Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Old plaster picture frames and a couple of little tricks I know.

this years blue night scene, I think this is the 33rd year I have made one of these.

Stape, is this sort of frame of any value to use for paintings?
........................... Myrtle Durgin

Here is what I think on 19th century plaster frames. THEY SHOULD HAVE NO DAMAGE! Repair is time and skill intensive. I know you are about to ask if you can do it yourself.  It takes a gilder  to do that. It would take you months to have that skill, and years to perfect it.  I have done some gilding and been married to a gilder. I have repaired and restored several old frames and helped do some more. You can do endless scut work. There is lots of sanding and fine dust , wear your mask! and breathe through your ears! .

 To be worth investing the time  and extremely high materials cost, the frame has to be sold for serious money but it is a long way from that now,.
To repair that frame properly is a big job. You could just do the amateur  Sculpey and dab method, Everybody thinks they can do it, just like painting! Then the only market for the frame will be the flea market or  roadside cooperative antiques and collectibles hive. That's where things go that are "almost right, or pretty good!" Please don't imagine that your first foray into frame restoration will come out "finest kind". People work a long time to master this little known trade. The nice folks at the Society of Gilders will be delighted to teach you how to do this, by the way.

Badly repaired, the frame will be a white elephant. Eventually someone will put a mirror in it. Now I know you are thinking."well OK, but I could just put some stuff on there and metal leaf it, or maybe spray paint it some and it would be alright, I'll put it on one of my own paintings. It COULD be a valuable frame, but then it needs to real gold!  Probably about 500 dollars worth or more, that's just a guess. Metal leaf, you know, the stuff they put on the Chi-com frames? That won't give that look you need. Worse still, would be the gold spray paint the owner of the distressed frames you have pictured recommends, while making  spraying motions with his hand, and saying "you know".

I restored some old frames in the early eighties when quality old frames were more commonly available. I had some very excellent old frames, but they were arts and crafts style original frames not the sort you are contemplating. I wish I had them now. The Beal family kindly gave me what had been Reynolds Beal's old frame stock from their cellar, an awfully nice gift to a struggling young artist. These were wide Whistler frames with both the cap as big as your bicep and a three inch liner, with fluting in there by the rabbet. They were  in big sizes in excellent condition and most of them in gold . I suppose they were from the nineteen twenties. I used most of them myself and sold a few to a dealer.

If you had an arts and crafts era frame, of the the sort I described above, it might make more sense. Here's why, the market, at least in my experience, prefers simpler frames. They see the floral plaster frames as being fussy or too fancy ( note; this is not a matter of  they shouldn't think that way, rather an observation that they do) I have never had much luck trying to sell my paintings in decorative frames of that sort. There are some exceptions, if you are working in a Hudson River school style the floral plaster frames might be OK. Very classical figurative stuff might work in a decorated plaster frame as well. But in order for them to sell for anything more than a dorm refrigerator, again, they need to be finest kind. Artists who routinely make sales, present their work in quality frames. If the buyer has a little problem with the frame, most of the time the sale is  over.

Here is a system for making repeatable batches of color.

 Sometimes I need to make a pile of color and record how I did it. Then I can make more later if it runs out before I have finished the painting. I used this method to make the blue color that pervades most of the blue painting above. Using my ruler I make several lines on my palette. I then put one inch increments on those lines.

I squeeze out so many inches of each color along my lines, right from the tube. In this mix I have three parts of white to five parts of umber. I make a point of jotting down the ratios of the colors I am mixing. In some instances I might have three lines bearing different pigments.

Then I mix them together. If I don't get the exact note I need I will return to one of my lines and add another inch of one color or another.

Once I have made the quantity of the note that I need, I preserve it by wrapping it in saran wrap. It will last for months that way. When I need a little more  I open up the little saran wrap package and transfer some  to my palette with a CLEAN knife.

 Sometimes the ferule of my brush will glint annoyingly under certain kinds of light. I wish they made the ferules a dull gray but they don't, so I wrap a little duct tape around them as shown above. It usually comes off in a day or so, but it solves the problem for today.


Gail Hayton said...

I plan on taking your autumn workshop, then maybe I will have the courage to take snowcamp. Thanks so much for your blog. I am learning a lot!!!

Stapleton Kearns said...

The dreaded Snowcamp, no place for the weak or easily chilled!

DennyHollandStudio said...

Stape, great tip on the batch of color, so simple, yet so effective!

Stapleton Kearns said...

Thanks Denny, it works in metric too!


mendacious_valkyrie said...

Heh....Myrtle Durgin.

Unknown said...

Stape, could you possibly recommend a frame source that meets the quality level you describe? I've been on the lookout for many years, but find either extremely high pricing, or low end garbage. Is there anything of good quality that isn't in the four figures category?

Kathy Hodge said...

I enjoyed your post on repairing frames. Some years ago I collected old ornate plaster frames and ended up using them for a series of Church paintings. Of course many were badly damaged. They were beautiful, but not valuable enough to restore. I decided to "embrace" the broken parts by gold leafing the missing spots without attempting to replicate the ornamentation. http://www.kathyhodge.com/paintings/churches.shtml
Sort of a "beauty in decay" idea.

I also liked your advice on the reflective ferrules, I thought I was the only one annoyed at the reflection (especially when painting dark areas). I do wish brush makers would use dark ferrules...

Florante Paghari-on said...

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you and your family, Stape.

Skepticofall said...

I just purchased some Windsor and newton brushes with a brushed (matte) ferrule. They are for plein air specifically (which I plan to do more of). Glad I found your great blog!