Let’s Get Lost: Robert Flanary Show Opens Tomorrow

Today at the Gallery we added the finishing touches to our one-man show, Robert Flanary: Seeing All Together. Along with a great air of anticipation here, we enjoyed also a considerable amount of fond reflection. The show marks the beginning of our twenty-fifth year of representing Robert, and it’s been a collaboration we’ve loved—and are thrilled to celebrate with this exhibit.

Robert Flanary painting

Robert Flanary
“Late Winter”
Oil on canvas, 11″ x 14″. $1,800 framed.

Robert Flanary’s paintings can be dangerous. I speak from personal experience. As I explained in my last post, 24 years ago Robert, visiting from Spokane, Washington, showed up at our little shop in Emeryville looking for picture frames for his landscape oil paintings. Gazing at the work, I was so enchanted that the next thing I knew, instead of selling Robert frames, as he’d asked me to do, I asked him if he would like to leave his paintings behind for us to display in the shop, framed by us at no expense to him. In other words, under the spell of Robert’s paintings, I got lost, and—because the arrangement would evolve to become the model for The Holton Studio Gallery—accidentally strayed into the gallery business.

And it’s not just me. A Flanary painting posted on social media recently received the comment, “My God, what is Robert Flanary doing to us!” Good question—what is he doing to us?

While it can be said that good painters paint the light—not the tree, the barn, the creek, but the light on the tree, the barn, the creek—few paint the light on the air as convincingly as Robert. Perhaps more than any other aspect of his work, it’s the heightened attention to atmosphere that seems to fascinate. Among other things, it’s that ephemeral and all-pervasive element that unifies and harmonizes the infinite variety of the natural landscape and fills us with the revelatory sense of “seeing all together,” as Robert puts it.

Robt Flanary painting

“Late Winter”. Side View

But as demonstrated by a painting like “Late Winter,” shown here, it’s not the rendering of atmosphere alone that makes Robert’s works so intoxicating. It’s the combination of that element with the artist’s mastery of perspective that I believe is the key to his extraordinary power to convey mood. Robert’s paintings confirm what neuroscientists have come to understand, which is that looking is never purely visual, but involves all the senses, including the kinesthetic sense—the whole body in motion. With powerful use of perspective, Robert draws, not just our eyes but our bodies into a scene, where his expertly captured atmosphere then envelopes us like music… And he’s done it to us again: we’re lost in another of Robert’s mysterious places.

But only to find ourselves. We’re not only seeing all together; we’re seeing that we are part of it all.


Come join us tomorrow, Saturday from 1-4, at the opening and artist reception for Robert Flanary: Seeing All Together.

The show can also be viewed online at our e-commerce site, here.

Robert Flanary and the Genesis of Holton Studio Gallery

As we frame our new show, Robert Flanary: Seeing All Together, I’ve been reflecting on the great significance Bob has for Holton Studio. It was 24 years—almost a quarter century—ago that I first met Bob. Before we hatched the Holton Studio Gallery, he walked into the shop with a handful of his paintings. We were in Emeryville at that time and used the front end of the wood shop as a showroom for custom framing. Bob was visiting from Spokane, Washington where a friend who had seen our ads in American Bungalow Magazine told him about us. He was looking to order frames for his paintings, but Trevor and I were so impressed with the work that the transaction went in another direction, essentially planting the seed for what was to become the Gallery. Instead of ordering frames, Bob ended up leaving the paintings behind for us to display on our walls and sell on consignment—and of course, we’d frame them, making the frames on spec.

Robert Flanary, self-portrait

Robert Flanary, self-portrait (not for sale)

At the time, we had no idea of the implications of that arrangement: it was a model for an art gallery where the artists didn’t have to provide their own frames. Only in time, as the gallery evolved and got a proper home in a separate storefront across the street from the wood shop, did the value of the arrangement emerge. Despite our mediocre retail location, we found ourselves almost effortlessly growing a roster of expert painters. (Paul Kratter was our second artist; similar story to Bob’s.) We had one other massive advantage, of course: being in the Bay Area, which placed us in the midst of this region’s long and rich tradition of landscape painting, and its living community of painters.

These were the years when the Internet was taking off, so it was a time when our accidental model was particularly valuable and significant: we weren’t just middle men who could be replaced by the shiny new technology. We were contributing something real to the product, and offering not only the harmonious setting of an individually designed and crafted frame for each picture but also a larger harmonious setting for the picture amidst many similarly framed paintings on a common (as well as compelling and uplifting) landscape theme.

