Saturday, September 8, 2012

A Mucha Masterpiece at Poster Mountain Episode 4

The pictures that we put up of each stage of conservation and restoration are only a fraction of what we take and those don't cover everything that happens to the piece during each new process. Restoration in particular is a time consuming process that takes a lot of patience. So even though you see the condensed version, each process takes hours and in the case of large pieces like this Mucha, days.

The last Mucha post finished with prep, so the next step was masking for airbrushing. Masking and airbrushing go hand in hand, as Gabe works with Melissa and Aaron to decide which areas need to be airbrushed. The criteria for airbrushing is usually determined by how extensive the visible damage is and the wishes of the client. In this case the border area and the large patches in the image were being airbrushed.  

Pictured: Gabe, John and Melissa talking about what needs to be done in terms of restoration.

Gabe started out by masking for the border shot. He uses a combination of masking tape, acetate and paper to cover the areas that aren't being airbrushed. Gabe starts out by covering more than what he needs to and then goes in with an exacto knife and cuts out the precise shape of what needs to be protected and removes the excess.The pictures below look like he has left parts of the image uncovered, but those are protected with clear acetate because Gabe can cover larger areas and cut out the edges that are detailed or intricate more efficiently than with tape.

Pictured: Aaron working on airbrushing the patches in the border. Don't worry, everything that isn't going to be airbrushed is covered, I promise.

Pictured: Aaron beginning to cover one of the patches. Note that he is painting only the patch.

Pictured: Here is a good shot of the acetate covering the image and protecting it from the paint and although everything is masked off, Aaron will only be painting very specific areas so as to leave as much original as possible while still achieving the clients desired cosmetic appearance. 

Pictured: A progress photo after the damaged areas in the border have been painted and before anything else was done.

Once the patches along the border had been blended in with the rest of the paper, the next area that the boys began work on was the large patch in the lower right of Sarah's cape and the one in her torso.

Pictured: Gabe removing acetate to open up one of the areas that was going to be airbrushed.

Pictured: A close up of the area that was left open to be airbrushed.

Pictured: A good shot across the studio while Gabe uses an exacto knife to slice through the acetate, but not the poster, to open up areas. Notice the Lautrec in the background, and you can just see a corner of a Maltese Falcon 6 sheet!

Pictured: Here you can see the progress of airbrushing in the cape. Again, not painting the entire area, just the damage.

Pictured: Aaron peeled back part of the acetate so that I could get a good shot of the area he was airbrushing in comparison to the part we left covered. A great example of how the paint is applied in layers, here it is as yet unfinished, still have a few more layers to go before the restoration blends in and looks natural.

After airbrushing comes the detail restoration work. This means that all of those little cracks and small patches are restored by hand using water color and water color pencils. Melissa spent countless hours building up layers of color in very small areas to create a uniform surface.

Pictured: Melissa beginning detail work.

Pictured: Here Melissa is using a water color pencil to go over that fine line.

Pictured: I took a photo of this area right when Melissa started working on it, so that you can see the before.

Pictured: This is the same area a few hours later.

And here comes the final reveal! After a complicated demount, issues with the facing and multiple days of restoration work, the Mucha is finally finished!

Pictured: Here she is! Restored to her former glory, newly backed and ready to live another century!
I know that I say this with just about every project that we put up, but it is true for just about every project. We were so honored and excited to work on this piece of history. Mucha's work still has an impact on art that we encounter everyday, from posters on buses to LA architecture and works in the Getty. To be a part of that history is exhilarating. 

It should be noted that several crucial steps in our process have been omitted. If you have any questions please feel free to contact us via email at or by phone at 818.882.1214. Also check out our websites: and Please feel free to leave comments or questions on the blog!