Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Crate Expectations

Building a Crate
For Shipping a Painting

Well, it's not like waving goodbye to your kid on a school bus on his first day of Kindergarten... but it's close. If I can avoid putting a 32 x 40 painting in the hands of a courier again for the rest of my life, I will likely have fewer gray hairs. Not that I don't trust FedEx — after all, both of my sons work for that fine company — but my anxiety over shipping hit me before I even got the painting started, which, as it turned out, was a good thing. Rule #1: If you are shipping out an unframed painting, build the crate after you have stretched your canvas, but before you start painting. You don't want sawdust in the paint.
Unlike most of the things I have learned in my life I did not learn this the hard way. I am delighted to tell you I actually thought of this in advance.
As I contemplated what this shipping crate should look and function like, I decided to head over to Home Depot to look at wood. This was not a tough decision. For me, thinking about being inside a Home Depot takes about as much forethought as Michael Moore gives to going into a Krispy Kreme. I'm there. I picked out my wood, did a little measuring and then sat down and did some figuring on a scrap of paper which a guy in the Windows Department gave me. With those figures in mind, I grabbed a sheet of 1/8" luan mahogany (door skin) and headed over to the cutting area and had the fellow cut two panels to size so I could then go home and build this box. I then glued and nailed these spacers around the bottom-inside of it, to keep the painting off the bottom skin, and away from the sides. I added FedEx-friendly handles to one side, encouraging them to carry it with those, and to stand it up on edge when not carrying it. Then I made some cleats to hold the painting down to the spacers, and away from the "lid-skin." These were all pre-drilled and marked with numbers so I could re-assemble the crate on shipping day without making new saw-dust that might fall on the painting surface. I carefully set the 32" x 40" portrait inside and onto the spacers. I then screwed on all the cleats (10 of them) which I had previously attached when the canvas was unpainted (bare), and which I had numbered and marked with a line on the cleat and the frame, so that I could easily align them again with their individual holes. With the painting so firmly held in place by the cleats that it actually added strength to the crate, I dropped the top skin into the pre-dadoed reveal on the top, and screwed about 50 wide-head screws on to hold the top skin into the groove, adding corners made from scrap 1/8" "skin" for extra strength and durability. I added a "strap" of scrap luan for added strength across the middle, and duct-taped the edges down so it wouldn't catch on anything in shipping. I then drove it to FedEx — where I got a compliment on my crate from a customer. I need to give credit to Morgan Weistling, a fantastic painter and dearest of friends, who advised me when I called asking for suggestions. His advice: make it as light as you can to encourage them to carry it, not fork-lift it and add handles to suggest the same. He also advised me to use FedEx, as he has had the best handling and treatment from them, out of all the major carriers. I will not sleep for 2 days.
Click here to watch a little movie of a 3D fly-through of my crate. Made with Google Sketch-up. A free modeling program for Mac or PC! The blue, translucent rectangles represent the as-yet unattached bottom and lid, which would later be dropped into place.
Update It arrived safely 2 days later, and, according to my client, looked like it had been handled gently all the way from CA to KS. Whew! And they loved the painting. In my accompanying letter to them, asking them to consider it for two weeks before asking for changes, if any, my client responded:
David, Sorry, I would like to tell you to do this or that to the picture... Impossible, it looks absolutely perfect right now! The three things I was hoping to get... you got. 1. It is a damn good work of art. 2. It looks just like her. 3. You actually "caught" her. The mannerisms, etc.
That totally makes my day.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Anne: A Completed Portrait

Anne - Finished Portrait by David R. Darrow 32" x 40" (81.3cm x 101.6cm)
Oil on Belgian Linen
Not For Sale
Private Collection

About This Painting

It's done!

And with client approval and acceptance I can ship it this week.

I am delighted with the result. It did not "fly off my brush with ease" as these things go with some artists... this has been a lot of work, and I have enjoyed the struggle.

I finished it last night, poured a glass of cabernet sauvignon and toasted my worthy adversary: Portrait of Anne. I have been wrestling with her the better part of a month — not every day, but most days.

She has been a delight to paint. An absolutely lovely face, and a distinctly handsome woman [1] and it was a pleasure to get to know her personally prior to starting this painting.

I am told by her husband Charles, who commissioned this as a symbol of gratitude for the love of his life for their 20th anniversary, that it will hang in the same room in which the reference material was gathered for this painting, in their modest Kansas home.  ◙

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Saturday, April 14, 2007


Someday... by David R. Darrow 11" x 14" (27.9cm x 35.6cm)
Oil on Belgian Linen Panel
SOLD Collection of Anthepy Nelson
Timonium, MD – USA

About This Painting

Her large, beautiful, but longing eyes betrayed her. She looked as if she wanted to be somewhere else.

