Making of: Still Life Painting & Custom Frame

Keys are fascinating. A key can open a door. A key gets you access to knowledge and experiences. There’s a thrill of danger and adventure when you open a locked door for the first time.

I found an old ring of keys in my grandfather’s workshop and asked my dad where they came from. He said all these keys are from around the house, slowly collected through the decades as doors and locks were replaced, duplicates were made and then forgotten. Here is a glimpse into the process of making the painting and the frame that honors these keys. The vase belongs to my mother.

The Process

Painting in Layers

Here are the “underpainting” and “first painting” layers of the vase. The underpainting in raw umber is establishing the drawing (shapes/values/edges). Since I painted directly on the wood (sealed with Golden Matte Medium), there wasn’t much margin for error. The simplicity of the underpainting trades color for accuracy. More mental energy can go towards putting things in the right place, at the right brightness and with the right transitions between elements. Holding off on any color concerns like this can save a lot of time. And here, the raw umber actually worked pretty nicely as a base color.
The next layer, “first painting” roughly establishes the colors and texture – just so there is something to work with. This is much much easier to do on top of the underpainting than on a blank canvas or panel. The final touches are then put on in the “second painting” layer.

Arranging the Keys

I played with many possible arrangements, and researched welding, soldering and gluing methods. Consulting with a local industrial metalworking company, we decided on gluing as the most durable choice. They were thrilled about the unusual project and let me use their sanding machines to remove decades of grime from the keys to create clean glue joints. They also created the metal band that tightly fits the wood panel. Improvising with cardboard pads I got all the keys aligned and ready to be glued. After a successful test on scrap pieces of metal, I took a deep breath and started to attach the keys, one by one.

Painting the Flowers

To point towards the geometry of the keys’ arrangement, I picked marguerites from the garden and painted little trompe l’oeils.
And there you have it!

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