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Art Restorer/Conservator, Scott M. Haskins, Featured in Life Section of Newspaper

LIFE Section

By Marilyn McM­­ahon News–Press Staff Writer

Local Art Conservator Restores Paintings in Santa Barbara

and Around the World

The call came on a Tuesday.  Could Scott M. Haskins fly to London to offer his expert opinion on whether a mural should be saved in a building that was about to be demolished?

“I left Santa Barbara the next day, met with the construction people in London on Thursday, had the mural removed by Saturday, and demolition in the building began on Monday,” said Mr. Haskins.  The mural, which is 6 feet tall and 20 feet wide on canvas, is now rolled up in a vertical column at the Fine Art Conservation Laboratories, where Mr. Haskins is director and chief conservator.  FACL specializes in conservation of easel paintings, murals, works of art on paper and period frames.

“The mural was originally done for the 1964 Worlds Fair in New York City, and afterward it ended up in London.  There is some flaking, and after I stabilize it, clean the front and back, and varnish it, I’ll prepare it for mounting in a new building in Rexburg, Idaho,” said Mr. Haskins during an interview at the unassuming facility on a one-block street near Santa Barbara High School.

Scott Haskins is an art conservator who works on projects in his Santa Barbara laboratory and around the world.  Above, a mural on Los Angeles freeway gets a scrubbing from Mr. Haskins.  At top, Mr. Haskins varnishes a painting at Biola University in La Mirada. At right, at his headquarters in Santa Barbara.

Projects such as these are all in a day’s work for the sandy- haired expert who performs services for clients throughout the country and world. He has just returned from a two-week project in Italy, where his passion for art conservation began in 1975 while studying for a master’s degree at a three-year painting conservation program at the Italian government run center, ENAIP in Botticino (Brescia).

“The first week I was there, I was on scaffolding working on a mural dated 1365. It was in a monastery that was built in the year 900.  I was 23 years old and thought I was the luckiest guy in the world,” said the 59 year old native of Whittier.

A year or so earlier, he was a student at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, when an art history professor suggested he consider art conservation as a career. “I had no idea what it was, but it turned out to be the application of two interests I had since I was a child – art and science – to preserve and restore art,” said Mr. Haskins, who did eight months of post-graduate work in northern Italy after earning his master’s degree in 1978.

That same year, he was offered a faculty position at BYU to start a laboratory that would provide conservation services for the university’s art collection and the historical collection of the Church of Jesus Christ and Latter-day Saints.

“Although it was an exciting job, I left BYU in 1984 to come to Santa Barbara when a group of private investors asked me to set up a conservation lab that would attract business nationwide.  It was on West Gutierrez Street until 1986 when it shut down because one of the invertors went bankrupt and everything (business’) associated with him was shut down,” Mr. Haskins said.

Rather than accept offers from the Los Angeles Museum of Art and National Galleries of Art in Australia and New Zealand, he established Fine Art Conservation Laboratories (aka FACL, Inc.) in 1986 in the same location where it is today.  “I opted to stay in Santa Barbara because I was married and had four children.  They were in school, and we all liked Santa Barbara,” said Mr. Haskins, whose two daughters work with him at the laboratory.  Virginia Panizzon, 35 is the head conservator and Francesca Ruggeri, 31, is the office manager. He also has two sons and three stepsons, whose mother is his wife, Diana Saavedra Haskins.  The blended family includes eight grand children.

Mr. Scott Haskins works on a painting at his Fine Art Conservation Laboratories near Santa Barbara High School.

When Mr. Haskins, who lives in Goleta, is not working on international projects, he spends his time at the local lab, working on “movable artwork” that is sent from all over the world.  The mention of old masters reminded Mr. Haskins of a funny experience that he thinks about every time he looks at a small icon that hangs just outside his office door.  The 12-by-14 inch oil on wood panel is a picture of Christ with two cherubs. “I got a call from a man in Las Vegas who said he had a priceless Russian Renaissance icon that he wanted me to evaluate.  I told him I would charge him $200 to look at it.  Several weeks later, a white Roll-Royce pulled up to the front door, and a uniformed chauffeur stepped out, and came into the lab, presented me with a package and left, not saying a word.

