Non Issues, Uncategorized

How Artistic Jealousy can be a Good Thing

My last article (or, blog post that had a lot more writing than doodles) was pretty negative. I got a lot of positive feedback for it, and I was in the middle of writing another blog post discussing the nature of Ugliness in the art work (I will probably post that at some point), but I was inspired to write something with a more positive message…

… That title doesn’t look entirely positive, does it?


Well, jealousy is a very ugly thing.


Here you are, feeling pretty proud of something you’ve drawn or painted, you’ve sent your artwork to a few galleries and have been rejected for stuff that was uglier and looked like not a lot of thought was put into it, but that’s okay. There’s always other times and you’re still proud of how long you’ve come a mile away. The more brutally honest family members in your life now look at your artwork and finally have positive things to say about your technique and color choices… and then you’re on Instagram… and you see that the art gallery you volunteered for has accepted, in your mind, the most beautiful artwork you’ve seen there. It’s the kind of art that your art professors in college would have HATED, because it required so much skill… what? This artist is not just a painter, but a sculptor too? You’ve dabbled in sculpting but never put the time into it, but it’s a skill you wish you had.

These were my feelings last night.

I’ve felt this feeling before, when I see winners of the Art Renewal Center’s Scholarship Awards, seeing people much younger than me present artwork that I doubt I will reach the level of any time soon. I can’t even hang out on the Art Subreddit because there’s so many artists better than me and they STILL get technical criticism, but I’ve kind of built a philosophy around artistic jealousy.

Why should we be jealous of our fellow artists rather than take joy in their art? That the world is more beautiful for it?

Seeing the work of Brian Kramer being shown in a gallery that always seemed to have super contemporary art styles was the first time artistic jealousy came back to me after I’ve established said philosophy. As though God was testing me to put my money where my mouth was.

You can’t escape the ugly feelings

And? You know what? It was the strangest feeling. All those negative, ugly feelings came back. Why can’t my art be that good? Why haven’t I put more time into studying drawing and painted to be that good? I will never be as good of sculptor as him. All these ugly feelings of inadequacy came back to me. It was a kind of hatred, but I didn’t hate the artist, I hated myself.

That was another realization that I found. When an artist get’s jealous, I highly doubt they really want to wish harm on other or their work (or, if they did, they have to be a real asshole, and they exist too), but it’s all about the self.

When I saw Kramer’s work, for a moment all I could think about was me. How I wasn’t good enough. Why I couldn’t be like that.

How selfish is that?

Remember to appreciate the talents of others

But… after all those feelings digested, I remembered my philosophy. The world is more beautiful because such a skilled, talented artist exists in it. I loved his gallery of paintings, his inspiration from Rembrandt, how his art improved and progressed. I love his copy of Bougereau’s Gabriel Fidenza and its strange looking eyes. I find myself looking at his still life of Reading Ruskin and wondering what the story is behind it. There’s a book, and there’s a drawing of what looks like a cathedral concept, and the details in that tea cup. And the contrast. My goodness. The way he uses values to make his pieces more interesting is breathtaking. Also, who is Bev? That portrait he did of her makes her look somewhat mischievous and fun to hang out with. I’d like to meet her.

Not only that, but a gallery for a long time that only seemed to admire the more abstract/expressionist/conceptual styles of art (I seriously hate that I know the difference between the three), saw something in Kramer’s art worth exhibiting, and somebody actually did buy at least one of his pieces. It’s as if the Academic art world is starting to no longer see beauty as a mortal sin.

In the end, be enriched by it

I felt one last thing in my gazing at Kramer’s work: inspiration. I want to be as good as him. I want to dedicate more time every day to my drawing, to cut down how much time I spend futzing around on the internet and dedicate myself to drawing and painting more. Maybe for August, I’ll do a daily drawing or painting thing. And you know what? Maybe I WILL join that Art subreddit after all!

…Oh wait… I did join it… Maybe I’ll post something of mine! Come at me critique! Hurt my feelings, then help me improve!

Conservation, MPF Conservation Internship

Medieval Portland: Photo documentation

I checked out a camera from the Portland State University VA office hoping to get some better shots of the poetry book. I was highly discouraged from using flash (for good reason), but if I made do with what I could.

Unfortunately, since I left, it looks like the damage has gotten slightly worse. The gold leaf on your right in the image is now lifting just a little bit!

I wanted to talk a little bit about photography in the art conservation field: I’ve had two different experiences with my two different internships. At Robert’s lab, we had a set-up which involved placing the object in a white tent and playing with lighting to get the best results. Below, you can see my first project which is against a white background with a color strip to fix the color balance when the photo is put in for editing.



I also was fortunate enough to order the second edition to “The AIC Guide to Digital Photography and Conservation Documentation” on sale for $20 from $60. I’ll hopefully be getting it sometime in the middle of November at the latest, and when I do, I’ll read it and post more information, but basically what I’ve learned from every conservator I’ve ever talk to is that documentation is the MOST IMPORTANT part of the conservation process. Sometimes, even more so than the actual treatment itself.

Everything you do has to be reversible in case future discoveries find more effect forms of conservation. This is why it’s important to document everything you do for future conservators to learn from, fix, and otherwise learn about what happened to the object.

