Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Transferring a drawing, rain, and some photos

As I said yesterday, I need a whole lot more foreground and air around the tree that I started the painting of yesterday. Shoehorning the thing onto a 9 by 12 really threw me. So I am going to take another panel and give myself more room. Here's how.This will be real basic for some of you, but others out there have never seen this, and I want to show the simple technique for transferring a drawing.

First, I taped tracing paper from a roll, over the panel from yesterday. I then pulled a tracing from the painting below, just the major lines are enough.

I run my soft pencil around the edge of the panel to mark that, and then I tape the tracing paper into the middle of a larger panel. I use artists transfer paper,that's important. Unlike carbon paper (does anyone still use that stuff, now that no one types? ) transfer paper has no wax in it. Painting over anything containing wax can be a problem, particularly in water media. Here is the transfer paper, it comes in a number of different colors, but I only stock two kinds, black for working on white grounds, and yellow for transferring to dark grounds.

I slip a partial sheet of transfer paper between my tracing and the panel. I go over the lines again with my ebony pencil and then I have this.

Then I drove up to Laconia, about an hour north and set up again in front of my tree. This time I have plenty of room around the tree to add whatever amount of the surroundings I want. There is a pond with deep black water and lilly pads and colored leaves floating in it, and there are cattails across the foreground, I know I want those. I also want more air around that tree so I will paint out from it a ways, and then crop to what I want to keep. I do need the cropped image to be 3 by 4 in proportion though.

As soon as I set up and went to work it began to rain heavily, so I packed the whole kit up and left. On my way home I seemed to drive out of the rain, so I took the exit for Canterbury village, an old Shaker farm that has been preserved. I know it has stone walls and good trees. I am trying to build up my photo collection of these. Although I don't usually work from photos, autumn color is short and I intend to rearrange them a lot when I make the paintings. I want to make some tonalist earth colored studio pieces. Here are a couple of the pictures I took.

This one below, is looking along an old Shaker wall with one of their communal fields on the left. I guess this tree is old enough to have been there in those days.I like to take pictures in the last hour of light, even on a gray day I get the look I want. Lately when I have been out painting, I make a point upon packing up, of getting out my camera and walking around to take some pictures.

I was feeling so BLESSED to be in New England today. I don't often throw that word around, but I don't know any other way to describe how perfect the back roads of New Hampshire are in the autumn as the light fails.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Destroying paintings for disposal

I have been talking about throwing paintings away. I would remind you, that you must ruin them before you do. I have known artists who have found art they threw away, in a local antique shop. There are people out there who pull things out of the trash even at a transfer station. If I am throwing away a big stack of paintings on panel I cancel them with spray paint. There are very few people who can afford to have a restorer inpaint over a spray painted X. Very large panels can be set over a 2 x 4 on the floor and snapped in half with your foot. Paintings on canvas need to be removed from their stretchers, which you will keep, and slashed with a razor knife.

I am beginning a new project and I will chronicle the steps in its design and completion. It is a painting of the Perley Oak, in Laconia, New Hampshire.. This monumental tree is the largest White Oak in New Hampshire. It is over 20 feet in diameter and is over 400 years old. Unfortunately it is also sick. I have been commissioned by a private party to paint a picture of this tree before it is gone. Here is the first sketch that I made today.

This is a 9 x 12 done in raw umber. I intend this to be a autumn picture although I want the color to be very restrained, dull gold, russet and gray. It is still very green out there now though. I will probably paint a series of monochrome studies first, when I get the design happening I will either do a bigger one on location or in the studio from the studies. The finished painting will be an 18 by 24. A 9 x 12 has the same proportions as an 18 x 24, that's important when designing a piece, make sure your studies have the same proportions as your intended finished work.

I already know what the problem is with this study. it needs a lot more foreground, tomorrow I will go give it another shot. There is a pond in front of the oak and I want more of that. This tree is so huge it is a struggle getting the thing on to the canvas. I will let you see what happens next, tomorrow if the weather cooperates. I will show you another little trick to deal with designing a foreground into the piece.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Reformatting your failures

Here's a painting I did several years ago on Vinalhaven. I had it out in a gallery and I got it back unsold. I "reformatted" it. Here's how I do that.

