The “Egyptian” Drawing Receives Conservation

Danny Allen's 1973 India ink drawing, 'The Egyptian' being inspected while still under Plexiglas from the original frame in which it arrived.

Danny Allen’s 1973 India ink drawing, ‘The Egyptian’ being inspected while still under Plexiglas from the original frame in which it arrived.

One of my favorite drawings from Dan’s portfolio is a quick India ink sketch he did titled The Egyptian. I received this drawing as a gift twenty years after Dan died. It arrived at my home via FedEx out of the blue with no immediate explanation. The sequence of events as to how all that came about is covered in the book. This is a treasured piece for me, and it needed and warranted conservation.

Susan carefully checks the strength of the paper and decides to utilize the existing backing and Plexiglas to flip the drawing so that she can safely have access to the back of the piece to mend any weaknesses and tears.

Susan carefully checks the strength of the paper and decides to utilize the existing backing and Plexiglas to flip the drawing so that she can safely have access to the back of the piece to mend any weaknesses and tears.

The drawing was framed poorly when I received it, but I wasn’t in a position to make any changes to it. It wasn’t until I unframed the art to have it photographed for the book that I realized what poor condition it was in. I contacted a local paper conservator named Susan Duhl to do the repairs. She very kindly agreed to perform the conservation in my studio so I could photograph her at work.

Heat sensitive mending tissue is applied to the back of the drawing to bring torn edges together. The mending tape is reversible should there ever be a reason in the future to remove or replace it.

Heat sensitive mending tissue is applied to the back of the drawing to bring torn edges together. The mending tape is reversible should there ever be a reason in the future to remove or replace it. This particular mend required access both from the front and the back of the drawing, but none of the mending tissue will show.

There are certain codes of ethics that apply with conservation–most notably that one does no harm, and whatever repairs are made must be reversible. There were a variety of issues happening to this drawing: creases, tears and a chemical interaction with the old mat-board originally used as a backing. In fact there was a ghost image of the drawing on the now discarded mat showing how the acids in the old board had interacted with the paper and the ink. The drawing is very, very fragile.

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Mending tissue is also used to create “hinges” for the framer to use to invisibly adhere the drawing to it’s new backing board. Note how the India ink shows clear through to the back of the paper. The ink and the old mat board were having an acidic reaction to each other. The new backing my framer will use will be acid-free.

While it may look as if Susan is merely taping the drawing together, it’s much more than that. She used a heat-sensitive mending tissue that can be removed in the future if necessary. It’s also a tissue that does not discolor the paper.

The next step is to take the art to a trusted framer. To be continued…

For anyone in the Delaware Valley seeking the services of a professional paper conservator, I highly recommend Susan. She can be contacted at the following:

Susan Duhl
Art Conservator/Collections Consultant

I Wonder What Took Me So Long?

Danny Allen, watercolor of Bill Whiting as a naked hippie, ca. 1972.

Danny Allen, watercolor of Bill Whiting as a naked hippie, ca. 1972. (Newly framed.)

I wonder what took me so long to get around to properly framing Danny Allen’s watercolor of me displaying my birthday suit during my long-gone and misspent youth? Perhaps I was deferring to a shyness I once had but subsequently dismissed. More likely it was a case of having overlooked how much this drawing really meant to me–up until I gave Dan’s portfolio back to the Allen family. Like the work returned to the Allen’s this past July, this piece along with the other pieces I’ve kept, will eventually go back to Dan’s family. I remain the keeper now of only a few sentimental pieces that have tremendous meaning for me–but would be of no real interest to my own heirs.

It’s odd to think of myself now as having once been an optimistic if not totally naive hippie with long hair and youthful, unrealistic life expectations. A gray old man stares back at me in the mirror–an old man who wouldn’t be caught dead skinny dipping in broad daylight. Perhaps I should work on that….

Currently I’m working on digitizing the book to make it available to a larger audience. I’m looking into online publishing options now, and hope to have more information in the near future.