Landscapes of the South
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September 17, 2009
acrylic on wood panel
As Artists Age
I had a really interesting conversation this week with another artist about aging
in a career. The advantage that artists and craftsmen have is that we are able to
paint or do our work for a lifetime. We don't have to retire.
Often, our work is our obsession and life rather than a job separate from our personal
lives. To choose art as a profession is often unwise. We have no back up system.
We live on the fringes of society and often without much in creature comforts.
We manage to get along while we are vigorous and healthy but what happens when we
begin to age?
I thought this might be an insightful topic for my readers and my candor about it
might help you to understand the real world of being an artist. It is often isolating,
due to the nature of the work. We are either broke or flush depending on the economy,
and so there is little security for us. That is never a deterrent because we love
our job so much and it is an important one. We are the historians of our culture,
of our particular moment in history. We bring sweetness and refinement to an often
gritty dull world. We manage to see beauty in the mundane with humor, satire, and
devotion. Of course there are fabulously successful artists who are household names,
and moderately successful artists like me, who with hard work can live with the
comfort of a roof over our heads; my definition of success being that I can paint
for a living without two jobs. Would I love to be well to do? Of course, but I will
play the hand I have been dealt with gusto.
She brought up an interesting number of questions on this topic:
What happens to us as artists as we age?
On what have we designed our careers and life's work?
What do we do with all the leftover paintings and sketches we haven't sold?
What happens when our energy declines, if and when we get worn out and our inspiration
goes through spells of waning?
What happens when our eyesight starts dimming and we just aren't as sharp as we
used to be?
What happens when our memories start to elude us and we forget all the progress
we may have made in our careers and everything we may have learned?
What happens if we've built a business on rapid production (or any particular kind
of production) and it just becomes something we don't enjoy much anymore but we
don't know how to do anything else?
What happens when we get burned out of just plain tired. If one loses the joy,
how does one begin to re-define oneself at an older age, especially if one needs
The following was my answer to her:
For myself, I feel I am just now beginning to be a decent painter. The work I've
done in the last six months has been a significant jump in technique for me, at
least that is what people tell me. My dealer in Jacksonville wrote me a note and
said she was flabbergasted by the new work I sent her. I'm 59 and just learning
to paint. As long as I can live I will probably be filled with enthusiasm for painting.
I may not paint well the rest of my time on earth, but certainly with great joy.
As to my old work or any work. I have instructed my daughters to sell it the week
after my demise and get what they can for it on the market which will be fleetingly
hot for my work. I don't worry overmuch about any of that kind of thing. What doesn't
sell, can be burned on a fire or kept by them or given away by them.
I live with
great joy each day and don't worry a hell of a lot about tomorrow. We are all going
to go somehow sometime. I'm not a very deep thinker as you know.
I really can't imagine a time when I would not be thrilled to be a painter. That
has never come up in my life. In terms of money, I have lived marginally most of
my life so that is nothing new. I can live out of my car if I have to. If my memory
goes, I will probably vegetate fairly happily until I go. I strive to be the best
painter always and that is why I gave up studio teaching for Internet teaching.
I may starve but I will be content to paint at least.
I want to spend the rest of my productive painting life painting what I wish to
and for myself. I want to leave the legacy of the beauty of North Central Florida
and of the farms and ranches there. Recording this part of the world is a worthy
goal. I'm just so lucky that I never think much about the bad to come. It will
come without my help.
Lake Alice is a University of Florida treasure in Gainesville, Florida. It's a favorite
painting spot for me and I will soon be going there for fall painting time. I especially
enjoy painting there on Sunday morning. I meet lots of interesting people. it is
a favorite walking and jogging trail for people who live near or on campus. I've
done hundreds of paintings at Lake Alice, all of them small studies, but I think
it is time to do a larger painting of the lake I love so much.
