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Lake Padden Memorial Bench Series

August 25th, 2016

Lake Padden Memorial Bench Series

Bellingham is a small city in northwest Washington State. Ask people what they enjoy about living in Bellingham, and chief among the reasons is the city’s varied outdoor recreational opportunities. Snow-capped Mount Baker is an easy drive to the east. Between Mount Baker and the Puget Sound on the city’s western shore are hiking, boating and fishing opportunities offered by numerous trails, rivers, and lakes.

Taking advantage of its abundant natural resources, the city has developed over 40 community parks. Among my favorite parks is Lake Padden Park. In every season, the park’s seven miles of trails are well used by walkers, runners, and bicyclists. Facilities in the community park include barbecue grills, picnic tables and shelters; a playground for children; places to swim; areas for basketball and softball; fishing docks; an off-leash dog area, and a golf course.

The park includes a 2.6 mile easy walking Habitat Trail around Lake Padden. Although many people use the park’s facilities, most of the area around lake is undeveloped and natural. Strategically placed memorial benches on the Habitat Trail provide a place to rest, or to observe the lake and habitat.

I’m fascinated by the global phenomenon of memorial benches. Depending on the materials used the cost of a bench varies. For example, the price of a granite bench is over $1000. In Bellingham, where memorial park benches are typically made of a synthetic material designed to withstand weather, the current cost of a memorial park bench is $750 and the memorial bronze plaque is $85. However, it’s not the global distribution of memorial benches, nor the cost that most fascinates me; it’s the significance of a memorial to the departed.

When I sit on a memorial bench, I wonder what the commemorated person might say about the view if her or she were able to sit beside me. I can’t speak for the departed, but for me each bench (death) in the context of Lake Padden (abundant life) suggests life is continuous.

High quality, giclee reproductions are available at

Tips on Framing Artwork on Paper

February 28th, 2016

Tips on Framing Artwork on Paper


Several years ago, a friend asked me to reframe a print which had sentimental value. I gently removed nails from the rear of the frame and lifted the cardboard backing. What I saw was a disaster, the consequences of a series of framing mistakes. On the back of the print, the corrugated cardboard had left brown lines. The print had masking tape across the top of the print and in the corners at the bottom. The tape was dark brown with age, and the paper around the tape was brown. On the front of the print, where the mat touched it, the paper was tan and brittle, like an old newspaper. The print was taped along the top and on the corners. Even though the print was taped down, it was warped.

Paper made from untreated wood pulp is acidic. It’s the lignin in wood pulp that causes paper to turn yellow and brittle. The deterioration is accelerated by light and heat. Warping of the print was caused by taping down the print on all corners. The passage of time will damage any artwork which uses inappropriate framing materials, such as cardboard, scotch tape or masking tape, and cheap mat board. Using inappropriate framing methods, such as taping down all the edges of artwork, will add to the damage.

Conscientious framers and galleries use appropriate archival materials and methods. Do-it-yourself framing may be for you if you’re framing lots of art work on paper, such photographs and fine art reproductions. Even if you have only a few items to frame and you hire someone else do your matting and framing, it’s useful to know how quality framing improves the longevity of art.

The longevity of art is improved with quality conservation choices in framing materials, such as mat and mounting boards. A range of standards are used by the paper industry. For example, “acid-free” is a misnomer. Acid-free boards are not necessarily acid-free. Acid-free paper has some acid in it; the product is generally buffered with calcium carbonate or magnesium carbonate to provide an alkaline reserve. Acid-free papers and boards have a life expectancy of about 100 years, which means they are perfectly appropriate for a giclée reproduction, which can be expected to last about the same number of years.

For original works of art on paper, using archival boards and papers is a better option than acid-free boards. Archival paper is especially durable, permanent, and acid-free. One of my pastel paintings, for example, should last for many centuries with archival framing and with appropriate conservation. In choosing materials for framing original art, it’s prudent to pay attention to archival grades. Some boards labeled “archival” are made from wood pulp that is buffered. They are a good choice for a reproduction, but for an original, the best conservation choice is an archival board made from 100% cotton. Art stores sometimes refer to it as “museum board”.

Framers should always maintain a high standard of cleanliness and organization. Before handling paper, framers wash their hands or wear thin, cotton gloves, because the natural oil on hands is acidic. A framer’s work space is clean, tidy, and organized. One way to prevent that annoying speck of dust between the glass and mat is by maintaining a high standard of cleanliness. Organization matters; wasting minutes looking for a tool is unnecessarily frustrating. Safety matters, too. I wear appropriate gloves to handle glass. With gloves, I avoid marks on the glass and cuts on my fingers.

