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A Shift in the Universe

February 18, 2011

Well, at least in my universe.

As you may have read here recently, a change in our lifestyle is in the works.  At some point in the future, we will be selling our townhome, with the intention of living and travelling the country in a motorhome. (I’ve begun chronicling the preparations for that on my new blog Backroads & Brushes.)  Although this won’t happen until sometime in the future, I have to start thinking ahead about what it means regarding my artwork.  What it means is that there will be severely limited storage.  No more walk-in closets.  No more stacking artwork and frames against the walls of the studio.  In fact, no more studio in the traditional sense.

The livestyle we will be living will call for at least two changes in terms of my work – one of them is minor (to a degree) and one is major.  The relatively minor change has to do with painting sizes.  I will simply have to limit the size of my work.  This isn’t a really major issue for me, because, compared with oil and acrylic painters, I tend to work relatively small anyway.  But 16×20 sizes will become almost non-existent (maybe one or two a year).  Storage and transport of those will become a real logistical issue for framed work of that size.  The next size down is 11×14.  This will be a borderline size, and I’ll simply have to play it by ear.  It’s not so much the need to store paintings at these sizes, but storing frames to fit them could become a problem.  And that is affected by the other, much more major issue.

I am going to discontinue my practice of varnishing my gouache paintings.

Those just finding me for the first time will say “so what?”  Those who have followed my journey as a gouache painter for a while will recognize this as a major change for me.  The reasons for these decisions are practical ones.  I’ve always used a spray varnish, on the back patio or in the garage.  In our future lifestyle, we will be in close proximity to other people in an outdoor environment.  I have no desire to deal with confrontations over toxic fumes wafting through the air.

And now for the “ripple effect”.

Not varnishing my finished paintings means they can no longer be placed directly into open back frames.  The varnish provided a protective surface, meaning the work could be displayed like an oil or acrylic painting.  In the future, they will need to be framed with a mat and glass to provide the protection they need.  The difference?  Here are examples:

This is how my work has appeared in the past:

And here is how they will appear in the future:

 To anyone seeing my work for the first time at a show, it will make no difference at all.  To those who have seen them, it will be quite a change.  Hopefully, it won’t deter anyone from buying a painting they really love, regardless of how it’s framed.

Framing a painting with a mat introduces the size issue.  Previously, an 8×10 painting could be placed directly into an 8×10 frame.  In the future, at the bare minimum, an 8×10, with a mat, will require an 11×14 frame.  Add another few inches for the overall width of the frame itself, and matted, framed work can quickly become a storage and transport problem.  Fortunately, I like working small.  The big ones are always an enjoyable challenge, but it’s the small ones I really get into.

I resisted matting my work originally for a couple of reasons.  First and foremost, when I did shows in years past, I was selling drawings, which had to be matted under glass.  After unpacking framed work with broken glass, I grew to hate it.  When I started painting, and discovered I could varnish my gouache work and eliminate glass, it was a no-brainer for me.  And people said much of my work looked like little oil paintings anyway, so it worked.  I was delighted to do away with mats and glass.  Today, plexiglass does away with the breakage problem.  And most competitions demand it as well.

So… the work will remain the same, but the way it’s displayed will change.  In addition, at the suggestion of a watercolor artist, I will be able to sell unframed work as well.  By leaving a border around the painting, I can back them with a piece of foamcore board, shrinkwrap them, and place them in a bin at shows.  Just like watercolor artists do.  And, after all, gouache is a form of watercolor.  There remains the question of what to do with 11×14 and larger paintings that already exist.  I may have to simply sell them unframed in order to avoid the storage problem.

All I have to do now is figure out where I’m going to store boxes of precut mats and plexiglass in the motorhome.

It never ends.

One Comment leave one →
  1. February 20, 2011 11:48 pm

    Ralph, why not skip the mats and just frame with Plexiglas? Is there any reason why you can’t put Plexi right on top of the gouache? If that’s an issue, you can always use frame spacers, as pastelists do.

    Those dark frames and white mats are killing your work, IMHO! If you must use mats, can you maybe find a pale gray that would allow the lightest colors in your paintings to shine? I also suggest that you NOT let the frame width and mat width be quite so similar.

    Find a nice 8×10″ frame with a liner or fillet, get a box of 8×10″ UV filtering acrylic sheets, pop in your painting and it will not look that much different from the varnished ones. Just MHO, not that you asked me… :>D

    Hope you have a wonderful adventure!!

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