Periodically I clean out my studio and I always have a big pile of paintings that I started and didn't quite work, or I showed and they came back unsold. I throw them on the floor, and I slide an empty frame around on them and I see if there is a smaller, better picture concealed on the larger canvas. I have a couple of sizes of small frames with which to do this. Most of the time I don't find anything, but often enough tho make it worthwhile I do. Radically cropping a picture often tightens it down to just the most important part of the painting.

The painting of the lobster shack above didn't seem to have an area that was the most important. There were areas all over the canvas that vied for the viewers attention. I cropped it down to an 11 by 14 and I came out with this.

I think it is much improved, it focuses better and I threw away a lot of distracting stuff. The painting will now cost a lot less and that might be good too. I don't paint many small pictures, so I can use them in the inventory.

So there's the little trick. Lay your failure pictures out on the floor and with an empty frame, hunt for smaller pictures within them. When I find one, I run a pencil around the inside of the rabbet of the frame marking off the boundary's of the new painting. Then if it is on a panell I cut it down on my table saw, or if it is on a canvas I cut it down with a scissors leaving two inches extra all the way around my line, then I restretch that. I have ended up with some real nice little paintings this way and I have sold many of them.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Lots of starts

Here's a demo I did for my workshop. It is a one shot 18 by 24. its pretty rough, but I thought you might enjoy seeing what at least some of them look like when they first come home. I don't think I will actually finish this one, but I have a picture in my head, and I can use this one to get color notes. This whole painting was done with one No. 12 nylon brush. I have been fooling around with some softer brushes lately. It may just be a phase I am going through. I am always fooling around with new materials .

One of the students in the workshop asked me what percentage of my paintings "work out". I think I answered 50 per cent. I do go through periods of time where that average is much higher. The high mortality rate is for starts I make outside. As I have said before, I bring them inside and work them up. Of those paintings that were started outside that are elected for finishing in the studio, I am guessing 90% end up in a frame. maybe more. The point of this is I make a hell of a lot of paintings. I have literally done thousands. I ruthlessly cull any start that isn't above the ordinary.

I have painted so long, that by and large they are all passably well drawn. I can get the look of a place, pretty much every time. The paintings that fail do so not because they are short on information, they fail because they are short on art. When my paintings are weak it is because they are matter of fact. I look at them and think,"so what?". Sometimes there is a spark of something in a start that leads me to say,"there is something here to work with". Sometimes the start is a "painting with a problem" and I can perform surgery of some sort and fix it. I believe in cutting my losses, I don't think that everything I do is golden. But if I do a lot of paintings, some of them will be good.


I was exhorting my students to do lots and lots of paintings. There are some artists out there who do only about six paintings a year. They work so carefully on each one trying to craft it as perfectly and as tightly as possible. The problem with that approach for a learning painter is that design is learned by designing lots of paintings, many hundreds. If you only make six paintings a year you don't do enough to learn to design them well. In the art magazines I frequently see paintings that are super tight and obviously took a long time to make, but the design has some horrible flaw, or is just uninteresting. Often these paintings are made from a photograph and they have no design at all, except for cropping. I suggest that you do lots of starts and one shot paintings and stack em up. You may not want to be a one shot painter when you grow up. My work I show is almost never premier coup,that is, made all at one go. But it is great to get lots of mileage under your brush and that's how to do it.

Tomorrow I am going to show you a way to utilize some of those starts that don't work out as well as the keepers.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Still another little trick

Here's a picture I am working on. It is unfinished, but I may post a picture of it finished. One of the things I have been doing in this blog is posting step by step pictures of my paintings as I make them. It is a lot harder than I thought it would be for a couple of reasons. First, I get all hung up in the painting and forget to take the photos, that has happened several times. But the number one thing that has made it hard is this. When I get the photos open in photoshop it is obvious that I have not moved smoothly to the completion of the painting. I am embarrassed to post them. I have sometimes reworked an area several times to get it right, and the photos show that. I look at the photos and think "it looks like I haven't a clue what I am doing".

If I were a studio guy,and sometimes I am, I might make a finished drawing on the canvas before I started to paint, but as I am usually working outside I tend to just lay it in. I do usually do a monotone study under the painting (grisialle). So sometimes the painting looks OK in the end but my path their is less linear than I would like. Painting is really hard for me and getting harder. I sometimes stumble across the finish line.

Here's the little trick. I have done a lot of advertising over the years and been reproduced in magazines and on postcards. I was often surprised when I saw my work reduced, that some dumb compositional problem or an error in drawing jumped out at me. The painting looked fine to me until I saw it tiny, and then I saw the problems. After having the unpleasant experience of discovering a painting I thought was good, look horrible shrunk down, I began photographing them myself first and looking at several paintings I had, to see which ones looked the best in miniature. I would often find that as soon as I saw the little photograph ( from the developer in those days) I could quickly fix the paintings problems.

That led me to this practice. I photograph and print out small images of the paintings I am working on. I print them perhaps 2" by 3" and look for problems. I virtually ALWAYS find something. So tonight's little trick is this. When you are nearing completion of a painting, print out a little photo of it and see what it looks like in reduction. Just like looking at your work in a mirror, it will give you a fresh eye, and a chance to spot flaws that you didn't notice full size. I haven't a clue how it works!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Another little trick

I often work on a painting and build up way too much paint. At the end of the days work I want to get some of that off, but leave as much of the image intact as I can, to work on tomorrow. Here's how I do that.

I tear a page from an old phone book I keep for this purpose. I don't know about your house, but around here they seem to pile up. Every few months another mysteriously appears on our stoop. I lay the page onto the surface of the painting, and flatten it out with the my palm. I then pull the paper away lifting off most of the excess paint like so............

I rubbed the paper into the wet paint pretty firmly, so it removed a lot of the paint. Still, it left enough of my work visible and undamaged so that I can see the drawing and continue on its fresh surface tomorrow, when I take another run at it. It is possible to remove less paint by just placing the page onto the painting and removing it. Some of the detail will inevitably be lost in the process, for me, that is not such a problem. Because I have painted the passage once before, doing it again happens very quickly.

Because I have painted for so long, I can paint very quickly if I know what I want a passage to look like. Knowing what it ought to look like is the hard part. Not knowing what the painting should look like is the source of most of my painting problems, not the actual manipulation of the paint.

On another subject...I taught a workshop last weekend and at one point I sat on the open tail gate of a truck and talked to them about painting. I spoke on a number of things, but the thing I was most hesitant to tell them, they actually took rather well. That is, "Those of you who are struggling out here, are all doing it for the same reason, your drawing ability is not sufficient to carry you through the problems presented by the landscape. I felt kind of bad about saying it. This is not a small problem I pointed out to them.

That has started me thinking, how do I suggest they learn. I am a lot more useful to them if I offer a solution after I point out a problem. The short easy answer that I could give would be, there are lots of small teaching ateliers scattered around that can teach you to draw well enough to deal with the difficulties of drawing the landscape. I had one atelier trained painter in the workshop, and he was fully able to handle the drawing. There were also a few students who, though a level below that one fellow, were able to make sense of the landscape before them. Their drawing was not as elegant and confident but they were able to get the picture on the canvas and get things in their proper proportions and relationships to one another. I questioned them a little bit. One had done a number of highly finished still life paintings, and the other was in a weekly sketch group that met to draw the figure, another had just painted a lot outside.

Many people are not in a place in their life where they can just drop everything and attend a full time atelier. They have mortgages, families, and jobs. I have begun asking myself, how can they get themselves trained well enough in drawing to confidently place a landscape on the canvas? My guess is that still life painting and figure groups are the answer. I will continue to mull this over and I will address this again.

I haven't written a whole lot about drawing in this blog. It seems like the format of a blog lends itself well to some things, like discussing ideas and design. Drawing is ideally taught by a master correcting a students drawings. I don't know how I could do that in a blog, but I'm working on it.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Richard Lack 1928 - 2009

Richard Lack, image from the Gandy gallery

On Tuesday Richard Lack died. Let me tell you a little about him and what he did. Richard Lack was from Minnesota and studied at the Minneapolis College of Art. He was interested in realist and old master painting and went to New York hoping to find instruction in that. He was unable to find what he was looking for until one day as he was copying a painting in the Met, he was approached by another young artist who told him about R.H.Ives Gammells small atelier in Boston. From 1950 until 1956 Lack (with a couple of years taken off to serve in Korea ) studied with Ives in the Fenway studios.

