Tag: ‘preservation’

Can a fire at #Bham’s Powell School result in a #FOODREVOLUTION Phoenix? (watercolor)

Friday, June 3rd, 2011

Another iconic structure in Birmingham is about to be torn down – Powell School.  And a last ditch effort is underway to restore it for a new use.  I hope you saw this article in the Birmingham News on May 31st, 2011  “Historic preservationists deserve a chance to see if they can restore Powell School, which was damaged by fire in January”  Ironically, Bob had recently completed the watercolor (below) that was to be used to attract attention and perhaps funding and redevelopment for the school before it burned.

So what now?  Here’s the remaining shell below.  We drove by again this morning and the damage is extensive and heartbreaking.  Obviously the roof is gone, and the upper floor has collapsed.  The $500,000 in insurance mentioned in the article above is just a drop in the bucket for restoration.  In order to save Powell School, this project will need a purpose and benevolent committed patrons who believe in that purpose with deep pockets.


So we’ve been thinking…   What’s a long-term issue supported nationally that will benefit Birmingham?  Well, we’ve decided that it could be the Food Revolution spearheaded by Jamie Oliver.  In Jamie Oliver’s words


“We’re losing the war against obesity in the US. It’s sad, but true. Our kids are growing up overweight and malnourished from a diet of processed foods, and today’s children will be the first generation ever to live shorter lives than their parents. It’s time for change. It’s time for a Food Revolution.

“Since I’ve been working in America, I’ve been overwhelmed by the number of people who have come out to support the Food Revolution. More than 630,000 people have signed the petition, over 300,000 of you subscribe to our newsletter and thousands of you have written to me. The only message I keep hearing is that you believe your kids need better food, and that you want help to keep cooking skills alive. That’s why this Food Revolution matters.”  ~ Jamie Oliver

“The problem stems from the loss of cooking skills at home and the availability of processed foods at every turn, from the school cafeteria to church function halls, factories and offices. This Food Revolution is about saving lives by inspiring everyone: moms, dads, kids, teens and cafeteria workers to get back to basics and start cooking good food from scratch.”


If you haven’t seen the popular show, here’s the link.  Thanks to dedicated volunteers, Birmingham already has an edible garden for kids close by with Jones Valley Urban Farm.


So, Birmingham has Sam Frazier, a local historian who’s spearheading the movement to save the school.  It has Mayor Bell’s encouragement.  It has Frank Stitt, and Chris Hastings – both award-winning chefs who support the movement.  It has Whole Foods.  It has the new FoodBlogSouth and lots of food editors spawned by Southern Living.  Birmingham is really a food town and we should be leaders in this movement.  But sadly, Alabama ranks #2 of the fattest states 2011, and Birmingham ranks #10 among the fattest cities 2011 in America.   Our legacy can be better!


And back to Powell School…It’s got classrooms, a cafeteria, meeting areas, and history.  It’s near Jones Valley Urban Farm, and hundreds in our city know and love it.  The Food Revolution has the support of the nation, and the backing of First Lady Michelle Obama, along with lots of stars including Paul McCartney, Justin Bieber, P Diddy, Jennifer Anniston – well, read the names for yourself here.

There are nearly a million people (and the numbers are growing every day) who’ve signed a petition in support of the Food Revolution.

It could be SUCH A POSITIVE THING FOR BIRMINGHAM!  Is it possible to hope that THE FOOD REVOLUTION could save Powell School, too?



Will Watercolors Fade?

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010

Watercolor is a wonderful medium because of its freshness, transparency, spontaneity, movement, and vibrancy. Those characteristics depend upon the movement of water which quickly evaporates and leaves behind permanent pigment on the paper. The best watercolorists anticipate the movement of the water both while painting, as well as after drying when brush stokes and color will slightly change.  It is a very quick and frustrating medium, as one unintended stroke can ruin a painting.  There is no ‘do-over’ or ‘paint-over’ in watercolor which creates both the freshness and the frustration!

