Friday, March 2, 2012

Reverse Glass Painting with Mother of Pearl - A Restoration Project

A while ago (about two months now!) I was approached by a friend with a new type of work for me to do, something I don't have the first idea how to do - restore a painting done on glass!

While I told her and her mother that I am not very knowledgeable when it comes to such things, that it didn't really matter since at this point this just have to throw it out, so anything (we'll see..) that I do to fix it will be an improvement.  Considering the fact there there are empty spots and flaking paints I hope that I really can't hurt it much more than nature already has. 
The front of the reverse painting on glass with mother-of-pearl accents
The back of the reverse painting on glass with mother-of-pearl accents
Before I just start going at it, I figured I should probably do a little research!  Here are some of the things I found:

A Helpful guide from Michaels Craft Store found HERE, including which type of acrylic or other paints to use.  It also mentions baking the paint/glass.  That sounds interesting doesn't it?  Not sure if that would help make this painting permanent or not.  Also taught me that I should make sure the glass is clean and what to clean it with.  Makes me wonder too if the rubbing alcohol will help get some of the paint off that's there already?

On ehow.com they have several different videos and information on painting on glass, projects to do, and more (click HERE to see them all).  I found this video to be helpful in knowing what painting supplies I will need:

Painting Glass: Choosing Glass Paints -- powered by ehow

On ehow.com I also found an article about Reverse Painting on Glass (found HERE), which is what this old painting is.  You view the art from the front of the glass, but all the paint is on the back of it.  It's kind of fun to read about the history of this artistic tradition.

Did you know there are still contemporary glass-painting artists out there today?  At Paintingonglass.com Andriy Khomyk makes and creates hundreds of them!  I found that what he said about technique and skill in regards to reverse painting on glass to be... well, daunting for a first time-attempter:
THE TECHNIQUE is not such complicated, as it appears to be. The image is carried on glass in exactly the same resulting in unique effects manner as on canvas, paper or wood; but when we look at the image, we look through the glass - which serves both as a support and a protective varnish. Everything is backwards from traditional painting. The working image is on the back of the glass. The viewer looks trough the glass on to the painted layers. Letters, symbols, and images are painted as the mirror image to how they normally read, in order to be correct when the glass is turned over to be viewed. Details or accents which would ordinarily be painted last, are painted first; the background, instead of being painted first, is last. All the details have to be correct as it is not possible to make corrections without destroying the underlying work. When the painting is finished the glass is turned over and displayed with the paint behind the glass. Therefore, three "reverses" take place: the paint is applied in reverse order, the glass is turned over when the painting is completed, and the design or painting is seen in reverse -- that is, the right-hand side of the pattern appears on the left-hand side through the glass. When painting on glass special care must be taken in the selection of the color palette due to the primacy of color. The synergy of paint and glass has a depth and luminousness unlikely in any other medium. Painting on glass is a very time-consuming and difficult handicraft operation. There is no place for a mistake because this what you first paint will always be in the front of the painting and you have no possibility to change it.  
 In fact I am a little hesitant to even start working on the piece at all because I feel like as soon as I touch it it may start completely falling apart!  I found this message board (found HERE) that makes me feel even more that way, especially the last comment that says: "We had a similar piece artwork [an old reverse painting with mother of pearl accents that needed to be restored some] brought to our gallery for repair. I took it to the woman who does our restoration. She wouldn't touch it. She said once they are opened up to air they start deteriorating."
Reverse Painting on Glass close-up leftside
Reverse painting on glass close-up middle
Reverse painting on glass close-up rightside
I also found a painting (found HERE) very much like the one I was given, (maybe even the same artist? what do you think?) that someone had appraised at around $150, but the piece I have is much larger.

It seems that there are a lot of people (see THIS forum) where people are wondering what to do with their in-laws, grandparents old reverse glass paintings and don't know their worth. 

I guess the question I have to anyone who might know about these type of works of art is should I even attempt to "fix" this piece?

The people who gave it to me have had it sitting in their garage for years (I believe) and the husband really liked it but now it's un-hangeable since it looks so bad, and therefore, I believe probably has no real value anymore.  Should I just do my best?  I feel once I start working on it, and getting in there I am going to have to remove more and more of the original painting...  Will it be worth my time?

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