Processing the “F” Words

This one actually made it into a frame

FRAMING.  Sorry if you thought this was about something else.

I hate to frame.  But custom framing is expensive, and my art career has not yet reached the point where I can afford to pay someone to do the nasty.

Show season is soon approaching, my paint brushes have been singing and it’s time to slap some of my creations into “The Frame”.  Oh that slapping were the process.  Watercolor framing involves cutting mats and cleaning glass.  Or put simply, utilizing the left (logical, mathmatical, analytical) side of my brain.   That process involves frustration, another “F” word.

Starting with affirmations and deep breathing:   I am going to have a good framing session.  I worked at a frame shop, I know how to frame. I can do math.  I am centered and competent.  I can do this.

It all goes to hell in a handbasket starting with the mat cutter.  Big and bulky, I keep it hidden in the closet in my studio.  It’s the only place it fits and I can’t stand looking at it.   I think it has bad karma.  The best spot in the house for the process of cutting mats is the kitchen breakfast bar.  Coincidently, that’s also the best spot for a lot of things:  junk mail, the binoculars, the coffee cup, notes, magazines, newpapers, an occasional stale potato chip.

Once it’s cleaned off  and the mat cutter assembled, we are faced with which frame to use.   And, I like the look of a double mat.  Using a white outer mat with a liner to complement the painting.   This process involves math (might as well be quantum physics) as it includes fractions.  Another “F” word.

Fast forward in the process a couple hours.  The mats are cut,  the paintings are mounted and we’re cleaning glass, trying not to get Windex on the paintings or mat board.  Streaks, chibbities, dust bunnies, overcuts….. was that mark on the mat when I cut it? While gently blowing off that speck of something, I manage to spit on the glass. Putting the frame down over the glass, mat and painting set-up invariably dislodges something, or  I smudged the glass with my fingers again.  When it finally looks good enough to secure into the frame, I hold my breath as I use the pointing gun to secure it.  And the Ta Dah ……..when I turn it over…..where’d that cat hair come from!!!!!!  God almighty, what I’d do to the idiot who dictated the archival way to frame watercolor is under glass with a mat.

Next in the process we attempt the dust cover.  This is done with double sided tape that sticks to itself and everything else in its way (especially the aforementioned mats, paintings and clean glass.).  The rolled up brown craft paper curls and wiggles as I try to lay it flat on top of that tape that I have managed to attach to the back of the frame.  It wrinkles.  Eye hooks won’t go in, wire gets under your nails as you try to secure it with that neat pretzel knot they taught me at the frame shop.  Somehow it’s wired upside down when finished.  I once sliced my hand on a point that hadn’t gone in properly while smoothing the dust cover.  Bad enough it hurt, but I bled all over the dust cover and had to redo it.

There is a new product out for watercolorists. As I understand it,  basically a textured clay that is secured to an archival panel.  You paint on it,  seal it and “slap” it into a frame.  It’s a bit pricey and on my list to purchase after my next commission.  As my oil painting class did not go quite as planned (see my blog entitled “Menu Choices”) its looking like watercolor will stay my medium.

So for now  I’ll still be using “F” words –  just part of the process.


Art, Solice and Souls

Last weekend I took the painting I’d just finished to the stable where I presented it to my new “collector”.  Her palomino is a good looking boy, she is a nice person, and I was extremely happy with the commission.

The weather was unbelievable for the end of January in these parts. When I arrived the place was bustling with lessons and riders. The barn is special to me.  A place for me where dreams come true..  I learned to ride (as an adult) with these people and was greeted by friends and warmth.  Working here for 12 years made me realize I really didn’t want a farm. I met my husband here.  Our 25-year-old paint horse lives here. Unfortunately, unrideable now due to arthritic changes. 

But under the beauty of the day lurked the fact that the vet was coming.  One of the elderly horses was not eating, hardly able to move, and sweating profusely.  Her owner and I had worked together for years, ridden together for even more years, and now I could only tell her I was sorry.  We hugged knowing it will someday be my turn for the inevitable.

The mixture of the life in the painting and the soon passing of this elderly mare felt surreal.  Not quite appropriate.  I have done many commissions.  Some of the souls I’ve painted are still with us.  Some have passed.   Owners of departed pets have cried upon opening their painting.  After one commission, the animal passed within a few days.  This customer, a friend, confided she could never again ask me to paint one of her pets for fear something would happen.  As if somehow the painting had stolen the soul.

When I painted my beloved cat, Heater, after her passing, I was crying so hard, I used my tears, mingled with the watercolor paint for the finishing brush strokes.    The painting of her image was a form of grieving for me.  Knowing the paint contains my tears is a tribute to  what an important part she played in my life.  I could never bring myself to frame the painting.  It’s in one of the boxes. However, whenever I come across it, the tears well instantly in my eyes.

We, who choose to surround ourselves with lives even more temporary than our own, live within a fragile circle, easily and often breached.    Unable to accept it’s awful gaps, we still would live no other way. We cherish memory as the only certain immortality, never fully understanding the necessary plan.” – From a sympathy card from my vet.

So is there solice in art?  Or just more grief?

Menu Choices

Not the most satisfactory of experiences.

My first oil painting class was last Saturday.  A one day workshop with a painter whose work I’ve always admired.  Still chewing on the process.

Having no formal art training, I missed the experience of trying different mediums in school.  Oil has always been the holy grail of the art world, deemed more permanent and, therefore, much more valuable than watercolor.  I get that part.

Most of the others in the class had some experience.  I was the only beginner and the class moved along smoothly – for most. The right-side of my brain became somewhat confused by the fact that I could actually “fix” my mistakes.

Fixing mistakes in a painting was downright weird for me.  Reminded me of going to the diner where the choices are so endless you can’t even decide if you want breakfast, lunch, or dinner.  Don’t like the color of that flower – just change it, or better yet – cover it over.  I felt giddy with power, but my confidence in choices began to diminish.  And I didn’t need to “save the whites” as you do in watercolor.  If you wanted white in this crazy class, you just painted it on.    Not  an option in watercolor, you have to plan to paint around your whites to leave the white of the paper.  You can’t get that white back if you mistakenly paint over it.

On the other hand, I liked the left side of my painting, but hated the right side.  If it were a watercolor, I’d have chopped it in half, slapped it in a frame and enjoyed it.  Can’t do that with a panel.   I would have had to completely redo the right side and by now I realized I’d wind up repainting the left side also.   My patience had run it’s course and I couldn’t decide what to do.  So the right side stayed.

And it was messy, or I was messy.  Clean up was a bear and during the class the paint was all over my brushes, my palette knife, my gloved, sweaty hands, and even the notepad I’d brought to take notes. And (I hadn’t even thought about this), the paint stayed WET.  Very wet.  My left sleeve now has a lovely viridian splotch on it.

I’m munching on my future with oil painting, as I contemplate this less than satisfactory painting and experience. There are many choices. Try another painting in the comfort of my studio?  Take another class?  Watch some oil painting videos? Give the oils paints to someone who knows how to use them?  My gut’s telling me I’ll try it again, and probably paint over this painting.

But I’ll wait until my stomach settles to decide.