Framing Edgar Payne

When today’s California landscape painters talk about the tradition that inspires them, the name of Edgar Alwin Payne (1883-1947) invariably comes up. We recently had the honor of framing Payne’s 14″ x 14″ gouache titled “Sierra Vastness.” The painting all but designed its own frame, a No. 143.6 CV— 3″ with carved cushion back edge, and carved sight edge chamfer leafed with rose gold that matches the rose under-painting. Trevor made the frame in walnut, and Sam finished it with linseed oil and wax.

Framed Edgar Payne painting Framed Edgar Payne paintingI like this quote from Payne’s 1941 book, The Composition of Outdoor Painting: “A painter needs to study, meditate and experiment and practice interminably in order to produce a painting that would have nobility in its concept, variety, rhythm, repetition, unity, balance and harmony in its composition.” The thriving culture of landscape painting our state enjoys today stands in no small part on that belief and the exemplary body of work it produced.

Payne’s reputation earned him the honor of having a lake in his beloved Sierra Nevada named after him. The oil painting below, “Payne Lake,” depicts that spot. Apparently our gouache is also of Payne Lake. A study for the oil, perhaps?

A Little Bit World Famous

This month, for the third time in the past year, we’ve been chosen by our industry’s trade publication, Picture Framing Magazine, for its Design of the Month honors. And this time the featured piece, our framing of an important antique Dutch map of the world, was also picked to grace the cover! In a post last October—read it here—I presented the early 17th century Willem Blaeu map set in a carved and fumed quartersawn white oak frame with inlaid stone and glass. (The post includes photos of the process of making this frame.)

You’ll find Holton Studio’s previous works picked by PFM for their Design of the Month (for the April and December 2023 issues, as well as one in June 2021) posted here, here, and here. Also, for the March 2021 issue of the magazine, the editor, Kim Biesiada, wrote an excellent profile of the Studio, available here.

Thank you, Kim Biesiada and Picture Framing Magazine, for the recognition!

Read this month’s article here.

Picture Framig Magazine

Spring Thaw

Here’s another work by the brilliant William Seltzer Rice (1873-1963)—and, as we arrive at the threshold of spring, a timely one. The 8-3/4″ x 12″ woodblock, dating from about 1920, is titled “The Spring Thaw.”

Wm S Rice photo, 1906

WS Rice, 1906

I made a 2″ wide walnut frame for it, and stained the frame black, matching the key block, and complementing and enhancing the wonderful depiction of sunlight so crucial to the picture’s theme. The frame has a carved recessed panel near the sight edge. I carved the top corners of that panel in a pattern suggestive of the branches in the print. This, then, is along the lines of what I’ve come to call “printable” frames which are made the same way the wooden printing block is made, thus creating a natural harmony with the prints the frames present—a harmony based on a sympathy of craft between the frame maker and the woodblock print maker. (I began exploring this approach in framing another Rice block print, “Lake Merritt,” discussed here.)

I’m pleased with how the carved panel is itself like a stream running around a picture of a stream, its texture echoing the surface of the water in the print. The new frame, responsive and alive to a print that’s over 100 years old, works in the spirit of the season of new life.

Framed WS Rice printFramed WS Rice printA key challenge—maybe the key challenge—in framing is to connect (not separate) pictures and their architectural settings, beginning with the architectural setting that is the picture frame. The idea is to make a whole, a unity, of two different art forms; to join them.

One of the keys to unity in any composition is repetition. To be unified with the picture, the frame simply repeats important elements of it. Repetition may not seem very sophisticated or difficult; it’s obviously not very inventive. The framer leaves invention to the pictorial artist. But there is judgment required of the framer in choosing what to repeat, and skill necessary to execute the repeated elements in a different art form.

“The frame,” said Ingres, “is the reward of the artist.” That reward is the proof that the pictorial artist has succeeded in his mission to effect the world by making us see something together, and cherish it and respond to it lovingly as he does. He longs, that is to say, to see his feelings for his subject repeated in us.

We framed William Seltzer Rice’s woodblock “The Spring Thaw” for California Historical Design, which is offering it for purchase, here.