In 1957 Lack returned to Minnesota. I remember hearing how disappointed Gammell was that he did not stay in Boston. With (I believe) financial assistance from E.T.Greenshields and Ives Gammell Lack in 1969 opened the Atelier Lack. An atelier is a studio school based on the 19th century French methods of teaching. Both men hoped to foster a resurrection of traditional painting in America. They certainly got their moneys worth. Dozens of ateliers spread across the world have their roots in the Atelier Lack. He trained students who set up their own ateliers . There is now an international web of teaching ateliers mostly because of Richard Lack, setting up his own, in Minneapolis, of all places.

In the Atelier Lack, students were taught in the hybrid Boston school-French methods of mostly visual draftsmanship before the cast and with a focus on still life, portraits and figures. Lack took the Gammell teaching system and work ethic and made an organized "school" for painters out of it. He said " I can teach you to paint" in a time when the very idea of teaching someone to paint was in doubt. 1969 was in the time of total dominance by the Avant Garde school of thought that still runs the academic institutions, but does not have anything like the hold it once did on the larger art world. What he set out to do was intensely radical and he was treated like a pariah in the art world. But there were plenty of young students who wanted what he had. I was one.

I became aware of Richard Lack in the late sixties, I think it was just as, or just before he established his atelier. I lived eighty miles south of Minneapolis in Rochester, Minnesota. Rochester had a fine little Art Center with an exhibition space that did revolving shows. My mother took classes there studying art history in what must have been an excellent program that went on for many years. Oddly, I still remember the name of the woman who taught it, Polly Krinke. While at the Art Center my mother saw a show of the work of Richard Lack and insisted that I go see it too. I did and I guess I was impressed, but I was too young to realize what it was and I supposed that the Minneapolis College of Art (and later, design) would teach me what I needed to know. It is important to stress how totally naive, stupid and bereft of any good sense at all I was at this point.

I drifted through art school for a a year and the University art department for another, until I met a student of Richard Lack one evening in the etching labs and was very impressed with his work. I told that story here. At his suggestion I visited the Atelier Lack and signed up for an course of evening drawing classes. The Atelier Lack was up a flight of stairs in a section of Minneapolis called uptown that was full of low rise office buildings and stores from the streetcar area. Uptown was a bustling place and the quiet deliberation that went on in the studio was a big change after walking through the busy city surrounding it. I remember all these years later the layout of the Atelier.There were little individual carrels set up for each of the students to study cast drawing and still life.

He had a figure model and we surrounded her on drawing horses, those sort of bench-drawing board- easels, and he came and gave each of us individual instruction. I wish I could remember more or what he told me but I do not. I know I was encouraged to copy drawings and did quite a few, mostly Ingres. I do remember a student asking him to dissect the composition of an old master (I think Italian) painting in a book. A semicircle of us stood around him and we listened to his description of the rhythmic lines that bound the design together.

I believe I was told by a student, or more likely a monitor who oversaw the evening classes sometimes, that there was no room left in the atelier, or perhaps they didn't take me very seriously and gave me that reply. Either way I began the correspondence with Ives Gammell that would lead me to Boston and my training there. I don't remember that I took more than that one series of evening drawing class and I certainly passed unnoticed through the scene there. I have so many times like Forrest Gump been a fly on the wall in some very interesting places .

Richard Lack was himself a fine painter and did many portraits, here is one of his daughter

Richard Lack painted landscapes, still life allegorical pictures and who knows what else. He was an excellent teacher partly because he could already do most anything you wanted to learn.

In 1983 Richard Lack while organizing a show of his work and that of some students and friends coined the phrase "Classical Realism" that phrase is heard so often now, it is easy to forget it didn't always exist. Lack coined it to define what he and like minded artists were doing, and to differentiate it into a separate category from just realism, which of course, would include photo realism and Andy Warhols soup cans, popular at the time.

