Marin Gruia - abstract paintings in blue

Marin Gruia is a painter of flowers and landscapes, but he has always attempted to expand towards oniric surrealism and, lately, to abstract compositions. These latter painting experiments also envisage larger formats than his usual, a mix of techniques (including subtle collage for example), and the creation of improvised tools and implements in search for spontaneity, novelty, and the pure pleasure of color and texture. Here are his best 2017 blue abstract compositions, oil on canvas.
For updates you can follow his Facebook page Marin Gruia.

Abstract painting by Marin Gruia
Abstract painting by Marin Gruia

Abstract painting by Marin Gruia


Balneum Mariae in alchemy and pharmacy

Balneum Mariae (also known as Mary's Bath, water bath, bain-marie or double boiler) is a process of controlled heating in a pot with liquid, usually water, aimed at heating substances in controlled conditions (in terms of both time and temperature) or keeping them warm over longer periods of time. In fact it limits the maximum temperature of the substance in the main container to the boiling point of the liquid in the second boiler.
As the name indicates, the process has been attributed to he alchemist Maria Prophetissima or Mary the Jewess (3rd c. A.D.) The process was nevertheless known before, during the Roman period for example, and became common in cooking, industry, chemistry and pharmacy.

Alchemical balneum Mariae from Coelum philosophorum, Philip Ulstad, 1528
Discover more about the inter-twined history of pharmacy and alchemy by visiting the temporary exhibition at the History of Pharmacy Collection in Cluj-Napoca.


The pharmacist's costume

Habit d'apoticaire, in
“Recueil les costumes grotesques et les métiers de Nicolas de Larmessin”.

Reproduction of a 17th-century engraving depicting the typical costume of a pharmacist, imagined as consisting of the tools of the trade – an alembic is worn as a hat and iconographically the most significant element, but there are also typical jars, tools, containers, a syringe and various medicinal plants. All visual elements are identified by inscriptions in French. From the work “Recueilles costumes grotesques et les métiers de Nicolas de Larmessin”.
The alembic is a distillation still, borrowed from alchemy, consisting of three parts. The cucurbit, a heated pot that contains the liquid to be distilled,   the ambic, covering the cucurbit like a cap, collecting the vapors and leading them down a descending tube, and   the receiver, holding the condensed distilled liquid. The term comes from Arabic (al-anbī), in itself a borrowing from Greek (ambix), meaning cup or beaker.


Dacian car flag

Atelierul de istorie has added, upon request, a new product to its history-inspired portfolio: a small car flag with the ancient Dacian draco standard - black on white background. The flag is resistant to weather conditions and comes with a plastic support for your car's window. The flag can be adapted to one's motorcycle as well, though special metal stands must be obtained elsewhere.
See all novelties HERE

Car flag with the Dacian draco
Folded car/motorcycle Dacian flags
The motif is original, reproduced after a large-size, two-piece linocut print of the draco, inspired by depictions on ancient Roman monuments such as Trajan's Column.

Original draco depiction by Ana-Maria Gruia for Atelierul de istorie



Linocut and golden foil draco painting

Another painting inspired by the ancient Dacian history has been sold by my online shop, Atelierul de istorie. It is a sofa-size painting depicting the Dacian war standard, the half wold half serpent dragon that the Romans called draco. It is a highly decorative, even Art Nouveau-like work, with the main motif as linocut print, glued onto canvas, and the background with golden foil. In order to confer the foil more radiance, underneath I have applied a layer of red acrylic paint, and a black painted acrylic frame renders no need for an actual frame. Here is the painting in context.
See the item page HERE
Another variant, smaller size, HERE



Marin Gruia - painting in progress

My father, Marin Gruia of Cluj-Napoca, Romania, is one of the established painters of the city and of Transylvania, with his classical, sensitive style of painting flowers and landscapes, mostly oil on canvas. He has taken steps lately in going a bit beyond his usual style, experimenting with textures, colors, and techniques. The following series of pictures illustrate this process, exemplified on another "Flowers" painting - working his way out of the background and into the details in the foreground - the flowers, the vase, and the signature.

Background - by Marin Gruia

Flowers - by Marin Gruia

Flowers and vase - by Marin Gruia

Signed and finished - by Marin Gruia


Tooled leather keychain

I have recently posted pictures of this tooled veg tan leather key chain in a leather craft group on Facebook and I got comments that the model was stamped, not tooled by hand. This was in fact flattering, considering the decoration looked so even and good, but still I felt the need to reveal the process for clarification. So here are illustrations of the working stages, from form cutting, to drawing tracing, incision, tooling, fine cuts making and dyeing, all made by hand. The product is available on our website, Atelierul de istorie, and the decorative model is inspired by ancient history, aka the Draco war standard of the Dacians.
For intense comments feel free to join out Facebook handmade leather craft group, Marochinarie artizanala (Romanian mostly, but not exclusively), with 182 members so far.
Draco leather key chain

Handmade tooled leather project

Leather project by Atelierul de istorie


Goddess Gruia - my first linocuts

I started experimenting with linocut printing in 2007, during an art camp in Calimanesti, Romania. I used the most basic, low-quality, Communist linoleum still available on the market and an old spoon for printing, but found the effects and process fascinating from the very beginning. Not to mention that it was fast enough for my desire of quick results :) Applying the ink with my fingers (in lack of a roller) was also convenient for allow more variation, increased color effects, and the convenient Epreuve d'artiste - no numbering necessary system :))
Here are some of my initial works, medieval in inspiration.
See my current works available on Etsy HERE.

"Matthias House" linocut print inspired by the old city centre of Cluj-Napoca, Romania - by Ana-Maria Gruia

"Urbanscape" lincout inspired by medieval architecture in Krems an der Donau, Austria - by Ana-Maria Gruia

"Holy women"lincout inspired by the medieval iconography of holy women - by Ana-Maria Gruia

"The entrance of the Virgin into the Temple" Biblical linocut by Ana-Maria Gruia

"Tailors' Bastion" linocut of one of the historical monuments in Cluj - by Ana-Maria Gruia

"Urban landscape" inspired by Slovenia - Ana-Maria Gruia


Alchemical confusions in pharmacy II

Another confusion born out of the adoption of alchemical terms in late medieval and early modern pharmacy relates to the troublesome use of multiple names for the same apothecary product or of the same name for several products.
Among the solutions with multiple names one can mention for example Potassium acetate (the potassium salt of the acetic acid)that was referred to as either "terra foliata tartari", "sal Sennerti" (Sennert's salt), "tartarus regeneratus", "arcanum tartari" (alchemical), or "sal diureticus". These terms refer to the product's properties, alchemical value or the name of a person who prepared it.

Johann Heinrich RAHN,
There were also no less confusing cases of solutions with the same name:
§  aqua fortis =  concentrated azotic acid, wine spirit, concentrated soda solution
§  lapis infernalis = all caustic substances
§  nitrum =  saltpeter, talcum, borate of soda, potassium azotate
§  chrysocolla = copper alloy, borate of soda

Discover more on the topic by visiting the "Pharmacy and alchemy" temporary exhibition at the History of Pharmacy Collection in Cluj-Napoca.
See also previous blog posts on the topic here: