the use of hair strainers in several locations in this text. He does not mention the use of them for the lavender and oil, however, this is likely what he meant. Pacheco does not mention any additional filtering. Is this because he found extra filtering unnecessary to do, or unnecessary to mention?

Summer 2010, I strained out the lavender immediately, however, with a wire mesh colander for cooking, and not with a hair strainer. The colander would have likely let larger particles pass through than a hair strainer would have. I did not filter immediately after straining. The oil remained quite a dark color.

In a pre-trial, [which I did quickly end of April/beginning of May before my more planned out oil trials, following Pacheco's instructions, and using a small quantity of flax oil, without washing the oil first in a separatory funnel], I had also found the oil to be a little dark at the end of the experiment, after straining. The only answer that I had for this, at the time, as I needed a quick answer which would not be contrary to Pacheco's directions, was to repeat his directions, like a refrain in a piece of music is repeated.

Repeating the experiment resulted in a lemon yellow oil, much to my relief, although, I was now concerned that the oil had residual alcohol in it, and did not know how this would affect the oil. When the oil was abandoned and left in a cool location with dim light,and with some calcium carbonate left in it, this lemon yellow oil lightened to an almost colorless oil. Most all of this almost colorless oil was lost through accident, although what was made is pictured below. The little that was not lost dried into a film.

The question which artists have been asking for centuries, is whether or not there is an oil which will not yellow natural mineral blue pigments, and which also is a good binder for a paint. Michael Price, who has specialized in working with mineral pigments and done extensive work and research with the blue pigment azurite, has been looking into the question of a good binder for blues for many years, and has found some answers. Whether or not Pacheco had the answer to the problem can perhaps be seen in some of his paintings that have blue in them.

I wonder, however, did Pacheco or any of his contemporaries know the secret to keep their blues blue, or was it their color-seller who knew the secret? Michael Price's research on levigating azurite in casein (see his website), explains this thought. Pacheco's contemporary, Giovanni Battista Armenini, who wrote On the true precepts of the art of painting, (1533? to 1609), said that one should not crush blues from the color seller (191). Pacheco writes that the blue "has to be of the best color and thinnest cenizas, keeping away from seconds and the roughly ground varieties that blend with difficulty."(Veliz translation, p. 54). This sentence makes me believe that he is purchasing his blues ready ground from a color-seller; blues that might have been levigated and encased in a protein. On the other hand, Michael Price has proven that even more roughly ground blues should hold their color if levigated in casein, and so perhaps Pacheco's color seller did not have this particular answer (if more than one answer to the problem is even a possibility).

I have not seen any of Pacheco's work in person; one representation that can be found online does seem to have a fair amount of blue pigment in it. Seeing a Pacheco painting, if the history of its cleaning and restoration could also be obtained, would be the best point of departure. I am unlikely to undertake this adventure anytime soon.

This summer, 2011, I plan to look again at this pre-trial "repeat". I also intend to try seeds as well as buds, and to research into what is a hair sieve (washed hair???), and if it is possible to make or buy one to use. The question of "what is clean and clear" oil, which I started to work with last summer, will also continue to be a part of my experiments in oil.

Today it is the day before Easter. Yesterday ice out was declared in our local lakes. Today it is snowing, and the ground is once again white. Last year this time, the ice had already been out for about a month, and local farmers were planting. The pre-trial was finished by Sunday May 9th. On April 26th, the oil was out in sun, and shade. The trial's first day, although undocumented, should have been the 24th of April, 2010, which is one year ago, almost today (well, one day from now!). Looking outside at the freshly fallen and falling snow, this is hard to believe.

Entry from summer 2010:This summer (2010) I have been refining oil. I was inspired by Michael Price's work in refining mineral pigments, Louis Velasquez's work with oil, and Francisco Pacheco's directions, which were the directions I attempted to follow. Pacheco does not explain what happens before or after his directions start, and it is therefore before and after, where there is room for creativity. Here are some pictures.

washing oil



sorrel oil

The results have been interesting enough, that I will continue to work on this, but with less of a focus on research, and more of a focus on application, although, there is still much research to do!

Credit must be given to Michael Price, for his help, and for his encouragement to follow Pacheco's method as written.



Thoughts on Art

Notes on La Gioconda, the Mona Lisa

I have written the following to show how landscape and figure painting can be closely tied, and to illustrate how a painter might think, when designing a painting. I have not quoted anyone in this analysis, because as far as I remember, I have not learned this except from the painting itself, one night , May 25th, 2008. What I have seen and written, however, would fit the realm of common knowledge, as it is just looking at what is there in terms of its landscape. Of course, if three people look quickly into a room that they have not seen in a long while, all may see different things. In the case of this analysis, it should also be taken into consideration that the room is dimly lit, because the image I analysed was a reproduction of the portrait.

