Archive for the ‘gallery’ Category

Say that again?!?

Wednesday, April 15th, 2009

I spent the last week or so on this pretty typical project for a very nice family in Howard County with a typical home in a typical neighborhood with a fairly typical problem: The kitchen & family room combo felt unfinished. Mostly that is because it was: they had stripped the wallpaper a year ago, and repaired the drywall, and had run out of vacation time before the work was complete, so simply lived with the situation for a good while.

They heard of Rising Tide Inc. through the Center Stage Radio Auction, where I had donated a room finish for the fundraiser. Both husband and wife volunteer at Center Stage, and while they were working for the auction my item came up, and they bid and won the finish.

We discussed a nice spring green sponge finish for the walls of the kitchen, based on the large yard outside and the green accent in the stained glass pendant lights over the island and the breakfast table. 

In the family room, a different problem presented itself. The fireplace at the far end was very stark, and devided the room up into three parts, right left and center, which gave the space a boxcar-like feeling.

Continuing the green finish would have made the effect even worse, so we chose a terracotta color to blend the fireplace into the wall and lose the massive quality of the structure at the end of the room.

We finished the drywall, repainted and applied two contrasting sponge finishes, with a very dramatic, sophisticated result. As the client said in appreciation, “This doesn’t look like our house. This looks like the houses of the people whose houses we go to!”

I think she was referring to members of the Center Stage Board of Directors when she said that, but it is my new favorite quote. Perhaps a banner testimonial across the website homepage?

That’s what it needed.

Thursday, April 2nd, 2009

I have been stewing over my mural.

Technically it has been going pretty well, the figures are developing, the forms and colors are pretty well balanced, but more and more I have felt unsatisfied. There is no drama, no action or story, no dynamic tension between the characters. Yesterday it hit me: It needs a third character. 

Most design relies on the triangle. In space planning and home decorating it is efficient for movement. Consider the ideal kitchen balanced from sink to stove to refrigerator. In aesthetics it is used to create visual movement and tension. You want the eye to flit from focal point to focal point in a pattern that opens up the image and covers more ground than just back and forth between two objects. In storytelling a third person expands the possible interactions from two to six: not just what I think of you and what you think of me, but also what you and I think of her, and what she thinks of you or me, so the complexity and hence the interest expands rapidly. 

In a storytelling image, the triangle fills both needs, expanding the possibilities of the story, and helping the viewer’s eye to keep moving from point to point. In this instance, I also need something more dynamic. Both of my figures are passive, so I need some action. I sketched for an hour or so this afternoon.

Next I have to make some decisions regarding this character. I want him a bit creepy and unwelcome. Creepy clown? Creepy Old Bald Guy? Creepy old bald guy in a clown costume? I have to think about color too.

Now I’ve done it.

Monday, March 30th, 2009

I finally finished most of the general field inpainting on my mural and have spent the last couple of days on selective refinements: I changed the perspective on the balustrade just a little since I had a few comments from friends to indicate confusion on that, and hardened the shadows on them at the same time. I am happier with the troubadour having tackled his features and hands more aggressively. I still have to work on her features though – they are way too weak and pallid.

Today I finally got around to my long anticipated reglazing of the balustrade drapery, and I think I may have overdone it. I like how dramatic it has become, but the rest of the painting now feels vapid by comparison. I now have to punch up the shadows on everything else to bring it into balance. In the end, this will give me the dark renaissance moodiness I am hoping for, but I wonder how much will have to be pretty well repainted to get there.

He seems worried about it.

BUY THIS MURAL – Day whatever.

Thursday, March 26th, 2009

I have been getting back to the mural now and again, and missing several days in between, but this week had had some time on it while working on a silver leafed chair in the studio – lots of drying time in between steps on that – and have made some progress.

I am almost done with the local color inpainting, and have delayed the column capitals about as long as I can. Once I get those done, and the straps in the barrel vault, I have to work on refining the figures. The features are too bland and the hands are still clunky. The orange drapery in the foreground is just an underpainting. I think I will overglaze it with ultramarine blue. I liked what happened on the troubadour’s cap, and that will give me more contrast in the foreground. If I feel up to it, I might give it a damask pattern in all of the folds. I will also be glazing down the shadows considerably, since I want the thing to be much moodier than it is so far.


Tuesday, March 10th, 2009


Two years ago I had a floorcloth commission go south on me and I was left with a large canvas panel which I rolled up and stood in a corner. I have been bemoaning the thing for some time, and worried that the latex primer I had painted it with would grow hard and brittle as time passed in its rolled up state, so I finally pinned it up to the wall to see what I could make of it. After some flipping through books and an afternoon with the chalk, I sketched in the basic concept, based on some frescoes at Versailles. Hopefully the result will be a tour-de-force of the contemporary muralist’s art, evoking passion and catharsis at every viewing. Maybe. Or it could end up as a schlocky classical knock-off with limited artistic value, if any. 

Wait and see. Or, avoid the rush, and as e-bay says, Buy Now! Price is negotiable.


This is where we are as of today, 3-13-09. I’m having fun, anyway.