Among my early framing mistakes was choosing the wrong mat color. The purpose of a mat is to create a breathing space between the glass and the work of art, to provide an unobtrusive transition from the frame to the artwork, or to dramatize the artwork. A frame shop sells an overwhelming range of mat colors. However, the lighting in the store might be different than the lighting in your home. Subtle color shifts occur under different lighting conditions. The mat color that looked perfect in the frame shop might look different in your home.

The lesson I learned from my mistakes was that keeping things simple worked best. For my artwork, the most successful mat color choices are warm white, cream, and medium gray. My suggestion is that you start with these three basic colors, and then branch out if you love brightly colored mats. The photograph for this blog entry shows a medieval illumination with an off-white mat, perhaps one of the few mat colors that would work with the intense red of the wall, the gold frame, and the colors of the illumination.

Be aware that many mats of color - the kind with color on the surface and white on the reverse side - aren’t museum-grade. A thin layer of buffered paper protects the art work from the rest of the mat, which is not acid-free. Within a year, the beveled edge of the mat changes from white to tan, an advertisement to my eye that the mat isn’t museum-grade. This doesn’t mean it’s a poor choice. It’s fine, if the longevity of this type of mat and the artwork are similar.

When cutting a mat, my experience is that a 2-ply board is too thin because it tends to cockle. “Cockle” in this sense is an artist’s term referring to wrinkled or rippled paper caused by changes in humidity. A better choice is a 4-ply board for mats. I also use 4-ply as a mounting board for artwork because the mat and the mounting board should be the same ply. In some situations where the substrate, or ground, for the artwork is completely affixed to the mounting board, an 8-ply might be the best choice. Conservation framers, however, don’t recommend dry or wet mounting artwork to a mounting board.

For me, it’s nearly impossible to satisfactorily cut 4-ply boards with a straight edge and razor blade, and since I couldn’t master the hand-held mat cutter, I happily invested in a professional table mat cutter. There are many good mat cutters available. What you decide to buy depends on your budget, the reviews of consumers, and on how often you might use it.

A space for framing your matted art work is indispensable. . If you lack space, a kitchen table might do for getting started or for framing one or two reproductions, but if you plan to frame several works of art on paper, eventually you’ll need a clean space dedicated to cutting mats and putting frames together. To make a framing table, I bought two used office desks with drawers and laid a sheet of three-quarter inch plywood on top of the desks. I store framing materials and tools in the drawers of the desks. A flat, wool rug on top of the plywood provides a cushioned work space for assembling frames. I screwed an L-shaped, one-inch square piece of molding at the edge of the framing surface to secure the carpet and to support the frame when driving in brads

When I started framing my work, I used a small hammer to nail down the framing materials and backing board. By “framing materials”, I’m referring to the glass, mat, artwork and mounting board, and a backing board, such as a sheet of archival foam core. A small hammer works fine, but I graduated to professional tools.I highly recommend them. The Fletcher FrameMaster® Point Driver shoots a flat, small piece of metal into the frame to secure the backboard. It’s a great tool for framing photographs and reproductions. The other tool, the Fletcher FrameMate®, allows me to gently squeeze small nails into the frame. I use this tool when I’m framing pastels.

In my opinion, one of the worst framing options is buying ready-made frame packages (frame, glass and backing) for a few dollars. It seems like a bargain, but the framing materials will eventually ruin the artwork. The paper products used in cheap frames are not acid-free. If you substitute better products, it’s likely the rabbet of the frame won’t be deep enough. (The rabbet is the recess on the back inside edge of the frame into which the artwork fits.) The glass is the poorest quality. Moreover, a cheap frame won’t hang straight or hang securely. Don’t waste your money. All works of art on paper are worth a quality frame, UV-filter glazing if you can afford it, and appropriate acid-free or archival materials.

If your artwork is a standard size, a photograph for example, a ready-made standard-sized frame (not a package with cheap paper materials and glass) will probably meet your needs. Many Internet companies sell good pre-assembled frames. Ready-made frames are sometimes of lower quality than the molding you can buy in lengths. If you have some carpentry skills, and you have the work space, you will probably want to purchase lengths of molding that you cut to size and join together. It’s less expensive and the quality is good, but you will need more tools and time.

Many styles of frames are available. My taste in frames, like my taste in mat colors, is to keep it simple. Unless a wide, fancy frame enhances the artwork and interior, an inch wide, square frame that is brown, black, or a natural hard wood will suit most artwork. To accommodate archival framing materials, I choose frames with a rabbet at least 1-1/8” deep.

