Sunday, May 21, 2017

Free Chairs?

Finished! 

When I say I am taking care of some long-dormant projects, I really mean it. This pair of chairs is finally finished. 
I realized when looking over the old pictures that I have had them since at least 2012.  These chairs were originally donated to a fundraiser, and no one wanted them. The owner didn't want to take them home, and asked me to take them. I did so reluctantly. After various peregrinations between garage, cellar and attic, 

I felt a start would be to at least repair and prep them. This caused somewhat of  a dilemma, as described in an older post:





This type of chair, common in the Pennsylvania area, have various names: Yoke back, plank seat, lyre back and fiddle back (depending on the shape of the splat). Among one group they are called "Schnader" chairs, due to a collection of designs painted by a Mr. Schnader of Pennsylvania in the 1940s.

Typical chair design (source unknown)

 
Base coat of salmon pink



I always liked the bold colorful designs, and had some patterns to work from. But when it finally came time to start painting them, I simply went my own way, creating an original design by building up element by element.

Start of banding and striping

Building up a design (you can see I multi-task)


An original design!


While the design is not an authentic re-creation, it does provide a colorful pair of chairs ready for use, rather than incomplete and nagging at me. Note to self: don't be too willing when someone offers you free furniture!




Thursday, May 11, 2017

The Mystery of the Windmill Mirror


As purchased

I purchased this large mirror at auction. Federal style, but I suspect, based on the construction and some other clues, it is from the 1890-1920 period. I have seen other Federal style mirrors made during this period, and the workmanship is usually of high quality, and there is an adherence to the original that can make them difficult to attribute to a specific period. I have seen some, by the Boston firm "Foster Brothers" that are particularly good reproductions. Another, with a Wallace Nutting label, had some of the best reverse glass painting I've seen. I think these "second period" mirrors intrigue me, since at the time, it would not have been difficult to obtain a period piece. Perhaps the fad of "Colonial" during that period made them in demand, and, like today, many people like "antiques" (as long as they are not old).

Back construction indicates late 19th or early 20th century

Nicely done panel


I appreciated the workmanship on this one, in particular the nice eglomise panel with a diapered pattern on the sides, and a central scene of a windmill. Since the price was reasonable (due to damages), I wasn't concerned with the age, and felt that it may have been a replacement. One day, as is my habit, I was looking on-line at houses for sale, and one in the next town had photo showing my mirror in the living room. Since the house was on the next street over from a well known painter of early American decoration, I wondered if she was connected, and/or executed the glass panel.

Damage detail

The damages, while distracting, were not as difficult to fix as they might appear. One leaf ornament was missing, but this was a common composition ornament, and I already had a mold from another mirror project. A quick casting, and it was ready to gesso and gild to match the others.

The colonnettes and their bases had gesso cracking and losses. Since this was systemic failure of the gesso bond, I took off the gesso and re-applied new gesso. They were then water gilded. As usual, I want my antique mirrors and frames to show wear (which will be more pronounced on the delicate water gilt areas than on the oil gilded sections).

When I get a space to leave this out, I might disassemble the backing and see if there is more information or clues. But for now, with repairs done, it will get packed away out of harm's way.


Finished!









Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Eagle has (Finally) Landed


Finished!


This mirror was purchased a few years back, and due to its size and weight, and difficulty in handling, it was worked on in fits and starts.

My guess is that this is 1930s vintage. These late mirrors are usually weak and not substantial, but this one was heavy and bold looking, approximately 36" high, 28" wide. Unlike traditional wood/gesso, the eagle and perch are solidly cast.


When it arrived it had breaks and a few losses to the side garlands, some missing spherules, and was of course, covered in "radiator paint", which was likely its original finish.

The remaining spherules were metal with a brass finish, and had badly tarnished,  so I knew I would be making replacements.




How it arrived

Gummy green bronze paint - Yum!



