Tuesday, June 26, 2012

How to Build a Floating Shadow Box Frame or A Labor of Love - Part 1 of 2

Surprise this week, I have a guest writer.

My husband, Dan, framer extraordinaire, has documented his process for you. I thought my collectors would enjoy knowing what goes into the frames, and some ambitious and handy art types might want a step-by-step guide. We call the frames a Labor of Love, (you'll see why). Dan has been asked many times to build them for other artists and he says they couldn't pay him enough. Part 2 will be published in next Tuesday's post.
Dan working his magic in the basement. Mad Science, 19x24, oil on canvas over panel
Hit it Dan:

I first got into the frame building business because of Terry's vision for the Awakening Series was a sort of modern reflection of Gothic altarpieces. Not something you can find at the art supply store.
See: Awakening Gallery and Blogpost about Awakening series

When she began working in traditional rectangular shapes she was looking to frame her pieces in a way that bridges the gap between traditional wood framing and the modern minimalist aesthetic. She also did not want the edges of the painting touching the frame. The answer we came up with is the floating frame that Terry is using on many of her works. Terry paints on cradled panels or canvas stretched over hollow core doors cut to size (another post perhaps). The painting rests on a rail and is screwed down from the back. Only the back of the painting touches the frame. I have been told my frames are more like furniture than picture frames. I think they add to the monumental quality of Terry's paintings.

Frames (with some pretty nice paintings)
Robert Lange Studios, "Women Painting Women" exhibition, Nov 2010

I have built somewhere in the neighborhood of 90 of these frames over the years, so Terry thought that it would be good to share how it's done. At the bottom is a tool list with some information about tools that most people might not have.

I start with selecting lumber. For the sides (the part that shows), I mostly use 1" by 4" Poplar because it's easy to get, light, and easy to work with. With this design the frames dimensions are 2" larger than the artwork. If the frame is too big to get from a single board, I get two pieces that match as closely as possible, looking for interesting (and simular) grain. The straighter and cleaner the boards, the easier it will be, so if the wood doesn't look that good, I try somewhere else. When using two boards I try to get opposite sides out of each board. For the side rails I use  1" x 2" pine if I can find straight ones. Sometimes I get nice 1 x 4s and spit it on the table saw.

Note my nice large work table. It's a sheet of 3/4" MDF covered with a sheet of 3/4" plywood. I cover it with brown paper (comes in a roll from the Home Depot paint department) so that the glue, paint, stain, varnish, etc. does not build up on the table surface or have to be scraped off. I just peel it off and put down new paper between projects or whenever I need a clean surface.

Now I glue the 1 x 2 rails to the sides. Make sure the side board is lying flat. If you are not careful you can glue a curve into a nice straight board. The objective is to have the surface of the artwork float 1/4" below the edge of the frame, so attach the rail the appropriate distance from the top edge. Place a bead of glue along one edge of each rail, position carefully and clamp about every 18 inches (more or less depending on how tightly the boards are meeting. When you're done, check it again. Sometimes the boards move as you clamp elsewhere. Wipe off excess glue. Let it dry at least an hour before unclamping.

Cut the sides to length with 45º angles (my saw locks precisely at 45) using a miter saw, exactly 2" larger than the artwork. This makes the gap between the art work and the sides 1/4". It is very important that they be exactly the same length with precisely cut angles. Clean any sawdust off the base before positioning the board. Make sure the piece is flat and tight up against the back of the base of the saw.

I put a screw at each end of the rails to make sure the glue joint never comes apart. Chose a screw length and countersink depth to get the screw 1/2" into the side rail. I like square drive or torx screws. They don't slip like phillips do.

I use a Bessey parallel clamp system. It was a lot more difficult when I first tried to do these with regular pipe clamps. I position the blocks and clamps and make sure they are square.

Generously smear glue on both ends of each board as you add them to the rig. Use stainable glue if you are going to stain it. End joints suck up a lot of glue, it's messy but don't be stingy. You don't want a dry joint, ;)= dude. I use little plastic spring clamps to help hold the joints in place while I get all the boards placed.

When all the boards are in place, slowly and carefully tighten the clamps, keeping all the corners level, and meeting precisely at the corners. Wipe as much excess glue as possible and check it again! Sometimes the joints creep. It is more important that the sides meet nicely than the rails. Sometimes the lower of the two clamps doesn't push the top of a joint together perfectly, so it's good to have some extra clamps you can put across the top. Check that the sides are parallel and frame is square. If not, do whatever it takes to get it close anyway (this is always a good occasion for colorful language). If the wood is straight, you have cut accurately and joints have come together nicely, this is (almost) never a problem.

I let them dry in the clamps about 2 hours. Below is a nice joint, fresh out of the clamps.

Next time on Part 2 I will finish the project.


Thursday, June 21, 2012

6 Ways to Improve Your Drawing and Get the Lead Out

Improving Your Drawings Will Improve Your Paintings
I just finished teaching a four session drawing class so I thought I'd share a few thoughts about drawing.
"Let me not think of my work only as a stepping stone to something else. And if it is, let me become fascinated with the shape of the stone." ~Ze Frank

This is from Ze Frank's inspirational video called "An Invocation for Beginnings", a wonderfully artistic call of encouragement to get out of a rut. Don't get stuck between one and zero. (warning it does contain a curse word or two)

1. Drawing Ergonomics
These are very simple things that will make drawing accurately easier.
~Arrange your body square to the drawing board/canvas and the subject, so that you can see the subject and your drawing in the same view.
~Set up the drawing board parallel to the subject.
~Set up the easel as close to vertical as possible.
~Move only your eyes, arm and hand.
Amanda in Sepia, 12x9, oil on panel 
2. Understand and Incorporate the Concept of Picture Planes
~Imagine a sheet of glass with a grid on it between you and the thing you are drawing.
~Think jigsaw puzzle, some puzzle shapes are the negative space, some are the objects, some are the light on the object, some are the shadows on the subject or cast by the subject.
~Think continents on a map, sometimes you are drawing the water, sometimes the land masses.
~ Drawing is transferring this image of that flattened picture plane onto the picture plane of the paper.

