Quick fix frame update

A while back I picked up a beautiful watercolor of calla lilies painted by a local painter active in the mid-20th century named Agnes Abbot.

agnes abbot calla lily before frame paint

I loved how simple it is – and brown green, white and yellow all look fabulous here.

But the frame was very outdated.  Obviously a mid-70s job.  Ick.

I didn’t feel like reframing it – that would mean looking for a frame, paying for it (!no!) and maybe even having to cut a new mat.

No thanks – I am way too busy, lazy and distracted to do that.

So it sat in a corner for a long time.  I kept coming across it and feeling mildly surprised that it hadn’t fixed itself.  Aren’t there elves out there who are supposed to do my work for me?

Oh that’s right.  I’m the elf.


I recently posted on how easy it was to store paint in a mason jar fitted with a used shaker-cheese lid and it occurred to me that I had filled a jar with my favorite brown paint.

Then it hit me!  Just paint the thing!

Why these simple fixes don’t jump out at me right away is still a bit of a mystery to me.

I decided to try a technique I’d heard about that was supposed to make scraping paint off of glass easier by applying a coat of gesso to the glass before you start painting.

I dug some gesso out of my studio closet:

frame painting gesso step


and trimmed out the glass with it (in this closeup you can see the two-tone ick color of the frame):

agnes abbot lily watercolor original frame detail


Then I primed the whole thing, getting as sloppy as I wanted because I figured the gesso would work like magic and I wouldn’t have a thing to worry about:

primed frame


I primed it a second time and then gave it two coats of finish:

framed lily watercolor brown frame


I think it turned out OK – I think the dark frame is a HUGE improvement over the light frame.

Here’s the before and after:

agnes abbot calla lily before frame paint 400      framed lily watercolor brown frame 400

And what about the gesso technique you say?

It didn’t work.  I still had to scrape and scrape with a razor to get it all clean.  I think it was actually HARDER to clean with the gesso on it!

Next time I will try the old chapstick trick – supposedly you can smear chapstick all around the glass and just wipe the paint away!

Here’s a few more closeups of the painting – I just love it!

white calla lily agnes abbot close up


calla lily watercolor closeup


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  1. This is wonderful! Thanks for sharing! Featured today on Junkin Joe! : ) hugs…

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