I've had all kinds of encounters there with alligators and snakes over the years.
it is full of both. Once I got the bright idea to go out and set up my easel before
dawn, so I would be ready to paint the sunrise. I walked right up on a big alligator
and we both thrashed around, me screaming and running as fast as my short fat legs
would go and he/she thrashing around with that big tail and enormous choppers!!
You never know how fast you can run until fear drives you. I shook for an hour
and could hardly hold the brush to paint. That was my first and last attempt to
paint at lake Alice before dawn.
The wildlife at the lake is exceptional and so is the fall color. I have painted
there at all times of the day and in all seasons, but fall, October through December
is my favorite. The cypress trees turn rusty red against the blue in the water.
I have two favorite spots to paint, both to the right and left of the main picnic
area, which I avoid. As you circle around the path, there is a bench way back fronting
the lake, which most people pass by unnoticed. It is exceptionally beautiful there
and I see many wild birds because it is a quiet area.
Across the street is the much loved Bat House and the community garden.The bad House was damaged, but the work is ongoing to repair it. The street
is shady and pleasant with sidewalks on both sides and it's a wonderful place to
hang around on Sunday morning or in the evening to watch the bats emerge from their
house. it's a social place where families and friends meet.
There are lots of weddings at the beautiful Baughman Center, which is a chapel on
I love to go to the Mill Bakery for breakfast on Sunday, and then head over to the
lake to paint for an hour or two. I often run into photographers there and have
ended up in the paper, photographed while painting. I met a man once who pulled
his 18 wheeler truck up to watch me paint, leaving it in the middle of the road
for 10 minutes!! If you live near Gainesville, or are passing through, take a ride
over to Lake Alice. You will love it.
Here is a bit of info from Wikipedia on Lake Alice:
Lake Alice is a small lake on the University of Florida campus in Gainesville, Florida,
The lake is a wildlife area and is one of the few areas in incorporated Gainesville
to view live alligators. The university's bat house is near the lake. The Baughman
Center sits on southwest bank of the lake. On Lake Alice's northern side, there
is a boardwalk that leads visitors through the woods and swamp to a viewing platform.
How Lake Alice obtained its name is uncertain. Prior to the 1890s, Lake Alice was
known as "Jonah's Pond" but by 1894, US Geological Surveys noted it as Lake Alice.
A Master's thesis written in 1953 makes the unreferenced claim that it was named
for the only daughter of a Mr. Witt, who owned a farm of which the lake was a part.
How About a Recipe?
Have you ever thought about how good and simple toast tastes? Toast is one of my
favorite foods. There are endless ways to enjoy it, from grilled sandwiches, to
homemade jams and marmalades.
A few years ago, I worked as a private chef for a family farm. The owner was a terrific
cook herself, she didn't really need me at all. In fact, I learned a lot about good
cooking from her and her wonderful stories. She had been a home economics major
in college, so she really knew her way around a kitchen.
We spent most of our time in the kitchen with her. She had a small staff. We congregated
there and swapped stories, eating our way through the day. She would tell us stories
about her youth and being a camp counselor. She loved kids and would lead us all
in camp songs from time to time. There we would be laughing and singing camp songs
in her kitchen. I have wonderful memories from that time as a cook.
She had spectacular dinner parties at the farm and an invitation from her was highly
prized by guests because they knew they were in for a fine evening of first class
service cuisine and company. There were several near disasters as one would expect
with that many parties. Once the sink overflowed in the kitchen while we were serving
dinner. We were grabbing towels, mops and brooms, all the while with a smile plastered
on our faces. There was a window which overlooked the dining room from the kitchen,
so guests could see into the kitchen.
Another time, I took the garbage out while the guests were eating. She had two big
dogs. they raced out the door with me and found a snake under her car. The dogs
knocked me over to try to get to the snake. I got a broom and started chasing it
around the carport while the dogs went nuts. My staff companions were waiting for
me, wondering where the heck I had got to. I finally shooed the snake away and drug
the dogs back into the house. I looked like a train wreck and my dress was stained
and hair in a tornado.
