Friday, October 23, 2015

Recalcitrant Mucha (Part 4)

Picking up where we left off last week, the Sarah Bernhardt poster was through prep and headed to our restoration artists. I must admit that while I take hundreds of photos for most of the blog posts, the guys in the back are often hard to capture at work because they are a little camera shy. I usually have to sneak up on them from behind. (Ok, maybe I also like sneaking up on them and getting candid photos.)

Gabe, Aaron, Ravi and Pete all worked on this poster. Gabe began by sketching in the general areas of large patterns and noting color blocks that we would need to airbrush in.


Once he had a general idea of what needed to be done, Pete took over to mask for airbrushing. Airbrushing is generally how we cover large areas of paper evenly with color. This can mean applying uniform layers of one color, or layering multiple colors on top of each other to achieve a look similar to that of most printing processes.

Masking covers certain areas of a poster or print with paper, tape or acetate and leaves other areas open so that we can paint them without worrying about getting paint on the rest of the image. Masking takes a delicate touch, patience and a good eye in order to cut through tape and acetate without damaging the paper underneath.   


The background for the "American Tour" banner at the bottom of the poster was the first part  airbrushed, but I believe there were about 10 different rounds of masking and airbrushing on this poster.


Here Pete is putting his graphic design and artistic skills to use while comparing font and lettering.



Below are two of the best shots of one of the masks. Both photos give you a good idea of what a mask actually is. The majority of the poster is covered in a brown craft paper, then a low tack tape is used to cover the area closest to what is being airbrushed.





Aaron did most of the airbrushing on this piece, but Gabe got in on some of the action too.  The most difficult part to airbrush on this particular piece was the background, simply because it was big and because we were not only trying to match color but also the aged patine that the poster had acquired over time. 


Something that people don't often think about is how much lighting affects how we see color, but the next few photos taken while Aaron and Gabe were working on the background show how different the background looks from shot to shot.



In fact the background color was so difficult that Gabe asked John and Ravi to come give him a second opinion.

I loved this photo because Ravi turned just as I was snapping it.

One of the most dramatic parts as you're working on restoring a print, particularly of this size is seeing the reveal after another layer of paint has been added on. (At some point we'll do a series of photos that show just that transition, but Gabe and I are waiting for just the right project.)

Aaron removing one of the masks to show how much has been done and just how much is lefty to complete!

The background was the largest area that we had to airbrush, but other areas like those seen in the photo above were blocked in using airbrushing. The final touches, done by hand using colored pencils and water colors, are still to come! 


Next week will be the final blog post on this Sarah Bernhardt poster! All that's left are the details that we put in by hand, so check back soon for that update!


Certain proprietary steps and procedures have been omitted. If you have any comments or ideas for things you would like to see us cover on our blog, please let us know! If you have further questions regarding other work or your pieces please contact us via email at postermount@aol.com or by phone at 818.882.1214. Also check out our websites: http://www.postermountain.com and http://www.lapapergroup.com/. Please feel free to leave comments or questions on the blog! Also for daily photos and updates check out Poster Mountain's Twitter and Instagram: please follow us @postermount on Twitter and postermountain on Instagram. Our subsidiary company, Los Angeles Paper Group will be showcasing the fine art side of the company: @LAPaperGroup on Twitter and LAPaperGroup on Instagram.




Friday, October 9, 2015

Recalcitrant Mucha (Part 3)

 Last week's blog covered the linen backing and the removal of the facing holding this delicate Sarah Bernhardt poster together. This week's post will look at the prep work necessary in order for our restoration artists to do such an amazing job. For those of you new to our work, prep work is the preparation needed before we add image back in. This can mean stabilization of tears, dealing with creases and folds or in the case of this particular piece filling in areas and holes where paper is missing. And as you can see from the photo below, there are some rather significant chunks missing from this print. (Although we have seen and fixed worse!)

Progress photo taken after linen backing, but before any restoration work started
We have boxes and boxes of vintage posters and pieces of paper. Paper comes in varying thicknesses, colors and styles, so we try to find the most appropriate paper for each piece that we patch. 




Jairo and I worked on prepping this piece together. (Jairo is a young, up and coming artist and you can follow his Instagram account Jairopersona for a peek at his work)  The overall goal of prep work is to create a smooth surface for the restoration artists to work on so that after background, image and small details are added in you can't tell the difference between original and patched areas.


 In order to patch a hole with paper we miter the edges of both paper and patch before gluing the patch in, this helps us to get a smoother surface. Additionally we sand and smooth the patch so that the join, while still visible, is seamless to touch. 

These two shots were taken after we had glued in the paper patches, but before we had begun smoothing them out so that the edges of patch and poster were flat

For medium to large holes we are able to use paper, but for smaller holes and cracks like the ones you can see in the image below we use a filling compound which we smooth and sand flat once it is dry.

A corner and small cracks that have yet to be filled with a textured compound.
We got some good detail shots during prep, but I particularly like this one of Mucha's printed signature down at the bottom of the print.