There are probably better methods for determining the dimensions of a frame than the one I use. For what it’s worth, I measure the dimension of my art work, a little shy of the edge of the art, so the mat will fully cover it. Then I add the size of the mat width I want. To my eye, artwork seems to rest in the mat better when the base is slightly wider than the sides and top of the mat. Sometimes, if the mat sits on the bottom of the frame more closely than it does at the top, that extra width makes all the difference. If you are using a ready-made frame, the inside of the frame where the glass fits (the rabbet) will determine width of your mat. When fitting to an existing frame, measure the frame’s inner dimension first, and then calculate the width of the mat you need for the artwork.

If you’ve not made the measurements before, it might be easier to understand the process by following the arithmetic instead of the words. Usually art work is listed height first and width second. Suppose my artwork measures 33.75” high and 26” wide. I decide I want a mat that’s 3” wide; therefore, 3” on one side and 3” on the other side, which adds to 6”. I add the 6” to the width, 26 + 6, which is 32”. Next, I add 3” to the top and 3.25” to the bottom of the mat, 33.75 + 6.25, which is 40”. Now I know that to frame my art, the glass, mat board, mounting board, and backing board will need to be cut precisely 32” x 40”. The dimension of the frame, however, is usually cut about 1/8” larger to accommodate all the material.

Artwork is usually taped to a mounting board. After the artwork is secured with tape, the mat for the artwork is placed on top of the mounting board. Since the mounting board and the mat will surround the art, the boards must be acid-free or archival. That goes for the tape, too. I’ve used Lineco’s self-adhesive linen cloth tape for reproductions. It might be okay for smaller works of art, like photographs, but for larger works, and for the heavier paper I use for pastels, the tape may not hold. For art work on heavier paper, my choice is Lineco’s gummed linen hanging tape. Both products are archival.

The box in which the tape is packaged has pictures that show how to use the tape properly. Artwork should not be taped on all corners. Works of art on paper need to expand and contract with changes in humidity and temperature. If works on paper are fastened so the sides and bottom edges can’t move, the sad result will be cockling of the paper.

For conservation framing, the recommended tape is Japanese paper torn into strips and attached with cooked rice or wheat starch paste. Insta-Hinge® has re-wettable starch in the paper making it easier to use.

If a wood frame is unfinished inside (the rabbet), ideally that area should be sealed to keep the acid in the wood from migrating into the mat board and the mounting board. Lineco’s Frame Sealing Tape is designed for this specific purpose. The point is to make an environment for a work of art on paper that is as acid-free as possible. This is not a necessary procedure for a reproduction, but I think every artist’s original work is a potential heirloom, so I seal my wood frames.

A lesson I learned the hard way is to avoid compressing the framing materials together tightly and nailing the backing board down like a coffin lid. The pressure smashes the artwork on all sides, preventing natural expansion and contraction, which has the same effect as taping all the edges, and the mat and artwork may warp, ripple, and wrinkle. I’ve learned to ease up, imagining the artwork as alive, breathing and moving in its home inside the mat and mounting board.

Several options for glazing are available. I prefer using Tru-Vu’s® Museum Glass to frame my pastels because it reduces glare, eliminates 99% of the UV light damage to artwork, and has amazing clarity. Unfortunately, the cost of Museum Glass is amazing, too. You can buy a less expensive glass that reduces UV damage, but it either reflects, or has poor clarity. To protect your photographs and reproductions from UV damage, a good choice might be Tru-Vu’s® Conservation Glass. It not only blocks UV, but also it takes fewer bills from your wallet. Tru-Vu’s® website provides more information about glass and about distributors for its products. The lesser of glazing options is using regular single-strength glass. It is reflective, doesn’t protect the art from light, and it has a green tint to it.

Personally, I think regular glass is still okay for a reproduction if protected from UV damage by varnishing it with a product formulated to inhibit UV light. I avoid sprays because of the toxicity. Using a flat brush, I coat the surface with a matte UV resistant varnish. The product I use is Golden’s Polymer Matte Varnish with UVLS®. It’s available from Dakota Art Store at As quickly as possible after coating the surface with the varnish; I roll a brayer directly over the varnish on the reproduction to get a smooth, even surface. The use of a brayer is crucial. Then I let the paper dry. The paper will bend because of the difference in surface tension between the top and bottom of the paper, but the weight of several books, after it’s dry, will flatten it. If not flat, coating the back side of the reproduction will equalize the tension. Be sure to wash the brush and brayer immediately after using them.

When I frame pastels, I make a special hidden quarter-inch thick mat that extends the space between the glass and the art work. If pastel dust is dislodged, the dust particles drop unseen. Sometimes the bits of dust are visible on the edge of the mat. A little pastel dust is like crazing on an oil painting - part of the poetry of the medium.

