Paul Kratter Wins Plein Air Awards

Paul Kratter is sporting two more feathers in his cap. At last month’s Carmel Art Festival, his painting “Rush Hour” (oil on canvas, 8″ x 16″) was awarded Second Place—a feat topped this month with first prize honors for his “Glory Days” (oil on canvas, 10″ x 20″) at the Laguna Plein Air Painters Association Best of Plein Air Show! No doubt about it, Paul’s clearly established himself as one of California’s top landscape painters.

Congratulations, Paul!

Rush Hour
Glory Days

Holton Studio Landscape Show—A Heaven in the Eye


The opening for the current landscape show at Holton Studio, A Heaven in the Eye, took place last Saturday, Nov. 14th. The show features 7 Northern California landscape painters: Kevin Courter, Christin Coy, Mark Farina, Paul Kratter, Terry Miura, Robin Moore, and Brian Mark Taylor. Tim Holton has assembled a strong show of landscape paintings, all beautifully framed in his Craftsman style frames, each one custom built to suit the painting it surrounds. The gallery is open daily and is located in Emeryville

The show’s title is taken from the exuberant 1984 memoir of artist, bon vivant and deckhand Clyde Rice who colorfully recounts life on and around San Francisco Bay in the early decades of the century.


Cold Weather Painting, by Paul Kratter

In late February I spent a couple of days at Silver Lake just south of Lake Tahoe. A recent storm left a fresh layer of snow and cooler temperatures. I had a chance to do some sketching (I’ll write about that later) and did one painting.
Winter painting offers some unique challenges, mainly staying warm. The obvious extremite to keep warm is your hands, but most of the time I’m able to paint glove-free. My feet always get cold standing in one spot and the freezing temperatures seem to slowly crawl up from my snow boots. Temperatures started at 18 degrees in the morning, but quickly rose as the sun warmed up the area.
Snow offers a unique color range from soft pinks to blues and purples. I saw this beautiful grove of pines standing out against the cool mountains in the background. The light and shadow patterns of the snow offset the strong graphic nature of the pines. I’m happy to sacrifice some cold feet in exchange for a chance to paint such a beautiful scene.

Terry Miura

Made another big step in this year’s plan to grow the theme of the picture gallery as contemporary paintings of the local and northern California landscape: Sacramento painter Terry Miura recently delivered his first batch of paintings. They are a real privilege to have here, and I look forward to framing them and displaying them. Terry, who’s a friend of Paul Kratter, is also a graduate of the Art Center in Pasadena and has a professional commercial art background, having worked in New York as a freelance illustrator for magazines and newspapers. Originally from San Diego, while in the Big Apple his paintings naturally focused on cityscapes, but now he’s delving into the rural landscapes of his native state. He’s got a wonderful tonalist palette, reflecting his gentle vision of rustic California as well as a humbler approach to the role of painting as just one of the arts that create an architectural interior.
Terry will be included in the group show coming up next fall, “A Heaven In the Eye,” in which he’ll have new work capturing the Sacramento Delta. (Christin Coy, Paul Kratter, Kevin Courter and possibly another artist will join him.)

Carved Walnut

Of all the woods we use, we tend to emphasize quartersawn white oak. But walnut has always been a big favorite too, especially for carving. In preparing for the Paul Kratter show in June, the painting we decided to use for the publicity suggested walnut. Here’s a corner detail of the frame, which is a compound design, meaning it’s composed of more than one molding. This one has a cap molding as well as a liner. The liner has pale gold leaf laid directly on the walnut so the grain comes through.

The color of walnut harmonizes well with many pieces because it’s rich without being too intense. We typically stain it – this one has a light stain – to mute it even further.

We use walnut frequently for drawing frames (i.e., narrow profiles), but it’s often great on paintings and other items.


Mural Feeling

We recently framed this Paul Kratter painting for a couple in Washington State, and I wanted to share one aspect in particular that we’re emphasizing more and more. It’s what Walter Crane, the first president of the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society, called “mural feeling”—the effect of an easel painting framed and hung to feel like a part of the wall. Paul Kratter painting

As Crane wrote, “The easel picture, properly considered and placed in its right relationship to its surroundings, by judicious treatment and hanging, and above all by a certain mural feeling, may be the acme of decoration. Its relation to a scheme of decoration may be like that of a jewel in a dress.” Two keys to achieving this effect are demonstrated by this piece: first, and more obviously, the very architectural feeling of the mortise-and-tenon frame; and second, the hanging system which allows the frame to hang right up against the wall with no gap, and especially importantly, without leaning forward and down the way pictures usually do when hung with a wire. The way we do this is to cut recesses on the back (the “reverse,” in framer’s parlance) of the frame and attach D-rings in the recesses. There’s no wire; the picture hooks are carefully located on the wall so the D-rings hang directly off the hooks. With the D-rings and the picture hooks both in the recesses there’s nothing to push the picture and frame away from the wall.

