Monday, September 5, 2016

Always Take Another Look

This frame had a missing corner piece - a fairly straightforward repair. My first step is usually to do an overall survey of the object, and this was in overall good condition - the corner was probably just due to a bump or a bad moving experience.

While selecting an intact portion to make my mold I noticed some other small areas were missing. Since these damages had apparently happened long ago, the accumulated dirt, grim and dust (or as we more fashionably call it - patina) made the losses inconspicuous. But, in for a penny, in for a pound, I elected to replace these areas as well.

White areas of gesso show where replacements were needed

Replacement detail

More replacement detail

Original missing corner replaced and gessoed


Usual steps were followed - mold-making, casting, fitting, gilding and toning. I get nervous about having to work on a frame with the art still installed - but in this case, the client didn't want the backings removed as they contained part of the work's history. This means hiding the project in a safe place between working sessions (which usually means forgetting about it), and having to keep the painting covered while frame restoration is in progress.

Finally done and packed for return.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Big Sale in Wiscasset

The house on Fort Hill Street in Wiscasset, Maine has been used as an antique shop, my workshop/studio, and for the past few years, the "last resort storage depot" for anything we didn't have room for at home. On the first floor there is one large double room that eventually became so filled with furniture, mirrors, boxes etc. that it was impassable. The other first floor rooms were not much better.
More stuff
Still more stuff

So, with the prospect of opening an antique shop looking less likely with each passing year, I made a resolution to clean out some of the stuff. This also meant cleaning a room that had not had a good going-over in several years. Many things I just did not need or want, some I was undecided about and felt that offering them for sale would take care of the decision-making, and many things were just fine, but not having an outlet meant they would just sit there.

As I put in the ad:

"We haven’t been open, so it’s not a closing sale. We haven’t died, so it’s not an estate sale. And we may not get around to making tags, so it’s not a tag sale. But we haven’t had the shop open for a few years, stuff is piling up, and it’s time for a dispersal sale."

The sale went very well. It was nice to have old friends and customers stop by, new customers show up, and to have the premises looking presentable once again. And we have another batch of memories.

So, what's next with the Wiscasset location? I have a few ideas for next season.....

Thursday, July 28, 2016

The End of Big Red

Big Red and his new little friend

I know we are not supposed to anthropomorphize inanimate objects, but I think we all make an exception for our cars.

My big red 2000 Ford passenger van was a thoroughly dependable, useful vehicle; one that has given me the most satisfaction of any I've owned.

When I found it at the dealer's it was love at first sight and I didn't even have to go home and think it over.

It hauled loads of furniture, merchandise for shows, tools and lumber for projects, and even served as an auxiliary storage space just sitting out there in the driveway. But more than that, it was a mobile container for our memories of good times. The trips to Maine and elsewhere, the painting expeditions, and the dogs who each had their own seat.

Ready for work

A handy drying rack

No fair-weather friend

But, as always happens, time and the road take their toll. And a new, smaller red van joined its older brother in the driveway,

Today I had my final session behind the wheel. On the way to the auto graveyard, it drove beautifully - whether as a gesture to me, or as a desperate last attempt to stave off the inevitable. I found one last penny in the cup holder, signed the paperwork and took off the license plate, leaving it looking naked and vulnerable.

Goodbye my big red friend. I'll miss you.

The end of the long, long road.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Hanging Lots of Artwork

Out group, the Artist Guild of Shrewsbury is having a show at the Sprinkler Factory in Worcester.

This arts venue is re-purposed from an old manufacturing facility, the Rockwood Sprinkler building (and interestingly, some of my relations worked there during WWII).

Hanging over 200 works can be a daunting task. The committee was organized, and the volunteers spent the day getting everything up. Miraculously, it all fit!

The opening is Saturday, June 18, with a party that night at 6:00 pm.

Stop by for the party or during the run of the show.

Hanging decisions being made.

All up on the walls

A selection of JPR works

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Painting the Figure

Nothing On (Acrylic, 24 x 30")

One of the most difficult tasks for the amateur artist is dealing with the human figure. I have been trying to go to the Worcester Art Museum's life drawing sessions each week, and this has been a great help. I was then at least able to put suggestions of figures, people in the distance, etc. into my paintings. I am now trying to do work where the figure is the central aspect of the painting.

One of the original sketches

I got the idea for this painting when the model posed on the floor, and my viewpoint was from over his head.

My paintings on canvas always start out boldly and quickly. My first step is always to block in the major areas (I often feel I should stop at this point).

Getting started 
Building up and adjusting

Since I didn't want to work this painting to death, after it was almost complete, I put it aside, and every so often would do slightly more. While I am not happy with some aspects, I also want it to remain looking freshly painted and effortless, and not labored over (no one is supposed to know how much it is labored over).

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

When Compo Goes Bad

Frame as delivered

This frame is typical of late Victorian compo (composition) work. This material, composed of whiting, rosin and glue has the consistency of cookie dough when fresh, and can be pressed into molds. When dry, it is steamed, which reactivates the glue and also allows it to be pressed onto curved shapes, such as the half-cylinder outer rails of this frame. Over time, however, compo dries out, and can separate from the wood - particularly if the frame is knocked around.

Missing sections of compo ornament

Repairs like this, which look minor, can be difficult because molding and casting is done on a curved section. The original compo was in relatively large sheets that were attached to lengths of molding. Since you cannot easily mold a single piece to match this, you wind up piecing it in, trying to use as much of the original as possible.

Molds and casts

Piecing in replacements

More falls off while frame is being worked on

A tedious job, but now the frame is once more complete.

Friday, April 29, 2016

The Old Oval Finally Finds a Home


This oval frame came with a domed glass, and is typical of the 1890-1910 era. I don't recall how I acquired it (I think someone just gave it to me), but when it arrived 90% of the outer band of ornament was missing. I didn't even bother to photograph it.

While it was not financially worth-while to replace this missing molding, I did do it for purposes of class demonstrations on how composition ornament is steamed and bent to conform to a shaped frame. Once the ornament was applied, it remained in the workshop in a state of limbo, as I had no further use for it, yet it was now too good to discard.

Out of the blue I had an inquiry for domed glass, and this frame and glass (which I had left up in Maine, intending to discard) was just what was needed. I finished the band of compo with mica powders (which I now use in place of traditional bronzing powders, as they will not tarnish over time), and a casein wash.

Now that is done, I almost wish I had kept it for myself.

Composition molding, gessoed, then tinted shellac.