The first steps were to strip the finish and take care of breaks and missing pieces. It began to look better to me with the finish stripped. I was debating whether to gild, or perhaps paint it white or gray. I had leeway since it wasn't a period mirror.


Once stripped, repairs can begin.




Gesso day (note new spherules)

I liked it so much in white gesso, I was tempted to leave it that way.



Once I had a coat or two of gesso on it, I decided to gild at least parts of it. Then as I went along, I decided it would be totally gilt, and finished to look older than it is.

Wherever this winds up, there had better be some substantial anchors in the wall. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

First Plein Air of 2017



Picture perfect setting

Early spring means sometimes we have warm (for New England) days while there is still snow on the ground. Around the corner from my house is an old farm, where the owners have made the majority of the property conservation land, available for use by everyone.

Painters at work

This day, several members of the Artist Guild of Shrewsbury got together for the first plein air of the season.  We have painted here before, but this is the first snow visit. In addition to the scenery, as usual, I was attracted to what might not be considered the most scenic, in this case, the piles of logs being readied for removal.

Logs (and mud)

I find painting outdoors improves my work since I have to work fast (and when it starts getting chilly, you work even faster).




In the first painting, I tried to include too much. The second version reduced and simplified, making the composition stronger.

Overwhelmed by options


Simpler is better 

In the third, I wanted to work on getting more dark areas into my watercolor, so I forced myself to mix some very dark paint for the water.

That water feels cold!

After painting, back to the house for refreshments and critique. Looks like the weather will be warm all week, so maybe we'll get out again!


 
Critique session












Friday, December 30, 2016

The December Travels

We typically make some sort of December trip. In years when long distance travel is not feasible, we can take advantage of the many options available to us in the northeast. One favorite is to visit the Yuletide at Winterthur, and the holiday decorating at nearby Longwood Gardens.

Winterthur picks a theme relating to history, holiday traditions, or the lives of the DuPonts. This year's seemed to be a mix, with some vignettes coordinated with their current exhibition of Currier and Ives prints.

Christmas morning, DuPont style
Mr. DuPont wanted nice table settings and decorations

The cut-off date for the collection was pre-Victorian, but this display was created to show 19th century traditions.

Longwood's outdoor lighting is beautiful, but if you can't manage the long walk or the cold, just visiting the acres of conservatories and greenhouses is a winter treat.

I didn't need the scarf and coat inside there.







Organist from Australia (with jeweled jacket)


 With rest breaks, including a carol singalong in the organ hall, we managed to see just about all of it.





Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Small Federal Mirror with Eglomise Panel

 I love these small mirrors (probably because you can fit more of them on your walls). Once again, the panel was broken and there were some touch-ups needed to the gilding. But the gilding was 95% original, the original glass was there for a pattern.

If you have followed this blog, you have seen the process for etched gold leaf under glass (eglomise).


As found

Original cracked and peeling panel

Some of these mirror panels are quite sophisticated and skillfully done; others, such as this one, are far more casual, and were probably the products of production-minded artisans. In these cases, you need to do the replacement with the same feeling  - quickly, freely and without fussing.


Scan of original to use for pattern
New and the original
Some gilding required


The original mirror silvering had completely disintegrated, so a piece of replacement mirror was used. Only the critical areas of the frame received re-gilding; other spots were colored with gouache to make them less distracting. The final result is a mirror that wears its age gracefully.

Finished!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Painting Close to Home



When it's foliage season, with the weather so unusually warm for October, it is hard to resist going out to photograph and paint. And luckily, I don't have to travel far. Down the street is a loop of road where the owners have maintained a picturesque New England setting.

The old cider mill


Even better, they have arranged for the fields out back to be held as conservation land where people are welcome to visit.

No, not Vermont!

Even as the weather turns colder this will be a good place for plein-air painting; - easily accessible and close enough to home for an emergency hot coffee run.




My acrylic of the house



A watercolor of the cider mill window