What’s so important about this is the effect of unity and the aim of restoring the primal unity of all the arts, but in particular the most divided arts historically speaking, which are painting and architecture.

One other thing about this frame that I particularly like is the flush through tenons, shown here:

Year of Hope: Looking forward to 2009

The holiday card from my landlord (and friend; some of us are too lucky) this year said, “Beat the odds! Have a great year!” Things do look bleak. But without venturing my opinions on matters like the auto industry and stimulus packages that people don’t generally look to picture framers to explain to them (I promise to stick to things I know about), I’m feeling strangely positive about the outlook — and not just because the long-awaited new administration has finally taken over. More big picture thoughts at the end, but meanwhile…

Here at my studio, I look forward to a few things in 2009:

  • Having Christin Coy join the gallery. I look forward to framing her paintings and having them here in the gallery to enjoy every day. (That’s Christin’s “Bear Valley Glow” above.) Christin is a wonderful Marin County landscape painter who has been active on the local scene for many years. Visit her website, to find out more about her and her work. And look for her contributions to the Journal as well. She and her partner Richard Lindenberg – another terrific landscape painter – are planning a couple of painting trips over the next several weeks, and I hope she’ll send updates. I’m very pleased to be adding her to the gallery. We’ll be officially introducing her at an opening for…
  • Paul Kratter – a show of new studio landscapes, larger than what we typically show of his. Should be spectacular. June 6. Get it on your calendar now! Paul too will be contributing to the Journal.
  • Just got off the phone with Bob Flanary who is working on a mural we arranged for him to do for a home in Berkeley being remodeled by my friend and neighbor, Alex Bergtraun. It sounds tremendous! Bob’s excitement was contagious, so this will certainly be a highlight of the year. As soon as he gets an email address (and I thought I was a Luddite), Bob too will be sending in entries.
  • All things considered, we did very well with Robin Moore’s show, “Tomales Bay – A Shifting Light” , but many of these wonderful pieces are still available. Have a look! Meanwhile, we are working with Robin to build on the success of the first show. Discussions are centered around the subject of California Trees. Robin has an extraordinary affinity for trees. She and I are both avid fans of Arthur and Lucia Mathews, and are playing with the idea of framing the show in highly individualized frames with polychromed low-relief carving. In this economy, though, we’re both concerned about producing such labor-intensive work on spec. Any thoughts or ideas are welcome.
  • “A Heaven In the Eye” – a group show here at the gallery of local plein air painters from around the Bay, painting our beautiful Bay from their respective points of view. Paul and Christin will be joined by at least two other artists yet to be named. Probably November.
  • This journal. The web has been great for me, allowing for a new and promising business model. This…uh…”blog” (why do I dislike that word?) will help me stay in touch with at least our core customers and share my enthusiasm for my work. In spite of the downturn, things remain vital here!

The big picture –
It truly feels like a new era fraught with danger but also full of tremendous opportunity for a renewal of our national character. In an article I have coming out this month in Arts and Crafts Homes and the Revival, called Real Wealth: The Value of Art and Craft in a Debased Economy, I expand on the significance of one 19th century epigram for our time (got it out of John Bogle’s new book, Enough):
Some men wrest a living from nature and with their hands; this is called work.
Some men wrest a living from those who wrest a living from nature and with their hands; this is called trade.

Some men wrest a living from those who wrest a living from those who wrest a living from nature and with their hands; this is called finance.

Now’s the time to renew our support of small craft studios, for if manufacturing, along with agriculture, is the foundation of the economy, the small workshops and studios that are frequently the origin of companies and products are the bedrock. No healthy society can abandon the basic skills cultivated in small workshops. No civilization can survive without the artistic spirit of the small studio. My hope for 2009 is that it will be remembered as a watershed year when our economy and culture began to reestablish themselves on more sound footing. I hope you’ll check out the article.

So this journal is off and running! Happy New Year to all! May we all beat the odds together! Please come by and see us!