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.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Catching up on Framing

Like the old saying: "The cobbler's children have no shoes" it seems I take a while to get around to my own framing projects. This week I finished up three. My watercolor of the back side of the Artemas Ward Homestead in Shrewsbury is in one of my painted frames. I think I'll start using more of these for some of my watercolors.

This drawing of a dog done by one of our Art Guild members, Rose Wang,  reminded me of our long-gone (but not forgotten) Rufus. This is in one of my gold leaf frames.

This is a Christmas card I painted showing the current pack. It is in an antique frame.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Catching up (and trying to keep ahead)

Oh dear, it's been a while. My purpose for even having this blog was to reassure myself that I was accomplishing things - letting the photos and postings be the proof. Fear not, I was busy, in fact, things needing real work took precedence over this blog. So, let July be the month of catch up!

This weed, now 7' tall, is the plant growing the best for me.

Spring in New England means lots of garden work. In our suburban area, we are battling wilderness which tries very hard to take back what is clear and cultivated (and sometimes the wilderness wins).

My garden nemesis is the poison ivy. I spray to kill it, but every so often decide on manual means, and with the aid of hook tool and rubber gloves, try to pull out as much as I can. Yes, I wind up with the awful rash and itching, but figure that since I'll probably get it anyway, take advantage of the encounter and try to remove as much as possible.

This large branch feel from my neighbor's ancient chestnut, and now serves as "found sculpture"

Forsythia in bloom - careful pruning increases the blooms each year.

And after its haircut

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Garden Time

After the back-and-forth of "is it spring or still winter", there comes that time when (usually after a day or so of rain) the greenery just explodes.

In addition to the usual yard chores, I finally decided to address the two overgrown bird's nest spruce by the front walk. They had gotten to about 4 or 5 feet across, and since I didn't have them on a regular pruning regimen, my attempts at pruning last year meant they would be too painful to look at for the next few years.

So, between garden spades, forks, shovels and finally, the chainsaw, the old ones were pulled out. Just like looking in the mirror after a haircut, it is disconcerting to see these two new little shrubs taking the place of the old giants.


These two new ones have some pretty big shoes to fill.



The old stumps were a lot bigger than you would expect for a shrub.
Also this year, hope to have some rhubarb from the new patch.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Artistic Progress

Many famous artists are known for returning to the same subject over and over (Monet and his waterlilies, Degas and ballerinas, etc.). Experienced artists can explore these subjects to greater depth, and keep finding new ways of seeing them. Less experienced artists, such as myself, simply return to the same subject to improve, by correcting mistakes or trying new approaches when the initial results were not quite what we wanted.

This approach seems entirely natural and sensible to me, so I have occasionally been taken aback when someone will ask "Didn't you already paint that?" or "Why are you doing it over - it looked OK".

On an early spring outing with some members of the Artists Guild of Shrewsbury, I did a simple watercolor sketch of a rather mundane scene - some logs dumped at the edge of the parking lot. It was the time of year when winter seemed to have leached all the color out of things, and a bit too early for spring rains to have cleaned things up and instigated some greening of the landscape.

Plein air watercolor sketch

The initial sketch was free and pleasant enough, but didn't seem to have the depth I have been trying to achieve in my watercolors. When I returned home I painted a second version, which showed progress, but still seemed bland.

Second version

I considered whether I lacked interest in the scene, or whether I lacked the skill to bring out elements of the scene that would make a better painting. I seemed to be having trouble balancing where the attention was going - was the eye drawn to the background trees, instead of the foreground? Was this due to the color, the amount of details, or was it the composition itself causing the problem?

Third version

So I attacked the problem again, making some changes. This third version, while still not totally satisfactory, showed a definite progression towards a much better painting. Still, I suspect that there will need to be a fourth version at some point.


Showing the progress at an Artists Guild of Shrewsbury "Salon Night" (photo by Joseph Allen)




Saturday, April 26, 2014

Art Forgery, Steampunk and the Cat in the Hat

Do you like green eggs and ham?
As is often the case, you can overlook things that are almost in your own backyard. There was an exhibit on art forgery ending this weekend, so that lit the fire to finally make a trip out to the Springfield, MA museum complex about 60 miles from us.

The museums in downtown Springfield include a science/natural history museum, two art museums, and a historical museum which is currently closed for refurbishing. The buildings are grouped in "the quadrangle, whose center includes a whimsical monument to one of Springfield's famous sons, Theodor Geisel, aka "Dr. Seuss".

"Intent to Deceive" was an interesting exhibit on fakes, although without the amount of depth and history I would have liked. One of the highlights for me was finally seeing some of the Han van Meegeren "Vermeers" in person. Even when seeing the photographs in art books, my reaction was always "How could anyone be fooled by these?". The story of van Meegeren was about more than simply faking art - and you can read more in this article.

But this exhibit did get me to finally see the D'Amour Museum of Fine Arts. Not the largest museum or collection you will visit, but does include some gems. I was astounded to see, almost immediately upon entering the front door, the monumental "The Historical Monument of the American Republic" by Erastus Salisbury Field. I knew of the painting, but it never registered with me that it was about one hour from home.


We were on a tight schedule this visit, but we did take time for a quick look at the Smith Art Museum  as well. I enjoy idiosyncratic collections, and this one was not only a reflection of the original benefactors' tastes, but is still retained in a late-Victorian display format. So rare to see such a time capsule. A large gallery of 19th century paintings hung "salon style", large Asian art collections and a hall of classical and antique casts. The museum was, appropriately enough, hosting a "Steampunk" exhibit on view through September 28, which fits well with the Victorian architecture.

Great hall of casts

Nicolas Tesla and Thomas Edison united in Springfield.


Outfits for your steampunk wedding