“When I opened the package, it was the icon, which I saw immediately was not Russian.  It was Italian.  It was not from the Renaissance.  The date was about 1850 and it was not priceless.  It was worth about $200.”  After confirming his opinion with another art dealer, Mr. Haskins called the man with his findings. He was furious and refused to pay me my fee.  Finally after my repeated calls, he told me to keep the painting but warned me, “  If I find you have sold it at auction for $1 million, you’re a dead man.”   “ He was serious, but I wasn’t worried” said Mr. Haskins.

However, the story didn’t end there.  Three weeks later, he got a call from the man’s ex-wife.  “She wanted to hear the whole story and then began laughing hysterically.  She told me that during their bitter divorce case, they had spent over $100,000 fighting over their painting, and she had lost the fight.  Hearing that it had little value was sweet vindication for her. Between peals of laughter, she kept telling me, “ I love you,  I love you,” said Mr. Haskins, chuckling. If you want to hear Mr. Haskins tell the story himself, go on YouTube and search for “Fight Over Art Assets – A Priceless Renaissance Russian Icon.”

Most of the artwork FACL works on comes from California and most of those are early CA paintings that were painted between 1875 and 1940

Before accepting a piece to restore, Mr. Haskins determines the needs of the client and the needs of the painting… sometimes, they are not the same.  “A client may just want a quick surface clean and varnish but the painting may be flaking and need other important preservation treatments,” he explained. “For instance, we don’t patch rips in paintings.” To see his short video on why, go to YouTube and search for “How To Fix A Ripped Canvas” by bestartdoc. “After this initial evaluation, I discuss options and estimates with the client,” said Mr. Haskins, whose minimum fee is $250.

His laboratory, which covers 2,400 square feet, is equipped with an 8 x 12 foot vacuum hot table, a low-pressure suction tabletop, polarizing microscope and a booth to spray varnish.  “We use the microscope to identify fake signatures, pigments and painting structure,” explained Mr. Haskins during a tour of the facility.  “The hot table is used to relax cracking in a painting, and the suction table pulls stains from artwork.” A large spray booth is set up to varnish oils and acrylics, the final step in the process and one that has been done for thousands of years according to Mr. Haskins, who also serves as an expert witness when there is litigation involving art-related issues.

The most expensive assignment on which he has worked so far was the Fair Park Mural Conservation Project in Dallas.“ It cost $3 million and took two years to complete,’ said Mr. Haskins, who was the chief conservator for the team of 24 professionals and technicians.  The murals in Dallas, which were painted in 1936 by Italian-American artist Carlo Ciampaglia, were painted out or covered, in 1942. The rediscovery and conservation of these important works of art were undertaken by the city of Dallas as part of the historical preservation effort at Fair Park.

In Santa Barbara Mr. Haskins worked with a team of conservators, technicians and specialist to prepare the mural “Portrait of Mexico Today” by David Alfaro Siqueiros for the move from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara Museum of Art in 2002.  He also helped perform the conservation work once it was installed at its new site to the right of the museum entrance.  Mr. Haskins and his two- full –time art conservators, which include his daughter and Oriana Montemurro, work on 400 to 500 projects-here and away- in a year with help of interns from UCSB, Westmont College, Santa Barbra City Collage and student from abroad.  “If it’s a large project, I bring in professionals from other parts of the US and the world – Italy, Germany, France, etcetera,” he said.

The 1994 earthquake in Northridge, which caused major damage, inspired Mr. Haskins to add another dimension to his career-using his expertise to educate people about what they can do to save their valuable possessions when there is a disaster or an emergency.

“After an earthquake, I got a call from a contact in the area.  He said, ”Quick, I need you to write a pamphlet on how to respond after an earthquake to save your collectibles,” recalled Mr. Haskins.  “It took me an afternoon to write, and over 500,000 copies of the the booklet were distributed by the human resources departments at Bank of America Corp.

