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.


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

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Milling About

On the annual (and obligatory) foliage viewing trip this fall I meandered through the Monadnock region of New Hampshire, finally making a visit to Harrisville.

I heard about this old New England mill village years ago, both on the news (You can Buy this Entire Town!) and in various magazines. Seeing as how it was so close, I made the effort to check it out, and I was totally blown away.

I expected to see a collection of old, decrepit buildings with an accretion of industrial and commercial components. Instead, it is almost pristine in its 19th century appearance. In fact, if not for the automobiles of visitors, you would have to look hard to see modern day intrusions.

The short story is that at one point the corporation owning the complex went bankrupt, and a group formed to purchase and preserve the buildings, as well as obtaining easements that preserve the surrounding landscape. While there is not much commercial/retail for the casual visitor, just to wander about is worth making the trip.

The weather was perfect, I took lots of photographs, and expect to get some paintings out of this excursion.

For more information see

Monday, October 3, 2016

Plein Air Day in Phillipston

A gray day in the country.

The Massachusetts Plein Air Meetup Group spent the day out on the farm in Phillipston, Massachusetts. The farm belongs to the parents of one member, and they graciously allowed us to come paint there again this year (and served  us lunch!).

The huge maple is glorious when the leaves turn

The hilltop has amazing views of the countryside, and even on a gray, damp day it was impressive. Artists eagerly set up their easels to enjoy and paint the vistas. Joseph, of course, with his usual perverse nature instead took his setup down behind the barn.

I first spotted one lone pumpkin remaining in the remnants of the vegetable garden. While everything around it was dying off, this shone brightly in spite of the overcast sky.

The Last Pumpkin

We were not at peak foliage yet, so in a continued search for color I located the heavy equipment in the back. The front of the barn is as neat and trim as anything, but the back, as is typical in New England, doesn't get any attention. I painted this last year as well, but this year's painting was more successful.

Some bright colors

Looking forward to going back in the Spring..

Art work on display

And finally, the critique before heading home

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