Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Blackstone, The Final Chapter

This is the third part of the Blackstone project series. You can read the first two parts here and here.

We left off with Blackstone mounted to linen, all finally in one piece. It is starting to look like a poster. Before we can restore all the holes and cuts, we will have to fill them in with paper and filling compound to achieve a perfectly flat surface. This poster will be getting a lot of airbrushed painting which tends to highlight surface irregularities so we will have to take extra care during this step.

Since this poster has so much prep work to be done, we called in our former employee Antonia. She is the prep master of the universe. Her work is impeccable. Gabe took advantage of the opportunity to watch and learn from her that day. 

Blackstone has a mauve border surrounded by a bare paper border, both of which are missing in large areas. Antonia and Gabe use a yardstick to measure out where the extra borders will be placed.

They select paper from a large bin of scrap vintage posters. The paper has to be the right thickness and size before it's cut to fit the missing areas.
Antonia sands the edges of all the holes to get a good bevel. She then traces the shape of each hole, cuts a bit of paper to match the shape, sands the back edges of the bit to match the bevel of the hole, and then glues it in place. Next she covers all the tinier holes, ridges, and cracks with filling compound and lets them dry before sanding them smooth.

Here is what the poster looks like after prep. All the cracks and holes look more exaggerated because of the white filling compound. Almost all of the surface will be airbrushed, covering it in a fine mist of paint. Not only is this far more expedient time-wise, but airbrushing easily mimics the speckly stone-lithographed quality of this poster.

A closer look at a large gulley filled which has been prepped. The filling compound is deliberately spread slightly over the edges of the hole. This aids in smoothness.

John, Melissa, and Aaron discuss restoration--which areas to paint first and how opaque the paint should be in each region. The mauve and paper-colored borders and the text will have very thick coats of paint seeing as how they're all flat and blank. The orangey-red background, because it's textured, will have a translucent coat of paint, so that the cracks are still faintly visible and can later be detailed with pencils. The face, hair, and parts of his suit will be left alone for the time being.
Melissa uses watercolors to tone down some of the very white parts of the red background before Aaron airbrushes it. This way he will only need to apply a very fine mist of paint to minimize those holes.

Blackstone has been masked for the red shot of airbrushing. This means everything but the red has been covered with a protective layer of plastic or kraft paper. You can see the acetate's glare over his ear. This was taken midway through the airbrushing process and the mist of red and orange paint is apparent on his face and in the lower border.

Aaron adds back some of the darker red accents. He uses a specially-cut piece of card as a sort of improvised hand-held mask in order to imitate the pattern.

The red airbrushing is complete.

Melissa and Gabe discuss Blackstone's dinner jacket. Most of it will have to be heavily painted, but the cravat and some of the finer lines will be left to detailing.

The jacket midway through airbrushing.  T. 
Here is a good place to explain the problems of paint combined with glare. It is ideal to always keep restoration confined to the problem area, i.e., paint the hole, paint only the hole and nowhere else but the hole. The problem is, even if you get that hole to disappear perfectly, if you tilt the paper at an angle it will immediately reappear. Paint's texture does not match that of paper and so that's what you get.

When dealing with small problems like a few stray tears or cracks, detailing is perfectly acceptable. Pencils can be used and their texture problem is less than paint. Same with watercolors. The texture may show up at an angle, but if the problem is not big then airbrushing is not necessary.

Airbrushing becomes necessary as the number and/or size of cracks, holes and tears increases. The fine paint mist can be spread out and diffused. So take the example above. Aaron has begun by painting the white grid of cracks and the large rectangular holes. He'll let that paint dry and then, as you can see below, he'll begin diffusing the look of it by spraying fine layers of paint all over the paper.

The mauve border is completed. You can see it is now quite a bit more mauve than it's previous pinkish hue. The poster was actually mauve before it faded to pink over time. So you can relax about that. Mauve is weird, but in this case it's correct.

Gabe masks for the black text.
After the black text is painted.

Aaron gives us a peek under the mask as he works on the yellow banner area.

Here the yellow is finished and the poster is passed on to me (Katie) for the last bit of work.
Here is what's left:

I begin by using watercolor paints to darken some of the bright white areas of his skin before lightly airbrushing.