She had a servant's heart, a warm smile, easily able to be chatty with those on whom she waited each day. She was beyond dutiful when performing her tasks. She was the best around. And nothing about the moment I caught her eyes staring at a distant hope "somewhere out there" diminished the excellence of her work, her attitude, her presence.

In a moment of stolen rest, twisting at the waist to wring out the morning's aches and tension, she stood staring at something beyond the physical window that only she could see, for its reality was in her mind, not outside.

Jamie, who modeled for this painting, caught my artist's eye one morning when I was out to breakfast with my daughter. She laughed easily, chatted at each of the tables in her station, looked each person in the eye making each feel as though we were all old friends. She's a waitress at a popular breakfast chain, and my daughter and I were out for pancakes and eggs.

"Would you like sausage or bacon with your breakfast, sir?"

"Bacon, please. And I'd like you to consider modeling for a painting."

Later that week, she did.  ◙

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Friday, April 13, 2007

Reflections on a Fall Morning

Reflections on a Fall Morning by David R. Darrow 12" x 9" (30.5cm x 22.9cm)
Oil on Belgian Linen Panel
SOLD Collection of Doris Darrow
Sunnyvale, CA – USA
Happy 79th Birthday, Mom!

About This Painting

Weather or not...

That is not a typo, it's a pun.

I joined a group of plein air painters at San Diego's Balboa Park, once the site of a World's Fair one Fall morning to paint sites on the grounds.

There is a gorgeous reflecting pond and Arboretum there, and immediately after setting up my French Easel, it began to drizzle. That's no big deal when painting in oil... the water is repelled by the oil in the paint, so I decided to stick it out and keep painting.

Three hours later the precipitation had increased to actual, bona fide raining and I decided to pack it up, and finish the painting later from snapshots.  ◙

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Oil Sketch - Geoff

Geoff wanted the whole experience of getting a portrait done, so I spared him nothing. The first day started with my arrival at his house, him inviting me in, and his eyes bugging out of his head — albeit politely — as I began to load my stuff into his house. The majority of my stuff was more related to photography and video: lighting, stands, audio mixer, microphone, lots of cords and wires... and the minority were essentials: French easel, paints, canvas, brushes. To loosen up and get my head in an abstract place, I grabbed a gessoed luan mahogany panel, 11 x 14, and began painting freehand rapidly, squishing paint here and there with no underdrawing, no toning. After about an hour (would have been quicker if were weren't having such a fascinating conversation that demanded non-visual parts of my brain), I set my brushes down, flipped the board around so Geoff could see it, and said , "Here's a quick oil portrait of you that I am proud to say barely resembles you." His girlfriend, who visited the following day, said she kinda thought it looked like maybe his 12-year-old-son, in a way, if, you know, he had one.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Michelle in Conte

Michelle in Conte by David R. Darrow 12" x 14" (30.5cm x 35.6cm)
Conte on Smooth Newsprint This painting is not framed Click here to bid on eBay
Opening Bid: $19.95 / Buy It Now™ $29.95 Ends: Friday, April 20, 2007 at 7:21 PM (Pacific Time)

About This Drawing

I've decided to post some of my Life Drawings on eBay for sale.

Each of them that I sell is a one-of-a-kind original from the hand, eyes and experience of David R. Darrow. That's me.

These were usually done as demonstrations when I was teaching Life Drawing at a local college. They are all done on 18" x 24" smooth newsprint — the favorite of students and teachers, but not inherently archival. Newsprint is known to yellow and get brittle over time, which I think adds to the character of it. If mounted properly, matted with acid-free mat board, and protected with glass, these drawings can last for decades and look quite elegant.

I recommend taking your drawing to a Poster and Framing shop at a local mall and have them dry-mount it on foam-core. They can also trim it to your frame size, help you with matting, and frame it too, if you want. The mounting and foam-core is about $10, last I checked.

Some of these will be listed as auctions and others in my eBay store.

You may want to take a moment to bookmark my store by name: Everyday Paintings (just like my art website, only different)

The shipping cost covers double mailing tubes, insurance and the shipping weight. If you purchase more than one of these drawings you may have each additional drawing for $19.95 with free shipping if all are shipped together. I will provide the discount on the invoice, or if that is not possible, I will refund the portion that is overpaid, immediately, through Paypal. (It's complicated at my end, but it works).

