all started with an old dressing table missing it's mirror, found
in a barn/antique refinishing shop belonging to a farmer friend
of mine from Maquoketa, Iowa. I've been looking for something
like this for quite some time. My wife, Linda, is actually the
artist in the family who has been painting chairs and little tables
to much praise in our community. She's always working on something
for a charity auction or a gift for friends and family members.
I accompany her on antique and old furniture hunts. It was on
one of our hunts that I found the table. It wasn't particularly
valuable. It was solid oak, however, with cracked shellac finish,
and half the veneer torn off. The top had to be replaced... no
problem there, and there was a hornet's next inside behind the
drawer that had to be removed at some risk and a can of Raid.
My plan was
to do a design that paid homage to one of America's great writer/humorists,
Mark Twain. Living on the Mississippi River, and having an abiding
love for river lore, I had the entire design worked up in my head.
But I had to make a pattern and test some of my concepts before
breaking out the paint.
I had purchased
special acrylic paint just for this project, a fascinating palette
of pearlescent paints that come in jars. There were metallics
and interesting jewel-tone shades. With my Wacom pressure-sensitive
tablet and Macintosh, I worked on my design replicating the paint
colors on my computer's palette.
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really enjoy working out my design solutions on my computer. It's
so much more productive, and I can try a variety of color combinations
instantly. I even replicated the exact shape of the table, even
creating a three-quarter view which featured the table's beautifully
curved legs. This was perhaps the most helpful step in the design
process. Having a a replica of the table available for me to decorate
opens up so many more possibilities and experimentation.
I had seen similar
pieces of furniture in a Seattle gallery last summer, and I was
determined to work my design against a black background. This way
I can float the color on the smooth black surface, and allow brushstrokes
to show. Also, I love the idea of stripes on the legs. I really
don't know why. It just seems to work. And the highly reflective
paint I'm using may look like gilding or foiling. We'll have to
|I have this wonderful
Epson printer that does 17x22 inch prints in full color. Here's my
design for the top. It's not important to me to have a pattern the
same size as the table since I'm going to paint it completely by hand...
no tracing. I just want to let things take their natural course.
| I won't transfer
the design to the desk in any way. I plan on painting my designs al
fresco. I may draw some reference marks on the desk, but I don't want
to work too tightly once the jars of paint are open. I've discovered
the paint I'm using dries very quickly, so I may not end up with what
I've planned exactly. But at least the color scheme will be close.
|I've put my design
sketches on a small easel, and I've suspended more lights over the
desk. The black finish on the desk is the result of two coats of acrylic
enamel that I bought at Lowe's. This paint is phenomenal! Even though
I used a brush, it dries flat as if I sprayed it on only it's smoother!
The brand is "One and Only" by Valspar. Actually, I didn't
care of I got brush strokes or not. It all would just add more character
to the piece.
|This is one of
the legs. The turquoise metallic is going on with a red sable brush.
I love how the brush strokes look against the black. I want to just
glaze the paint on in one quick coat... that's it. I want it to look
like it was hand done. I'm using my other hand as support. I don't
want the stripes too uniform, however.
|I got the legs
and front drawer finished in this shot. The design on the drawer is
Haley's Comet. Twain was born on the comet's appearance, and he died
on its return. He also coined the famous phrase, "Timing is everything."
This is one
of the end pieces. It contains three silhouettes on a raft at sunset
on the Mississippi River. The other side will be charicatures of
Tom Sawyer, Becky Thatcher and the famouse white washed fence.
|I couldn't wait
any longer. I began the top, Mark Twain and the Jumping Frog first.
|This shot shows
the metallic nature of the paint. I used a pearlescent white on Mark
Twain's hair and it really looks great.
|The piece is
drying on the back deck.
view of desk. Notice how different Mark Twain's hair appears in
this shot. That's the pearl white paint.
|Side view showing
rope pattern down back leg.
Now all I have to do is give it a week for the acrylic paint to
cure, and I'll give it a couple of coats of clear varnish.