As a child growing up I didn’t know how to ice skate, but I had always wanted to learn. When, as a teenager, my cousins provided me the opportunity to learn with a pair of borrowed skates I welcomed the challenge and soon found out how much fun it could be.
The frozen lake near my cousin’s home was where I first learned to put on those skates and step out onto the ice. I quickly learned, however, that the challenge for me was to remain upright! My many attempts at remaining so were met with either landing sprawled out on the ice face-first or sitting on my bum. With determination to succeed and a willingness to learn and lots of practice, I eventually found my footing and balance and, to my delight, marveled at how wonderful the sensation of remaining upright felt!
Before long I learned to glide tentatively around on the ice and determined to do more. I skated every chance I had. As my confidence grew, along came spins and loop-de-loops, figure eights and slides and eventually holding hands with cousins and classmates as we skated ‘crack-the-whip’. The best part of all was dancing on the ice with a partner to the music provided by a portable radio. It was thrilling and I felt as if I had climbed the highest mountain! What joy!
So how does learning to skate relate to restoring an artwork? The answer is that just like ice skating, it takes lots of practice! Lots of researching the best way to accomplish a goal, studying the methods used by others in restoring artwork, practicing and experimenting with different media and techniques used in painting on various surfaces. Each attempt, whatever its condition, brings you more knowledge and more skill and confidence and once you understand what the project requires, you can accomplish your goal.
A fellow artist offered me a collaborative art restoration project and I welcomed the opportunity to work with him in bringing life back to a damaged piece of furniture and artwork. This project came in the form of a beautiful antique cabinet that needed repairing (his job) but with doors painted with beautiful “romance style” paintings that had been badly damaged (my job). See Figure 1.
On first look, the challenge was to educate myself about the period and style of the paintings, then determine what media had been used in painting the art (oil). How was the surface prepared for painting?, what was used for the base layer?, did any of the pigments contain lead?, if the paint was applied in layers how many layers?, and to what degree could I restore the paintings while preserving their integrity?
Prior to restoration and due to their fragile condition (Figure 2 & 3) both paintings suffered from extensive damage throughout which included a great deal of cracking and flaking (Figure 4). The damage in Figure 3 shows a section of the painting which I found challenging because I now had a face to restore with no reference to its form other than the surrounding area.
Before any work could proceed on the paintings I needed to stabilize them so they could be worked on without causing further damage. Like ice skating, this was a learning process too, requiring researching and experimenting with different media. After carefully cleaning the surface, I applied a very light clear picture varnish to the surface of the cracking and flaking areas using a “Qtip”. Although this took many hours of gentle application the results allowed me to proceed with sanding and priming those areas needing attention without disturbing the fragile areas of the paintings.
After carefully and very gently sanding the damaged areas of the painting, I began filling in those areas of missing paint (Figures 5 & 6) by applying colors I had mixed matching as closely as possible the original painting. This was done by applying colors in layers, allowing each to dry before applying the next layer. Some areas took as many as 6 layers.
Once the background areas were completed, I began the work of restoring the face (Figure 7 & 8) by applying several layers of paint until I matched the surface of the surrounding areas. Each layer a little lighter than the previous until I was able to flesh out the cheek, eye, forehead and hair area, matching those colors to the original and restoring the facial features as closely as I was able to what the original may have been.
Once all of the elements of the paintings had been restored ( Figure 9 & 10) and brought together, the final result was again, two beautiful paintings by an unknown artist painted on a cherished piece of heirloom furniture that a family I had never met welcomed back into their home. Now I call that a great challenge!
I believe that beauty and Grace are all around us, every day. The camera helps me to really see things that I often walk past without seeing. By seeing beauty, symmetry and grace right where I am, I experience wonder and feel closer to my God. I experience this Grace nearly everywhere. In the patterns and colors of leaves on the ground or how the light and shadow play on the mountains. I feel that beauty, that reflection of Grace, is out there, perhaps not everywhere but in many places, happening so often that I only need to welcome it, be open to it for me to receive that Grace.
Mark Nepo says "In keeping the center of the I empty, the miracle of life can enter. Art Wolfe, renown landscape photographer says, "Do not shoot with prejudice". I translate that to mean do not go looking for fish in the forest. There is much sage advice down the ages about not deciding before you see or hear.
This photo is a good example of my belief that beauty in art and moments of grace happen constantly as a daily possibility. The day of this photo, I had driven many miles to photograph a famous waterfall and was returning home. I stopped near an orchard because of how the sunlight limned as a glow in the branches and leaves. I had already taken some very fine pictures of the waterfall and could very easily call the day a success, yet I stopped. I took some wonderful pictures of the light in the autumn leaves and, as I turned to leave, happy, I looked down.
For this I am grateful.
Please leave a comment to let Gray know what you think of his creative practice! To see more of Gray's photography, click here or visit him on Facebook. (GOG)
Red cedar 4 feet high...all of my pieces are carved from single blocks of salvaged wood.
The transition from moon to Otter was tricky. The nose becomes a shell on the other side and the Moon's eyebrow becomes a whisker for the Otter.
