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An elegant, strong and functional hanging system

From the beginning of the construction of my mobile display units I have been racking my brain trying to devise some system to hang my art work that was durable and adaptable to my changing needs.  I first considered installing hooks into the walls themselves but the plywood is only 1/4 inch thick and can’t support the weight of heavier pictures.  Additionally the hooks had to be screwed through the canvas, which is a great way to tear it up.  There was also the tedium of re-positioning the hooks each time I wanted to hang something else.  So that didn’t work.

Next I thought of using strong fishing line hanging from screws installed in the top of the walls every two inches or so to give me flexibility in terms of where the pictures could hang.  I didn’t actually try this though, I didn’t think it would look good.  Finally after looking at some metal hanging systems online, I decided I could make my own out of wood.  I chose oak, because of its great strength, appearance and availability/price.

The oak strips measure 1″ x 3/4″  and are approx. five feet long

The strips have 12 grooves cut across the grain cut at 30 degrees, spaced about 2.5″ apart down the length of the strip.  These grooves will receive the hanging wire on the back of the pictures and allow a variety of spacing options.

To attach the strips to the walls, I’m using a French cleat system, which consists of a board with a 45 degree angle cut on one side, which slopes in toward the wall itself.  The hanging strips have a corresponding 45 degree angle cut into them and will sit in the channel created by the French cleat wall intersection.  The 45 degree cuts will nestle nicely together and allow for easy side to side adjustment of the strips.

I hung a few strips on the French cleat of one wall unit and then hung a couple of small pictures to see how it all looked.  I was very pleased with the results and think the system will work really well.

Updated Site

Jen and I have spent the last few days updating the format of the website.  There are now separate galleries for each of my kinds of work and a separate page for my blog posts.  The home page now features a slideshow of a few different kinds of work and a place to leave comments.  I encourage everyone to tell friends about the website

WCU’s Mountain Heritage Day 2012

Check out this link ( this year’s Mountain Heritage Day participating artists.   You will find me near the end of the page (alphabetical order).  This will be a great chance to get some exposure and drive viewers to the website.  I hope everyone can come, the date for the festival is September 29 2012.  I’ll be selling framed and unframed artwork and some furniture, and doing live demonstrations.

Master Copy

One of the most valuable exercises one may undergo as a painter is to produce a master copy.  In this process one selects a painting by a “master” painter and attempts as faithful a reproduction as possible.  For my introductory painting class in college I chose The Dead Toreador by Edouard Manet, a predecessor of the European Impressionists, to attempt to reproduce.  The original painting is 5 feet long by 2.5 feet tall.  For my assignment I created a 1/2 scale reproduction, using oil on canvas.

It was difficult finding a good picture of the original to use in my copy as almost every photo reproduction is slightly different in terms of its coloration, quality and size.  One finds these differences prevalent when searching images on the internet as well, no consistency (as illustrated in the color difference between the image I found today and my painting.  The photo of the original is quite a bit warmer in its coloration).

After settling on an image I set about the task of copying the painting.  Part of the assignment was to first make a careful drawing of the painting, then as a color study I used magazine clippings of various colored areas to make a collage copy (which I no longer have).  Only then did I set out to paint the picture.  I learned a lot about color mixing, brush selection and paint application by going through the process of copying Manet’s work.  He became one of my favorite artists at that point, especially for the quality of his brushstrokes, which conveyed a loose spontaneity and freshness of application.   A few years later as a senior in college I was able to go on an art dept. trip to Washington D.C. and see the original painting, which was pretty exciting.  Below is the original followed by my copy.

Original image credits (The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH.)

Here is my version of the painting

The two wall sections from right to left (this is a digital photo of my original printed photo) show some of my work from the day of a critique.  You can see my reproduction as well as the drawing, collage, the print I was working from, some still lifes I painted and a couple of figure paintings (which I painted over and reused the canvas).

Dovetailed Box

Today I finished a box I started yesterday that will hold my prints at art shows.  The box will be attached to my mobile walls with a French cleat, which is a strip of wood with a 45 degree bevel cut along one edge, which nestles into another strip with another 45 degree angle cut on it.  One strip is attached to the box and the matching strip is attached to the wall.  

The box is made of hard maple, which is a real pain to finish due to the changing grain direction down the length of the boards.  One either has to sand for hours or use a card scraper to smooth the surface, I usually opt for the second method.  The finish is shellac to seal the surface and satin polyurethane to provide the protective layer.  The bottom of the box is a piece of walnut plywood (1/4 inch).  

I cut the 1/2 blind dove tails with my dovetail jig and a router, which really speeds up the process.  This particular joint is usually reserved for attaching the front and back of a drawer to the sides.  One gets the strength of a dovetail joint while maintaining the continuity of the wood on the front of the drawer.  What took about 15 minutes would have taken a few hours by hand.  I have only made a few dovetail joints so far, but look forward to increasing their frequency in my work.  

I was surprised to find a small amount of figured wood in some of the boards.  I got this maple from a friend of mine and much of it was old and weathered, but I was pleased to find some curly figure in a few of the boards, which adds a good deal of visual interest to an otherwise run of the mill wood.