Photos of readers

There’s only one in the tank after this, so send in your photos (two max, caption, cats welcome). Today’s reader is Lorraine, who restores and conserves artworks:

The painting I’m working on in the series of photos is a lovely landscape by Russell Smith owned by an institution. It’s actually oil on paper and I was working in collaboration with a local paper conservator on the treatment. The painting had been torn, which resulted in some losses to the paper. The paper conservator mended the tears and then filled the losses with paper pulp. My part of the treatment was to inpaint the losses using a  28% solution of Aquazol 200, a poly(2-ethyl-2-oxazoline)  mixed with dry pigments. Aquazol is a polymer that is soluble in water and can be used just like watercolor.

The advantage of using Aquazol is that it is very easily reversible, which is extremely important in art conservation–whatever you do to the artwork has to be reversible. Most of what we end up doing in our work is trying to reverse terrible restorations. (Think of “Monkey Jesus” and you know what I’m talking about.)

The other photo  is a selfie I took while sitting near some of the paintings we were in the process of conserving.

59 thoughts on “Photos of readers

  1. Thank you Lorraine, your work is quite interesting – such a responsibility to handle fragile old art. And so much knowledge required. What kind of goggles are you using – do they magnify and light the work?

    1. Thanks for your comment! It’s a huge responsibility to conserve artwork and something I take very seriously. It does take a fair amount of education. To even apply to graduate school, you need a background in art, art history, physics and chemistry.

      I’m using an Optivisor in the photo. You can switch out the lenses easily to get a variety of magnification from 1.5x to 3.5x. The focal length changes with each lens as does the magnification. Not as good a binocular microscope, which I often use to remove overpaint with a #15 scalpel, but much easier to use.

    2. The Optivisor doesn’t light the work–I tend to use an Ottlite for close up work.

        1. I’ve using two right now! Great lighting source. The older I get, the more light I need. Getting older is not for sissies! 🙂

  2. Fascinating! I wonder what professions are not represented on this list. Maybe hangman. You must still have good eyes and a steady hand for such work.

    Thanks for sharing!

    1. I like that there is such a wide variety of folks on this site. It’s part of why I enjoy it so much!

    1. Thanks! It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but I consider myself incredibly privileged to be able to do this for a living.

  3. Wow. When I sent my photo in the other day, I apologized to PCC for not having any interesting talents or hobbies and this is a perfect example why I felt that way! Your work is very impressive.

    1. You should never apologize–everyone has something that makes them special. I’m glad you sent in your photos. 🙂

    1. Thanks! I’m glad you enjoyed the photos. The Optivisor is surprisingly light. It’s easy to wear, thankfully, because the older I get, the more nearsighted I become! LOL!

  4. I’m afraid it is something I know nothing about. The closest thing I know anything such at that is restoring or renewing old fabric covered airplanes. However that is mostly remove and replace and you haven’t lived unless you do some rib-stitching.

    1. You’re not alone–most people know very little about conservation. What you do sounds fascinating. I’d love to know more about the paint on fabric covered airplanes. We have a fragment of a WWI German airplane at the studio right now. We’re sending paint samples out for elemental analysis so that the owner can find out if it has actual airplane dope in it or not. 🙂

      1. The only thing I can recall to tell you concerning the paint is, after you cover the plane with new cotton you have to use a lot of dope, several coats. The dope is butyrate as they no longer use nitrate. Nitrate was very flammable. Then you add the color pigment to the dope for the color you want.

        1. Thanks for the info. Since this fabric is supposed to be from WWI, I’m hoping we’ll find nitrate in the analysis of the paint samples. It will help the owner determine if the fragment is real or a later re-creation. I’ve been told it wasn’t unusual for the fabric to be repainted numerous times.

          1. I’ll bet you are correct on both counts. It will be nitrate and more coats of paint. As I recall on the ones I helped recover, after you applied one coat of dope you did one with silver pigment. The silver was necessary to keep out the sunlight. Kind of a protection.

            1. Many thanks! I’ll be sure to look for silver paint under the microscope. I’ve only seen blue and black so far. Do you think painting silver was common for both the Germans and the Allied airplanes?

              1. I’m not sure when you go back that far. I know that in doing recoverings in the 40s and later it was used allot for the protection. I have even seen some early fabric covered planes like Cessna 120s or 140s where they just used silver for the final color.