Lack turned the Atelier over to several of his students in 1992 due to health problems, and it became simply "The Atelier". The class I took there was well over thirty years ago and I have no idea what goes on there now. I am glad that although I never really knew Richard Lack, I had a chance to meet him and study briefly in his studio. The little atelier that Richard Lack started had a big role in the revival of interest in traditional painting and that influence is growing geometrically now.Ives Gammell never lived to see the change, but Richard Lack did. I hope he was satisfied when he died that his had been a life well lived and of service to the art that was so important to him.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A little trick for showing objects in bright sunlight.

images courtesy of

Here is a Sargent watercolor that shows an interesting effect. I have pointed this out before, but I want to dig a little deeper in to it. I was teaching the workshop this past weekend and we had lots of bright sunlight. I was telling the workshop participants about this idea and since it is fresh in my mind I will tell you about it too. Tonight I want to show some artists representing the brightest sunlight. The idea I want to mention is


When an object takes enormous amounts of sunlight the color is "blown out", that is the light side of the object becomes more the color of the light than its local color. But you can still tell the color story of the object by using the local color to form the shadow. Sargent is using that effect in the watercolor above.

This wonderfully tactile and mysterious Sargent of the floor of a Venetian church shows him using the same device. The light obliterates everything in the center of the painting. As the stones of the floor turn into shadow, their color is revealed. Sargent does this up in the top middle of the painting also, ,see that blast of light from the window hitting there? As the wall recedes to the right , the color in it appears. Notice too how Sargent has linked almost all of the darks in this painting into one great decorative unit of interesting and varied shapes.

Above is a Sargent portrait . I could have used a number of his portraits as an example but this is one I don't think I have seen many times. Look at her breast and neck area, the light is so bright that almost all of the detail disappears into the glare. Over to the right of her neck Sargent shows the local color of her skin and tells that part of the story.

Here is Sorolla doing the same thing. Look at the light on the ground around this figure. Where the light hits. there is nearly pure white paint, Sorolla uses the shadow to tell us what color the ground actually is. The lights are telling the story of the light, and the shadows the story of the color.The next time you are out in the brightest sunlight painting, try this. It allows you to still go for the value and not worry about keeping the color in an object which might prevent you from getting to the highest values. Knowing you can cheat the color into the shadow will allow you to go for the glare of the highest lights.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Some pictures of approaching fall in New England

Again I have returned late, this time from the last day of teaching my workshop in Jaffrey New Hampshire. Like last night I am way too tired to write very much. I will post some photos I took at the end of the day. We painted on an old farm, that has been in one family for generations. Fall is slowly taking over here, although it was very warm today. The autumn color happens so quickly that some trees change by the hour.

Some of you live in California or Florida, those are idyllic places and have benign climates. But I am certain that all of you would like New England weather in the fall. It is really lovely here this time of the year.

The old stone walls crisscross this property and most of new England and their gray green color is a good foil for the bright leaves. I like that there is still plenty of green this time of the early fall as it also is a counter to all that red and orange.

I shot these in the last half hour of the light, and when it rakes in at a low angle it illuminates the trunks and branches of the oaks and maples. It looks like an Inness painting this time of year up here.

We painted about as hard as you could for three days and went home exhausted. I did anyway.
There was a lot of camaraderie as we ate together in the evenings and all worked pretty much as a group. Including myself, there were 12, and that is a great size for a workshop. I have taught as many as 18, but that is too physically demanding. I am doing 20 minute private lessons all day for about 10 hours nonstop, usually somewhere in there I do a demo painting.

I think this view looks like one of those tonalist paintings I was showing a week or two ago.

This last shot has such great shapes in it although it does seem a little melancholy. It too looks a little like a tonalist painting.

My life returns to normal tomorrow and I can assemble some more ambitious posts.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Workshop scenes, Jaffrey New Hampshire

Here's a photo I took this evening at the workshop. It was a perfect day and it is slowly turning into fall out there. We have been painting on a farm with enormous open fields and ancient trees and stonewalls. It has been a great place to work. Very New England!

I am so tired from driving and teaching and driving back again that the most I can do this evening is post a few photos. I will write more again tomorrow but for tonight here are some photos from today's workshop location and of the participants.

There are eleven students in the workshop and we all seemed to quickly get to know one another and it has been a lot of fun. I, of course, am getting run ragged. I keep drinking Moxie and running from easel to easel. I have done a demo for a couple of hours each day. We have been on location at 9;00 AM and walked off it at about 7;00 every night. Total immersion, then we all have gone out and had an excellent dinner together at a big table in a restaurant in Jaffrey. Here are a few more shots of the beautiful area we have been painting in PERFECT weather.

