Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Removal of Graffiti and Tagging on Murals-Restoration

Tagged 5th St. Mural in LA
Tagged 5th St. Mural in LA
 There are new efforts being put forth by companies, city and state government, artists and art related associations to deal with the vandals and disgrace of tagging and graffiti. Why is there so much attention being given to this important involvement of preserving and the conservation of murals at this time?
Because of the realization that almost all of the most important artworks of this movement nationwide dating prior to the 1970s are disappearing. From the 1960s, this visual language has evolved. How do we choose to conserve and preserve these images located in public? It mostly depends on if the wall is public or private. Was the mural commissioned or just another illegal expression. It is their accessibility that exposes them to weather, graffiti, tagging and the surfaces on which murals are painted can damage the artwork over time. Hundreds of murals from the 1970s and 1980s are in severe disrepair. Without serious conservation and preservation they will parish.
The freeway murals in downtown LA are the subject of the constant battle against graffiti and tagging vandals. Caltrans (the highway maintenance authority in the State of California) is required by law to keep graffiti under control and off walls. Therefore, the distressing result is that the majority of the 1984 Olympic freeway murals, for instance, are painted over with gray paint by Caltrans to cover graffiti and tagging.
There have been some new developments and new techniques in the processes of contemporary mural restoration and art conservation in the removal of graffiti and mural protection, with most of the art conservation/restoration work is done under the guidance of the original artist. This collaboration makes the final result much more in line with the artist’s intent and leaves the mural more “original.”  These murals and other surfaces in every community are tagged or covered with graffiti.
Do you think a mural artists or street artists accept or like the tagger’s way of expression?

The task of maintenance seems to some unimaginative city officials to surpass the funding in most cities but this is actually a battle of urban pride and priorities, not so much budgets. There are dozens of way to incite public pride, such “Adopt a Mural”… even ways that would not cost the city direct financial costs.
This battle with the spray can delinquent is usually a matter of dealing with 13 and 14 year olds that don’t have attentive parents and don’t have parents with resources to clean up the mess even though there are laws that if the vandals are caught, the parents should pay the bill. A community service program may sever as a remedy  with an observed tag removal on a plain wall.  It can be a gang thing but I’ve been in Gangland where murals are respected. Let’s call the majority of taggers simply bored kids looking for a thrill. Most or all of them will “be over it” by the time they are 16 and most taggers are truly sorry for their tagging days when they hit their 20’s.
If we show the youth how to partake in a movement that is important, like being involved with real street artists, to have pride in being involved in projects that deserve to be recognized then the visual language becomes theirs, and the courage to get involved in the effort to protecting the murals will continue.
Street art or vandalism?
Street art or vandalism?
If you have any question on mural restoration, please contact Scott Haskins at
Fine Art Conservation Laboratories: (805) 5643438
Art appraisal questions? Call Richard at 805 895 5121
What can you do at home to protect and save your collectibles from natural disasters” Go to
See an important tip for collectors at
Vandals deface neighborhood mural with graffiti
Vandals deface neighborhood mural with graffiti

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Thursday, September 22, 2011

Delirium Flesh - Cleaning off a layer of nicotine

Here's one I'm delivering tomorrow. Covered with a yellow film of nicotine from heavy smokers, we cleaned and gave these wonderful colors new life. The owner is so in love with this print... it goes with his Harley. 

Nicotine can really change the appearance of a painting. Here's another example of what cleaning can do to restore a painting back to its former glory.

Art conservation questions? 805 564 3438
Art appraisal questions? 805 895 5121

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Post War Abstract Expressionist Art

Carmel was beautiful and sunny yesterday. The owner of the Post War Abstract Expressionist paintings that we returned the completed projects to was over the top excited about our conservation/restoration work. We picked up two more (see photo... its by Ruth Wall c. 1947) to work on, one with an ugly tear... that will vanish.

We love working on Post War Abstract Expressionist paintings and have been for 20 years. We began working with David Carlson at that time.

And I picked up a painting that was SUPPOSED to be by a famous artist around 1900 but, oooppppps! Under the microscope below the dirt, dust and discolored varnish I was able to read someone else's original signature. The value went into the basement. Misattributions can be expensive mistakes.

Art and Painting conservation questions? Call Scott Haskins 805 564 3438
Art appraisal questions? Call Richard Holgate at 805 895 5121

See interesting entertaining videos on our YouTube channel at

Friday, September 16, 2011

Cleaning a painting? Should I or shouldn't I?

