Monday, November 30, 2009

Refinishing some frames...

...just so that they can be used. If I was in the position to purchase custom made, gilded frames, there's no way that I'd spend the time and effort to do this. Since I'm not independently wealthy, I do these sorts of things every once in a while to try to get a frame to fit a painting a little better then they do out of the box. Below is a beautiful corner of a 'real' frame, water gilded with 22kt gold.

It's a real Catch 22. We artists should not put anything but the absolute best frame on, the frame that best enhances the painting. To do that I'd have to give up eating, art supplies, fuel for the plein air truck, the plein air truck, and all but two brushes and three tubes of paint. I'd mix on my leg or forearm and beg for more paint. You get the idea.

Instead I make do with what I can. I'm not in favor of just picking a standard gold frame and slapping it onto every painting that leaves the house either. So I try to alter the mass manufactured frames, the ones that I can afford, to give them some customization and to make them a little more individually tied to the painting that they're going to be with for some time to come. That's when time is available. If it's not, they go out in the frames as they come.

I have frames all over the place, the typical varieties from the online suppliers. They're always just "too orange", "too bright", "too silver", "too dark".... or something other than "Just Right, a perfect fit...". With a little reading and experience as a framer and "mess making experimenter", I have learned about some processes to alter the prefinished mouldings and frames. If you are interested, look at the Picture Framing Magazine data base for lot's of helpful info about how to do this. For years I subscribed to that magazine and have files of the articles torn out of the magazine and saved for reference.

The other thing needed, well two other things, are a closet full of hazardous, dangerous and smelly products from paint stores, hardware stores and even etching supply houses, and tolerance for these sorts of chemicals and concoctions. If you don't like Turpenoid, I mean if that's your limit when it comes to toxic materials in your artistic life, then don't even think about doing this. It involves layers of 'stuff', spraying 'stuff' ( with an electric turbine powered HVLP sprayer), sanding nasty, dusty "stuff", rubbing and painting on other "nasty stuff", and using a lot of rubber gloves, rags, paper towels and face masks.

Despite all of that... I love doing this kind of thing. Although I have some confidence that I'm not going to blow myself up in the process, it's always a little bit of an experiment to launch into one of these. Probably because I don't really know what I'm doing, the results are always a HUGE surprise within the limits of my expectations. I discover new things to do to the poor little frames that give themselves up to my lab of indecent things to do to wood every time I try. In other words... IT's a heck of a lot of fun!

So here are the latest three victims of my "Frame Shop". All were too bright and warm for these paintings, two gold, one silver. I'll post the pics I took quickly and briefly describe what I did. Believe me, though you might not like these results, they're a lot better than generic gold and silver, the way the frames were. At least now they're individuals.

The 'official' disclaimer and apology to all of the professional gilder's and frame crafts-men and -women out there... and to any of you who might want to try this... I don't have a clue what I'm doing. Go seek instruction and/or advice from someone who does. :)

On all three of these frames I used something called 'asphaltum'... yes, asphalt in a can. This is an artist grade tar that is used to block out, protect etching plates when they go into the acid bath. You thin it with Naptha, a very nasty chemical. This is brushed on and then removed in varying degrees. It's not just brushed on though, it gets tamped with a rag, stippled with a brush, wiped with cotton rag, whatever it takes. When you get it to look like you want, it sets up fast so you have to work fast, it gets a dusting of Rottenstone, in varying amounts, that it is then removed, in varying degrees with various means, and watch ed like a hawk watching a mouse until you are sure that when it dries it's going to look good. That's considering that it's covered in a grey powder and you know that you're going to remove most of it, maybe 90% of it to get to the final look. This is very touchy because if you do it too early, too roughly, before the asphaltum has set up enough, you scar it and ruin what you just did. That can lead to a new discovery too.


The frame that I had on hand that fit this painting, "Chisago County Dusk" was a warm gold profile moulding that had been chopped and assembled. The profile isn't bad, but again for this painting a bright yellow gold just didn't help the painting out at all. I painted on the asphaltum and then wiped it off of the high points of the frame. It's a very smooth finish so I carefully tamped the panel of the frame with a cotton t-shirt ball to make a very smooth interior panel surface. That left a reddish gold color to the panel that enhanced the warmth of the painting. A light dusting of rottenstone to soften the dark and it fit the painting a lot better than as it was.


This is my favorite of the bunch. It was an Omega silver finish frame that on this painting, "Christmas Morning" looked green. Same basic procedure as these other two, asphaltum, wiped down leaving more in the interior panel area, added rottenstone, dusted off to my taste, let dry. Once it's dry the rottenstone is set into the asphaltum. I still took a soft cotton rag and buffed the panel area. That left a satin surface that softly enhances the quiet, cool light of the painting. I like this one a lot.


In this piece called "November Coming" I started to pull up the asphaltum before it had set. This was on an Omega gold frame that was too orange and dominant. So I mixed a wash of OMS and Liquin, to help it dry eventually, and brushed it on in one 'round robin' stroke, covering the entire frame around all four legs without stopping. It pooled and got sort of grainy, I thought it was very cool looking. Once that had started to set I covered it in a layer of rottenstone that I watched until it had just been 'grabbed' by the setting Liquin and then lightly brushed it off with a wide Chinese bristle brush. What was left when it dried and the excess rottenstone had been removed was a dusty, leathered looking surface that matched the paintings' own soft character. The entire package, though gold and black, is subdued now and it works as a smokey sort of presentation that I like.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

New Studio Painting


'Christmas Morning' - oil - 12x16 © Marc R. Hanson '09

Well it is the holiday season! I've painted in the field, on the day last year, and taken photos in this area several Christmas mornings, but never have painted the actual morning for fear of running into Santa Clause and interrupting his work. So this one was in honor of one of the most special mornings of the year. When I'm out in the country driving on these kind of mornings, Christmas is what I think of and I like that feeling.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

New Studio Painting


'Chisago County Dusk' - oil on panel - 18x24 © Marc R. Hanson '09
Will be on view December 10-12, 2009 at the First Annual Christmas Show at Arts in General, Marine on St Croix, MN.

I haven't painted many 'sunset' subjects because they're like painting peak fall color... the real thing is so spectacular that it's hard to tame it with paint and still have it give off that same emotional punch of reality. None the less, it's a colorists', luminists', impressionists'... and all of the other 'ists' palette of pure delight! And has to be attempted once in awhile.

I only wish I knew what this looks like on your screen. I have two computers, both Macs, and it looks different on them both... and they're calibrated.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Hey... made it outside!



'Mid November' - oil on board - 11x14 - © Marc R. Hanson '09

Well the light isn't what you'd call dramatic now. But it's pretty warm so I am glad to have made it out of the studio today for a little while. This one was a study in "Geeez... there really isn't much of difference out there between my feet and that barn two miles away!!!"

Sunday, November 15, 2009

1st Annual Christmas Show - Arts In General, Marine on St Croix, MN


"Sunday Morning Frost" - oil, 16x20, © Marc R. Hanson '09
This is a new painting painted in the studio. We don't have snow yet. Four artists from the area will be showing in a nearby gallery in December so I am trying to put together a few new pieces for that. This is one.

On Thursday, December 10th, 2009 Tom Maakestad of 'Arts in General' in Marine on St Croix, MN will be hosting an Opening Reception from 5-8pm for his First Annual Christmas Show. The weekend exhibit of his work, Anna Maakestad's, Kami Polzin's and my work will be on display December 11 & 12- 12:00 noon to 5:00 pm in his studio above the Marine General Store.

Tom is a painter, Anna is a potter, Kami and I are both painters. This should be a great exhibit to view, please join us on Thursday night.