Photos have to be taken BEFORE any treatments are made, and then several process photos are highly recommended to show other fieldworkers your work as well as proving to a potential client that you did indeed put the extensive work into the object that you did.



Conservation, MPF Conservation Internship

Imperial Monterey Session 2: Gunk Scraping!

In my past conservation projects, I learned that a crucial part about conservation may involve fixing past repairs, usually made by owners and sometimes fix-it shops. Weeks 2 and 3 of my internship at MPF Conservation were such a reminder of this fact.

During the second week, Katie and I went shopping for strapping leather at Oregon Leather for the Imperial Monterey Chair and a Stickley footstool. This was, I’m ashamed to say, my first time inside the shop. Oregon Leather had a delightfully odd set up with half of the first floor consisting of shelves filled with boxes of leather working tools, decorations, accents, and countless other things. The second half ha more leather jackets in one place than I’ve ever seen. There were also random piles of animal horns, shells, bones, and tails.

As I stood looking at the ox horns, I thought how cool it would be to do a leather working project like Visigoth or other such Viking armor.

I really love being in stores like this. It really had my head buzzing with ideas for costumes and leather crafts.

But we weren’t there to make armor that my Viking ancestors may or may not have worn, we were there for furniture parts!  We specifically needed Vegetable dyed grade A leather that was about 3 mm in depth. As much as we could, Katie and I tried to use as few hides as possible.

When purchasing leather, I learned that texture is a vital part of the selection process. When dying the leather, any textural imperfection such as stretch marks, bite marks, barb wire marks, and other such imperfections can exacerbate in the dying process. It’s no big deal for Monterey furniture; the blemishes give the leather more of a Wild West appearance. However, such blemishes for a Stickley footstool are undesireable and this split of leather would be used for both.

Of course, there were only a few available hides, and none of them were exactly perfect. Still, we had to make do because the leather we were getting was not something that most other leather crafters here in Portland used terribly often. The next shipment would not have been for a very long while.

During both these sessions, my assignment involved taking the chair apart and turning it into rubble. (Okay, not real rubble, but all parts were disassembled to allow for reparation of tenons and regluing with hide glue.)  It was challenging because people in the past have either tried to enhance the adhesion process (poorly) or reinforce it with multiple unnecessary screws.

Like this one! What is up with this? I can’t… I can’t even…

I took apart the seat portion of the chair. It was a relatively simple task. I had to remove several screws and nails and take photographs as I took the chair apart.

… a CARPENTER NAIL? Are you serious now? This was fun to remove, actually. 🙂

I took apart the back on the third week. This was the much trickier task. A past repair was done to it which involved using what Mitchell inferred as an acrylic base craft glue.

Vinegar and Syringe

This was most fortunate because had it been an epoxy adhesive, I probably would have needed to use more toxic solvents. As it was, I only needed to use warm vinegar and inject it into the glue and screw holes using a 20mm needle syringe.





This is the chair’s back. I labeled each piece.


For those of you unfamiliar with furniture terms, tenons and mortises are a type of joint that join furniture pieces together.  You can see an example, below.

Left: Mortis/Right: Tenon

When the back was taken apart, Mitchell and I took a look at the mortises. Mitchell believed the mortises were formed using Forstner bits. This was unusual for an Imperial Monterey-style item because Forstner bits were used by hand rather than manufactured by machine in Los Angeles, California.

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The rest of my day consisted of scraping out the gunk from the tenons and mortises.

After scraping out the gunk, the next steps involve cleaning glues and the finish on the various parts.  Ideally, my next step is woodworking which would involve finding compatible wood and rebuilding the badly damaged or rotted tenons; this is going to be delayed until Mitchell can fully supervise me.  Next week I will finish up cleaning, and begin to work the leather:  Stay tuned!

© Ashley West.  My blog posts may be reposted; please link back to AshleyWestArtBlog.  Photos are property of MPF Conservation.

Conservation, Medieval Portland Senior Capstone

Senior Capstone: Meeting Marjan and the Poetry Book


Hey all! So, I was completely brain dead yesterday after coming home from the gym, so to make up for not posting yesterday, I’ll most likely post two posts today. Yesterday, I had the opportunity to meet  Marjan Anvari, a conservator specializing in Medieval Middle Eastern manuscripts. She was really cool to talk to. I didn’t get an extensive interview with her just yet, but she made it clear that she would like to meet again to discuss possible future treatments. She also made it very clear that for an older manuscript, a conservator should try to avoid using chemical treatments on the gold leaf as much as possible. She stated that her method of conservation was very science heavy. She would receive a manuscript, and it would undergo analysis of a chemist before any treatments could take place by a conservator. One time, she received a manuscript that went over a year of analysis.

Detail shot of damage

For those of you who are taking the capstone with me. My senior project partly revolves around this Persian Poetry book, which was believed to be a much older book that had a rebinding in the 1811 AD and 1226 AH. Unfortunately, the actual text itself had the Arabic inscription “1226 AH” meaning, this book was most likely created well after the Medieval Period. Even so, gold leaf manuscripts have been around well into the Medieval period and if anything, this is a good opportunity to research what kind of Medieval inspiration this little book may have.


The content of the book itself is a frequently told Middle Eastern epic, of which I forgot to ask what the story was. Honestly, I was too distracted by the beautiful illustrations here. It’s suffered some damage, particularly near the binding.