The paper of this print was reasonably thick. So while some cracks could be neatly patched with a filling compound, the larger or deeper cracks were harder to fill with just a paper patch or filling compound alone and get a smooth surface. Instead we built up a combination of thinner paper with an additional layer of filler on top to get the appropriate surface. 

Showing Jairo how to build up layers in particularly difficult cracks.

This particular crack was just below the overlap of the two panels that made up this poster and it extended all the way across the print.

 

We spent an inordinate amount of time prepping this piece, but one thing that we did discover during the process was that there probably was large amount of gold paint applied over other pigments or mixed in with the inks in some areas. Its hard to see and extremely faded now, but originally this poster would have been quite shiny! Below is a great detail of the most badly damaged area after we had finished patching and filling all the areas that needed some TLC.


We've got a few more posts about this lovely lady to go, but tune in next week to see her go through masking and airbrushing in the first layers of restoration.


Certain proprietary steps and procedures have been omitted. If you have any comments or ideas for things you would like to see us cover on our blog, please let us know! If you have further questions regarding other work or your pieces please contact us via email at postermount@aol.com or by phone at 818.882.1214. Also check out our websites: http://www.postermountain.com and http://www.lapapergroup.com/. Please feel free to leave comments or questions on the blog! Also for daily photos and updates check out Poster Mountain's Twitter and Instagram will, as the name implies feature predominately posters: please follow us @postermount on Twitter and postermountain on Instagram. Our subsidiary company, Los Angeles Paper Group will be showcasing the fine art side of the company: @LAPaperGroup on Twitter and LAPaperGroup on Instagram.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Recalcitrant Mucha (Part 2)

Hello! As usual I am starting with a disclaimer about why we haven't posted much... we've been busy. But I am working on a plan to start doing more posts and updates. Additionally, we have also begun to expand our social media presence and now have Instagram and Twitter accounts up and running. Please check those out to see daily photos from around the shop. Poster Mountain's Twitter and Instagram will, as the name implies feature predominately posters: please follow us @postermount on Twitter and postermountain on Instagram. Our subsidiary company, Los Angeles Paper Group will be showcasing the fine art side of the company: @LAPaperGroup on Twitter and LAPaperGroup on Instagram.

Back to our sporadically scheduled program! When we last posted the Sarah Bernhardt print was finally relieved of its old and decrepit backing, but was still mounted face down.


Our next step was to remove it from the temporary face down position and to linen back it to fresh linen and paper substrate.


Anyone who has been in our shop has probably seen John walking around with various instruments that he calls "sharps"... all of which are razor sharp flat blades whose edges have been crafted specifically for John's various needs in conservation. Seen above is John using the largest (read scariest) of his sharps to separate the hollytex facing on the front of the print from the board it is mounted to. The facing is holding the various bits and pieces intact before the print is re-backed.
 

This image gives you a good idea of the amount of paper that was missing. Anywhere that you see large gaps or white space is missing paper.

After trimming away the edges of the hollytex, we begin the mounting process of once again wetting down, squeeging and then applying glue to the back of the print.

This Mucha poster is too big for our regular slanted capillary tables!

Glue Glue Glue!

John re-positioning a piece of image that has moved during the linen backing process.


And finally, after days of easing this poster through conservation we were finally able to mount it!

Carrying prints and posters on sheets of mylar is always one of the more nerve wracking parts of conservation for me, but it always makes for a good series of photos!
In the two photos below you can see that that the hollytex facing is still on the front of the print, giving it the white cloudy look. Once the poster was linen backed we let it dry over night before removing that facing.




We take hundreds of photos for each project and looking through the photos I tried to pick ones that captured the drama and excitement of finally being able to take the facing off of this print! (You'll have to let me know if I succeeded.)

If you'll remember, because it has been a while, we had quite a few issues with bits and pieces of the print flaking away while we were removing the old linen. So we were understandably nervous and excited to take the facing off. Nervous because of the issues we had encountered and excited because it is a beautiful image to see and we love being able to revive prints like this.

We started to remove the facing on the end we had had the least trouble with. This gave us a good angle and leverage when we got down to the areas where there was the most movement and paper loss.  

Peeling back the first corner of the hollytex facing
The process of removing a facing always has the feel of the theater curtain being raised. You know that something fantastic is about to happen and the thing blocking your view heightens the anticipation. 


By the time we had gotten to the top and most troublesome area of the print I was holding my breath...




And as it turns out I didn't need to be so concerned because the facing came off without a hitch, revealing the lovely Sarah... albeit with a few chunks missing.


Our next post will focus on patching the holes and cracks!

If you have any comments or ideas for things you would like to see us cover on our blog, please let us know! If you have further questions regarding other work or your pieces please contact us via email at postermount@aol.com or by phone at 818.882.1214. Also check out our websites: http://www.postermountain.com and http://www.lapapergroup.com/. Please feel free to leave comments or questions on the blog!