Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Acrylic Reverse Glass Painting

"Cottage" Acrylic Reverse Glass Painting (pardon my reflection)

I was asked about demonstrating reverse glass painting for a group of teachers as part of their "development days". I was cool to the idea, since the use of oil paint and solvents (not to mention glass) did not make this suitable for the elementary school classroom. Since traditional methods were out, It was suggested that I try it with acrylic paint on acrylic sheet, instead of glass. So, on this first snowy day of the season, I tried this.

The design is based on a typical cottage/river scene, found on many country mirrors. As this was a test, I didn't bother with my usual step of scanning and reversing the original to use as a pattern. I simply placed my acrylic sheet over the original and did the basic outlining with a liquid (rather than heavy body) acrylic, mixed with blending/retardant medium.

I followed the basic steps of reverse glass - outline, glazes for shadow areas, foreground, then sky.

Outlining basic design

Adding glazes to shadow areas

More glazing and color

The back side never looks too good

Some differences (aside from the thrill of completing a reverse glass panel over a couple hours instead of days!):

While you can achieve the transparency via the use of medium, it does not seem to flow onto the "glass" as smoothly when using oil/varnish on glass.

As is the case with my easel painting, the acrylic, even with the medium, still seems to get "gummy", making smooth blends and transitions more difficult.

My other difficulties were due to the use of whatever paints and brushes I had on hand - I wasn't using my traditional palette, and did not have many brushes that were as flexible as I would like. You definitely can't get good results with typical stiff painting brushes.

I suspect that some of these issues could be overcome with more experimentation, and for this test, I was not as painstaking as I normally am.
Finished glass with original

Still, this might be a good option for when you want to teach in an environment when solvent based materials are not allowed.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

The Accidental Frame

In the interest of efficiency, when I have things of my own to frame I may wait to  cut and join the wood frame when I have several to do, even though I may not finish gilding/painting for some time. Sometimes a real long time.

Frame with gold leaf details

In this case, I had an etching purchased several years ago, the frame was cut, and was even gilded and painted. I knew I would include some other design work, but hadn't come to final decisions. In a burst of "let's get some of these unfinished projects out of the way", I added gold leaf design work to the panel of the frame (a "faux sgraffitto" technique).

Since, as with the frames, I often get the mats cut ahead of time, and along with the art work, put them away for safe keeping, I next had to retrieve the art and mat. Amazingly, it was, for once, where I thought it would be. But when I went to assemble the package, something was off. A lot off. the art and mat were for an 8 x 10 frame, and my newly finished frame was 11 x 14.

I know that I sometimes mess up measurements, but this was bad, even for me. I went looking through the other unfinished projects, and found a frame the correct size. In fact, it was even noted on the back that it was meant for the etching.

But, as luck would have it, I did have a painting of mine that fit, and, was much better for the new frame than the one it was in before.

"Power Psychic" oil on canvas by Joseph Rice

Now I just have to finish the other frame. Maybe next year.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Restoration of a 19th Century Frame

One of my regular clients brought in this 19 century frame. Typical of the period, it had varying styles of composition ornament, with the topmost a running garland of leaves. The surface seems to have been a combination of gold leaf in prominent areas, with the rest finished with bronze powder. 

Frame in un-restored condition.

 As these frames aged and dried out, the composition ornament would crack and come loose. There was one significant loss on the top border, and smaller numerous losses to the cove ornament. There had been some old repairs and bronze paint.

Mold and castings.

After re-adhering all the loose sections, I made molds and casts for the replacements. Fitting them in is always tedious, and requires making extras in case of breakage.

Fitting in the replacements.

Finally, gilding and toning to match the coloring and patina of the rest of the frame.

Finished frame.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Plein Air in Phillipston, Massachusetts

So New England!
 We are still in "foliage season" here in New England, but it is getting colder, and we must make the most of it while it lasts.

One of the artists groups invited painters to her family's apple farm in Phillipston, MA. Quintessential New England - apple trees, barns, mountain views - as well has home made soup and apple crisp for lunch!

Lots of photos, some watercolor studies for working up later, and cold, tired feet. A good day.

Hundred mile views from the hilltop

Orange leaves, and still some bright red apples hanging on the tree.

Back side of the neat and tidy barn shown above.
I always seem to go for the "not as pretty" subject matter

My rendition of the old truck. The apple fell on the hood as if meant for me to paint this.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Fall Still-Life Paintings

I did two watercolor still-life paintings for a change. One was inspired by looking at Andrew Wyeth's paintings on a visit to the Farnsworth Museum in Rockland, Maine (even if he was still alive, I don't think he'd be worried about competition from me). The other was of a group of accidental squash (i.e., appearing out of the compost pile from seeds that must have been tossed out). I know there were green acorn squash seeds in the compost, but I don't know where the white one came from.

Both of these are in my grain-painted frames.

Odd Squash

Apple at Rest

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Fall Plein Air Painting

A perfect fall day for plein air painting. The Shrewsbury and Framingham artist guilds met up on the grounds of an 18th century farm in Lincoln, Massachusetts. I was able to complete three small watercolor sketches.

Everyone wanted to be in the sun since it was a bit cool.

The compost and dump pile always appeals to me.

End of the summer, with just a few flowers left.

Getting ready for the next season.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Fall Color in Wiscasset

Let's face it - there's nothing to match the fall colors in New England. These were all taken around Wiscasset during the Columbus Day weekend.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Gilt Frame with French Mat

Finally framed!

If you think the hiatus from posts has been long, think of the owner of this artwork given to me in spring for framing! This is a watercolor by a decorative artists, Walter Wright of Vermont. He painted in many different styles and techniques, creating everything from trays and furniture to Christmas cards.