The painting of Mona Lisa is compelling because her face, hands, and wardrobe subtly mimic, repeat, and add to the landscape that she is in. The fabric on her left arm closest to the viewer in the foreground is rippled and folded, but somewhat gently, like the landscape closest to civilization in the middle ground, adjacent to her bust. The cloth on her right arm, furthest from the viewer is very creased to sharp edges, mimicing the rugged geological landscape in the distance. Over her arm, adjacent to an aqueduct, is a cloth which flows between her arms as the river flows between the two landscapes. The bridge or aqueduct off her left shoulder adjacent to the river of cloth, perhaps carries water from its source in the mountains, in nature, to towns. The aqueducts' adjacency and direction, into the cloth, makes the river of cloth seem able to spill into it, or it into the river. Just so her bodice is positioned in relation to the cloth; that is, its decoration flows tumbling like a little stream next to her skin, from or to the cloth or river. The bodice which it flows on covers the part of her body from which springs the liquid which gives sustenance to new life, just as the aqueducts feed the fountains which help nourish civilization in the town squares. The forms of the aqueduct are repeated in the decoration.

Included in the bodice's needlepoint decoration, are crosses (like springs in the stream). Only one cross (like a spring of eternal life), at the bodice's center is in plain view, and not partially obscured by the rivulet like gathers of the bodice. Almost equidistant to this cross, below are her crossed palms, and above her face, in which the four directions of the cross are highlighted. And so there are 3 obvious crosses, all part of her person. The cross laid out in her face has its north-south line running from chin to mouth to nose to the part in her hair, and its east-west line moving from shadow to eye to eye to shadow (from darkness to light and light to darkness, as though her eyes are the rising and the setting sun). And between one dawn and one dusk, the direction of the pupils of her eyes speak about which time in her life she and her family are closest to (the beginning). Similarly, next to her left eye (on the right to us), are large mountains; and to her right eye, her setting sun eye, are mountains which have greatly eroded. A prominent undercut craig towers over the river, promising to fall into the river, which probably undercut it, as it slowly wore down through rock layers to its level in the portrait.

And the river runs behind her head, reminding us which sides of the river the sun rises and sets on, like the river Styx, and therefore reminding us of life, and of death. The river of cloth on her shoulder points down to the water that is life for a child, the place of flowing water, the birth canal. At her left shoulder is a road, a serpentine road, serpent in form, which finds its way between a tight pass, apparently leading to this river. Her dress appears to be the color of a river in flood (if unfaded), and full of the sediments and pigments of eroding mountains, and so full of nutrients and nourishment in which to plant seed. And so, against an immense geological landscape in the background, a landscape that is wondrous, but even so, in its immensity of form and almost lack of life in the distance, makes Lisa, a young woman of child-bearing years (granted by God to give life), all the more wondrous. And Mona Lisa's smile is as mysterious and little understood as are the mysteries of life;but she understands a little, and is perhaps happy for this knowledge.

Thoughts on Frames

January 1, 2012: A Painting's Edge

A painting's edge is generally hidden from view by the traditional frame. This may work well for a painting. The viewer does not know if anything at the edge is missing, and nothing intended by the artist for view may be missing, as an artist can plan the location for the frame's sight edge. When an artist paints beyond the sight edge, their strokes are kept vibrant and energetic to where the frame begins. If something intended for view does get covered, even so, it may not be a crisis; for all the glories about us, one can never see them all at once. And as a final argument on the potential lack of importance of losing a paintings edge to the shadow of a rabbet, it is common knowledge that the (at least fictional) art thief cuts a canvas from the stretcher apparently sacrificing the edge's of a canvas, but not the painting's value.

Covering the edge, however, is a solution that I rejected. My first painting teachers taught their students to paint to the edge of the canvas, and I learned to like the edge (that line where the painting meets the world around it, and the canvas drops 90 degrees, like the waterfalls at the edge of a flat earth).

Last summer, however, I began to work on designs for hybrid type frames and hardware, out of respect for the functionality of the traditional frame. Out of respect for the potential beauty of the traditional frame, I also began to realize that another solution might lie in one that I had rejected years earlier; the solution found by folk painters such as Hicks, of a painted border or a false frame. I realized that a painted border can easily be penetrated by the image it contains, and does not have to be tedious to paint, as I first took for granted it might be.