Midway through airbrushing the face. I don't want to obscure any of the fine shading so I have to go little by little here. I will use pencils on a few faint lines after I blend out the larger problems with the airbrush.

Here I've got my sweater on backwards while I work on Blackstone's hair. As you can see I've got my own improvised hand-held mask in order to mimic the wavy pattern.

(This is me from another angle.)

The finer lines will be penciled in.

Hair and skin are done, and now on to the clothes.




This was a massive project, taking over a month to complete. The methods we used here were way more aggressive than we normally feel comfortable with. This poster was a very unusual case, as I've stated previously, because it was previously mounted to a board using irreversible glue. Had it been linen backed in a more kosher method, it would not have been torn to shreds in the demount, the restoration would not have been so aggressive, and the poster, had it become damaged again, would be able to be demounted and re-restored indefinitely. As it is this poster must be hermetically sealed (or at least framed) and never disturbed again.

So stay away from Elmer's glue.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

King Blackstone, Chapter the Second

This is the second installment of the Blackstone magician's poster project. You can get up to speed by reading the first installment here.

We left off at John's rehearsal--the gelatin facing of two sections of scrap poster, similar to the Blackstone. He did this in order to experiment without ruining the actual poster. The two practice sections are gelatin mounted face-down to a board.

The next step will be to attach a thin tissue backing to the scraps using PVA. Normally we wouldn't use PVA because it's irreversible, but this poster is an extreme situation; absolutely on its last leg and this will be the last time it is demounted and restored.

 John sands the backs in order to smooth out any ridges.

The tissue backing is trimmed to size.

John has laid the tissue over the back of the first sample, and is painting PVA glue on top of it.

This method proved too agitating for the tissue, which wadded itself up into a soggy mountainous paperscape*. He mists it with water in an attempt to smooth out the wads.
*November's coupon code is "mountainous paperscape." It really is. That's what you have to say.
Hmmm, no.

On the second try John applies the PVA directly to the back of the poster.

He sprays water to dilute the glue, then spreads it evenly over the poster with a squeegee.

John then lays the tissue flat over the sticky surface...

...and very carefully pats it down.

The tissue backings are left to dry, and then John sands the bumps and ridges.

The sample poster sections are peeled off the boards.

John trims the hollytex and tissue to the poster edges.

John peels the hollytex off the fronts.

 He fits the two pieces together. Now it's time to test their tissue backings for water solubility.

John sprays the front and back of the piece with water.

He applies paste with a brush in keeping with our usual linen backing method.

The paste is spread even with a roller.

John adds a layer of hollytex to the back, squeegees the piece to a board, and removes the protective mylar covering. Everything seems to have gone well. The tissue/PVA backing didn't budge, which indicates there will not be a problem with all the smaller bits drifting or coming apart when we linen back the Blackstone poster.

Here's where things start to get repetitive. John now has to do a whole lot of work that we talked about in the last blog post. I've condensed the photos and the explanations so we don't have to sit through it all over again.

The poster has been divided up into sections, each one composed of a dozen or so smaller pieces. These are then carefully fitted together and given a gelatin facing.

The sections are left to dry, John gives them a light sanding, and applies PVA glue.

He sprays water over the glue...

...and spreads the glue using a squeegee.

He then gets hold of the playful floaty tissue...

...and lays it over the sticky surface.

The tissue-backed sections are then left to dry and removed from the board. Before the hollytex is peeled off, John lays the sections out on the light table to make sure they'll fit together.

There is some trouble in the dark area of Blackstone's jacket, but this can be fixed during the prep stage. Here the hollytex has been peeled off and the poster is ready for linen backing.

John now has to use the water/mylar/squeegee process to fit all the sections together perfectly.

Note his expression. This is the culmination of weeks of work for John, very satisfying.

He holds the squeegee up to the edge to make sure everything's lined up straight.

The few smaller remaining bits are put in.

John flips the whole thing over and squeegees the excess water.

He lines it up carefully on the canvas and paper screen.

He squeegees out the air bubbles...


Presto!! Linen backed and in one piece!!

The next step is prep, which will involve filling all the holes and gaps with paper and filling compound in order to make an even surface for restoration. While this process will be labor intensive, it should be relatively straightforward because the design is very simple, with large areas of color rather than tiny busy details. All this will be covered in the third and final chapter of the Saga of Blackstone.