    1. Thanks! I do paint a fair amount–not as much as I’d like–never enough time, it seems. I got a BFA and MFA in painting before I went to grad school for art conservation. My tendency is to paint realistically–some landscape, still life and portraits. It translates well into retouching painting. I’ve been doing some paintings lately of d*gs, though I did do a series of cat portraits for a friend based on Richard Avedon’s psychedelic portraits of the Beatles. It was a lot of fun!

    2. I was wondering the same thing – presumably “yes” or else how would you develop the talent?

      1. Before you can get an interview to grad school, you have to take a fair number of studio art classes. If you get an interview, you must bring a portfolio of your art work with you to show the committee. One of the graduate schools has a timed drawing test that you have to take, as well. There are very few accredited schools in the US where you can get a degree for art conservation and they take 10 or fewer students a year.

    1. Thank you for posting that–it’s heartbreaking the amount of damage we see done to paintings by untrained restorers every day. We have our own versions of “Monkey Jesus” in the studio that we have to try to conserve. Europe has a long tradition of restoration and most of the time the work is excellent. It seems Spain has been having a very tough time lately with amazingly poor restorations. By and large, most of these restorations were done by amateurs or untrained people. In the case of the Murillo, the restorer specialized in furniture restoration and knew nothing of painting conservation.

      1. Yes, it’s heartbreaking to see restorations done badly – often by well-meaning amateurs who simply don’t understand the incredible skill and experience behind the painstaking work that experts like you do.

        1. Indeed. Part of the problem is that many collectors are not educated about art conservation and are looking for the cheapest solution. One of our clients, who was a retired opthamologist, brought us a painting he’d had restored by someone who butchered it. He didn’t understand why it looked so strange and kept saying (about art conservation) “How difficult can it be?” That kind of misunderstanding is something that I’m ethically required to help change by trying to educate the public.

          Unfortunately, there is currently no way to certify or license trained conservators–anyone can hang up a shingle and start working. YouTube is full of these kinds of restorers touting their businesses to an uneducated public. Thankfully, many museums are posting informative videos online so people can learn about conservation and see how things should be properly treated. If you’re interested, you should check them out. 🙂 One of our former interns is featured in this video:

  5. Looks to be a rewarding vocation for someone with exceptional patience and concentration. Good for you, Lorraine.

    1. I feel very fortunate every day I am able to walk into the studio. 🙂 Thank you for your kind words.


  6. I am frequently found wearing those same magnifying lenses while painting 1/35 scale models/figures. Wonderful detail work that I can really appreciate. I had two botanical prints from the 1800’s that I had restored. Expensive, but I was extremely impressed with the work of restorers like you. It went from yellow and muddy to white and detailed. Such great work. It is also a very important skill. Kudos!

    1. The Optivisor is a great tool. I don’t know what I would do without it! Paper conservators have to be incredibly clean and meticulous, which is why I could never do it! The work they do is amazing. I’m glad you had a good experience. 🙂

  7. I hope this is the email that I can send photos to.

    I’ve been reading WEIT for a long time, have both books and have been very impressed with the readers. Such an interesting group! By their standards, I lead a quiet life. After 20 years owning a print shop (what a wild ride that was as we entered the business totally analog. That didn’t last long), I retired 15 years ago and enjoy winters in Arizona and summers in Seattle. I’m a joiner and have led Chambers of Commerce and Rotary Clubs. You know, doing good wherever I can.I give away lots of graphic design work. A couple of years ago, a small group of us visited Australia and New Zealand. We went to a kangaroo sanctuary in Alice Springs. They encourage drivers to stop if they see a dead kangaroo along the road because many times there’s a joey inside the pouch. If old enough, they return them to the wild. If too young, they become too used to humans and then live out their lives at the sanctuary. And, besides, donors love to hold them. The only rule is to hold them for more than five minutes so they bond – don’t pass them around. I’m the one in the hat. Then a photo of a mature ‘roo at the sanctuary and if you have room, an emu.

    Andy Wangstad


    1. Google, University of Chicago, Jerry Coyne, Emeritus Professor of Biology. His email address will be found.

    1. Ollie is wonderful. 🙂 He is a Shih Tzu-Jack Russell mix who was literally an hour away from death in a kill shelter when he was rescued. He only shows his teeth like that when he is very happy and he is always happy now that he’s found a wonderful forever home where he is loved beyond all reason. 🙂

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