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, a number of years back, 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

Framing Blanche Lazell

We’ve recently enjoyed framing two oil paintings byBlanche Lazell Blanche Lazell (1878-1956), a Provincetown artist best known for her white line block prints. Lazell liked to experiment and took great interest in the artistic trends of her day, as demonstrated by these two very different paintings. The contrast in style prompted two highly contrasting settings.

This first painting is 8″ x 10″, and we set it in a 1-3/4″-wide slope, No. 22.6 CV in quartersawn white oak (Saturated Medieval Oak stain). The outside edge of the face is beveled back and carved, as is the sight edge chamfer. The 1/8″ slip is gilded with pale gold leaf. This profile has proven to be especially versatile and useful. In this case, it suits the geometric design of the composition and resonates especially with the triangles. The carving echoes the picture’s surface texture created by its loose brushwork on coarse canvas.Framed Blanche Lazell paintingLazell composed this second piece, which is 18″ x 14″, in cubist fashion, using very bold, hard-edged flat forms. Compared to the first painting, this one has little texture. The shapes are less angular and more rounded. It thus called for a very different frame. We made it a 2″ wide, bold, rounded corner frame in smooth walnut, stained black. Proud splines accent the corners.Blanche Lazell paitning Blanche Lazell paitning

Photo of Blanche Lazell at her studio, 1951

Lazzell working outside her Provincetown studio, 1951. Image from the West Virginia Regional & History Center.

Highlighting Kim Lordier

While we frame up and prepare for our next show, The Gallery is highlighting Kim Lordier‘s work with an exhibit of fourteen of her masterful pastels—including this new luscious large (24″ x 30″) ranch scene. “Western Shadows” is set in a carved compound mitered frame in quartersawn white oak (Dark Medieval Oak stain) with parcel gilt sight edge. (Outside frame dimensions, 31″ x 37″.)Kim Lordier painting

See all the paintings in the exhibit online on Kim Lordier’s page, here…

Kim’s work graced the cover of the November 2023 issue of Plein Air Magazine (right). Read her article here…

By the way, Kim will be doing a demo at the Society of West-Coast Artists in San Bruno on Saturday, January 20. More info here…

And what’s our next show? “Carol Peek & Davis Perkins: Painting the West” opens February 10. Save the date! There will be a reception for the artists from 2 to 4!


Hope to see you soon!

Happy Thirty Years, With Gratitude

I founded Holton Studio in 1993, so as we roll in to 2024, I’m not just celebrating a new year but these thirty years of business. And, lonely as may I look in this picture from the early days on Doyle Street in Emeryville, I’m happily embarking on my pursuit of the art of the picture frame with my attention in the right place: the joinery of my frames. I’ve grasped an understanding of art, not as something complicated, lofty, and aloof but a simple thing rooted in the materials of the Earth and the work of everyday life, applying not only to pictures but to picture frames and to everything people do well; the word for which is rooted, as Webster’s explains, in the Latin ar-: “to join, fit together.” And in that, I’ve found the root of all the good things to come.

So, today I’m celebrating those thirty years with a whole lot of people in mind, many and diverse lives and efforts joined with mine in this enterprise; all those who’ve been with me—especially my wife, Stephanie, daughter, Ella, and my whole family—and whom I’ve worked with to put together all these years in business: with my customers (who include some true friends, and some of the most delightful, creative people I’ve ever known), with the Gallery‘s roster of artists, and with my co-workers—beginning with Trevor Davis who started working with me more than 25 years ago. The day I hired Trevor is the day the Studio’s vision, our unique model for a custom framing business, began to come together. With Trevor’s unshakeable commitment to sound joinery and craftsmanship, we fashioned the core principle that a picture can only be well-framed if it’s in a well-made frame. He also brought good business judgment and a great artistic eye.

Eric, Trevor & Tim in big frameThe conventional model for a frame shop is fairly “easy-entry,” in business lingo. Not so our model. Designing and making all of our frames from scratch, we did it the hard way. To do all that work, Trevor and I needed help, and Eric Johnson came along to provide it. Working with those two guys (and many others who, whether or not they stuck around, contributed), we’d gathered the parts for what we felt could be a pretty solid business—if we could just put them together with the right location.

Paul Kratter painting of Holton Studio Frame-Makers storefront

Paul Kratter’s painting of our storefront in Emeryville

In 2006, we took a big step in that direction when we leased a small space across Doyle Street where we could have a proper, though small, gallery. Showing the landscape paintings of artists we’d come to admire, starting with Robert Flanary, Paul Kratter, and Robin Moore, we gained the invaluable experience of working with painters and exceptional contemporary paintings. It created the basis of relationships that advanced considerably our understanding of the nuances of our work—of the harmony possible between picture and frame; and, with the frame, joining the picture to its larger setting and the lives lived in it; and, with these paintings of the land, re-joining in some measure our lives with the life of the Earth. With the gallery, we’ve developed lasting friendships—and not only with our painters but also, as the gallery became a gathering place, with a growing group of fellow admirers of California’s landscape its thriving landscape painting tradition.