In any case, that was how the gallery was born—and Robert Flanary planted the seed!

Last week on the blog I shared the painting from “Seeing All Together” that we’re using for the publicity, “Outcropping.” Below is a sneak peek at another piece, “Sunlight on a Winter Morning.” We framed the 18″ x 24″ canvas in a 3″ wide No. 16 frame in stained quartersawn white oak with 23 kt gold leaf on the chamfered sight edge.

Robert Flanary: “Seeing All Together” opens on February 4—a week from Saturday!—with a reception for the artist. I hope you’ll come!

Painting by Robert Flanary

Robert Flanary, “Sunlight on a Winter Morning,” oil on canvas, 18″ x 24″

Painting by Robert Flanary

“Seeing All Together”: Framing an Exhibit of Recent Landscape Paintings by Robert Flanary

The weeks leading up to a show at the Gallery are always exciting, as we get to live with a crop of new paintings, see our own work enhance already beautiful pictures, and watch the exhibit come together. It’s always a joy. But the show we’re currently mounting is extra special, because it’s the first one-man show we’ve held for an artist who, as the very first painter we represented, has always had an especially significant role in the Gallery—Robert Flanary. The show, which opens February 4 with an artist’s reception, is called Robert Flanary: Seeing All Together and will feature Bob’s recent landscape paintings. I’ll be discussing it more in the weeks ahead, but am spotlighting today the piece featured on the postcard and all our publicity, a 20″ x 24″ oil painting titled “Outcropping.” Trevor made this 2-1/2″ wide quartersawn white oak mortise and tenon frame with a carved chamfer sight edge (No. 1100 CV) and white gold slip.

Robert Flanary painting

Robert Flanary paintingBob’s life has been as devoted to painting as any artist’s could be, and now that he’s retired—after twenty years teaching art in a high security juvenile prison in Olympia, Washington—he’s more focused on his work than ever. It’s an extraordinary thing to spend so many years honing one’s art—not only the skills but all the knowledge, insight and understanding entailed in true mastery. I’ve witnessed many a gallery visitor, often painters themselves, stand entranced before a Flanary painting that is at once a compelling abstract composition, a precise observation of nature, and a painted surface that mesmerizes the attentive viewer by slowly revealing itself.

In Bob’s latest work, much of his attention is on composition, exploring the fascinating interplay of a picture’s parts and elements that, in practiced hands, can lead to that transcendent vision and experience of the harmony of nature and the unity of being—the vision Bob calls “seeing all together.”

Trevor Davis and Robert Flanary

Trevor Davis and Robert Flanary at our Berkeley grand opening, 2017

Over the course of these twenty-four years that we’ve been representing Bob, his extraordinarily sensitive and reflective tonalist style has made him a big favorite of many of our customers. Few visitors who appreciate landscape painting can pass up a long look at Bob’s work or fail to appreciate its unique and accomplished character. Most of all what captivates viewers are the powerful moods the work conveys. I expect this show to stir some real excitement among Bob’s fans.

Robert Flanary: Seeing All Together will run February 4 through March 11, and will open Saturday, February 4th with a reception for the artist from 1 to 4—a rare opportunity for those many admirers among you to meet him in person. So save the date!


View Robert Flanary’s artist page here…

Cherries Jubilee for the New Year!

Looking for a festive recipe for your New Year’s Eve dinner? Here’s one from none other than Alice Waters, as designed, calligraphed, and printed by David Lance Goines at his St. Hieronymous Press. “Cherries Jubilee” was created in 1970 as part of a folio the pair collaborated on and called “Thirty Recipes Suitable for Framing.” The collection’s title is catnip for this framer, so in the spirit of a picture frame’s celebratory purpose—not to mention the celebratory recipe and this celebratory time of year—I repeated Goines’s lovely cherry tree woodcut design on a flat 3/4″ wide walnut frame, outlining the pattern in black milk paint and then coloring it with red and green linseed oil paint.

To all, a very Happy New Year from Holton Studio Frame-Makers! Framed Alice Waters recipe by David Goines

Here’s a process shot below. I’ve carved the pattern and painted with black milk paint. On the left side, the excess paint has been sanded off and is ready for coloring with linseed oil paint. As you can see, I designed the pattern higher up on the side. Here I’ve moved it down, but then felt that I needed to lengthen the pattern, taking up to the corner and having it fade as the pattern blends into the uncarved top, as you can see on the finished frame, above.  Process shot--making frame

David Goines print "Cherries Jubilee"

Open House—Last Day of Beloved California VII

Tomorrow, Friday, December 30, is not only our last day of business before the New Year, but also the last day of our big annual all-gallery show, Beloved California. We’re ringing out 2022 and this special show with an open house from 11 to 4. Hope you can come!