Finally, a frame should always be sealed on the back with a dust cover. After a few years, it’s surprising how much household dust and how many tiny insects can get into the framing materials. When practical, I choose an acid-free dust cover, such as those offered by Lineco®.

If you’re really serious about learning to frame your artwork, the next step might be reading a book on matting, mounting, and framing art. David Logan’s book, Mat, Mount, and Frame It Yourself probably has all the information you need, including how to read a ruler to 1/16. For best framing practices, I recommend the book Conservation Framing by Vivian C. Kistler.

© 2013 Np

In The Conservatory Series

January 10th, 2016

In The Conservatory Series


Visitors enter the Seattle Conservatory through doors under an arch located at the southern end of what appears an atrium or transept. The shape of the arch is repeated above long aisles, which stretch east and west from the atrium, and end in an L-shape instead of an apse. Inside the building, sounds are hushed. The air is warm and moist. Heavenly scents, complex visual patterns, and intensely rich colors blend into a joyous hymn that one feels rather than hears.

What we see in a building depends on our business and purpose. To an insurance agent, the Seattle Conservatory with its 3,426 panes of glass might represent a liability. An accountant might have seen red ink because entry to the Conservatory was once free to more than 150,000 annual visitors, but now a fee is charged. To an artist, the building may have multiple meanings.

When I include a building in a painting, it might be only for the sake of the composition, or it might be a metaphor or simile for an inner state of awareness. The interior of a school, a gym, or a home may represent an inner condition of the psyche associated with that type of building. Seeing buildings as symbols for the human condition is only one of many ways to view them, and done too often or carried too far, it’s a recipe for sterility. Occasionally, however, when structural parts of a building align with other elements in a painting, metaphor seems to fit the artwork like the final piece of a jig-saw puzzle.

The Seattle Conservatory slightly echoes the architecture of a gothic church. Most people who visit the Conservatory don’t notice the resemblance; they come to look at exotic plants that would not survive outside the building. They stroll, look, and marvel. I marvel with them; yet, with imagination I see more. For me, the Conservatory is a sanctuary, a place for reflection and meditation. It is a metaphor for my inner spiritual life as it should exist. In root, stem, leaf, and flower, I see the glory of the Creator.

What most visitors see are the natural forms and colors of plants. Most painters, too, whether they work abstractly or realistically, focus on form and color because artists construct a painting primarily with these two elements. Wassily Kandinsky, a famous pioneer of abstract art, devoted a chapter to form and color in his influential book, Concerning the Spiritual in Art, which was first published in German in 1911. Kandinsky’s thinking is still important to any artist who wishes to see beyond the surface of things. His opinion was that form and color have a mutual influence on each other, and that both elements in a work of art connect with the observer’s soul. Kandinsky had doubts about the material world as a source for art because he believed that the excessively material-minded culture of his time retarded artistic and spiritual growth. “The more abstract is form, the more clear and direct is its appeal,” he wrote.
Kandinsky was not the first artist to construct completely abstract paintings derived from an inner quest. A Swedish woman was a step or two ahead of him. When you have the time for it, search the Internet for Hilma Af Klint and Gertrud Sandqvist’s lecture on Klint’s mystical union of form, color and spirit. It’s an astonishing presentation about a great artist who deserves wider recognition.

Although Kandinsky championed abstract art, he elevated freedom of artistic expression over style, as long as artistic expression came from an inner spiritual source. “The artist may use any form which his expression demands; for his inner impulse must find suitable outward expression. All means are sacred which are called for by the inner need. All means are sinful which obscure that need.” Kandinsky asserted that the study of color is the starting point in developing an artists’ understanding of spirit in art. We might say that color has three fields of inquiry: the scientific, the artistic, and the spiritual. An understanding of color based on science is verifiable by empirical experiments. The general public has an elementary grasp of the physics and psychology of color, and some knowledge about mixing pigments. Artists, especially painters, can be expected to know more than the general public about the physics and psychology of color, and much more about the properties of pigments, because it’s their business to know more.

Most people, including artists, don’t consider color from a spiritual perspective; however, color as a manifestation of spiritual energy is supported by non-empirical traditions and by personal experience. To the extent that an artist works with color intuitively, his or her work functions as a bridge between the scientific and the spiritual. Many artists might be uncomfortable with the term “spiritual” in this context, but in working with color, artists often work from near-trance, a state of mind that opens them to the influence of Spirit, or the Creative Force. Kandinsky called it working from innere Notwendigkeit, or “inner need” which means an urge for spiritual expression. Kandinsky also used the term for the spiritual expression itself in a work of art.

