Friday, October 28, 2016

The American Institute for Conservation of Art and Historic Works wiki

The American Institute for Conservation of Art and Historic Works (hence forth the AIC) has an interesting wiki of a pretty technical basis that I just stumbled across. It's not pretty or fancy but you can get in touch with your inner artist geek reading about varnish, stretchers, paper resizing, mountmaking(!), and other arcane and not so arcane topics.

What led me to it was research on varnishing. Whew!

Like other wikis, there is a wealth of information and huge gaps in areas where no one has actually stepped up to write an article someone else recognized as useful enough to generate a placeholder page. Since the target is conservators, most of what I've looked at was rather dry and technical, but extremely informative. 

Got some time to kill? Check it out at:

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Hobbes the Cat - a rememberance

My 3 person show opens tonight at Gallery 414 (read about that here), but right now I'd like to say a few words about  our cat, Hobbes. We made the difficult decision to put him to sleep, and yesterday was the day.

Hobbes joined the household about 12 years ago, arriving on our back porch one wintry day, looking for a place to stay warm. We put a box out there with a blanket, since we already had one cat, and we were not all in agreement over whether we needed a second one.

If you've ever had a cat, you know how that works. By springtime we were a two cat household.

Hobbes and our other cat, Spike, after some initial conflict, eventually came to terms with each other. I'd not call them friendly, but peace was maintained. Spike was a friendly, affectionate cat. Hobbes on the other hand, was reserved and standoffish, and not one to abide by attempts to love on him. He'd give you about five seconds - ten if he was feeling generous - then you'd better be ready to leave him alone.

He was a ginger tom, with a stubby tail, which led us to conclude he had some manx blood in him, and was, in his mature years, rather bulky. "The upholstered watermelon" was one of his nicknames.

It was John, our oldest son, who christened him "Hobbes" because he was orange, like the character in the comic strip "Calvin and Hobbes."

Monday, October 10, 2016

Changes coming to the Ralph Art Website Project

As I get ready for the B/W&C show, opening on October 22 (that's less than 2 weeks away!), I've also taken it upon myself to redo the Ralph Art website (

This started out just being a re-theming, but as I delved deeper into it, I found myself doing a number of more structural things; things that affect functionality and easy of use AND updating.

I'm moving to a new hosting provider: - who despite their name provides (so far) excellent inexpensive hosting, name registration, and SSL certs. This appeals to the left-brain me who works as an IT systems analyst 40 hours a week.

Couple of things that I'm adding: using Flickr to host all the gallery images - this should speed up page loads for site visitors; and email updates, should you choose to opt in to that. I'm also using a different template which to my eye is cleaner and easier to navigate.

I'm hoping to have it up before the end of the week. Look for an announcement here and on my Facebook page.


Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Varnishing day

With the B/W&C opening less than 3 weeks away, I'm gearing up prepping for the show. Over the weekend, I framed about half a dozen pieces, attached D-ring hangers, and wrapped everything in plastic.

While doing all this I noticed one of the older, larger pieces had some areas where the gloss of the paint was uneven, which left me dissatisfied. Although I don't always do this, in this case I decided the cure was to (drum roll!) varnish the painting.

A photo posted by Ron Crouch (@ralphart2018) on

I'm not sure why, but I always get a little nervous about varnishing. I think it's mostly from what I read about doing it as a young art student, primarily about the need for a "dust-free environment" - like that actually exists.

My practical experience has generally been relatively trouble-free. I use Liquitex Soluvar gloss varnish, thinned with just a small amount of turpentine, and paint it on with a 3-inch white bristle brush. I have less of a problem with dust than I do stray hairs off the brush.

So after pondering the notion for most of the day, I got home, cleared off a flat horizontal surface, poured out a little varnish and turps, and started brushing. After I finished I had enough leftover varnish to coat another older (but smaller) painting I'd decided some time ago to varnish next time I got around to it.

Clean up is relatively simple - use turps or mineral spirits, although in my opinion, turpentine cleans it out better. Important note! If you are thinning the varnish, read the instructions - it probably tells you to thin with turpentine. DO NOT MAKE THE MISTAKE OF IGNORING THIS ADVICE! The results otherwise can be awful - at least they were for me, years ago. Your mileage may vary.

So, why varnish? The usual reason given is to protect the painting, put a removable/renewable layer on the painting - all good advice.

Why do *I*?

Primarily because I tend to work thin, sometimes without a lot of medium, and the paint - especially in dark areas, can have a chalky, flat quality which looks sort of crappy. A layer of varnish will (for me anyway) make the colors instantly deeper, richer and uniform in their gloss.

It's a personal thing, to be sure, but over the last couple of years, I've pulled out several older pieces that I've not been completely satisfied with and hit them with a coat of Soluvar and WHOOSH - it's like a new painting. A good painting.

So, feeling brave? Just do it.

Don't use spray varnish (ugh); get a brush and smear that shit around.

You can thank me later.