Thursday, September 4, 2014

Monhegan Ghost Trees

This summer in Maine I finally managed to make the ferry trip to Monhegan Island, about 10 miles off the mainland. Well known for its scenic beauty, including harbor, cliffs and a lighthouse, it was also been famous for the painters who worked there, and of course, for the art lovers who make the pilgrimage to try their own hand, or at least soak up the atmosphere.

Monhegan pretty much lived up to my expectations, and while I certainly took many photos of the village and shoreline (I'll post some of those later), I was not expecting forest, and was intrigued with the dead trees. The forest in the center of the island was, to use a cliche, like a cathedral, quiet and serene. Along the coast, high above the cliffs, many of the trees were kept to almost a bonsai version by the wind and weather. Trees once dead had their skeletal remains dried and whitened by the winds, in some places forming almost a "ghost forest".

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Shell Game: Another "Finished" Project

When working on a restoration project, part of the decision-making is "how far to go" and what to replace. Will you return to pristine condition, "looks good", or just keep it from falling apart further?

With this mirror (see earlier post),  the most glaring defects where the missing shell ornaments, and the unappealing, and badly deteriorated scenic panel. Aside from these issues, it was mostly intact and original.

I cast replicas of the shells, gilded them and then put them in their corners. These were originally placed in beds of compo material, and they probably detached as the material dried over the years. Mine were bedded with an epoxy putty.

Since the reverse painting was not that attractive, I did not want to make a replica. I put in a plain mirror plate, and since the mirror frame is so ornate, I find this a more elegant, restrained solution. At some point, if I find a design I like, I may replace with a reverse painting.

There are still numerous small losses and chipping, particularly around the edges. These have been tinted to make them less obtrusive. If a more pristine look is desired, they can be repaired as well, but the age of this mirror, combined with it's edge construction makes it naturally prone to this type of damage and decay.

Compo bedding that held (or didn't hold) the original shell.

Replacements,and new bedding material in corner.

New shells installed

Replacement shell toned to match.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Summer at Old Sturbridge Village

Since I had an errand to run in the area, we stopped in to Old Sturbridge Village for a visit. This weekend they had a variety of textile-related activities being demonstrated.

Bedding being aired on the fence at the Small House

Dying wool with natural materials.

The Freeman Farmhouse and barns

Baking time at the farm kitchen; no fly control here.

Dairy room at the farm.

Shoemaker at work.

Towne House barns.

Towne House with all blinds closed.

Friday, August 15, 2014


While at the Maine Antiques Festival in Union Maine last week, an impending rainstorm made for some dramatic skies. (The ones in the first picture are real, even though they look like something from Pixar!)

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Painting on Southport Island

Robert Wilson came by for the second time this summer, and on the recommendation of another artist suggested we visit Southport Island on the Boothbay peninsula.

It was another picture perfect day, and surprisingly, there was a parking spot and few people about on the dock. This location was the next best thing to going out on a boat (and probably a lot steadier).

We had a good view of the Cuckolds lighthouse, softened just a bit with the haze. So much to paint we could have spent even more time. I was able to do three quick watercolor paintings.

Cuckolds Light watercolor by Joseph Rice

Moored Dinghys watercolor by Joseph Rice

Southport Shore watercolor by Joseph Rice

Monday, July 14, 2014

Brand New Antique Frames

Collectors of antique art can become frustrated trying to find an antique frame that is appropriate to the art, not to mention being the correct size. While antique frames are still often cut down, you can't cut a frame "bigger". Or you may find the perfect frame, but, alas, you have a pair of paintings.

For this grain painted frame, the client had an antique frame that had the graining pattern and color they wanted. While it can be time consuming to match an existing item, one benefit is that there is less debate and indecision about color, etc.

In order to give the frame  more "presence"  the width and depth were built up with additional pieces of wood.

Examining the lightest areas on the antique let me match the base color of the old frame.  The grain painting will be done over this base color.

After making some sample sticks, I began the paint process, manipulating the paint with various brushes and tools to achieve a good match. Since the new frame was wider and larger, I felt the pattern had to be just a bit bolder than on the smaller original.

When the grain painting was dry, I began the finish coats, tinting them as needed to match the color more closely. Some of my finishes take a few days to build up, compared to the originals which likely had either no finish coat, or a quick varnishing.

By slowly building, you can continually adjust color, as well as creating the impression of a well-aged item.

A good match between the new (outer frame) and the old.

The frame was given a final waxing, packed and shipped. Then begins my anxiety period - "Will it fit?", "Will it look good?". Relief comes with the message that all is well, and both customer and frame maker are happy with the final result.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Painting in Maine

Quintessential Maine view - cove in South Bristol

With my return to painting, it took a surprisingly long time for it to sink in that I spend a great deal of the summer in an area with great painting subjects (as evidenced by the fact that along the coast, artists seem to outnumber seagulls).

In early July, a compatriot from the Artists Guild of Shrewsbury, Robert Wilson, joined me in Maine for a few days of painting. (watercolor, not my usual scraping and painting the side of the house).

We spent one day poking about the peninsula, and had a morning painting session at this little cove in South Bristol. With few people around, we could stake out spots on the docks. Bob enjoyed the view of the shack with its stacks of lobster traps (even though they are no longer the picturesque wooden ones of bygone days).

My watercolor quick sketches served as a warm-up for the remainder of the painting day.

I saved Pemaquid Point as a surprise for Bob, since I knew it would be the perfect spot. Weather made for postcard views, and gave both of us the chance to try painting moving water and surf.

The picture seen on almost every Maine calendar and restaurant placemat.

Painting down on the rocks was great fun, even when the incoming tide started giving new meaning to the term "watercolor". The sky was cloudless, and I received another lesson about the hazard of not using sunscreen. But I did wind up with some good watercolors that will serve as starting points for some more finished paintings.