I will see you all tomorrow. Hopefully I will have recovered.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The rudest visitor I ever had in my Gallery

The picnic, by James Tissot, image from

I taught a workshop today. From the time I rolled out this morning till I walked back in the door was twelve hours, most of it on my feet and thinking and talking. I am ruined. So tonight's post is mainly to avoid missing a day. Tonight I am going to tell you the story of the absolute worst visitor I ever had in my gallery . I did about fifteen years of retail galleries in Rockport, Massachusetts over the years, and in several different locations around the town . I must have seen hundreds of thousands of visitors. Most were the way people are, that is they walked in, looked at my paintings and then went on their way to the next store. Some were very friendly, a few were rude, and an even smaller number were horrid. But there was one visitor who eclipsed them all as the most singularly dreadful visitor I ever had. She was so nasty that she was in a league of her own, no one else has ever approached her in terms of venom or malice.

There was a guy who knelt to pet my old hound Trey, who lay in the middle of the gallery floor and greeted everyone with his tail, thumping it on the floor if they payed him any attention at all. He was a remarkable animal, a giant golden retriever, red, the color of an Irish setter and he weighed 130 pounds. This guy remarks as he pets Trey, I like your dog a whole lot more than I like your art man......

This woman was nastier than the pug faced and bald headed skeptic who gestured at one of my 8 by 10's with a very cheap cigar and dismissively asked if I would take ten dollars for it.

There was the woman who innocently tried to give me twenty five dollars for a twenty five hundred dollar painting. She knew a good deal when she saw one. Her husband just shook his head in disbelief. I tried not to be insulted, she just didn't know what paintings cost, and misread the tag.. No malice there.

But all of these were outdone by one dumpy and magnificently malevolent English woman who walked into my gallery one afternoon wearing all black clothes and dark sunglasses. As she walked around my gallery she looked at my paintings and said "I like art that is spiritual. My art is spiritual. This art is not!

I was at a loss for words, that doesn't happen too often to me. But THAT didn't earn her the title of nastiest. She left the gallery and I was more amazed than wounded that someone could be so unpleasant.
I was still smoking cigarettes in those days, and an hour or so later I was out on the sidewalk in front of my gallery under my big sign that said Stapleton Kearns Gallery, and she came walking around the corner towards me.

When she drew even with me she paused for a second, looked up at the sign and in a very English accent said" Stapleton Kearns, now there's a name that won't go down in art history, if you don't mind me saying" and then she walked on.

I will never know who she was and I remember thinking at the time that this woman was trying to injure me, an absolute stranger to her, for no reason other than I was an artist with a gallery and she probably resented that. She had what I came to to call artist two syndrome. I will tell you about that tomorrow night.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Securing oversized stretchers in a frame

Here's a way to secure a big canvas on oversized stretchers into a frame. It is hard to stock offsets in every size and so I fit the big canvases using screw eyes. First I put the canvas into the frame, and with a pencil I draw a line one the side of the stretchers just above the rabbet, like this.

Then with an awl I put holes along that line, several on each side and several on each stretcher side of the canvas .
Then I remove the canvas from the frame and put a screw eye in each of the holes I have made. I turn the screw eyes into the wood using my awl for leverage like so....

Then, after I have placed all of my screw eyes, I put the canvas back in the frame. The screw eyes should sit just on or slightly above the frame, like this.....

Then I put a screw through each of the screw eyes, into the back of the frame.

Here's what each screw eye should look like when it is finished.

Two or three of those on each side of the canvas should hold the painting in its frame. It also looks real slick.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Down to the wire

As I have said before I am a super left brainer. So I am fond of jigs and story poles and measuring sticks. I find the position for the hole I will use for the screw eye or D ring by measuring with what ever I have handy that's about the right size,. Here I am using a wire cutters. I will do the same thing on the other side. I want that hole about a third the way down from the top. I make a nice hole with my awl. I just push it by hand down into the frame, you don't need to hit it with a hammer! You are going to either screw the D ring to the frame with this hole or turn a screw eye into it. Both go much more easily if you mark, and then start the hole with an awl.

You can see that I am working on my fitting table with the frame face down onto the mattress pad I have there to protect its front. I always put the picture on the table with its top towards me. If I don't, sometimes I will put the wire on, and then when I turn the picture over the wire is across the bottom and not the top of the frame. I make a point of having protocols for a lot of things, if I always do them the same way, and in the same order I screw them up less often.