Science informs us that color and everything else is vibrating energy. Consider for example, Albert Einstein’s famous remark about matter and vibration, “Concerning matter, we have been all wrong. What we have called matter is energy, whose vibration has been so lowered as to be perceptible to the senses. There is no matter.” Color is an interpretation of specific vibrations, or frequencies, of electromagnetic energy. Color is descriptive of objects, for instance a green leaf or a red rose, but color is in the eye and brain, not in the objects.

I value what science tells me about color; unfortunately, science doesn’t have answers for all my questions. If vibrational frequencies we call color are outside of us, are similar vibrational energies within us? In working with pigments, can an artist generate similar color vibrations from within? Can the inner experience of color become an intuitive source for developing color harmonies? Can artwork based on the “inner need” of an artist directly affect the inner spirit of observers? My experiences in painting and with meditation make me open to possibilities, many of which are rooted in spiritual traditions.
Mystics and psychics state that the loci of major spiritual centers in the human body run from the base of the spinal area to the crown of the head. The existence of spiritual centers in our bodies, while not empirical, is supported by anecdotes of extraordinary and ordinary people throughout history. I’m among the ordinary people who have experienced the opening of energy fields during meditation. The experience is difficult to describe; it’s like trying to describe the taste of a banana to someone who has never eaten one. In the literature on spiritual centers, the association of color with them is not entirely consistent, and there is some disagreement about the order of the sixth and seventh spiritual center.

Even if spiritual centers in the body are a metaphysical myth, the concept is useful in making paintings that are symbolic of the spiritual potential within us. Thus, in my imagination, the Seattle Conservatory is symbolic of the spiritual body. In my imagination, plants in the conservatory represent the sites within us where spirit interacts with the physical. Imagination is powerful; nevertheless, I’m not deluding myself. My paintings are just paintings. They cannot be used to open the spiritual centers of the body. They have no power to foster wondrous spiritual growth. They cannot cure illness. Such powers are within the observer.

The paintings can, however, be enjoyed as art. Contemplation of the paintings might even be uplifting. According to Kandinsky, the artist’s “deeds, feelings, and thoughts, as those of every man, create a spiritual atmosphere which is either pure or poisonous. Those deeds and thoughts are materials for his creations, which themselves exercise influence on the spiritual atmosphere.” I agree wholeheartedly. In making the seven paintings in this series, I hope innere Notwendigkeit informs the artworks’ “spiritual atmosphere”.

Seven key spiritual centers in our bodies are located at the sites of our endocrine glands, according to contemporary literature on the topic. The spiritual centers can be associated with Newton’s classic colors of the visible light spectrum. The energy of the colors can be related to how we think and act.
In the conservatory series, I have paired seven paintings with the spiritual centers they represent. The paintings have a dominate color that matches the center’s energy, but they are multihued because they are paintings of real plants. As I painted each plant, my awareness was on the specific spiritual center being represented. Although we can assume the spiritual centers and their representative color are the same for all of us, the significance of a color is not necessarily the same. The meaning of a color varies from culture to culture and from person to person.

First Center – Gonads (testes and ovaries) - The Root
Color: red
Positive: energetic, productive
Negative: self-indulgent, aggressive

Second Center – Cells of Leydig – The Navel
Color: orange
Positive: creative, vital.
Negative: sexually imbalanced, indecisive

Third Center – Adrenal Glands – The Solar Plexus
Color: yellow
Positive: intelligent, optimistic
Negative: impractical, suspicious

Fourth Center – Thymus Gland – The Heart
Color: green
Positive: able to heal, generous
Negative: envious, jealous

Fifth Center – Thyroid Gland – The Throat
Color: blue
Positive: spiritual, cooperative
Negative: too idealistic, willful

Sixth Center – Pineal Gland – The Crown
Color: indigo
Positive: intuitive, spiritually wise
Negative: self-sufficient

Seventh Center – Pituitary Gland – The Third Eye
Color: violet
Positive: having great spiritual powers, love Divine
Negative: self-righteous

Hanging Art in Your Home

May 9th, 2014

Hanging Art in Your Home

Hanging Art in Your Home

Once you have purchased the right piece of art for your home, the final step is hanging it correctly. The purpose of this article is to help you hang your pictures like a professional in the visual arts.

Your art should be approachable. Place framed art on walls approximately at eye-level, and small works of art where they can be viewed up close. An interior decorator thinks visually. Try to look at your furniture, lamps, fabrics, wall color, and works of art as visual units. Unless you enjoy visual cacophony, aim for balance and harmony. Trust your eyes. Most of us have an innate sense of color, harmony, and balance.

Art should be at ease in your home, in proportion to the surrounding space. A huge museum-sized painting will overwhelm a room too small for it. A postcard-sized painting will be lost on a large wall.

Fine art deserves care in handling and hanging. The correct way to lift any picture is by the hanging wire. If a picture needs to be carried some distance, wear a glove to protect your hand from the wire. Avoid lifting the picture from the top of the frame. This is especially important if the picture is framed with glass, because the glass may become separated from the wood frame.

An interior decorator hangs valuable works of art in appropriate locations. Photographs, reproductions, and original works of art don’t fare well in direct sunlight, or in damp places like bathrooms. Heavy picture frames, especially frames with glass, should not be hung over a bed. The chance of an earthquake dislodging a painting may seem remote, but a shower of glass shards would be a memorable awakening!

An interior decorator secures pictures on a wall using appropriate hanging materials. The hanging wire must be strong enough to easily support the weight of the picture over many years. Framers and designers use professional wire designed for the purpose. Avoid impatient substitutions. For example, I have seen dental floss used in place of hanging wire. In a pinch, floss or string may seem to work, but the risk is an injury or damage to the art.

Recently, I was at a home where I was helping with a framing project. I noticed a painting was hanging on three straight-pins hammered into the wall. The pins flexed like miniature arrows in the center of a bull’s eye. Inventive, but a risky method for hanging a painting worth several hundred dollars!

A single nail is not necessarily more secure. The weight of a painting pulls straight down on a nail. When hanging pictures in a home, professionals use two picture hangers matched to the weight of the picture. Two hangers will keep the picture more secure and level over time. Professional picture hangers (available at any hardware store, or at Amazon as "professional picture hangers") use nails with a very small diameter, but the design ensures that the angle of the nail in combination with the hook’s brace against the dry wall spreads the load of the picture’s weight across the wall. If you’re willing to spend a few hundred dollars on fine art, why not spend two or three dollars on professional hanging materials? Your safety and the artwork deserve the care.

Prior to hanging a painting, you will need a pencil, a measuring tape, two professional hooks, a small hammer, and a level. If possible, have an assistant help. The first step is to inspect the frame, making sure the hardware on the frame is sound. Check to be certain that the hanging wire is placed correctly on the frame and tight enough, so that the hanger on the wall won’t show above the frame.

Ask your assistant to hold the artwork against the wall where you plan to hang it. Remember, pictures should be lifted by the hanging wire, or by the sides, but never by the top of the frame. Step back and make one more assessment. Is it right for the room and space?

I use two methods for hanging art. When I have only a small painting or two to hang, and each piece does not have to be perfectly placed on the wall, I use the eye-ball method. When I need to be precise, I use the measurement method.

Let’s imagine I’m hanging a framed photograph with the eye-ball method. Holding up the picture on the wall at my eye-level, I reach behind the frame with one hand, pull up the hanging wire tightly, and mark that location on the wall. Then, I lower the top of the frame to the spot I marked. I quickly check to be sure the frame is level by analyzing whether it’s square with the ceiling, floor, or vertical edge of a wall. With the top of the frame at the spot I marked on the wall, I make two small marks in pencil along the top of the frame. The two marks indicate where the hooks will be nailed on the wall.

The eye-ball method is quick and simple. I can hang small pictures without help, but the help of an assistant makes hanging easier. For larger photographs and paintings, I always use an assistant to help hold the picture, while I mark the locations of hooks with a pencil.

The second method - the measurement method - is more precise and almost as easy, but it takes more time. Some elementary arithmetic and some measuring are required. The measurement method reduces error, and its precision is useful for hanging a series of paintings, such as a group of paintings that are bottom-justified. Visualize a series of pictures on the walls of a room where the bottom edges of the frames are exactly the same distance from the floor. The pictures are hung bottom-justified. Sometimes the distance between pictures is also the same. Pictures that are bottom-justified function like stepping stones on a path. The orderly arrangement invites seeing the pictures one-by-one. The measurement method is less quick, but I’m unlikely to make mistakes, which means no adjustments to the hanging wire, or unwanted nail holes in the wall.

In describing the steps of the measurement method, let’s imagine we are hanging the picture together. The first step is to determine eye-level. About 57-60 inches is the average eye-level. The arithmetic is easier if we use 60 inches from the floor up the wall as our standard for eye-level, so we will use that number for all paintings we hang.

Next, we measure the height of the frame. We divide that number by 2. For example, if the frame is 40 inches high, we divide 40 inches by 2. The number to remember for this example is 20.