Please ignore the picture and description of the shipping carton at the bottom of this page... that is for my paintings and has nothing to do with this auction  ◙

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Saturday, April 07, 2007

Simultaneous Commissions

Sketch 2I got a rush job that could lead to bigger things (more on that later) so this weekend I have been doing an art house call, so to speak. Geoff, the man in the pictures, is commissioning an oil portrait of his likeness (more on that later) and so I have taken about as much of my studio and lighting and video and audio equipment to his home 35 miles away, and set up in his living room to go through the process. Geoff — knowing that it's a much shorter event for each of us if we just get together and get to know each other for a couple hours, maybe do some charcoal and then color sketches and then shoot reference photos for me to use in the studio — wanted the real deal, the old-fashioned sitting; an "I'm sitting for a portrait" experience. He's allowing me the privilege of videotaping over my shoulder while I draw and paint to eventually use for an instructional demo DVD (more on that later). Due to several forms of upheaval and inconvenient transitions going on in my life (more on that later) as well as the currently diminutive size of my studio, we could not do the work at my location, and so we chose his. Sketch 1It has been surprisingly rattling to my confidence to finally get set up in his home (about an hour and a half of set-up) and then draw in front of him. I'm not sure why. I scrapped the first drawing (not shown) and started over again. The drawing to the right is what I arrived at by the time my sketch was done and he had to leave for work. Before he got up from his seat, I shot a few reference photos, and, back in my studio this afternoon, studied my drawing and the photos and solved the problems related to why it wasn't looking enough like him. The sketch at the top of this post is the final charcoal under-drawing on an acrylic-toned canvas that will be covered in oil paint tomorrow. More on that later.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007


Promise by David R. Darrow 7" x 10" (17.8cm x 25.4cm)
Oil on Belgian Linen Panel SOLD Collection of Svietlana T. Franke
Baltimore, MD – USA

About This Painting

Whenever I look through a camera lens, I start seeing framed pictures. Usually I see framed paintings, to be more specific.

When I saw this young woman sitting in this lighting, I asked if I could take some pictures of her. I told her that this particular lighting would make for a wonderful head-study and that I'd like to do a painting or drawing of her someday.

Getting around to it has been a bit of a challenge.

I met her in my second term at Art Center College of Design — coming up on 30 years ago — when I took the picture on which this painting is based. I mostly wanted to take her picture because I thought she was pretty and I liked her.

I found an old box of slides the other day, and when I saw this image again after all these years, I thought again that "this particular lighting would make for a wonderful head-study."

And so I guess I have kept that promise, just like it was yesterday. Only now I have no idea where she is. I haven't seen her since college.  ◙

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Searching by David R. Darrow 8" x 8" (20.3cm x 20.3cm)
Oil on Canvas on Birch Panel Available in my eBay Store
Price: $350.00 — Or Make an Offer

About This Painting

I met this fascinating fellow when I stopped in at a local place for a cold drink on a summer day four or five years ago.

He recently posed for me.

There are some days here on the California coast that simply insist that you pour something soothing down your parched throat, further demanding that it had better have the right flavor.

I am not much of a fan of beer.

Not since I got spoiled by the hand-crafted ale made at Carlsbad Brewing Company's Pizza Port right here in my town. To someone who has not found delight in award-winning ale versus a cold beer, I can only describe it as the difference between, say, Yuban or Folgers coffee and a cup of espresso made with a fine Italian espresso machine and the skilled barista creating it.

So, when I stopped in for a chilled ale one day a few years ago, I met Dave. Well, you don't really meet Dave. Dave is part of the atmosphere at Pizza Port.

You experience Dave.

This day he was — as he always is, I have since learned — working on his own personal record on the pinball machine, on which he also held the game's top score until his 15-year-old daughter recently topped him.

When Dave has had enough of the machine that eventually always wins, he backs away, gives it a respectful chin-up reverse nod, and goes out to the outer courtyard with his now-warm glass of ale and mingles with the crowd. Sometimes he retrieves his white-lacquer, steel-string, acoustic guitar from someone who has been "watching it for him" and breaks into just about any popular tune, folk or rock, from the 1950s on forward. He seemingly knows them all.

Dave has done just about everything, I recently learned when I sat down with him and talked mano y mano for about three hours. He's done carpentry, accounting, ditch-digging, welding, auto-mechanic, you name it... but what he always wanted to be — and still laments that it never happened for him despite years on the circuit — was a professional musician. He plays several instruments, wails on the guitar, sings with a decent rock-baritone-to-second-tenor, powerful voice, possesses a performer's heart, and has a head full of knowledge about anything from the US government, crack-pot laws, rock and roll, automobiles and biblical eschatology — the latter being the topic of the bulk of the conversation for those three hours.

The conversation was lively and kept my attention well-enough... but part of the way through, and as a complete non-sequitur — since there really is no way to ease up to such a thing — I cut in with, "Hey, can I paint your portrait?" If I didn't ask him at that moment, I would not be able to listen attentively to much more of the conversation, since, despite the engaging subject, my mind was already beginning to get lost in color mixes and the direction of my brushstrokes in the painting of him I was doing in my head while his voice seemed to be fading into echoing oblivion.

He replied with a twinkle in his eye that by such a request he could tell I chose only the finest-looking models to paint, and that he could therefore trust me as a great artist, and that he would gladly pose. Then he bellowed a hearty laugh and raised his glass of ale for me to do the same.

We clinked the deal right there, and went on talking about the Bible the rest of the night. I am glad to have gotten to know Dave.

I know I will paint him again.  ◙

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