There is the little D Ring , but you could use a screw eye too. That works just as well. Both D rings and srew eyes come in a variety of different sizes for different weights of paintings.
Here is the address of United, a company that sells D rings and about a zillion other items for the framing industry. I haven't placed an order with them in a long time. They sell things in large quantitys. It takes a while to go through a thousand D rings.

Here are a couple of spools of picture wire. The one in front is a plastic coated medium weight wire. The spool in back holds a braided wire, that is rated for a heavier painting. I got that from Jerrys Artrarama. You have to be careful with picture wire, it is easy to cut or poke your fingers with the stuff. I have done that many times and then bled on the frame.

Pull the wire through the ring or screw eye. Now WATCH CLOSELY! the next part is important.

You need to loop the wire and send it through the screw eye a second time! This will keep it from slipping. Here is another shot of that.

Pull it tight, and then you are on to the next step.Twist about 6 inches of wire around the the hanging wire like so.
Now go to the other side and repeat the process. From now on you will carry the painting by the wire as much as you can. Every time you put your acid laden thumb on the front and center of the top rail of a frame, you wear away a little more of the finish. Try to keep your hands off the fronts of your frames. Let the interns at the galleries ruin em.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

A visit to Old Lyme

I took a drive down to the Old Lyme Art Association today. I am going to write a little about that and we can return to the fitting table and some nice screw eyes and D rings tomorrow. I was invited to be in a show there called The New England Landscape, that opens on Friday Sept 25 and runs until December 5.

At the turn of the century artists began coming to paint in the summer and stay at the Florence Griswold House. The first was Henry Ward Ranger who was a seminal tonalist painter. The American impressionist painters followed and for a generation Old Lyme Connecticut was THE American Impressionist summer art colony. It drew Childe Hassam, Willard Metcalf, and numerous others including Bruce Crane who I wrote about a week or two ago.

In 1907 Metcalf did a painting of the Flo Griz, as it is affectionately called. It was of the grand house in the moonlight that was bought by the Corcoran. It made both he and the Flo Gris famous.The artists painted decorative panels about the house. It has been newly restored and it can be toured. Here is an old photo taken of Metcalf and the others on the back porch of the building.

Image from: Sunlight and Shadow by Elizabeth de Veer and Richard J. Boyle Abbeville Press 1987
Metcalf is on the end, turned to face the camera. I took a photo on that porch today, here that is;

As you who have read this blog for a while know, I enjoy finding places that the "old guys" worked and hung out. Here is another shot of the Art Association which opened in 1921.

The building was designed by a well known architect of that time, Charles Platt, who was also a painter and etcher. He had studied painting in Paris and was a friend to many of that generation of American impressionist painters.

After Metcalfs wife began an affair with his student, Robert Nesbit, Metcalf no longer came to Old Lyme, but began traveling to paint in Cornish, New Hampshire. Most of the great Metcalfs were painted there. Here is one now.

I have painted around Cornish, a number of times.. The area around the Platt house where Metcalf stayed is heavily posted and their seems to be no way for an artist to park a car or work in that area. But the Platt home where Metcalf stayed when he was in Cornish still remains and is well maintained and as elegant as it must have been a century ago.

For you art history buffs, here is tonight's weird little art historical factoid. Charles Platts wife, Eleanor was the widow of American Impressionist painter Dennis Miller Bunker. Bunker had died tragically young, shortly after their marriage.

Since I was driving down to deliver a painting I contacted Jan Blencowe, a heroine of the twitter world. I called her up and suggested that we paint together today. I told you before, I am not shy. She has built an enormous following using twitter. She has 1800 followers, I guess that's a lot.

I had never met her, but I read some of her tweets and I decided she could probably teach me some about social media as a promotion tool. She explained that there is no large city near her in that part of Connecticut, so she decided to connect with a larger audience using social media. Jan told me that galleries now find her through her presence on Twitter and elsewhere on the web. Here she is painting with me on a tidal marsh near Old Lyme. Here is a link to her web site.

We had a great time painting and talking about self promotion on the net. It was pretty gray today and I didn't make much of a painting. I tell myself that each day I will either get a painting or a lesson. Today I got a lesson.