That was the fun of that job, I never knew what would happen
next and I miss that family so much now. She is the most wonderful, intelligent
person I have ever known and was a splendid mentor for me in all things. Her daughter
is equally witty and full of fun. A bright spot in the world.
She loved good toast and we often ate it as breakfast or a snack. Here are a few
Stilton Toast- Hot toast right out of the toaster spread first with real butter
and then slathered with Stilton Cheese
Honey Wheat Toast- spread with real butter and good orange marmalade
Smoked Salmon Toast- spread with real butter, then cream cheese, topped with smoked
salmon, capers, and chopped fresh dill
Grilled PB&J- If you have never had this sandwich you haven't lived!!
Parmesan Toast- spread with real butter and topped with thin slices of real Parmesan
Aged Cheddar/Bacon Toast- spread with real butter and topped with aged cheddar cheese
and crisp slices of Wrights Bacon. (There is no other bacon but Wrights)
Grilled cheddar/Wrights Bacon and Tomato sandwich- Awesome!!
And last but not least, my own personal favorite:
Grilled Mac and Cheese Sandwich- Slice cold mac and cheese into 1/2 inch thick slices,
Put Country Dijon mustard on bread slices. Grill the bread like a grilled cheese.
This is so good. I got through art school on this sandwich along with tuna fish.
You can add tomato slices or lettuce to the sandwich too. Fabulous!!
If you have a crowd for burgers, you can bake them as minis in the oven on sheet
pans. Much less mess and they taste great. I use small canned biscuits for buns
and they are so good that way. I serve them all the same, with pickle, ketchup,mustard
and onion slice, assembling the burgers in advance and putting them on platters.
No muss , no fuss.
CARING FOR YOUR PAINTINGS
Paintings may be objects of great beauty or of historical importance, providing
an important cultural link with the past. They may have great monetary value or
have sentimental value to their owners. Whatever the case, paintings are fragile
creations that require special care to assure their continued preservation.
Paintings consist of various layers. The paint is applied to a support, typically
canvas or wood, which is first primed with a glue-sizing and/or ground layer. Traditional
paintings are finished with a coat of varnish. Contemporary paintings, naive, or
folk art may not have a ground layer or varnish coating. Paintings that do not
have all of the traditional layers may be more fragile and susceptible to change
or damage. The paint layers can be made of pigments in oil, acrylic (or other synthetics),
encaustic (wax), tempera (egg), distemper (glue), casein (milk), gouache (plant
gum), or a mixture of media. The paint can be applied on a wide variety of supports.
Although the most common are canvas and wood, other supports include paper, cardboard,
pressed board, artist's board, copper, ivory, glass, plaster, and stone. Paintings
on canvas are usually stretched over an auxiliary wood support. An adjustable support
is called a stretcher; a support with fixed corners is called a strainer.
Paintings change over time. Some inevitable results of aging, such as increased
transparency of oil paint or the appearance of certain types of cracks, do not threaten
the stability of a painting and may not always be considered damage. One of the
most common signs of age is a darkened or yellowed surface caused by accumulated
grime or discolored varnish. When a varnish becomes so discolored that it obscures
the artist's intended colors and the balance of lights and darks, it usually can
be removed by a conservator, but some evidence of aging is to be expected and should
be accepted. However, when structural damages occur in a painting such as tears,
flaking paint, cracks with lifting edges, or mold, consult a conservator to decide
on a future course of treatment for your painting.
MAINTAINING A SUITABLE ENVIRONMENT
It is important to maintain a proper environment for your paintings. The structural
components of a painting expand and contract in different ways as the surrounding
temperature and humidity fluctuate. For example, the flexible canvas may become
slack or taut in a changing environment, while the more brittle paint may crack,
curl, or loosen its attachment to the underlying layers. If a painting could be
maintained in an optimum environment, in one location at a constant temperature
and humidity level, many of the problems requiring the services of a paintings
conservator could be prevented. Paintings generally do well in environmental conditions
that are comfortable for people, with relative humidity levels between 40 and 60
percent. Environmental guidelines have been developed for different types of materials.
