Building a Website From Stone

The point of my website is to market hand-made traditional and dimensional illustrations—real things with real texture and dimension. So, I decided to drop the digital, though custom, typography from my header and replace it with something that would emphasize my brand. I thought it would be cool to make it out of stone.

Ok, I don’t actually know anything about carving stone, but I do know how to make faux stone. So here is what I did:

Weathered stone tablet for Jameson Gardner Art and Illustration

The first step was to carve it from styrofoam. High density foam works best because it holds the little details better, but I actually just used some foam that came in a box of shelves.

When the styrofoam was carved I covered it in a thin layer of plaster of paris, enough to protect the foam from solvents and to give me something to carve the type into, but thin enough to preserve some of the details carved into the foam.

work in progress

I then chiseled the type into the plaster.

work in progress

And covered it with a stone texture spray that I picked up at Home Depot. It comes out a variegated grey, and provides a pretty good texture, but it sure doesn’t look like believable stone until you do some painting by hand. I used acrylic washes to finish it off.

work in progress

Of course, photographing it in the right light and separating it from the background are necessary too.

Finished Ship Hull

Hull of mini frigate from side view, for ice-bound ship illustration. Figure head in sculpey and gold leaf. Hull from balsa wood and styrofoam

The hull for the ice-bound frigate is finished. I stained it with special walnut, put a layer of thinned acrylic over that, and weathering was done with 220 grit sandaper. I sculpted the figurehead with sculpey and made the wings out of wood. Both are gold leafed, sealed and painted with a little acrylic to age it. I am not an expert sculptor and making a face that small proved a challenge.

Hull of mini frigate from side view, for ice-bound ship illustration. Figure head in sculpey and gold leaf. Hull from balsa wood and styrofoam

Drift Ice Bow Mini

Miniature scene, bow of ship amidst drift ice.

This frigate is taking so much work that, I thought it would be a shame to get only one image out of it.  In its final form it will be a ship that the character finds locked in the ice and uses for shelter. It will have some weathering effects and a figure head. I am using the same handmade model here to represent the character’s original vessel as the drift ice closes around it—no weathering, paint or figure head.

Just like my other models, it’s built to be viewed primarily from one side.

Behind the scenes look at bow in drift ice setup.

Behind the scenes look at bow in drift ice setup.

Frigate Miniature Progress


One of my first posts on this blog was a concept painting I did for the shot I am working on now.

Ship trapped in arctic pack ice. Painting, oil on panel

 The character in this story has been trekking across the ice after his own vessel broke up and sank below the pack. He is out of supplies, exhausted and on the verge of hypothermia when he sights this ship locked in the ice. With things always shifting on the ice it is miraculous that the ship is even there, much less in a state to offer shelter or supplies. The figurehead is an angel, kind of symbolic.

I carved the hull out of styrofoam and then glued the planks in place. Like every other part of the project this frigate is coming together too slowly—but it is definitely coming, as evidenced by these photos of my progress.


styrofoam hull with planks in place, model frigate

Schooner and Iceberg Composition

Composition photo of miniature icebergs with schooner sketched on seamless backdrop.

Now that we are back from our little adventures, I am back to work on the iceberg scene. I have been building the set and was finally able to sketch the schooner onto my backdrop to take a few composition photos with the icebergs. If you haven’t been following, the icebergs were cast from resin in my own custom plaster molds.

I just finished building the backdrop, which is more or less seamless, so that once I add the ice flows around the base of the bergs, I will only need to paint the backdrop and let forced perspective do it’s magic.

The backdrop panels are masonite attached to a pine frame. I shaped the curve in the lower panel by giving it a hot bath for a couple hours and letting it dry in a form. I plan to have the final photos for this shot by the end of the week.

Photo from 3/4 view of set up for iceberg and schooner scene. Schooner is sketched on unpainted backdrop.

Miniature Illustration Scene

Dock scene with man and schooner produced with custom built miniatures and models

Yep, here’s that same old dock scene. All custom built miniatures and painted backdrop. I still haven’t done final touchups, but the foggy and fog-free images are composited. Soon it will be ready for print.

I am also building structural elements for the iceberg scene, photos of that will be forthcoming.

Photos for Final Dock Scene

I don’t have the very final image composited yet, but I did take the photos. This image is the foggy version of the final shot. After I took several shots with my regular lighting/environmental setup, I took several with different levels of fog—created by my fog machine. I was sort of afraid the neighbors might get concerned when I turned the fan on to air it out and smoke started to billow out of window. Apparently, they have seen me doing enough strange things that they weren’t concerned.
I will be compositing one of the non-atmospheric shots with this one so that I can control the depth and atmosphere and still be able to work with full contrast where I need it.

Sorry I am not revealing everything at once.

Scene of miniature models and maquette. Dock with man ship and supplies.

Finished Icebergs

mini icebergs cast from resin with plaster snow

Well, the icebergs are done. That is a big step for this next image. The translucent greyish bluish parts are cast from resin in my custom molds. The whitish snowish looking parts are plaster that I left on the resin.  The smaller berg was broken out yesterday and was relatively easy. The mold for the bigger one wasn’t sealed properly and so the resin soaked into the plaster. That meant it didn’t break out and I had to grind it down to the resin, which took forever.

These are two cutter bits that I bought for my rotary tool for this job.  The one is unused and the other was used only to get larger iceberg out.

two rotary tool cutting bits, one used for cutting resin out of plaster for miniature iceberg, the other new