Below are some of the beautiful works on display—and still available for purchase!

Mark Farina painting

Mark Farina
“Carmel Valley Hills”
Oil on linen panel, 16″ x 20″. $3,750 framed.

Barbara Tapp painting

Barbara Tapp
“The Overseer. Above the Olive Grove”
Watercolor on paper, 7″ x 12″. $775 framed.

Carol Peek painting

Carol Peek
“Tranquil Evening”
Oil on linen panel, 9″ x 12″. $3,000 framed.

Paul Roehl painting

Paul Roehl
“Blue Sky”
Oil on panel, 18″ x 24″. $4,300 framed.

Davis Perkins painting

Davis Perkins
“Friden’s Barn, Scott Valley, CA”
Oil on panel, 10″ x 12″. $2,275 framed.

Kim Lordier pastel, "Misty Morn"

Kim Lordier
“Misty Morn, Point Lobos”
Pastel on paper, 18″ x 24″. $6,800 framed.

James McGrew painting

James McGrew
“Bridalveil Sunset”
Oil on panel, 14″ x 11″. $2,200 framed.

Watercolor by Tia Kratter

Tia Kratter
“Face the Camera and Say Cheese”
Watercolor on paper, 12″ x 9″. $1,275 framed.

View the entirety of Beloved California VII online here…

Come to the open house if you can. Again, it’s this Friday from 11 to 4. We’d love to see you!

Framing Charles W. Bartlett

This is a woodblock print, “Entrance to Golden Temple, Amritsar,” dated 1919, by the fascinating British artist Charles William Bartlett (1860-1940).

Charles W Bartlett self portrait

Charles W. Bartlett self-portrait, 1933

I took advantage here of the natural affinity between the picture and the frame—an affinity with respect to both the subject matter and the medium. The architecture of the frame, in particular the shaping of its corners, found inspiration in the architecture of the pictured Golden Temple; while the technique of the woodblock print suggested the fine carved line. The natural color of the walnut, which I simply oiled, matched the brown of the trunk of the tree at the center of the print, and I used a complementary blue milk paint to color the carved line.

Framed Charles Bartlett print

Charles W. Bartlett, “Entrance to Golden Temple, Amritsar,” 1919. Woodblock, 10-1/4″ x 15″.

It was probably Frank Brangwyn, a good friend of his, who turned Bartlett on to Japanese woodblocks. But not until Bartlett and his wife Catherine Main set out on an extensive tour of the East did he fully delve into the art form. In Wikipedia’s telling,

1880 photo of Golden Temple at Amritsar

1880 photo of the Golden Temple at Amritsar (Geo. Craddock, Wikimedia Commons)

In 1913, with financial backing from his wife’s well-to-do family, the Bartletts traveled to India, Ceylon, Indonesia, China, and Japan. He arrived in Japan in 1915, where he met woodblock print publisher Watanabe Shōzaburō (1885–1962), who was a major force in early 20th-century Japanese art (shin-hanga). In 1916 Watanabe published 21 woodblocks from Bartlett’s designs, including six prints of Japanese landscapes. In 1917, Bartlett and his second wife left Japan for England; however, they stopped off in Hawaii, where they remained—never returning to England. He did visit Japan in 1919, where he created sixteen shin-hanga prints for Watanabe.

The Golden Temple at Amritsar is the most important site in the Sikh religion. According to Wikipedia, “The Golden Temple is an open house of worship for all people, from all walks of life and faiths… The four entrances to the gurudwara symbolise the Sikh belief in equality and the Sikh view that all people are welcome into their holy place.”

Charles W. Bartlett’s “Entrance to Golden Temple, Amritsar” is available from California Historical Design.

More of Bartlett’s woodblock prints can be viewed on Wikimedia Commons.

Framed Charles Bartlett print

Framing Bill Cone for Beloved California VII

After a great opening last Saturday, our big annual all-gallery show Beloved California VII: Twenty Painters with a Passion for Place continues, running through the end of the year.