Framing a C.F.A. Voysey Tile Design

We recently enjoyed framing this tile design by the great English Arts and Crafts architect and designer C.F.A. Voysey for Bernard Goldberg Fine Arts in New York. The design measures about 10″ x 7″. I made it a flat walnut frame that’s 2-1/2″ wide, has a cove at the sight edge and a v-groove outside that, with a carved pattern of tufts of marsh grasses mimicking Voysey’s. The incised pattern is painted to match the blue-green in the drawing.Framed CFA Voysey tile design

A couple of years ago, we framed a Voysey wallpaper design, which I posted about here.

Framed CFA Voysey tile design

Peek and Perkins Opening

We had a beautiful opening reception for our current show, “Carol Peek and Davis Perkins: Painting the West”, celebrating the two artists and their glorious work. The great fondness these two old friends have for each other and the shared love of the western landscape their work exudes filled the whole occasion with good feelings.

And kudos to Gallery Director Jessie Dunn-Gilbert for an excellent job hanging the show!

Come enjoy “Carol Peek and Davis Perkins: Painting the West”. Until then, see the show online and check out a few photos from the opening.

Davis Perkins and Carol Peek

Davis Perkins and Carol Peek


Jessie Dunn-Gilbert, Carol Peek and Ella Holton-McCoy at gallery opening reception

Jessie Dunn-Gilbert, Gallery Director, with Carol Peek and Ella Holton-McCoy

Davis Perkins

Davis Perkins with his daughter and grandson (with eyes on the food table)

Davis Perkins and Carol Peek at opening for show

Framing Carol Peek and Davis Perkins

With great anticipation, this week we’re finishing framing Peek& Perkins paintingsand hanging our new show, Carol Peek and Davis Perkins: Painting the West. This Saturday is the opening, which we’ll celebrate with a reception for the artists.

Davis Perkins says,

Carol Peek has been my wonderful friend for over 30 years. She’s a marvelous painter as well as an amazing art instructor. Over the years, we’ve shared many outings and art exhibitions together. When Tim suggested a joint show with Carol, I was delighted! Since we’re both intimately familiar with the Marin landscape, Carol came up with the idea of painting the same scene of the hills above Spirit Rock here in West Marin.

The results are two gorgeous 16″ x 24″ canvases titled “Late Afternoon, Spirit Rock, Marin County”.

We set them both in 3″ wide, carved quartersawn white oak frames with gilt slips. Carol’s is a compound with rounded and carved cap moulding and sight edge that echo the shapes of the oak trees and the softer light and feeling of the piece.

Framed Carol Peek paintingCarol Peek writes,

I have long desired to paint this scene and consider it a quintessential Marin landscape with it’s gently sloping hills, as a body in repose, rich groupings of a variety of greens and tree types and a lush horizontal pasture with various animals, usually cattle, coming and going throughout the day.

Framed Carol Peek paintingThis is “that” place, which has always struck me with a jolt of inspiration as I have driven by it for decades with a different destination planned and in my mind I always heard “Someday I will paint this remarkable scene.”

As I considered the idea that Davis and I would paint the same location, I began looking for a scene that would serve each of us well. On a recent, lovely, fall afternoon as I dropped down into this familiar valley, the lighting was just right and I knew I had our location. What you see here in this presentation, is how two artists interpret the same scene, translating how we see what is essential and important through our use of tools and materials, to tell you a story about what we find moving and meaningful.

This particular scene has nearly designed itself, which is very unusual, as not much is required of the artist in rearranging visual elements to create a beautifully designed painting. This place feels like a gift, waiting for each of us to enjoy it however we might choose. It is at the very least a visual feast, for all who take a moment to see, throughout the changing seasons, as they walk, ride or drive by on their way to somewhere else.

It’s fascinating how the two compelling views, both of which capture the quintessential feeling Carol talks about, contrast so dramatically in color and atmosphere. This is, of course, partly due to the difference in seasons. But as Carol says, artistic interpretation also plays a big part. Davis’s reading of the hills is more rugged and angular, calling for a slope with sharper edges—our No. 22.6 CV.

