International Traveler

[singlepic id=508 w=460 h=360 float=] Night Flight Study, my latest pastel, is France-bound. It is one of three pieces created for the Pastels Salon International in Saint Aulaye, Dordogne, France, opening this August. But before it embarks on its journey, I hope to use it as a study for a larger oil painting to take on the road a bit closer to home.

This past week another pastel, Raintree No. 4, found a permanent home in a beautiful, historic craftsman home on Spokane's South Hill. It looks absolutely perfect in its perch against the William Morris wallpaper, above the oak and art tile mantel! "Read more" to see Raintree No. 4 in its new home.

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Salon Style Part Two: Saving your Walls and Sanity

In my last post I promised tips for hanging a group of pictures on a wall without unnecessary damage to either the wall or your psyche. This method makes hanging the artwork as easy as it can possibly be. I'm not gonna lie, I lifted this from Martha Stewart many years ago. But hey, it works. It has helped me through many tricky show hangings and is worth passing along. Here's how to do it. What you will need:

  • Newspaper or kraft paper
  • Scissors or straight edge/knife
  • Tape measure
  • Pencil
  • Masking tape or blue painter's tape
  • Hanging hooks or nails
  • Hammer
  • Level

Once you have decided on your group of pictures, cut a piece of paper the same size as each picture's outside dimensions. Find a spot on the floor as least as big as your available wall space. If the area is much bigger than the wall area, you might want to mark the outside dimensions of your wall area to help you envision how the layout will look. Start in the middle of the available space, at what would be roughly eye level on the wall (about 5 feet or so). Lay out the paper squares representing your largest pieces first, then work your way out with smaller pieces until you find an arrangement that is pleasing to you. I've listed layout tips in my previous post here.

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Once you get the arrangement you want, you might want to take a digital photo or create a sketch of the layout.

Now, the part that makes hanging the actual pictures a snap. For each picture, you will find out exactly where you need to place the hooks or nails in the wall. Turn the picture face down (if it is a pastel, please do so very gently---any loose dust that falls on the glass could end up on your mat when you turn it over). You can use one nail or hook per picture, but I prefer two. Choose a distance a few inches in from each side, say 6". Lightly mark the measurement just beneath the hanging wire.

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Now, pull the wire up toward the top of the picture at each mark as tightly as possible, pulling one side up with the end of your measuring tape (I should be holding up both sides of the wire in the photo, but I would need three hands to do it). Now you know how far down from the top of the frame your nail should be.

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Once you have the top and side measurements, you will transfer them to the paper square representing that painting. Complete this for all of your paintings and paper squares.

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Now you are ready to hang your paintings---almost. But first, you will hang your paper squares. Recreating the layout you chose earlier, tape your paper "paintings" to the wall, being sure to check distances between each piece and making sure they are level. Once the paper arrangement is hung, drive your nails through the paper at the markings you created. (If you are using picture hooks, be sure the bottom of each hook lines up with the marking.)

Once you have driven all your nails, simply remove the paper, and you are ready to hang your collection!

I hope this has made the idea of hanging a lot of art seem a bit less daunting. It works great for single pieces as well. Good luck!

Salon Style, Part One: Eight Ideas for Hanging a Collection

[singlepic id=461 w=460 h=400 float=] No, this is not a post about my latest haircut (most common reaction: did you mean to do that? answer: no.)

Actually this is a topic I've been meaning to get into for a while, and December Small Works Season seems a good time for it. Over and over again at art shows, people say, "I love that but my walls are full." If you are trying to fit in that latest art show treasure, but can't think where you could possibly hang it, this post might be for you.

First ask yourself this: are your walls really, really full? Top to bottom, side to side? If not, you might have a good opportunity to hang some of your collection salon style. Salon style is a method of hanging art that takes full advantage of the space available, using many vertical levels in addition to maxing out the horizontal space. (Check out my example on the wall of 1900 in Spokane, WA, above.)

There are many ways to approach this kind of hanging, and it can seem overwhelming. But there are a few things you can keep in mind to help control the chaos and make for a fun project and an attractive grouping of your favorite work. Here are eight ideas to help you on your way.

  1. Start from the middle using the largest pieces to anchor the group.
  2. Plan the arrangement ahead of time to save frustration and plaster (more on this later).
  3. Mix up horizontal and vertical pieces for interest.
  4. Line up one edge of the first two pieces and use the resulting horizontal and vertical lines as an axis for the next pictures.
  5. Keep the overall shape of the grouping asymmetrical but balanced from side to side. (Think of two equal glasses of wine spilled next to one another---the shapes are different, but the size of each spill is the same.)
  6. Keep the space between each piece the same on all sides (my spaces are about four inches in the photo above).
  7. Find a way to unify the pieces. In this case there is a lot of unity since the work is all my own pastel work, and framed alike. But you might put together work from different artists with similar palettes, unframed pieces you have had framed the same way, work that is all the same medium, size, or subject.
  8. Remember, there are no rules. This is your art collection, a group of things you love, and you can hang it together however you like. The common element is you.