Work crewWhen we finally got the new space here in Berkeley, it felt like the fates were with us. No less so when Jessie Dunn-Gilbert and Sam Edie joined the team. Two new hires while undertaking an ambitious move could have spelled disaster. Instead, those two fit seamlessly with the whole group, and together—along with several other key people who helped us move, build out, and finish the new space, including Karen Gorman, Joe Pieri, Juan Lopez, and Melchor Mendiola—we made miracles happen: just seven weeks after signing the lease we opened the doors.

Grand opening--gallery exterior

A gathering of friends and well-wishers fills our new Berkeley home for the 2016 grand opening

Of course, in the past three decades, the world has seen its share of troubles. But through my work, these years have also taught me that life is less likely to fall apart when we keep our attention on the web of life, on putting things together—on the arts, that is: the joinery and the joining of it all. Indeed, it’s been with the help of great kindnesses and more than a few of those long friendships with customers, artists, and co-workers that we’ve held it together through tough times.

Oddly, after all these years I still feel like I’m just getting started. The life so short, the craft so long to learn, the ancient saying goes. The business is still a work in progress and always will be, so long as we continue to treat the art of picture frame making as a living art—and keep adding to the family energetic, creative, and enthusiastic new members like Avi Shorer and Jonathan Wertz. But with this fabulous crew, the business is, at last, more than just a lot of parts. The parts now make up a well-joined whole. It feels substantially complete.

The root of the word complete, com-, is Latin for that lovely, short and simple joining word at the root of it all: with. It’s also the root of another word, company, which Nan Phelps, one of the artists we love to work with, captured last fall in the picture below.

Holton Studio company portrait

Company portrait. Left to right: Jonathan Wertz, Eric Johnson, Sam Edie (holding Milton), Stephanie McCoy, Tim Holton (holding Barb), Avi Shorer, Trevor Davis, and Jessie Dunn-Gilbert. Big thank you to photographer Nan Phelps.

So, I enter this New Year filled with gratitude for the chance to work with so many wonderful customers and artists in common cause and belief that the arts are how we join the world; and grateful especially for the joy of working with this extraordinary group (what the heck do businesses where they don’t work do?)—the company with which that lonely guy in the photo from thirty years ago now belongs.


Calligraphy--Ursula LeGuin quote

Calligraphy by Jonathan Wertz, the newest member of Holton Studio.

National Recognition

Every issue of Picture Framing Magazine, the framing industry’s monthly trade journal, includes a feature called Design of the Month. We’re proud to have had our work chosen for two issues in 2023—the first back in April and now this month.The April feature, which you can read here, was our frame for “Jormungandr,” a painting on paper by Croatian artist Milivoj Ćeran, which I blogged about here

Milivoj Ćeran, painting, "Jormungandr"

Milivoj Ćeran, “Jormungandr.” Click image for more…

…and this month’s feature, which you can read here, recognized our framing of a large color photo by Stephen Goldblatt, posted in the blog here.

Framed Stephen Goldblatt photograph

Photograph by Stephen Goldblatt. Click image for more…

Many thanks to Picture Framing Magazine, and especially to editor Kim Biesiada!

Flowers for Randy

“I seek the common thread that binds us together and moves us forward—nature, tradition, love and beauty.” —Randall Sexton (1958-2023)

Randall Sexton painting

Randall Sexton, “Purple”.
Oil on linen panel, 12″ x 16″

When a community loses a vital source of knowledge, skill, wisdom and inspiration that community feels its loss deeply. Bay Area painter Randall Sexton, who passed away this week, was one such vital figure. Randy was recognized and appreciated for his own artistry in a range of genres, earning signature membership in the Plein Air Painters of America and garnering many awards. His influence, though, wasn’t limited to what he painted but was felt and experienced through his teaching, including a decade as a faculty member of Pixar University coaching many of that studio’s talents.

Randy participated in “Treasures From the Bay Area,” the 2020 California Art Club exhibit hosted by Holton Studio Gallery, earning an award for “Purple,” the oil painting shown here.

I didn’t know Randy well, but the tributes being shared by our friends, including those in the gallery’s roster, testify to a penetrating shared grief.

The arts are how we join the world, and, as the quote at the top of this post demonstrates, Randy understood that well. Even as he himself let go of “the common thread,” his life’s work left it stronger.

Randy’s Artist Statement—

(From the artist’s website.)

Portrait of Randall Sexton“Whatever the subject matter, genre, or intention is, the process of painting needs to be adventurous. Exploration, freedom, and the joy of pushing paint keeps me in the moment while I work, the journey alive and thriving.

“The discipline of direct painting, both in the plein air experience and in the studio, has taught me to develop a loose handling of paint that speaks as much about the paint itself as it does about any given subject matter. I combine the somewhat traditional methods of painting with a sense of myself living in the present and the world around me.

“Nature has proven to be the most demanding and inspiring teacher—so I work from life, as often as possible and remain open to new ideas and new approaches.

“Each painting is a simple sentence in an ongoing story that will take a lifetime to unfold.”


Read Eric Rhoads’s moving tribute to Randall Sexton…

Watch Eric Rhoads’s interview with Randy, which includes a painting demo…