Terry Miura, Kim Lordier, Bill Cone, and Ellen Howard

Terry Miura, Kim Lordier, Bill Cone, and Ellen Howard at the opening

Featuring The Holton Studio Gallery’s entire roster of artists, the show includes not one but two of the most admired pastel artists working today. I posted recently about Kim Lordier; she’s one of them. The other one is long-time Pixar artist Bill Cone. That’s Bill in the plaid shirt, in the picture at right, enjoying the opening with Kim (left of Bill) Terry Miura and Ellen Howard. (See more pictures from the event at the bottom of the post.)

Exemplifying Bill’s masterful power to capture the effects of light, the show includes “October Heart,” below, which the artist did on a recent trip to the western Sierra. We set the 12″ x 9″ work in a simple 2-1/2″ wide walnut slope with a reversed bevel back edge. A 1/8″ wide 23 kt gilt slip repeats the glowing aspen. I’m always impressed by how Bill simplifies a picture to distill from a scene the essential quality of the light.

December 30 open house—save the date!

If you missed the opening—or even if you didn’t—we hope you’ll pay us a visit to see this uplifting exhibition and celebration of the Northern California landscape. As mentioned, the show runs clear to the end of 2022. We’ll celebrate Beloved California VII: Twenty Painters with a Passion for Place with a final open house on December 30 from 11 to 4. Save the date!

Framed Bill Cone pastel

“October Heart,” 2022. Pastel, 12″ x 9″

Framed Bill Cone pastel

At the opening—

Summer Past, Summer to Come: Framing Tia Kratter for Beloved California VII

Here’s one of Tia Kratter‘s watercolors that will be in Beloved California VII: Twenty Painters with a Passion for Place opening a week from Saturday. We set “Pool Party,” which is 15″ x 8-1/2″, in a plain flat 2″ wide fumed quartersawn white oak frame with a cut-in back and a sight edge cove we painted green.

Tia Kratter painting

Tia Kratter, “Pool Party,” 2022. Watercolor, 15″ x 8-1/2″

Tia Kratter painting--frame corner detailNot all watercolors can be framed close, i.e., without a mat. But this one is large and bold enough to be presented like an oil painting. And framing it close, instead of isolating the picture the way a mat does, connects it to the architectural setting. It does so by serving as a window frame, thus completing the picture’s effect as a window—a view of another place. Although we’re in the fall season, we can still enjoy a window on memories of summer days on the water, and those happy El Toros waiting for us to come back next year.

We’re very proud to have the extraordinarily talented Tia Kratter in the gallery and part of Beloved California VII: Twenty Painters with a Passion for Place. The show opens Saturday, November 12 with a reception for the artists from 1 to 4—and Tia plans to be there with her maybe-as-talented husband Paul Kratter. Celebrating our “pool” of 20 artists, it’ll be kind of a pool party! We hope you’ll join us!

Tia Kratter painting


In the Range of Light: Framing James McGrew for Beloved California

We just framed this 11″ x 14″ oil painting by James McGrew for our upcoming all-gallery show, Beloved California VII: Twenty Painters with a Passion for Place. For “Bridalveil Sunset,” we made a pretty simple slope in stained quartersawn white oak but added a beveled sight molding. A slip leafed in 23 kt gold completes it, and seems to catch the sunlight emanating from the canvas.James McGrew paintingWorking in Yosemite as a seasonal ranger/naturalist for the past 25 summers, James’s painting is informed by a deep knowledge, understanding and devotion to the park and its history. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to find any painters today more intimately connected to Yosemite National Park. (One collector we know regards James as the premier painter of America’s national parks.)

James McGrew paintingAbout this painting, James McGrew says, “I love the way the spring and early summer sunset illuminates Bridalveil fall while the foreground falls into cool shadows. Painting this scene on location is always both a thrill and challenge because the light changes so quickly and the shadows progress up the cliff in just a few minutes. I mostly painted it on location two summers ago but the light only lasts in that position for about five minutes and I never finished it on site despite two or three attempts. I finally finished it this week in the studio.”

That “thrill and challenge” James speaks of are primary motives of plein air painters—to capture on canvas or paper short-lived effects of sunlight that may be extraordinary or just extraordinarily evocative. Where better to explore that than in the Sierra Nevada, the Range of Light?

Another Yosemite piece from James McGrew, a beautiful winter scene, the artist painted just for the show. But you’ll have to wait to see that one.

Beloved California VII: Twenty Painters with a Passion for Place opens Saturday, November 12—two weeks from today—with a reception for the artists from 1 to 4. I hope you’ll join us.