That’s My Girl!

Saturday, March 7th, 2009

My daughter is finishing her senior year in high school with an art show next week, featuring this painting, which she has just completed for her oil painting class.

Surrealism is not dead, nor does it sleep.

Surrealism is not dead, nor does it sleep.


I am right proud.

A Distressed Floor

Monday, March 2nd, 2009

Its a snowy blustery day today and the whole east coast stayed home, I think. I should make myself useful and post some pictures. 

This staircase leads to an odd little guest room above a garage.

The finish is crackled and scraped, then toned, drybrushed and overglazed to get a soft and consistent antiquing. It took altogether too much struggle to get what we wanted, but in the end everybody was happy with the result. Thanks to Jen Towne for her perseverance in pushing this through.

The trim is also crackled and in the powder room a faux encaustic pattern adds to the effect of the tiled walls.

Cement based finishes

Thursday, February 19th, 2009

Yesterday I had the opportunity to revisit a project that we completed last summer in northern Baltimore County where we applied a marmorino-style finish using a burnished two coat cement system with integral pigment. It was a beautiful use of honed texture set into a custom timber frame structure designed by Susan Major of The Hestia Group. 

The space is really good looking, and I am sorry my photos don’t quite capture the subtle richness of the marmorino texture. It has a soft organic quality that is truly unique, and counterpoints the natural wood tones and the clean furnishings very nicely.

artist Becky Seigmund applying the first skim coat.

The cement is tinted with dry pigments, mixed in batches, and trowelled on in two layers. The first layer creates a coarse sand-coat finish, and the second layer is applied over that, with the material trowelled deep into the grit of the first coat. The pressure of the trowel forces the softer paste to rise to the surface, where it can be burnished as it dries. This creates a soft sheen to the material, which we enhance with protective a coat of wax and a final polish with a soft rag.

You can see the texture a little more clearly in this photo of the master bathroom

It’s Not All Bunnies

Monday, February 16th, 2009

When I figure out how to add things to the web site proper, I am definitely going to install these photos. I am thrilled to have some high-styled contemporary work in our portfolio.

Photography: C. Geoff Hodgdon for Studio Santalla
Photography: C. Geoff Hodgdon for Studio Santalla


We painted this project for Studio Santalla for the 2006 Washington, DC Design Center Showhouse that they keep in the basement (sounds nefarious, but it isn’t, really.) I had a recent meeting with them regarding a new project, and they gave me these images to use. Ernesto Santalla has a very streamlined and contemporary aesthetic, and you can see that he approaches interior design from the point of view of his original training as an architect. He is also very interested in the holistic application of design to human living in a broader way, and integrates art, photography, and graphic design into his work.

Photography: C. Geoff Hodgdon for Studio Santalla
Photography: C. Geoff Hodgdon for Studio Santalla


We had a very interesting conversation regarding green finishes, for instance, did you know that the LEED program (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) does not currently concern itself with “cradle to grave” issues involving the relative environmental impact of materials or process choices? I was a bit disappointed to learn this, but we have to start somewhere. (I digress, and we will talk about this another time.) The real point is that Ernesto and I share similar concerns about the environmental impact of our industry and we hope to work together on future projects that address these issues. 

This particular project comes out somewhere in the middle, environmentally. The cool floating slab that arcs across the room is finished in a venetian plaster, which is composed entirely of natural materials – basically chalk, marble dust and water, and has about the best coolness:toxicity ratios available. It is set against a background of stippled oil glazing to create a subtle limestone quality (also cool, but solvent-stinky.) 

Photography: C. Geoff Hodgdon for Studio Santalla
Photography: C. Geoff Hodgdon for Studio Santalla

Evolution of an Idea – first in a series.

Saturday, February 7th, 2009

Although I love to have a pretty good idea what I am doing, I am also dangerously fond of projects that move off of their original direction and down unexpected paths. (Within reason of course, nobody likes to talk about revised budgets and other painful practicalities.) 

Original color and fabrics


Consider this project: Original finish samples were developed to take this dining room to a lovely mid-tone olive green to match these fabrics, and an appropriate mild ochre tone was selected accordingly. After some concern over the paleness of the mantle, the olive idea was abandoned in favor of a creamy white. You can see the preliminary finish as a wash behind and below the fabric swatch.

Somewhere along the way the fabrics fell out of favor but we were then stuck with a base color that I really couldn’t think how it would be helpful.

We decided the whole thing should be silvery-grey instead. After some experimentation we came up with a solution.








Who would have expected this burnt charcoal drybrushed undertone would end up giving us such a delicate end result? I thought we were woodgraining a cartoon for a day or so.

  If I had seen this beginning without knowing the end, I would have fired me.     


After two more latex washes and an oil overglaze we had a beautiful, delicate finish. The yellow undertone added an unexpected and wonderful warmth from beneath the other colors that I would have never in a million years thought to include had we stayed on our original track.










The willingness to follow a non-linear path and see where it goes can lead you into all sorts of trouble, but it will also produce unexpectedly successful results. It’s the unexpected part I really like.