Archive for the ‘painting’ Category

Little French Table

Friday, February 27th, 2009

This table is currently in our studio. It was badly damaged by a hot casserole dish, which blistered the finish over a 6″ x 12″ area, and the damage sat for several years allowing the wood underneath to oxidize. 

We stripped and restained the top, fiddled around with the damaged area, which was a little spongy and fibrous relative to the rest of the oak veneer. You can see a little darker blush in the center of the far veneer panel.

Then we spent way too much time fine tuning a handpainted ribbon border to embellish the table and provide a visual distraction from the damaged area.

We finished it off with a patina overglaze to deepen the tone and provide antiquing. Today I will be varnishing, and deliver it next week.

Faux Encaustic Finish

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

Just wanted to show you this picture.

It’s one of the cooler finishes we’ve done recently, again for Susan Major at The Hestia Group. We call it a faux encaustic because it reminds us of encaustic wax painting, which is a process of applying translucent layers of hot wax to a surface and then scraping and otherwise manipulating the result. The scraping part is similar, although the material is conventional latex paint, diluted then daubed on with a brush and moved around with a rubber window squeegee. Try it at home!

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. 

Green choices

Sunday, February 1st, 2009

There is a lot to be done in the world of decorative painting to bring the field into the 21st century regarding environmental choices. Many of the old stand-by finishes rely at least to some extent on oil-based materials which, although they may be based on natural products such as plant-based oils and tree saps, still contribute Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s) to the atmosphere and risk toxic spillage into the world’s waterways. 

Rising Tide Inc. recently joined with the US Green Building Council and the local affiliate chapter, the Baltimore Regional Green Building Council to take a hand in leading the decorative painting industry towards better choices in materials and waste stream management practices that will provide high quality finishes without jeopardizing artists, clients, or the community through exposure to potential toxins. 

Last summer we completed this outdoor mural using exclusively low VOC latex paints from Benjamin Moore’s AURA line, with excellent results. There are many other low and no VOC products to choose from these days, with no compromise in quality.

Not everything can be done at once. Manufacturers are still trying to perfect a decent water-based glaze system that allows enough open time to apply a consistent strie finish, for instance, nevertheless, smarter choices can be made: A couple of extra dollars will provide for odorless mineral spirits, which has been better distilled of contaminants, and is less harmful. Solvent recycling and conscientious waste disposal also cost little but thoughtfulness.

I am planning to explore some of the older technologies that I think will resonate well with a new environmental consciousness: Milk Paint, which uses casein protein as a binder, and Beer Glazing, which has it’s own obvious advantages, are centuries old techniques which can be applied to modern usage in an artisan-scale operation. As I learn more, I will write about my experiences. In the meantime, push yourselves – a little bit today, a little more tomorrow, and let’s reclaim our world from every direction!

At the Folies Bergere

Thursday, January 29th, 2009

Willy Richardson has been working on a studio project for me that I hope will open the door to a steady stream of similar items: custom art reproductions/adaptations. This project is a set of three extreme blow-ups of Edouard Manet’s “A Bar at the Folies Bergere,” commissioned by Susan Major of The Hestia Group for her own home.

A Bar at the Folies Bergere

A Bar at the Folies Bergere by Edouard Manet


 The blowups seem rather random at first – the barmaid’s braceleted arm; the roses in front of her velvet coat; her face, all on 24″ square canvas panels, but as you consider the pieces as a group, then evoke the painting very strongly without being simply a copy thereof. Susan’s design style is very tailored, and she likes to deliberately mix her references between multiple points of view to create visual tensions: rustic counterpointing high-tech, or contemporary objects juxtaposed into a traditional setting. I am looking forward to seeing these pieces in place because she always seems to surprise me with layers of her vision that I didn’t expect. In a good way, I mean.


Fragments by Willy Richardson for Rising Tide Inc.

UPDATE 3/2/09
I had a conversation with Susan last week about the fragments and how she interpreted them: To her, they represent the various aspects of womanhood. The arm represents work, the daily tasks of service that women perform; The waist and hip are the physically feminine elements, and the face reflects the mind and soul of the individual. This woman’s expression, or lack thereof, shows strength and a stoic endurance of her lot in life.

Dateline Hagerstown

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

We’ve just completed a nice little project in Hagerstown, MD for The Hestia Group in Columbia. The intent of the project was to take a classic center hall stairway and an adjacent long, low ceilinged living room and balance them with the dining room on the other side of the hallway. The dining room had been painted a deep red parchment finish with a gold damask stencil by some earlier artist, and the color was too strong relative to the creamy yellow hall and living room. The challenge was to deepen the colors in the other two rooms for better balance, without making the spaces at all gloomy, and to create psychological continuity with the ceilings and trim.

Living room panels with strie

Living room panels with strie

Susan Major, the designer, chose a deep olivey green velvet for the living room, with accents of paprika and gold, and we keyed the walls to the green. The panelled fireplace wall, opposite the dining room, we made an extra deep warm green strie with subtle metallic accents on the panel frames, and the remaining walls a midtone green with a strie finish above and a parchment finish below the chair rail. The trim was painted a golden ochre strie with metallic accents on the key, and this finish was applied to all trim throughout the three spaces.


Striped finish going upstairs

Striped finish going upstairs


In the stair hall we painted a three color vertical stripe pattern on the upper walls and a metallic parchment finish below.


All three rooms received the same color of ceiling paint, a neutral yellow ochre that I thought would be too dark, but once the pre-existing white was gone, the color felt just right. As I was painting the living room, I was positive that it would be too green for the gold hallway or the red dining room, but in each room it took on the characteristics of the local walls and never competed. Sweet.


Hagerstown is 75 miles from Baltimore, and for efficiency’s sake as well as for morale, since the commute gets old really fast, I rented a house in nearby Keedysville for the month of January. The house was a delightful pre-civil war town home, clapboard on the outside but a log cabin on the interior. At one point it was a general store, and now serves as a furnished rental guest house. It only has one formal bedroom, but with a loft and sub-floor heated basement, both with two twin beds, it served us quite well. The main attraction was the oversized fireplace downstairs, where we spent most evenings over Scrabble, Monopoly or cards. I highly recommend it: see the Howserz-Misteke house at


Artist Sue Crawford painting the ceiling.Artist Sue Crawford painting the ceiling. 


Artist Keenan Williams glazing french doors

Artist Keenan Williams glazing french doors


Artist Jen Towne demurely glazing trim.

Artist Jen Towne demurely glazing trim.


Artist Becky Seigmund glazing the french doors

Artist Becky Seigmund glazing the french doors