We often hear that watercolor paintings fade, but the oldest paintings in the world, cave paintings, are actually watercolors made with the most primitive of materials.  Now watercolors (and beginning in the 19th century) are primarily on paper so the quality of the paper is critical as to the permanence of the painting.

There are basically four factors which determine the permanence of a  watercolor:  Paper, Pigment, Framing, and Light Exposure.

If a watercolor painted today is to be preserved for decades, it’s imperative that the paper and pigment used are of the best archival quality.  These materials have greatly improved over the years due to an increased understanding of technology and chemistry.  (What does Bob Moody use?  Click HERE)


Acid-free paper made from 100% rag fiber (cotton, linen, etc.) can last forever if properly cared for and generally 140 lb cold-pressed paper has enough texture and weight to prevent buckling when stretched. The most expensive paper is 300-400# rough texture 100% acid-free rag paper however, it may be too stiff or textured for some watercolors.

For more information on paper, click HERE.

Permanence (via Wikipedia)

…the best art papers are designated archival, meaning they will last without significant deterioration for a century or more. Archival means that the papers are made entirely of high alpha cellulose or 100% cotton or linen fiber (that is, they are lignin free, as lignin causes darkening and embrittlement under light exposure), pH neutral (meaning there is no residual acidity left from the chemical processing of the pulp), buffered (a small quantity of an alkaline compound, usually calcium carbonate, is added to the furnish to neutralize the effect of atmospheric acids), and free of any artificial paper brighteners or whiteners (e.g., ultraviolet dyes). The content designations “100% cotton” or “100% cotton rag” have little significance to the actual quality or handling attributes of the paper. (A wide range of papers using alternative plant fibers, some of them not archival, are available from Asian manufacturers; some watercolor painters even employ sheets of printable plastic, sold under brand names such as Yupo.) Yupo is a synthetic paper that has that has a high ph value and works well with all watermedia paint


The pigments used are as important as the acid-free paper.  Lower-quality  or student-grade watercolors are sold in sets without replacement cakes or tubes, and will generally not have lightfastness ratings. Student grade watercolors are usually made of dyes rather than permanent pigments and are somewhat less soluble; professional grade pans or tubes are very permanent and dissolve instantly at the touch of a wet brush.  Some manufacturers grade their watercolors based on lightfastness ratings.  Obviously, the better the materials, the more permanent the painting.

HERE is a resource on pigments


“The lead-bearing pigments that are approved for use in oils–flake white and Naples yellow–are not used in watercolor because of their susceptibility to turning dark on exposure to impure air when not protected by oil or varnish, their likelihood of reacting with other pigments when used in the gum-water mediums, and their poor brushing qualities in water mixtures”

[Mayer, Ralph. The Painter’s Craft. An Introduction to Artist’s Methods and Materials. Revised and updated by Steven Sheehan, Director of the Ralph Mayer Center, Yale University School of Art. New York: Penquin Group. 1948. 1991.]

In transparent watercolor [aquarelle], qouache, and unvarnished egg yolk tempera techniques, the pigments are bound in comparatively thin films to paper, cardboard, or a prepared wood panel by solutions of gum arabic, animal glues, or egg yolk. The paints are thinned with water. Because these binders do not encase the pigments so completely in a glassy film as is the case in the oil technique, the pigments used in the water techniques are more vulnerable to the effects of sunlight and the atmosphere.Thus pigments used in water techniques should be as resistant as possible to the chemical effects of acid- and sulfur-carrying gases, which are present in city atmosphere, and to the bleaching effect of light. [p. 5]

[Kay, Reed. The Painters Guide to Studio Methods and Materials. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1983.]

Exposure to Light and Appropriate Framing:
Finally, exposure to direct sunlight can be the most damaging environmental factor for watercolors.  Framing must use acid-free mats.   Additional information regarding appropriate framing for watercolors along with other helpful information can be found HERE