The next year, he took more time to write  “How to Save Your Stuff From a Disaster.” The soft cover, self-published book  and the e-book version cost $19.95 and are available at the website,  Chapters include “Photographs and Negatives,” Ceramics, Glass an Other Objects,” “Rugs, Tapestries and Old Clothes” and “Sculpture and Furniture” and “Paintings,” of course. In the Appendix is information about “Suppliers of Preservation Materials,” “Insurance Claims, Be prepared” and “Emergency Phone Numbers, Quick!”

“The book is particularly relevant in Santa Barbara with its propensity for earthquakes and brush fires. I’m trying to reach out to all of the community with an important message that touches every family or person who has precious possessions or keepsakes, not only those who collect or inherit expensive art,” said Mr. Haskins, smiling as he added , “I guess I’m an author now, too.”

Did you like this article? Please give it a THUMBS UP and leave a comment

Email: Marilyn McMahon Scott M. Haskins

Scott M. Haskins, Fine Art Conservator and Marilyn McMahon, Newspress Staff writer

Scott Haskins and News-Press Staff writer – reporter Marilyn McMahon

Mike Eliason, News-Press photograher shooting Virginia Panizzon working on a painting on the hot table.

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82 Responses to Art Restorer/Conservator, Scott M. Haskins, Featured in Life Section of Newspaper

  1. Steve Caplin says:

    Really cool post, highly informative and professionally written. Good PR

  2. Rita says:

    Preserve a painting and you preserve history!

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  6. Sandy Perkinson says:

    Loved your article. Congratulations and so interesting!

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  8. Candice Huggett says:

    Nice write up and very interesting… but your reputation precedes you.

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  10. Garrett Osbourne says:

    I liked up your write up and thanks for the good info. Your job sounds really interesting and you sound like THE expert.

  11. Rhonda says:

    A wonderfully written press release, thank you for sharing.

  12. Angela says:

    My friend told me about you and led me to this page. I am quite impressed. Thanks for all of the great work you do!

  13. Scott M. Haskins says:

    Hi Rachael and thanks for your comment. While I have not had the time or thought the compensation was adequate to do the cruise circuit, as I visit locations on my travels and meet with other professionals ( on special exhibit visits, invariably I get groups that tag along and eaves drop… then that turns into hosting the tour sometimes. Its fun. I enjoy discussing the inside details of our profession with art lovers.

  14. Rachael says:

    One of the best articles I have read on someone in your field. I work in museums and as a tour guide expert on art history for museum travel groups and its always wonderful to connect with experts like you who have an interesting background and can explain the cool things we look at in museums and cultural centers. Have you ever been an art expert on a cruise?

  15. Alyson says:

    Great article and you do great work and teach people very important things.

  16. Joanne says:

    Scott I have some projects for you soon, I will be in touch. You are the only true expert who I would trust.

  17. Scott M. Haskins says:

    As a follow up everyone, I went over to the high school, met with Gloria, had a really nice visit and I will submit a proposal and estimate that she will present to her board at the end of Aug (at no cost). We are willing to do the work on a weekend and work around their logistic issues (of course).

  18. Scott M. Haskins says:

    Gloria, yes, of course I would love to come over and meet with you and inspect your murals. Please give me a call at 805 564 3438 or email me at

  19. Scott,
    Wonderful article and most interesting about your background. We at our high school have some WPA murals that need to be looked at. Would you be wiling to come over and give us an estimate for any work they might need?

  20. Pilar says:

    I love this article and I absolutely love the work you do. You are keeping history alive which is what is needed.

  21. Scott M. Haskins says:

    Thanks for the comment Wendy. Yes, I think so too, that our work is very socially conscious. I love preserving the past for future generations.

