Sometimes really cool things just seem to fall into my lap. This is one of those times.

I’m never comfortable restoring/repairing other artist’s work simply because it’s not mine. But when a customer in British Columbia asked if I could repair an original picture of his parents that was damaged by breaking glass when the frame fell off the wall, I reluctantly agreed.  I let him know I couldn’t make any promises, and he told me he wouldn’t trust anyone else with it. Great, we were on the same page.

So when it arrived from the west coast and I saw it for the first time I was super impressed.  Then I immediately thought I bit off more than I can chew! It looked airbrushed (it wasn’t, it was just fantastic pencil work), and it was gouged and scratched by the glass on the man’s face (the worst place to have to fix. Cue the stress). But this piece turned out to be one of the coolest I’ve restored for 2 reasons:

1- the woman is very attractive, and

2-the pencil work on this piece is top notch! So I had to know about the artist. I poked around looking for other work of his but couldn’t seem to find anything about him online. Very talented and an enigma! I was intrigued.

Final repaired pencil portrait of married couple.

So I asked the owner of this piece about this mysterious artist. He informed me he lived in the Toronto area and was now deceased, but there was probably a good reason he was not easily found on the internet. This artist’s technical skills were so great at the peak of his talents between the 1950s and 70s that he captured the attention of both those in the underground world as well as those of the local authorities. For what? Turns out he was the go-to guy if you wanted something impeccably reproduced to increase your wealth without working for it. Let’s just say his money making skills were not federally approved (need another hint: it wasn’t about forging paintings). That’s probably all I should say about that.

What’s more, the couple in this piece have a much more interesting and colourful history than the artist, and I was lucky enough to be trusted with it. It wouldn’t be prudent to share here, but let’s just say Frank Sinatra’s name came up.

Damaged area of portrait (scratches and gouges from broken glass).

Anyways, I had to work with 5 different pencil grades and get super creative with varnishes but I managed to repair and restore this piece to a point where it looks like it did when the original artist completed it. It was a pretty freakin’ cool experience for me to hold a decades old original piece by a notorious artist, and to actually work on it! You’d never notice the damage now, and the owner couldn’t be happier with the result. And that is all that truly matters. Cue stress relief…Phew!

Final repaired portrait closeup.

Final repaired portrait closeup 2.

2 thoughts to “Outlaws and Artists! My portrait repair tale.

  • Verna


    You did an excellent job. Picture Perfect.

    • james

      Thanks Verna! It’s always a little stressful repairing a piece, so really happy to hear you feel it was successful!


Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *