The Golden Age of Piracy

8 Apr

pirate art

Pirates are a popular force in our culture today, they are probably second only to zombies in generic pop culture characters.  Pirates are so popular you see them everywhere, they have become a sacred cow.  This is where my idea for “The Golden Age of Piracy” ended up.  I have painted several pirate artworks, mostly because of where I live and working with Captain Carl “Fizz” Fismer, a treasure diver.  I wasn’t satisfied with the traditional pirate art, I wanted something more.  I wanted to make the ultimate pirate artwork, the is where I started when creating “The Golden Age of Piracy”.

What makes a pirate flag or jolly roger so powerful for so many years is how simple the design is.  Pirate flags just might be the first modern corporate logo.  With this idea I started to draw out “The Golden Age of Piracy”, the skull and crossbones would be the center of the design.  From there I wanted to get the full pirate mythology in the design. The pirate artwork contains not only the skull and crossbones, but two additional skulls in a profile view.  Two mermaids swim around the center skull, trying to lure us in, almost welcoming us the the skull and crossbones.  Luring us to death? Or luring us to the now romantic life of a pirate?  Sea Monsters, an Octopus or two, and a turtle are some of the creatures real or not that pirates would have encountered or told tall tales about.  The ships in the painting? A simple sloop, the type of ship most pirates would have used, not the commonly pictured galleons.  The flintlock pistols and the swords remind us of the violent life the pirates led. The Golden Age of Piracy is a term used for the period in time when pirates sailed the seas from  the 1650s to the 1730s.  I thought the name was perfect for the golden work of art.  Have the violent pirates with their promise of democracy and sailing the seas, become a golden calf?

If you have a chance check out my updated site ArteDePaula.


Making Sense of the 4Cs

7 Mar

In real estate, the saying goes location, location location. In diamonds what’s important are the 4Cs. Before the 4Cs there were no clear standards for grading a diamond. GIA, the Gemological Institute of America, came up with the 4Cs as the grading standard. You might be thinking to yourself, “Okay, so what? I just want to buy an engagement ring or earrings, I don’t want to become a gemologist.” I feel you, so I’m going to break it down nice and easy.

So what does color mean? Aren’t most diamonds white? When you are looking at a diamond’s color, you are actually looking for the absence of color. D is the top grade and the worst grade is Z. The best way to describe this is the thinking of those teeth whitening commercials – you want the teeth white, not yellow.

Clarity in its simplest term is how clear the diamond is. Diamonds have inclusions or blemishes, these inclusions look like black or clear spots in the stone. The scale for clarity is harder to understand than the color scale. Clarity goes from Flawless, Internally Flawless, VVS1, VVS2, VS1, VS2, SI1, SI2, I1, I2 and I3. While this sounds complicated and it does get complicated, many inclusions are actually too tiny be be seen by the average person. Diamonds are graded under a 10x power loop so many of the grades may look the same to the naked eye. A quick tip: generally when you can see a diamond’s inclusions with the naked eye it’s usually an I1 at best.

Out of all of the 4Cs cut is a little more difficult to understand. At first glance diamonds might all look the same when it comes to cut, but cut has more to do with the angles and proportions. The GIA scale goes from excellent, very good, good, to fair and poor. Basically the better cut the stone the more it sparkles. This is not an obvious factor to grade, a lot of luxury diamonds emphasize that they have a best cut and that is why they are more expensive. Best thing to do here is to look at different diamonds and see how they move and sparkle.

Carat Weight
Carats are the measurement of how much a diamond weighs. 100 points make up a carat, so a half carat is 50 points or 0.50 CT. If everything else is the same – color, clarity, and cut, the heavier the diamond, the more expensive the diamond.

So I hope that helps you understand the 4Cs. One of the best ways to understand the 4Cs is to look at different diamonds and compare their grades. All 4Cs are considered when you price a diamond, not just Carat Weight. So if looking at diamonds are stressing you out, maybe think of them as you would when buying a new car, different features and models give you different prices.

How a Ring is Made

7 Mar

Ever sit back and look around at all the products that are available to you?  Just a walk in the grocery store you can see food that comes from farmers, bakers, and companies from all around the world.  The farmers, they take a small seed and make it into food.  Are you married or know someone who is?  Do they have a simple ring or wedding band?

You see jewelry on people and in jewelry stores.  Because we see it everywhere, we tend to ignore how truly special jewelry is.

This is a simplified version of how a wedding band goes from mineral  to your finger.  A wedding band is generally made of gold or platinum.  While you might see plenty of gold or platinum jewelry at a store or on people, the precious metals have a long and difficult process to become the wedding band that you see before you.

First you can pan for gold, you can also mine gold or platinum and mining is by no means an easy task.  Now, hard rock mining produces most of the world’s gold and platinum.  Mining for gold or platinum can be done underground or in open-pit style mining.   To fully understand the amount of work it takes to mine gold you have to think about all the heavy machinery and back breaking work that needs to be done.  On average 33 tons of material (rock) to produce an ounce of gold.  Wow, that is probably harder than finding a needle in a haystack.

The gold is then made into an alloy so it can be used for the ring.  Pure gold is often too soft so other metals are added to make the gold harder.  Wedding bands are usually made through a die striking process or a casting process.

Die striking involves heavy machinery striking the gold under tons of pressure that in the end results as a wedding band.  A cast wedding band is made using the lost wax process.  This means that the ring has to be first sculpted out of wax.  The ring then has a type of plaster mold made out of it and the wax is melted out and the gold moves in.  The wedding band has to be properly polished and finished.

Even though this might sound complicated, this process is for a simple wedding band.  More complicated designs include more steps which might include engraving or adding diamonds and gemstones.  So next time you notice a wedding band, take the time to appreciate all the time it took to make that piece of jewelry.

The Morning Commute Along the Everglades

3 Feb

Most people have to wake up and go to work.  As you know, this is called a commute.  Many of us have a long commute, I remember while living in Miami, the commute would last an hour for only about a 15 mile drive.  Well, I’m glad that is over with, but that got me thinking of the exact opposite of a full on rush hour, nature.

Animals also have to get food and take care of young ones, so I decided to paint an everglades version of the typical commute.  You have the peaceful water or “river of grass” with a mangrove pushing out to break the landscape.  On the mangrove you see that beautiful bird, the roseate spoonbill.  Watch out, traffic is really getting heavy with a heron flying by.  Here’s to hoping your next commute it this peaceful.

everglades, roseate spoonbill, heron

The Morning Commute


Baygrass Bluegrass

20 Jan

It is unusual for me to cover so many local events. I usually have to be dragged out of my cave, where I happily paint interesting pictures. I ventured this time to Baygrass Bluegrass in Islamorada. This bluegrass event is only two years old but seems more mature when you consider how well the event is put together. The event is put together by ICE and their fealess leader David Feder.

The bands featured in the event include Helen Highwater Stringband, Mark Johnson & Emory Lester, Mandolin Orange, Grey Lily, Nicks & Kris, Bungled and Botched, Little Girl and the Dreadful Snakes, Grandpa’s Cough Medicine, and Myakka River Bluegrass Band. One of the highlights was a group of young teenagers who weren’t even slated to perform but brought the house down. The show was a good bluegrass show, the type of show that makes you feel like you are hanging with your friends and isn’t that what bluegrass is all about.
If you are down in the Florida Keys in January, come check it out.




11 Jan

It is amazing when you start to think of what reality actually is. You can go far out like the Matrix and say we are all living in a fake world and we are really batteries. This isn’t a philosophy class. I’m talking about everyday reality and our perspective on things.

What made me think of this was a lady who came by my shop. I was helping someone else and she decided t let everyone she was here. She interrupted me and I thought okay maybe she has something important to say. She announced that she wanted to come in here but she couldn’t because the perfume we had in the store was making her choke up and could breathe. Then she left.

The funny thing about this was there was absolutely no perfume around. The shop has no type of chemical perfume or perfume at all. The lady I was helping had no perfume on either. This lady was suffering from a “ghost” perfume.

This case of the perfume was entirely made up in her head. I went outside to see if there was a heavily perfumed person standing just outside. Still nothing. So she came up with this sort of crutch all by herself. She had created this perfume that stopped her from doing what she needed to do.

This really amazed me and I started wondering if we all make stuff up in our heads. Maybe our perspective is entirely false and our reality isn’t the real reality. Are These made up things excuses for living the life we want to live?

Drew Struzan: The Most Well Known Artist We’ve Never Heard Of

2 Jan

Drew Struzan is a legend.  You have probably never heard of Drew Struzan, but you have seen his work.  People all over the world have seen Drew’s work.  Drew and artist and illustrator is best known for painting movie posters.  He paints posters that make you want to see that movie.  Drew Struzan does the type of art that show off the characters and really tells a story.  Do I hear doubt out there?  Yeah, so he does movie posters, I bet I’ve never seen them or who cares.  Well my friends, it is true, Drew does amazing artwork we never really appreciated.

Drew has done artwork for Star Wars, Indiana Jones, American Tail, Police Academy, Rambo, The Muppets and Harry Potter, to name a few.  I never realized how many movie posters Drew has done.  When I was a kid I would see these amazing posters and was astonished that someone could draw and paint people so well.  He didn’t simply do portraits, he told a story of who the character was.

You would think a guy like this would have a big head, but Drew is a humble, hardworking artist.  In the movie, “Drew: The Man Behind The Poster” you can see that Drew is  a guy who really doesn’t know how awesome his work is.  Drew is retired from movie posters and now does fine art.  Take a look at Drew’s Portfolio.