A painting's edge is an opportunity.  Between the edge of a painting and the frame can exist a space between; between two and three dimensions, between the formal and informal. It is a meeting place, where paths might meet and join (reminiscent of Celtic designs), or collisions occur. It might be a place where a perspectival landscape turns to a plan - the aerial view, where patterns can be seen. This space between, or border, might be about the junctures of wilderness and landscape, the unbuilt and built , the known and the unknown, coming together. It can be continuous, or broken, even, or uneven, clear, or indistinct. In the dialogue between the frame, the painting, and the space between, there are an infinity of possibilities.

Of course, covering the edge of such a border would still be to cover a portion of a painting. But it is a part of a painting which already half belongs to the frame anyway.

I was inspired today to write this summary of thoughts on the frame's edge, due to images of paintings which Michael Price published today to his website. In these works, geometry is light and spirit, and light and spirit are geometry. There is a meeting, a merging, a oneness, of the human figure and the mathematical plans/designs with their roots in nature. In one of the paintings in his new geometry series, Michael Price has the fragment of a very large border (art based on Euclidean geometry) positioned at the edge of his painting. Geometry flows from this border segment to the covering of the figure, and from the figure's covering into the border. A beautiful suspense. A poetic address of the border's potential within its limits, and without.

August 10, 2011:

For a while now, I have questioned my initial enthusiasm about "minipanels" (very small panels set within frames, breaking up the line of a frame).

My insistence on floater frames is also questionable, as traditional frames have much merit.

The floater frame gives freedom, expanse, and the condition in which the painting was conceived. The traditional frame provides protection, with minimal hardware. I finally realized that hiding part of the edge will work with my paintings, and give me some of the benefits of a traditional frame. Therefore, I have been working on designs for hybrid frames.

March 28, 2010: A few months back I realized that I would like to have a frame that overlapped the edge of my paintings, if the edge were clear glass, stained (silver stained, plus other colors, on clear glass), and?/or reverse painted. The way glass focuses light and heat, however, made me question this thought. However, I considered, the frame could hold glass panels. Once I made this rough jumble of a sketch a few days back, the idea became clearer.

Glass Panel Frame Sketch

I then went back to a book on reverse painting, and finally could SEE a frame that I had looked at several times before in the book, and had liked for its unique coloring; this time I saw that it contained glass panels! It can take more than time to see. In this instance, I had to wait until I had made my own workable sketch, a seed for more frames, to recognize a similar frame.

Thoughts on Frames, January 24, 2007

LAKE,LEDGE,LODGING: ..."Lake, ledge, lodging" frame moldings were inspired by water and rock, and designed to frame my paintings. They are floater frame moldings, which expose the painting's edge, as they were when painted. The inside edge of the painting's edge, as they were when they were painted. The inside edge of the floater frame leans away from the painting's edge, allowing light into the intermediary crevice. Many of the frame moldings can carry miniature paintings painted on mini-panels. The mini panels lodge within the molding, separate yet part of both the frame and it's painting, as driftwood is to the water it floats in.

A frame molding held in the hand is sculptural. Cut and built into frames, frame moldings shape space around the paintings they are paired with, altering how the works are perceived. Painting and frame become interdependent despite a painting's independent nature (a painting can hang unframed if so conceived). Frames are made to serve artwork; a frame that serves as another passage in a painting, as a part of the whole work, is a sculpture working in close cooperation with a painting.

For the frame to be integral to the artwork, the voice of the frame, and that of the painting must harmonize (even if dissonance is the painting's subject matter). When there is dissonance between a frame and it's painting, the painting is weakened; even a narrow, simple frame can weaken a painting. harmony should be attainable whether the frame's section is simple or ornate, continuous or discontinuous, or seen or overlooked by the viewer.

Frames provide lodging for a painting, and transition between the pictorial environment and the environment of the room they are lodged in. In this special transition space (where light waves upon leaving the painting's surface first pass), there is opportunity for art. With these frames, I have begun to take advantage of this opportunity.

Spring Waves: Sudden breezes blowing across lake water atop melting ice sheets form brisk waves. In open water, icebergs big and small jingle together amongst the waves. Wood carried on the waves drifts to shore.

Summer Waves: Open warm water, rolling sparkling waves, reflect the sunlight and the life on the water, and on the shore. Boats cut through waves forming more waves in their wake.

Ledge: Ancient slabs and boulders striated by glaciers, and split and worn by water and roots, stand alone or balance amidst each other, supporting each other.

Fencrest Studio, Sarah K. Sniffen, copyright January 26, 2007.

Frame Designs

Waves and Ledge: Summer Waves Waves and Ledge: Ledge Waves and Ledge: Spring Waves
Waves and Ledge: Waves 2008 Lake and Ledge: Spring Waves 2008 Waves and Ledge: Spring Wave Variations
Waves and Ledge: Reflections Waves and Ledge: Summer Wave Variations