Davis Perkins paintingAgain, “Carol Peek and Davis Perkins: Paint the West” opens this Saturday, February 10, with a reception from 2 to 4. It closes March 16. We hope you’ll come and enjoy these exceptional painters.Framed Davis Perkins painting

Framing Clyde Aspevig

The first time I heard the name Clyde Aspevig it was Sharon Calahan singing his praises. I finally got the honor of framing one of the Montana painter’s works a month or so ago when a couple brought in this 18″ x 24″ oil, “Wyoming Vista.” We set it in a 3″ quartersawn white oak frame with Medieval Oak stain and a slip finished with bronze wax. Trevor Davis made the frame.Framed Clyde Aspevig paintingI’m very pleased with the harmony of frame and painting—not only with respect to color but also harmony of form and texture. Although we’ve made this flattened carved cushion profile, No. 411 CV, for several paintings in the past, it’s never been better suited and alive to a painting than it is here. I love how the cushion repeats the shape of the low rounded hills, and how the 2:3:1 molding proportions extend and enhance the great depth and perspective of this work expressing Mr. Aspevig’s reverence for Big Sky country and a lifelong relationship with the living land—an ever-present friend.”

Framed Clyde Aspevig painting

Framing Bertha Lum

This is a color woodcut titled “Lung Fu Sou” and made by American artist Bertha Lum (1879-1954) in 1924 based on a photograph she took of a market she encountered on her travels in China. We set the 9-1/2″ x 10-1/2″ print in a 2-1/2″ wide plain 4-ply solid core cotton rag mat. The 3/4″ wide frame is walnut finished with black linseed oil wax. I find that wood and finish frequently harmonize perfectly with Japanese (and Japanese-inspired) woodblocks. The 1/8″ filet or slip is painted with linseed oil paint in the blue that’s in the print.Bertha Lum print, framed

I wanted rounded corners to suit the rounded forms in the picture—most notably the great arch in the background. (Architecture in a picture is always a primary clue for the architecture of a suitable frame.) This presented the opportunity to play with a type of joinery I call reverse splines.

Bertha Lum print, framed, detailWith a standard splined miter joint, the spline is fit into a slot cut through the joint, the slot generally being centered relative to the depth or thickness of the molding. In this case, however, the center is left intact and the frame is relieved on the face and reverse, with the triangular “splines” (not technically splines in this application) laid into those cuts. I let these pieces cut diagonally across the inside corners then filed them back with a round file. (The piece on the reverse can be cut square on the inside before gluing in.) The joint is completed by sanding the outside to a radius.

The strength of this joint is evident, and is part of its appeal. The way it leads the eye around the corner is also attractive.

The construction’s easier to see in the photos below of a corner sample in a similar design but (obviously) not rounded.

Bertha Lum watercolor on photoI highly recommend exploring, which includes not only a catalogue raisonne, but excellent biographical material and images of her actual woodblocks used to make the prints. The page on technique shows early stages of this piece we framed, including the one at right which is a watercolor over a photograph.

Previous Bertha Lum prints we’ve frame are here, here, and here.


Bertha Lum print, framed



Framing Thomas Kegler’s White Roses

Had the pleasure of framing this very sweet little 10″ x 8″ painting by Western New York painter Thomas Kegler (b. 1970), “White Roses, Song of Solomon, 2:12.” The 2″ wide frame profile is a flat with a chamfered sight edge and a back that slopes out toward the wall. It’s in fumed quartersawn white oak, and we rubbed green linseed oil paint into the flat face. We finished the 1/8″ slip with bronze wax. Fuming perfectly harmonized the frame with Kegler’s umber tones.

The Bible verse referenced by the painting’s title is: “The flowers appear on the earth; The time of singing has come, And the voice of the turtledove Is heard in our land.” Not exactly seasonal? Maybe it is. I’ve read that in Scandinavia, painting woodwork with floral patterns—a tradition called Rosemaling—is one way to keep spirits up through the winter, and eyes on spring.

Framed Thos. Kegler paintingFramed Thos. Kegler painting