With the number 20 in our memory, we pull up the picture wire as if it were supported by two hangers. We measure the distance between the top of the wire and the top of the frame. Let’s say it is 5 inches from the top of the wire to the top of the frame. Remember the number 20? We subtract 5 inches from 20 inches. The answer for this example is 15 inches. Now the number to remember is 15.

We add 15 inches to 60 inches (our eye-level measurement) which is 75 inches. We measure 75 inches from the floor up the wall, and that’s where we want to hang the hooks. Since we’re using two hooks, we need to locate the hooks on the wall along an imaginary horizontal line that is less than the width of the picture’s frame. We can use our level placed at exactly 75 inches from the floor to locate the hooks. If a level is not available, we can use the top of the frame as a measuring tool to locate the two hooks, each of which (in this example) will be 75” from the floor up. Let’s be sure to visually check that the picture frame is level, but not to worry if we are off slightly, the picture will still hang level. We don’t want to place the hooks at the outer edges of the width of the frame. If a hanging wire fits over the hooks like a guitar string, hanging the painting on the hooks is a struggle. If the hooks are placed too close to each other, the top of the picture will hang too far forward.

Before we gently hammer home the nails in the hanging hooks, we want to place them so the hooks supporting the hanging wire are at the spot we marked, not the nail entry. The entrance for the nail will be slightly above 75 inches. (If that’s confusing, look again at the image accompanying this article.) And that’s it, we did it!

In this article, I have provided a few tips which will help you correctly hang your art as if you were an interior decorator, but I encourage you to buy art with the eye of an artist. The priority for an artist is the art. In searching for the right art for your home, keep your décor in mind, but buy only the art you love. You will probably live with your art for the rest of your life, and the painting you love might become an heirloom, outliving many rooms and many homes. For tips on buying art and framing art, please see other articles posted on my blog with FAA.

Finding And Buying Fine Art For Your Home

December 5th, 2013

Finding And Buying Fine Art For Your Home


Whether it is a house, a condo, an apartment, or a yurt, a structure becomes a home by adding furniture, lighting, rugs, plants, and art. Homemakers sometimes overlook art, which is typically the last thing added. Yet, art should be a priority because it uniquely distinguishes a home.

Uncertainty about what makes art good, how to find affordable art, and how to display it, may keep people from recognizing the importance of art in creating a sense of home. However, given a few tips to get started, anyone can find and buy great art, and hang it successfully.


Even if you feel that you know nothing about art, you can acquire some basic knowledge by browsing through art books. A place to begin might be with the with the familiar art of the Impressionists and post-Impressionists, or with the work of American painters and photographers - such as Alfred Stieglitz, Thomas Eakins, Winslow Homer, Edward Weston, Georgia O’Keeffe, Edward Hopper, Charles Burchfield, Alice Neel, Mark Rothko, Helen Frankenthaler, Irving Penn, Richard Diebenkorn, and Steven Shore - to name a few celebrated artists whose work is very approachable.

Visit local museums and galleries. Discover your preferences by paying attention to what you don’t like as well as well as what you like, but keep an open mind and eye. With exposure and understanding, the art you don’t like today may become the art you love tomorrow.


The astonishing sky-high prices of trophy art at Christie’s or Sotheby’s are unreal. Buying art to make money is a bad idea, unless you’re a billionaire who can spend millions to acquire world-famous art. If you want to invest in your retirement, a Roth IRA is certain, but art is a gamble. However, buying good art is absolutely a sound investment in your home. Great art is the crown of a home’s interior design.

Great art is not necessarily the art which costs millions, or which has a brand-name style, like a Lichtenstein, or a Warhol. Fame, fashion, and art markets can be blind to great art. In the end, be willing to ignore what others might think or say. You are the one living with the art in your home. Trust your heart and eye as well as your knowledge.


Many unrecognized, living artists are producing good art that sells for affordable prices. To find the art, attend local art exhibits, art openings, and art walks. When you find work you like at art receptions, introduce yourself to the artist. Be brief. Ask for a business card and call later to set up a visit to the artist’s studio. Visiting the artist in the studio is a good way to get to know the artist and the art, but if you love a work of art displayed in a gallery, buy it from the gallery. It’s fair and ethical, and everyone lives easier with themselves.

Perhaps one of the easiest ways to find good art is through the Internet. Big art companies offer thousands of art works for sale. However, so broad is the variety and so uncertain the quality, the search can be overwhelming, and perhaps disappointing. Some big art companies make money by selling inexpensive mats and frames for the art they offer, which may not enhance the art or your home.

