Saturday, September 27, 2014

Methylcellulose has arrived!

My online order for methylcellulose showed up in my mailbox today. Its my 1st order from Modernist Pantry. It came in a distinctive metal foil packet with 50 grams of powder. You mix it with water into a gel and use it as a glue.

The package photo is printed on metal foil and reflects light as you move it around. Colors from the room and window appear in the illustration of a cook. The package is also remarkable by the attempt to make the product and service personal. It came with a cute photo of a child, Chloe, and a note from the family who sent it and their phone number. The invoice describes it as low viscosity and is tagged with a note "packed by Mike".
My research led me to this as a reversible paper paste for mounting drawings and prints. It's sold as a cooking ingredient now but was used in wall paper paste years ago. Now its hard to find retail. A doctor friend told me it is also a weight loss ingredient.
Wall paper is adhered with vinyl and acrylic based pastes these days. Since they polymerize as they dry they are not reversible but must be dissolved with a solvent. You may already know how hard it is to remove wallpaper.
I've used this paste years ago to mount paintings on paper to plywood. That was not wise and now I need to separate the art from the wood. Chemicals in the luan plywood panel is leaching into the paper, staining it. Those pictures are valuable to me, about 30 years old and worth the effort. I'll share that project in the future.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Michelangelo's David

Here in St. Augustine, Florida there are many tourist attractions. Living here for six years I have come to take some of them for granted and ignore others. Taking advantage of the slow tourist season in September I visited Ripley's Believe It or Not. I will pass on the contents inside the attraction and focus on what really surprised me. Just before walking away I noticed something behind some tall hedges right out front. Hidden around a corner I found the sculpture "David" originally by Michelangelo. Actually this is an exact facsimile of the same size and from the same Italian marble quarry.

At the base I found it is titled "Magnificence in Marble: the Sollazzini and Sons' David". It's 17 feet high! Apparently it was made in 1963 for the New York World's Fair and purchased by Ripley in 2007. What an impressive object to have here in St. Augustine! I probably saw it at the World's Fair when I was a kid. I was curious about the way it is screened from the street. I assume that is to hide the nudity and genitals from those that might take offense.

The anatomical feature that struck me was the right hand, so enormously out of scale with the figure. Standing before the figure you actually look up above your head at the hand of David holding the stone. All these issues are very old and have been analyzed for centuries.

I saw the original in Florence in 1976 and recall that experience clearly. I probably saw this one in NY and can't recall. But I am pleased to have found it here and can now add it to my list of things to show visiting friends. I can't yet get over the fact that no one ever mentioned it to me before.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Plasma is stretched after 30 years

I have nearly completed the relining and stretching of my painting, Plasma. This is the first look at how it appears, properly mounted after it was begun 30 years ago.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Stretching And Relining a Canvas

Since the painting, Plasma, was done on an unstretched cotton canvas I needed a method to display the entire piece without hiding the edges.
A stretched canvas usually has its edges wrapped around the wood stretcher bar and tacked in place. This should be done with a fresh canvas before the painting. That wouldn't work for me in this case. The technique used to restore old paintings by remounting them is called relining. The original canvas is removed from its stretcher frame and glued to a new backing, usually linen. I've seen this demonstrated at the restoration workshop of the Germanisches National Museum in Nurnberg, Germany when I was an art student volunteer. Its done on a vacuum table with archival, reversible glue. Museum quality restoration must use materials which can be removed without damaging the art should newer techniques become available to future restorers. These photos illustrate how I pasted strips of linen to the edges of my canvas from the back using rabbit skin glue.
This adds several inches of fabric with which to pull the painting using stretcher plyers around the edges of the stretcher. It is then stapled starting from the center of each side incrementally working towards the corners.
I did quite a bit of research and sought advice to choose the best method and to find a source for quality stretchers and braces. I haven't purchased stretcher bars in a long time. I have been using pre-stretched gallery wrapped canvas. I found that wood of the right type and dimensions are rare and expensive. Decades ago in Georgia I cut my own stretchers from local poplar and basswood . The miter joint used in this craft is unique and complex. It must be expandable after assembly to account for changing humidity and its effect on the canvas tension. I never found the correct name for the joint on any woodworking site, nor any instructions on making your own. I would just copy a commercially made example from an art supplier and scale it up to my materials. The closest name for this joint I found was a mortise and tenon miter. But that omits the subtle detail added to make it expandable using a small wooden wedge called a key. You may find this in photos of painters studios that include paintings turned to the wall exposing the back.
Making my own stretchers using this joint wasn't feasible for me since the 72 in. length of each of the four sides was beyond my machinery. So I finally chose a 72 in. stretcher kit from Utrecht Art Supplies
The package came damaged in shipping but their customer service was excellent. They sent a second package immediately and provided return shipping labels.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Reworking a Spiral

I chose another painting from the 1980's to revise, continuing the process after a long pause. This time it was quite a strong image. Over time an original image can be perceived differently. Difficult to describe, I became dissatisfied with it. There was no reason to accept it just because I once considered it finished. Not anymore!

I've got new colors and used another approach to mixing and overpainting. That previous painting, "It Is What It Is", was satisfying, especially in how the lettering gave me a new element to play with in the color field. The shapes could appear in layers moving forward and back as the eye roamed the picture. I could cover up a form yet it has a strength of its own resisting my masking. The new layer may be transparent enough to reveal what once was.

This time I am working from top to bottom.  I don't know why. I usually don't. Its interesting to alter my habitual approach. There is still more to do here. I need a way to push back on the past image and morph to something fresh.