Check back later this week, when I will post detailed instructions on planning a grouping of pictures, including a wall- and aspirin-saving trick that will make hanging the work almost fun.

Getting Small Redux

[singlepic id=376 w=320 h=460 float=left] Now after all this business about going big, it's time to go the other direction. Last week I ordered some tiny canvas stretchers the same depth as my large canvases, making some nice, chunky little 6" x 6" x 2" supports for a dozen soon-to-be paintings.

I've always really enjoyed small work. I love the idea of tucking an original painting into a bookcase, a mantel, a windowsill or a hundred other unexpected spots.

Since I began selling at art fairs, I've always included some miniature version of my work in an effort to make original art available for a relatively low price (and for those avid collectors without another inch of available wall space). Although I did offer some reproductions of my work the first year, I decided to discontinue them and focus exclusively on original art. While the miniature originals may not be quite so potentially profitable as repros, I feel good about making them. I also find that I get along much better with my printmaking neighbors at shows.

Up to now my only miniature works have been in pastel, but since I began showing oils, it followed that I should make oil minis as well. The little canvases pictured at left will be my first efforts. I've always loved the almost-sculptural look of chunky, cubular little paintings. I'm so excited to see how they turn out. I'll post some favorites soon!

Living with Art: Lighting

[singlepic id=311 w=320 h=420 float=left] I'm not sure where the past two weeks went, but somewhere during that time I finally managed to finish my first project for my new category, Living with Art. My hope for my Living with Art posts is to inspire you, and me, to find ways to get some of those artworks we all have out of storage and up onto the walls. Or wherever.

One question I hear a lot from people buying artwork is, "how do I light it?" Of course there are so many ways to effectively light pieces of art. What you do depends on your situation, obviously. Some people are able to install beautiful built-in art lighting systems to showcase their collections (for a funny client story about this read to the end of this post). If you have the means to do that, then by all means, do that. I personally can't, so I will be dealing with some more easy-access alternative ideas. But before I get on with it, a story about picture lights:

My first solo show was at a local restaurant, which was funky and fun but very dark---lit only by a few strings of holiday lights, and little night lights over the tables. With a collection of dark, subtle work behind glass to display, I was concerned the art would not be seen at all. So I suggested that I buy inexpensive picture lights for each piece. The owners were hesitant, concerned that it would detract from the ambience of the restaurant. But, thankfully, they let me go ahead with the lights. As it turned out, the lit pastels added such a pleasant lighting effect to the room that when my show ended, the restaurant owners bought all of my lights and used them in subsequent shows.

In her amazing book, The Not So Big House, architect and author Sarah Susanka suggests the use of a lighted picture at the end of a hallway "so that you have something to walk toward." The idea is to open up a potentially claustrophobic space, and make it more inviting. With this project I have followed her advice and lit a painting in my own home's hallway.

For this installation, I am using a fairly standard picture light with a cord. There are many, many different options available, but this particular one came from Lowe's and cost about $26. It comes in a sort of brushed stainless finish or a polished brass finish. Neither of which suited my particular decor, so I ended up sanding and painting a brass one with a bronzey, hammered-finish metal paint. Originally I wanted to age the brass...  I don't want to go into it but suffice it to say, if you buy this particular light, don't try this at home. It isn't really brass and you will be disappointed with the results.

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Installation of the light couldn't be simpler---two screws to hold up the bracket and set screw to hold the light securely, and you're done. I've added a few touches to make the installation look more clean and professional. First I painted the cord with some leftover paint from the wall, then I used a staple gun to secure the cord behind the picture and behind the old radio beneath it. This keeps the cord straight and taut for a more custom look. And that's it! This light comes with a cord switch that can be installed anywhere on the cord. I didn't add it, but if I did I would again paint it to match the wall, and put it directly below the bottom of the frame so it would be hidden in shadow but easy to reach. And that's it! The hallway looks great with its new painting and light.

Oh, and as for that story... a young couple bought a pastel from me at one of my earliest art fairs. They were concerned about lighting it, so when I delivered the painting, I brought them one of the same lights I used in this post. They were inexpensive and I wasn't using them, so I thought it would be a nice thing to do. That was maybe five years ago. When I went to get the lights out for this project, I found an extra bag of hardware containing a bracket, cord switch, screws and allen wrench. I realized to my embarrassment that this hardware went with the light I had given away---the couple had no way to hang the light. I ran into them at a show recently. I told them what I had discovered and they started laughing. Their inability to hang that one free light had led them to install a professional, hardwired art lighting system that I'm pretty sure cost at least twice as much as my painting did.