A smaller, online gallery like Trillium Gallery is less overwhelming, and offers many advantages. Unlike the big art companies, where any "artist" can post items for sale, Trillium Gallery only represents artists who produce high quality art, who demonstrate integrity over time, and who are committed to growth. The initial step in your search for quality art has been done for you by Trillium Gallery’s knowledgeable curator.

Trillium Gallery represents professionals from around the globe, and offers outstanding original paintings, innovative digital art, and fine art photography. It’s comforting to know that if you need help, you’re not referred to a list of commonly asked questions online; the gallery lists a phone number and the gallery’s curator will happily take your call during business hours.

Trillium Gallery also offers all art works as custom giclée reproductions, making its great art very affordable.


Make a budget and expect hidden expenses. Add a little for taxes and shipping, and add a generous amount for framing. Be willing to spend more than you planned. Many collectors regretfully recall a piece they dearly loved, but since it cost more than their budget, they lost it. Looking back, they say they should have spent the extra money.

Carefully plan where you intend to place the art. When you visit art galleries and museums, study how professional curators hang and group various kinds of art work. Browse through interior decorating magazines and analyze how designers integrate art with furniture. Notice that art looks best when it is in proportion to an interior space, neither too large nor too small for it.

Art should be hung about five to six inches above furniture so art and furniture form a visual unit. Avoid placing paintings or photographs too high on a wall. Hang art at the average person’s eye-level, which is about 55 to 60 inches from the floor to the middle of the art.

In a dining room where everyone will be seated, the art can be placed lower. To create an imaginary line that moves the eye from one piece to another around a room, align the bottoms of the paintings or photographs so they make a horizontal line. This is called bottom-justifying the art.

Instead of placing one large painting in a space, some designers group several small paintings or photographs with other objets d’art. One way to unify a group is by theme – for example, paintings, drawings, and photographs of shells, rocks, and beach glass. Grouping by color works well, also. Black and white photographs go well with ink or charcoal drawings. Unify a group of disparate images with mats and frames of the same width and color. Keep in mind that a collection of small works of art on a wall should be placed so people can get up close to see details.

Placement of art should respect visitors. Landscapes, seascapes, flowers and other still life are welcome anywhere in the home, but personal art, such as nude studies, are more appropriately placed in a private space like your bedroom.

In your planning, think in terms of the anticipated framed size. Measure the space available. Cut out a piece of paper (or several papers for groups) and tape it in place with painter’s masking tape. Step back and evaluate how it looks. If possible, take a small photograph of the art work and hold it out at arm’s length and move closer or further away so the photograph fills the scrap of paper on the wall. Ask yourself how it looks with the other furnishings and colors in the room.


The choice of frame depends on the style of art, the other furnishings in a home, and personal taste. For these reasons it might make sense to buy art unframed. Whether you frame it yourself, or have a professional framer do it for you, it's important to know how art work is framed for longevity. For helpful information, please refer to the next blog.


The intent of this article is to help homemakers become more confident about finding and buying good art. If you found it helpful, please pass on the link to this article.

Copyright 2013 by Np

About Pastel Paintings

November 29th, 2013

About Pastel Paintings


Painting with pastels is as close as an artist can get to painting with pure pigment. Pastels have an airiness and surface light unduplicated by other painting media because the tiny particles of pigment reflect from many facets like rough-cut gems.


A pastel painting is as lightfast and as permanent as any other paint medium. Properly framed with Museum Glass® or Conservation Glass® and archival mat and mounting board, an original pastel is an heirloom that can be passed on to many generations. One significant advantage of a pastel painting is that, unlike other paint mediums, the pigments of pastels are not saturated with a binder, which means pastels will not yellow, darken, or craze with age like other paint media. Pastel paintings in museums from the 18th century are as bright and fresh today as when they were painted.


Nick Payne’s original pastel paintings are available through Trillium Gallery. Paintings are mailed to you with 100% rag, archival mat and mounting board, but without glazing and the frame, which allows you to select the frame and glazing that suits your interior and taste. For more information, please contact the gallery’s director, Maureen Maliha.

Trillium Gallery
PO Box 88
Glenford, NY 12433

Phone (NY time) 845-332-6525


In addition to offering original works of art by talented artists, Trillium Gallery's personal attention to detail ensures the enduring quality of its giclee fine art reproductions..Quality giclée reproductions of pastels have far better longevity than the art prints of yesteryear. A giclée reproduction framed under UV inhibiting glass is lightfast for 75 to 100 years, depending on other conditions such as humidity, temperature and lighting. Your family can enjoy the painting for a lifetime. The advantage of a giclée reproduction is affordability. Another advantage of a reproduction is that the art can be offered in smaller sizes to fit smaller wall spaces in a home.