This appears to have been inspired by Italian Commedia delle Arte characters. Walter Wright was interested in many different forms of art, and may have copied the characters from a book or a picture in a museum.

Now deceased, Walter was most active during the 1940-1960 period.

This piece was purchased by the current owner at an auction of Wright's work held by family members. Since it had an "old world" feeling, I made a water gilded frame, with deep red bole to pick up the reddish colors in the costumes. The tone of the mat was chosen to make the foxing age (staining) of the paper less conspicuous, and a watercolor panel added for some extra elegance.

Fortunately, the client felt it was all worth the wait!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Etching Class at Worcester Art Museum

"Rhubarb" etching by Joseph Rice

This past week I took the one-day etching class at WorcesterArt Museum with instructor Randy LeSage.

Since it wasn't a full day, I expected an overview of the process, maybe a few test marks, etc. Boy, was I surprised when we all completed copper etching plates and a number of finished prints.

Sketchbook and copper plate

I tossed a couple of my sketchbooks in my tote bag, so I was able to use a drawing of my rhubarb plants as the basis for my first attempt at etching. I was somewhat familiar with the printmaking process (in theory, at least), and was comfortable with etching tool as I do etched gold leaf with for my reverse glass paintings.

The plates were prepared for us with cleaning and application of ground coat to etch through. After transferring a design, we scratched through the ground, then dipped the plates in an acid solution to etch the lines into the copper. Some of us repeated this more than once, to enhance and refine our designs.

Inking the plates was more time consuming (and messier) than I thought it would be, but we quickly got the hang of it. (I made a note to myself that this is an art form where a studio assistant would be a big help for this grunt work!).

Instructor Randy LeSage at the inking table

It was exciting to see the first print off the press. In spite of today's computer generated production, there is something to be said for the artist and artisan aspects of traditional printmaking. Thanks to Randy, each student had complete success with this class.

If you have ever thought about trying this, make sure you sign up for this class the next time it is offered.

A student pulls her first print
I wound up with eight final prints

Removal of the ground after first print, and a change of ink colors gave a variety of final prints.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Crossing the Finish Line with Two More Projects

The overmantel mirror is now completed and installed, and the Salem mirror panel safe in Florida.

Once all the gesso repairs to the overmantel were done (as shown in Part I), coloring, gilding and toning began.

The bottom right section of "ebony" base was missing, so a new piece was made to fit.

Base replacement in progress

By securing a new backboard covering almost the entire back, I was able to pull the frame together, and the separations between the dividers and bottom rail are almost gone. This also allowed installation of an aluminum cleat system that will not only support the weight (and due to the plate glass mirror, this is heavy!), but will also keep it from shifting on the wall.

I helped the clients install this. A piece of plywood was mounted to the wall, since it was not a wall built with standard stud spacing, and had lathe/plaster that would have made it difficult to mount directly. The bottom sections of the interlocking cleat pairs were mounted on this board, then the mirror was dropped into place. Since this was a job requiring all hands on deck, no photos of this process.

In the end, all worked out well, the mirror seems secure (and if it ever falls, we'll blame it on the cat).

Installed (disregard the ghost in the mirror)

The Salem mirror project also reached completion. This required sending the finished glass panel to Florida, packed in a way that kept it secure, but with no pressure or material in contact with the painted surface on the back of the glass (concern about abrasion and humidity led to this decision). The customer was able to install the glass successfully, and kindly sent me a picture of the completed mirror.

As hanging now in client's home

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Regency Style Overmantel Mirror (Part I)

Actually looks OK (from a distance)

This Regency-style gilt tri-part overmantel mirror was a revival piece, probably made in the early 20th century. Gilding was probably done with bronzing powders (flash gilding) and or/composition gold. It retains its original heavy mirror plates.

The overall condition was fair/good, with typical damages from age and moving/dropping. Most severe were the losses to the composition fretwork on upper and lower left, and lower right corner blocks and the ring molding at the lower left colonette.. There were noticeable gesso losses, particularly on the right hand colonette, right-most upright with lifting/missing gesso on flat area (probably from mirror being stored on that end against a damp floor), and along bottom rail where loss was probably due to shrinkage of the wood.

Gesso loss on colonette
More gesso loss and lifting

Along the bottom is a wooden strip painted black with a missing section, and separation of bottom rail from dividers due to either shrinkage, or more likely, the weight of mirror plate when mirror was hung on wall rather than resting on a mantel.

Dividers separating from bottom rail
Spit because someone put nails in!
Missing base piece and section of fretwork
More fretwork damage. 

The goal was to make it presentable, but as with other mirrors of this age and type, pursue all deteriorating areas would be a never-ending project.

The treatment plan including cleaning, replacements, gesso infills, gilding and toning. Most importantly, there was a need for an alternative mounting option, since the client wants to hang on the wall, rather than resting on a mantel as was originally intended for this mirror.

We start by cleaning.

First steps were cleaning. Using a conservator's soap solution that leaves no residue, I was able to take off quite a bit of grime as you can see from the used swabs and towels. Ewww.

The repairs begin by replicating the missing cornice fretwork sections. There were originally molded compo, which becomes fragile as it ages and dries. Molds were taken, but the casts were not satisfactory. I had better results by applying a compound and carving directly, since the forms were so geometric.

The next step was to apply gesso to any of the new work, as well as to fill the areas of loss. The gesso will then be scraped/sanded down to the proper level. Gesso work is the most tedious aspect of any restoration.

 Don't worry, it will get better in the next installment!