Saturday, December 30, 2017

Like Day and Night

View from Fort Hill Street in Wiscasset

There are scenes that you may walk by frequently, and always "meant to take a photo" or think "that would make a good painting subject". It can take a long time for these inspirations to come to fruition.

The owner of a property near mine in Wiscasset, Maine, has been converting the hillside into an almost vertical landscape. When viewed from my street, you would see very little as it is at the edge of the hill. In addition, a number of trees blocked the view. With the removal of some trees, he now has more light for his yard, and it has opened up the view of that section of the village.

The inspiration for the painting came from seeing this view on a daily basis while out walking the dogs, although it took me a couple of years to get around to it. Looking down on the buildings from this vantage point made it seem more toy-like and whimsical than most of my other scenes. Rather than be technically realistic, I did take some liberties with placement and color to create a fun and colorful view.

Overlooking Wiscasset Village, Acrylic, 24 x 30

Painting finally completed, and won second place at the Artist Guild of Shrewsbury's annual show in November, 2017.

Second Place winner

Looking down from my street to the other side of the village, I was taken by the view of the food shop and bakery on the next street. Yes, while walking the dogs, at night this time.

Bad, fuzzy photo

I did a small watercolor sketch, with the idea of making a more finished painting at some point. Again, a hiatus of  two years before completing the second painting. Again, liberties were taken.

Watercolor, 8 x 10

Baker's Moon, Acrylic, 18 x 24

Monday, November 13, 2017

Does this artist's name ring a bell?

I happened to come across these two paintings listed in a Skinner's  auction catalog. The paintings, while pleasant and competent, might not seem that striking. The name of the artist, Edward Darley Boit, may not immediately ring a bell with most people.

Lot 1016Edward Darley Boit (American, 1842-1916) Hillside Landscape

Lot 1362Edward Darley Boit (American, 1840-1915) Villa, San Remo 

What makes them of interest is the connection the artist has to a very well known painting, possibly the most famous painting in Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Yes, those are his daughters in the famous Sargent painting.

The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit (1882)
John Singer Sargent (American, 1856–1925)

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Swept Away in the Flood - of 1938

"How high's the water, Momma?"

More than the lobster or lighthouses, your trip to Maine should include a stop at the Miles Hospital rummage sale. Years ago, these were enormous three day affairs under large tents. Merchandise was collected all year, and dispersed in one weekend. This was quite a fundraiser; by the time the ended a few years ago they were taking in over 100K  - amazing, when you consider that you could pretty much fill your car with purchases and not spend over $20.

They now have monthly sales at their collection center. I usually find some household stuff, books, glasses to replace the ones that get broken, etc.

This time I also found a painting. It is definitely an amateur effort, made appealing by the label on the back with the name of the artist, the date (May, 1938) and the person to whom it was given.

No "regifting"

I couldn't quite figure out whether the scene was accurate. Trees seemed to be growing out of the river - was this intentional, or a failed attempt at depicting snow? I knew there was a hurricane in New England that year, but that was in September, and this was clearly a winter scene. A quick search turned up stories of major flooding in March of that year due to extremely heavy rainfall in Maine. Aha, she was probably painting the effects of the flooding rivers.

While not in the category of Grandma Moses, it is still a fun souvenir of Maine history.

Label Text: Painted by Mamie Paine, May 25, 1938. Town name blacked out, but faded enough to make out "Plymouth Maine".

Given to Vera Tasker. Town name blacked out, but faded enough to make out "Dixmont Maine".

This seems logical, as these two towns are close to each other.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Free Chairs?


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.


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Eagle has (Finally) Landed


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