  22. Wendy Schoeffler says:

    Congratulations on the article and coverage. Sounds like you deserve the good recognition. Interesting profession. While I never thought of it before, what you do is really a necessity in society if we want to preserve our past. So what you do it really a very socially conscious work.

  23. Geri says:

    Great article and book! Keep up the great work Scott.

  24. Nancy Dawn says:

    Scott, I have watched a lot of your videos. Very impressive.

  25. Nicole says:

    One of the best written books I have ever read. Very informative too!

  26. Scott M. Haskins says:

    Thanks Sandy for the comment and the compliments. My book is the only preservation how-to book that is in plain english. All the other books out there are written by curators or art conservators of institutions that speak to you in museumese or conservationese. A great amount of time and effort was made to make the info understandable and practical for the “regular” person.

  27. Hazel Stockard says:

    Great article and it was so interesting to get something like this on your background. I appreciate you blog even more now!

  28. Sandy says:

    Remarkable article or should I say how surprised I was that was so interesting! Thanks for writing you remarkable book which, I guess is pretty much the only book out there to help collectors know what to do? One that has taught me so much. You never know when a disaster could strike so you need to learn to prepare yourself.

  29. Scott M. Haskins says:

    Thanks Maria. You will enjoy Youtube Channel “Preservationcoach” where I have posted many How-To videos. Be sure to subscribe to the channel so you get updates when I add a new video (I have three in the making). Also, I will be speaking at the Layton, UT, DUP Company meeting on Oct. and you could see me there. By the way, you can got to to see posting of projects. I will be adding many new postings soon.

  30. Scott M. Haskins says:

    Wanda, you will enjoy Youtube Channel “Preservationcoach” where I have posted many How-To videos. BE sure to subscribe to the channel so you get updates when I add a new video (I have three in the making).

  31. Wanda says:

    Hi Scott, I just finished reading your book. I will be definitely be taking better care of my collectibles than I have before. Thank you.

  32. Maria says:

    Scott brings a lot of excellent points in his book about caring for your collectibles and this was a great article too.

  33. Grace says:

    This is a wonderful piece of work and great writing, and book Scott.

  34. Charlene says:

    Great blog and excellent book!

  35. Dixon Williams says:

    Dang! Great write up. Nice PR job…. nice blog!

  36. Alison says:

    What a true eye opener. Thank you Scott.

  37. April says:

    It is disturbing how many of us do not care for our precious belongings which can easily be destroyed. Scott, I appreciate you bringing shedding light on this. We need to treat them like we would treat our children and pets. Cherish them.

  38. Scott M. Haskins says:

    Thanks Denise for the compliment but I am not an artist. I don’t paint or do anything creative when it comes to this work in art conservation. Those in my profession don’t even like the term “art restorer” as it alludes to a non specialized fixer upper for art and not someone who has a work ethic, a professional standards of practice and is interested in why things fall apart. The term we embrace is ‘art conservator”, “painting conservator” or “fine art conservator.”

  39. Melanie says:

    Scott, thank you for all you do! I mean that. I have a friend that interned with you and she said you are well known and connect with a lot of people and that you work on a lot of important historic preservation projects. Your work seems like a socially conscious, important influence within our communities.

  40. Denise says:

    Scott, the article was very informative. You are the best artist/art conservator around 🙂

  41. Tanya says:

    A very well written article and I just purchased your book! Looking forward to reading it and learning a lot from it.

  42. Jen says:

    If you live in an earthquake zone, or an area where bush fires happen you absolutely need to protect pieces of your history. Thanks so much for bringing us awareness about this.

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  44. giancarla says:

    great, sei sempre un grande!!! ciao

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  46. Lynne Krueger says:

    Loved the article!!! Thank you!!!

  47. Greg Colley says:

    Great article! FACL does a outstanding job for us and they are all great to work with.

  48. Giuseppe Pasta says:

    A great article, for a great artist, and for a great man!

  49. David says:

    Great article. And thanks for the update…everyone’s excited down here about our project together.
    Thanks Scott.

  50. Gordon says:

    Great article!

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