Paintings on canvas may react more quickly to rising and falling humidity levels
than paintings on wood panels, but the dimensional changes that can occur in a
wood panel can cause more structural damage. Owners of panel paintings should be
particularly conscientious about avoiding unusually low or high relative humidity
and temperatures to prevent warping, splitting, or breaking of the wood. Museums
strive to maintain constant temperature and humidity levels for works of art, but
even with expensive environmental control systems this task can be difficult. In
most cases, gradual seasonal changes and small fluctuations are less harmful than
large environmental fluctuations. Avoiding large fluctuations is very important.
For example, a painting stored in what would generally be considered poor conditions
(such as a cold, damp castle in England) may remain structurally secure for centuries,
but begin to deteriorate rapidly if moved into "stable" museum conditions simply
because of the extreme change in its environment.
One of the simplest and most important preservation steps you can take is have protective
backing board attached to paintings. A Fome-Cor (or archival cardboard backing)
screwed to the reverse of a painting will slow environmental exchange through a
canvas, keep out dust and foreign objects, and protect against damage during handling.
Be sure that the backing board covers the entire back of the picture; do not leave
air vent holes, which can cause localized environmental conditions and lead to cracks
in paint. The backing board should be attached to the reverse of the stretcher or
strainer, not to the frame. Have a conservator or reputable framer attach it for
Magnified Cross Section of Traditional Painting Components
The display of paintings requires careful consideration. Direct sunlight can cause
fading of certain pigments, increased yellowing of varnish, and excessive heat on
the painting surface. It is best to exhibit paintings on dividing walls within a
building rather than on perimeter walls where temperature fluctuations will be
greater and condensation can occur. If paintings are placed on uninsulated exterior
walls, it may help to place small rubber spacers on the back of the frame to increase
Although a fireplace is often a focal spot for a room, a painting displayed above
a mantel will be exposed to soot, heat, and environmental extremes. Hanging paintings
above heating and air conditioning vents or in bathrooms with tubs or showers is
also inadvisable because the rapid environmental fluctuations will be harmful.
Select a safe place away from high traffic and seating areas.
When lighting paintings, use indirect lighting. Lights that attach to the top of
the frame and hang over the picture can be dangerous. These lights cast a harsh
glare, illuminate and heat the painting unevenly, and can fall into the artwork
causing burns or tears. Indirect sunlight, recessed lighting, or ceiling-mounted
spotlights are best for home installations. Halogen lamps are increasingly popular,
but halogen bulbs emit high levels of ultraviolet light (the part of the spectrum
that is damaging to artworks) and should be fitted with an ultraviolet filter when
used near light-sensitive materials. These bulbs also have been known to explode
and may pose a fire hazard. Tungsten lamps may be preferable for home lighting.
Pictures are usually safest when hanging on a wall, provided that they are well
framed, with the picture and hanging hardware adequately secured. If you must store
a painting, avoid damp basements or garages, where pictures can mold, and attics,
which are very hot in the summer. A good storage method is to place the paintings
in a closet with a stiff board protecting the image side of each artwork and a backing
board attached to the reverse. Here again, a backing board attached to the reverse
can protect your painting.
Do not risk damaging your paintings by moving them any more than is absolutely necessary.