Cleaning paintings is an important concern of collectors. I had a discussion with a lady who had recently purchased a couple paintings from circa the 1930's. She mentioned they had a yellow appearance.  She did not want to "ruin" or "alter" the piece, she was afraid of devaluing it. I explained that the varnish applied by an artist of the 1930's was most likely clear. The aging of the varnish and the circumstances in which the painting has lived over the last 80 yrs has resulted in the yellowing of the varnish. I do not believe the artist intended for the white water of the ocean to appear yellow. Yellow varnish alters the appearance of colors, for example; blue's turn green, pinks turn orange, purples turn brown, white's turn yellow etc...
Above is a detail of the contrast we see daily in the cleaning of old discolored varnishes.  This is a detail of a painting I am working on today.
As with all painting's that come into the lab for cleaning, we do not use home-depot-off-the-shelf cleaners. Each painting is different and reacts differently to the variety of solvents and  mixtures we use. Each painting undergo's a specific and careful evaluation, many tests are preformed to find the best solution which does not compromise the stability or sensitivity of paint.
Thank you for your interest!
For any question's please contact:
Scott Haskins

For any questions regarding appraisals please contact:
Richard Holgate - certified appraiser, member of the International Society of Appraisers

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Post War Abstract Expressionist Art

We are working on a couple of excellent quality Post War Abstract Expressionist pieces from the end of the 1950's in the lab today. One was terribly slashed. We're making THAT disappear!

This is not the painting, but it was one from this painting style of artists

Hope to deliver them to the owner in Carmel in the next few days. I love meeting with collectors to talk art.

Want to talk art? Call 805 564 3438
Art appraisals? 805 895 5121

Monday, September 12, 2011

Kent Twitchell Finishes Art Restoration of Mural at Biola University

The 3rd video of the art conservation/restoration of monumental realistic beautiful outdoor mural by Kent Twitchell at Biola University is ready. Very interesting and cool!

Its the 3rd video on the page (largest). If you like the video, please leave a comment and click on the THUMBS UP!

Kent Twitchell is the leading muralist in Los Angeles, known world wide. Google his name and pack a lunch cause there's a lot of interesting stuff to read. His murals are always huge, gorgeous, realistic and interesting.

He is also the co-founder of the Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles and is a driving force to get outdoor murals protected from graffiti.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Kent Twitchell Finishes Restoration of The Biola Jesus Mural

I'm in Los Angeles (La Mirada) today putting the final varnish on Kent Twitchell's Biola Jesus mural. Kent, the original artist of the mural done in 1990, is in charge of the restoration. But he has brought me on as part of the effort to consult with him on conservation efforts/needs. Today, I'll also be shooting the final clips for the video I've made of the project. Stay tuned!

If you haven't seen the two previous short videos yet, of the analysis before the work and the video on consolidation and conservation efforts, go to

Friday, September 9, 2011

Dutch Old Master Restored - Frame Restoration

Just finished, in the lab, a beautiful Dutch Old Master oil on panel for a collector in Las Vegas. We took of a lot of retouching off during the cleaning which was not needed and cleaned the old discolored varnish off the reveal the glow of the original. This was really treat to see completed.

The frame is not original, although it is beautiful. While the painting was being worked on, we had the frame restored too. It was stripped of ugly gold paint and was re-leafed with 23 k. gold and antiqued to a period finish, similar to its original finish. Its from the middle of the 1800's. The painting is from a hundred years earlier.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

This LeConte Stewart Oil Painting Required a Double Cleaning

When I cleaned this landscape by LeConte Stewart years ago, I didn’t really know the artist’s work. I’ve worked on a few more paintings by this artist over the years usually through William Karges Fine Art or George Stern Fine Arts. But then, this week, I was meeting with the LDS Museum of Church History and Art in Salt Lake City, UT and they had up a wonderful exhibition of LOTS of Stewart’s paintings.

Double cleaning of an oil painting
Sometimes different layers of dirt come off with different solvents and require a double... or even a triple cleaning.

Over the years I have used this photo to show of the stages of cleaning a rural Utah landscape by LeConte Stewartas an example of how, sometimes, a painting can require several cleaning stages to get it completely clean duringart conservation treatments. This is really quite a common situation where the solvent that takes off the top layer of crud, doesn’t touch the underlying discolored varnish layer… and sometimes it can be more than two layers! When doing the cleaning tests in order to estimate a budget, this multiple cleaning is usually met with conflicted feelings by the owner: its thrilling to see how big a difference there will be but… the double or triple cleaning process is more expensive. Its part of the price to get the job done right. I can’t tell you how often we have people bring paintings in the art conservation lab that have JUST BEEN CLEANED by someone else… they failed to either know what to do or they didn’t see the additional layer of discoloration left behind after the first cleaning… and the painting still need to be cleaned further.

Actually, two Salt Lake Museums are exhibiting the works of this Utah painter, which marks the first ever joint collaboration between the LDS Church History Museum and the University of Utah Museum of Fine Arts. I saw the exhibition at the LDS Museum of Church History. See video and KSL article at

I was really wowed. His artwork, large and small, was of a very nice quality. He was very poetic in interpreting boring rural Utah landscapes into beautiful colors, contrasts, composition and emotions that I would have never thought possible… and was drawn to! His perspectives, draftsmanship and confident execution are consistent throughout the exhibition. It was a real pleasure and inspiration.

If you have the chance to get by the museum for the show, set the time aside. I wish the museum would have published a catalog. But they did produce a DVD that is available in the gift shop.

Do you have art conservation questions? Call 805 564 3438
Art appraisal questions? Call Richard at 805 895 5121
For more important tips for art collectors, go to