Amy Reading, oil sketch from life drawing group, 12x9
3. Sighting and Proportion
~Think of the sides of your drawing paper as vertical, and the top and bottom as horizontal.
~Measure angles in what you are viewing as compared to horizontal and vertical.
~Establish a basic unit of measurement, one head length for example.
~Compare this measurement to the height and width of your subject.

4. Learn the Value of Self-Critique. (It's NOT the same thing as Self-Judgment)
~Ask yourself how the shape/angle/line you have drawn differs from your observation of the subject.
~As you continue your drawing do not just add details to the drawing but continually correct shapes/angles/lines, etc.
~Nothing is locked in until the drawing is complete.
Travis in Leather, 12x9, oil on panel
5. Be Stubborn and Stick It Out!
~Recognize that there is a ready to throw in the towel point in every drawing. There is a very nasty inner voice telling us it is impossible, understand that the inner voice is wrong and press on!
~Calm the inner voice by ignoring it, and looking only at angles, lines, proportions, that's what drawing is all about.
~Be kind to yourself.

“Let me think about the people who I care about the most, and when they fail, or disappoint me, I still love them, I still give them chances, and I still see the best in them. Let me extend that generosity to myself.”   ~Ze Frank

Kelsey, oil sketch from life drawing group, 9x12
6. Draw from Life as Much as Possible
~One last thing- resist the call of the couch and find a life drawing group in your area.
~Draw from still life set ups and nature.

All the oil sketches I've included were done at my local life drawing group. They are one hour total time with the model. It is always an adrenaline rush to get something anywhere near complete.

I am ALWAYS out of my comfort zone at life drawing because of the time element but I learn so much from the experience that helps my more sustained work. Outside the comfort zone is where true learning takes place so remember to linger!

You may enjoy a post I did about a David Kassan Workshop I took in late 2011.
Or other posts I've done about drawing.

This post is taken from one on my monthly newsletter's Teaching Spotlight Column. Sign up in the form below.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Artists For The New Century Opening

At The Bennington Center for the Arts in Bennington, VT. The opening was last night. Thanks to Mario A. Robinson for sharing these pictures.
From the Bennington's website:
"Artwork from around the world, created by North American artists, will be exhibited in this event. Many of the country's finest artists will be included in what has become one of our patrons' favorite exhibitions. Should you be interested in purchasing artwork, contact Shirley by clicking here or call 802-442-7158."

Mario with his beautiful painting, Windswept, 30x24, oil on panel
Work by Julio Reyes and my painting Fast Lane 
JB Boyd, Camille Engel, Charles Williams, Sadie Valeri
Roger Dale Brown, Shannon Runquist, Curt Hanson
Colleen Barry, Aaron Westerberg, Michael Lynn Adams
Vincent Giarrano
Aaron Westerburg
Amy Lind
David Gray
Charles Williams
David Hettinger 
Jennifer Balkan
Maria Kreyn
Mario Robinson
Julio Reyes
Kate Savage
Sadie Valeri
Robert Limler
Joshua LaRock
Timothy Jahn
Vincent Giarrano
Kate Sammons
And mine,  Fast Lane47x32, oil on canvas over panel

The show is up through July 15, 2012.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

April Painting Fools in Pennsylvania

After the opening of The Expedition and Beyond at Principle Gallery, Alexandria Va, in April those of us that could sneak away for a few extra days went up to artist Catherine Prescott's home in Pennsylvania for a little camaraderie and painting time together.
Sadie Valeri, Carly Strickland, me, Linda Tracey Brandon, Catherine Prescott, Diane Feissel, Front row, Rachel Constantine, Alexandra Tyng, Stefanie Tewes, Alia El-Bermani
Plein Air-less Painting, this is the Expedition and Beyond group, now that's hard core! (image inspired by all those pictures of outdoor painters in EXTREME weather conditions)

The Women Painting Women, Expedition and Beyond show is over at Principle Gallery, but you may still purchase or view the catalog. It is marked down to the post show price of $15.00. It is also available as a digital download for only $2.90. The digital download is FREE with a print version.

This is Cathy in her studio with one of her fabulous paintings.
Rachel Constantine and Cathy Prescott painting out Cathy's back door.
 This is the hill out behind Catherine's home.
Catherine's Field, 12x9, oil on panel
My daughter Carly, who is an illustrator, was with me this time, so she enjoyed a little plein air painting on her laptop. Here's a post she did on her blog about it. After she met these artists she more fully understands my appreciation of this group!
Carly's illustration she did plein air from that session.
I was unprepared for how beautiful Pennsylvania is.
Sweet Breetches Creek. 9x12, oil on panel
Awesome, painting in PJ's or with a cat on your lap. Totally my idea of a vacation.

I'm enjoying this kind for speed painting, since most of my work is more what I'd call slow painting. It has given me a new appreciation for alla-prima and plein-air landscape work. Happy painting whatever your speed!


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