If you must remove a painting from the wall or move it to another room, clear the
pathway of furniture and obstructions and prepare a location to receive it. The
frame must be stable and secure. If it is old or there is glazing (glass), ensure
that it can withstand being moved. Determine if you can lift the painting safely
by yourself. If the frame is massive or the picture is wider than your shoulders,
ask someone to help you. If the painting is of a manageable size, lift the frame
with both hands by placing one hand in the center of each side. Always carry it
with the image side facing you. Remove jewelry, tie clips, belt buckles, or other
clothing that might scrape the surface. Hang paintings from picture hooks (not nails)
placed securely in the wall; a heavy picture requires two hooks. Before hanging,
examine the back of the painting to ensure that the hanging hardware is strong
and secure. If the painting is framed, the hardware should be attached to the back
of the frame, not to the stretcher or strainer. If picture wire is used, attach
a double strand of braided wire to the sides of the frame (not to the top edge)
with "D" rings or mirror plate hangers (see diagram). These types of hangers are
secured to the wooden frame with two to four screws. Hanging can be more complicated
with contemporary paintings that do not have protective frames. Moving and hanging
unframed or large paintings safely may require the services of professional art
handlers, who may be reached by calling a local museum, historical society, or reputable
Reverse of Properly Framed Painting, Backing Board, and Hanging Hardware
. "D" rings to hang painting
. Brass mending plates screwed into frame to secure the painting
. Rubber spacers for air circulation
If you intend to buy a new frame for a painting or have a painting treated by a
conservator, take the opportunity to have it properly framed. Ideally, a painting
should be held in the frame with mending plates that are attached to the frame with
screws. Brass mending plates can be bent and adjusted so there is light pressure
on the back of the stretcher or strainer. Sometimes nails are used to frame paintings,
but nails can rust, fall out, or protrude through the canvas. Ask the framer or
conservator to pad the rabbet, the part of the frame that touches the face of the
painting, with felt or another suitable material to protect the image.
After carefully examining your paintings for loose or flaking paint, dust them every
four to six months. Feather dusters can scratch paintings. Instead use soft, white-bristle
Japanese brushes, sable (such as a typical makeup brush), or badger-hair brushes
(called "blenders" and used for faux finishes). Never try to clean a painting yourself
or use any liquid or commercial cleaners on a painted surface. Commercial preparations
can cause irreparable damage to the fragile layers of a painting. Avoid using pesticides,
foggers, air fresheners, or furniture sprays near artworks. Remove paintings from
a room before painting, plastering, or steam cleaning carpets or wallpaper. Return
the artworks only when the walls and floors are completely dry.
DISASTERS AND OTHER PROBLEMS
If a disaster such as a flood or fire occurs in your home, remove paintings from
standing water or debris. If the paint is flaking, lay the painting flat with the
image side up to limit paint loss. Consult a professional conservator as soon as
possible for assistance in limiting damage to your artwork. Wiping smoke, mud,
or other contaminants from a painting may result in additional damage. An information
packet on disaster recovery is available from the American Institute for Conservation.
Other problems will require the help of a professional conservator. Insect infestation,
flaking paint, paint loss, torn canvas, cracks with lifting edges or planar distortions
(wrinkles or draws in the canvas), mold growth, grime, or very discolored varnish
are problems that only a professional conservator is trained to address.
Schultz, Arthur W., ed. Caring for Your Collections. New York: Harry N. Abrams,
Stout, George L. The Care of Pictures. New York: Dover Publications, 1975.
This brochure is provided courtesy of the American Institute for Conservation of
Historic and Artistic Works (AIC), the national membership organization of conservation
professionals dedicated to preserving the art and historic artifacts of our cultural
heritage for future generations. Among other services of the AIC is the Guide to
Conservation Services, which provides a free list of conservators in your geographic
region. The AIC brochure Guidelines for Selecting a Conservator, will help you make
an informed choice.
I'll be painting out in front of my gallery in Gainesville; Paddiwhack Gallery next
to Fresh Market on 16th Avenue. I'll be there on Fridays, unless I'm traveling,
from 11 AM-1 PM for the summer. In the fall, I may extend the time. It's a great
way for me to make new friends and show my paintings to others. Come by on a Friday
and chat with me.
Paddiwhack Gallery next to Fresh Market
11 AM- 1PM
This Week's Ebay Paintings
S & H: Free
Type Blondheim Art into the Ebay search window.
My webmaster has been doing all kinds of cool stuff,including creating a red scroll
bar to match the accent colors in my web site. Very cool stuff. Check it out! http://www.lindablondheim.com
My next E-class is Values in the Landscape I , beginning September 29.