Otter Moon was on display in the Downtown Sculpture Gallery in Auburn, Washington, during 2017 - 2018 - auburnwa.gov/cms/one.aspx?portalId=11470638&pageId=12529292
I wanted to make the finished wood carving colorful so when I varnished it, I brushed on powdered pigments that have tiny flakes of mica which refract light. As you walk around it, it sparkles & changes with the light - like how the colors on a duck change back & forth.
This Sculpture is on a busy corner at the waterfront Park in Redondo Beach, Washington on loan to the city of Des Moines until 2020.
Looking towards the Olympics from Redondo Beach.
It is an honor the be a part of the Garry Oak Gallery where a number of my works are displayed.
This moon sculpture, that I am working on, is at the top of a 9' tall wood sculpture titled "Sailor's Moon". Hidden behind the moon is a mermaid riding on a whale. This is what the sailor is dreaming of as he sails across the lonesome sea. This is part of the series that I have been doing where the man in the moon is on one side and something else entirely is hidden on the other side.
Please visit my website to see photos of my art and to learn more.
Thank you, Pat McVay
This is a continuation of my posting on Bald Eagles that I've been lucky enough to photograph in Washington. To see more images and to read more about Bald Eagles visit the Cornell Ornithology website, All About Birds.
The regal Bald Eagle is the national emblem of the United States and has been revered by Native American tribes for hundreds of years. They are fierce, proud and free and it's easy to see why they have been chosen to be a symbol of the American spirit. This eagle was sitting peacefully on the bank of the Nooksack River.
Then he looked right into my camera and into my eyes. What a moment! He saw right through me.
The Alder trees across the river made a beautiful lacy pattern with their vertical trunks and reddish leaves against the firs and hemlocks on the hillside. The reddish dying grasses create the base for this image. There are at least 6 eagles in these trees!
A close up of the Alder tree trunks focuses on the verticality of the pattern, punctuated by one adult and one juvenile Bald Eagle flying together.
This beauty was chowing down on a dead salmon. Some people thought the fish had been placed there by a human in order to create this photo opportunity. Look at those talons! I would not dare mention the mess on his beak.
The Bald Eagle is the second largest bird of prey in North America after the California condor. It derives its name, not for any baldness, but for its conspicuous, white and fully-feathered, head. The colors of the adult bird are balanced by an equally white, flaring tail. I love this image because of the intricate pattern and texture created by the branches and the morning sunlight catching this Eagle in profile.
Spectacular, acrobatic flight displays reinforce the bonds between life-long Bald Eagle pairs. These two were cavorting in the sky over the Samish Flats a few winters ago. They flew directly overhead, their eyes locked and I was able to capture the last shot. I love how the graceful shapes of their wings complement each other and make an interesting negative space in the image.
I hope you've enjoyed my images of Bald Eagles and that you will be able to get out there this winter and spring to have your own Eagle Encounters! Would love to hear about your own experiences or any comments you have. Thanks so much. ~Beth
Western Washington supports a large population of resident Bald Eagles, which make themselves very visible to us as they soar on the thermals, fish the rivers, streams and beaches and hunt small mammals (including small pets) in the agricultural fields and suburbs. Since moving to Whidbey Island, I believe that I have heard an Eagle's territorial squeaking almost every single day of the year, whenever I've paid attention. There is a large nest a block away from our house, east of Oak Harbor, and I keep my formerly outdoor Montana-raised cats safely inside the house now. I love to photograph these huge birds in flight, perched in the trees or hanging out along the waterways.
A Noble Profile at Meerkerk Gardens on Whidbey Island.
These two were captured last summer as my husband Ferd and I motored up the Swinomish Channel.
The winter months bring a huge increase in the Bald Eagle population! A large number of them migrate to this area from their summer breeding grounds in Alaska and Canada, and it is easy to find hundreds of them gathered together to fish and hunt. The Skagit Eagle Festival celebrates this great opportunity to view and learn about our national bird. It is a month-long celebration of the Bald Eagle sponsored by Skagit County with activities taking place in Concrete, Rockport and Marblemount every full weekend in January.
One weekend, Ferd and I drove to the Nooksack River to join the throngs of photographers at the Bridge on Mosquito Lake Road. We arrived at sunrise and, while the eagle activity was relatively subdued and distant on this day, I was able to get some fun images. Their behaviors and interactions are always exciting to watch!
The beautiful Nooksack River view from the Mosquito Lake Road Bridge. There are 6 Eagles in this picture, but I can only see the one at this scale.
The closest fly-by I was able to catch.
He walked along the log a ways, then stopped and fluffed his feathers. Did he have an alarming thought... a sudden realization? Maybe he felt someone watching him?
Then he took off to fly over to the other side of the river for some privacy.
To be continued...
I hope you've enjoyed Part 1 of my Bald Eagle Encounters. Please let me know which is your favorite photograph or comment on your own experiences with these magnificent birds!
Behind the Art
Our artists share their experiences in creating their works of art. Comments and questions are welcome!