To finish up the discussion on burl, I’ve collected a few images of real and woodgrain burl. The leading image is real burl. The next handful of pictures are woodgrain burl completed by myself.
As previously discussed in the post on the definition of burl, burl is a rare find as it is a deformity of a tree. Therefore, it would make sense that a painted burl would be a smaller area. For example, an entire door wouldn’t be made of burl. Burl is found on furniture, marquetry, and other small areas.
The following are pictures of real burl from the book, Identifying wood – a fantastic reference book of real wood of many types.
Here is a quick step-by-step for burl wood graining.
For a small sample like this one, I used a slow-dry glaze mixed with the same amount of matte medium. With a domed glazing brush, I glaze on a mixture of vandyke brown, burnt umber, and transparent iron oxide (killer color from Proceed by Golden). Glaze a little on the heavy side.
With the same brush, stipple the fresh glaze to create a even, rough texture.
From a palette, add vandyke brown and black to your mother glaze and add these large, random dots. Here, you are creating clusters of burl.
Now, this can be tricky. Use a very soft sea sponge. Take a small piece and rip the edges of the sponge to create a fringes, almost like the fingers of a hand. Wet the sponge and ring it out after each section. The action is a combination of a drag, roll, skip, and flip to create the flame-like effect. You’re working around the dark clusters but leaving areas untouched. Keep the flow and direction on our mind.
Soften your work with a badger softener. Soften in the direction of the flames, avoiding the dark clusters.
Lightly soften to achieve this look.
On your palette, mix your mother glaze with water and add burnt umber and transparent iron oxide to create a watery mixture of color. Using a tooth veinette, create this trembly series of veins.
Load the tooth veinette with the mixture, run it through a metal comb, and with a light hand, create this effect. The veins should be perpendicular to the clusters and should not overlap.
Let dry. Using a fine pointed brush, add tiny dots within the clusters. Don’t go overboard.
Let dry. Make a glaze of burnt umber and transparent iron oxide, which will be a bright, transparent glaze. Glaze all over and stretch with a spalter to even out the glaze.
In this particular sample, I added a quick trompe l’oeil effect so the sample would look like a piece of baseboard.
This woodgrain technique may seem like a lot of steps — and that would be true. But, burl is a very rare specimen so it will pay off if you can make your burl realistic. Burl up!
Burl wood can be a challenging species to woodgrain, but the results are as visually interesting as the the actual wood. The burl is a protuberance on the side or root of the tree, a reaction of stress on the fibrous tissue.
The stress can come from a wound or bruise, insect bites, virus or fungus. Most species of wood have them, but only a few are spectacular enough to be cut. (tree below is from Olympic National Park)
Although they are taken from different parts of the tree, the pollard, the burl, and the root all produce similar figures, displaying an intricate grain structure and many knots (see figure).
Burls appear in many different types of wood, from the most common to the most exotic. Because the burl figure is always limited in extent, it is cut almost exclusively as small veneers and subsequently used for inlay, marquetry, furniture, and small decorative objects. In all these examples, burled wood is often combined with other wood species or with natural materials such s shagreen, tortoiseshell, or ivory.
Most commonly used burled woods:
Elm Burl, is very difficult to find these days due to the near extinction of the species. The yellow-white hardwood of the elm is mostly used in roots or burl, which has a warm orange color and features randomly spaced rounded dark knots interspersed with a lot of moire effects.
Ambonia burl. This tree is found only on the island of Ambon or Amboina in Indonesia. Its warm orange wood, which is flecked with thousands of tiny knots, is used exclusively for its burl figure.
Thuja burl. Found throughout the Northern Hemisphere, the thuja is a type of pine tree whose fibrous wood is dappled with many tear-shaped knots.
A marble fragment is the “meat” of marble composition. They are the chunks of marble that have remained intact as the surrounding sediment (either veins or breccias) defines its borders. As seen on the picture of real marble above, the fragments are encased by an orange breccia. On a veined marble, the fragments are exactly the same shape. However, the difference is that the gap between the fragments is much thinner then in breccia marble. As seen below, the shape is made from the veins.
What I mean by fragments being the “meat” of the marble — when you look at this next picture, the fragments are the overpowering feature.
Also, as seen on this pedestal below.
When painting faux marble, it is a very common mistake to concentrate on painting the veins and not the fragments. The next 3 images show the progression of painting fragments by painting veins. My mind is completely on the negative space (fragments) as I paint.
Here are some common mistakes made when painting fragments: Fragments that are rounded – too similar in size and shape – too uniformly spaced – and oriented in one single direction (at a 45 degree angle).
Fragments that are so widely spaced they appear to be floating, so that the surface looks like a slice of salami.
The surface seems to have no direction at all – with fragments that are too similar in size and spaced too consistently.
Good veining here: Fragments should be oriented in a general direction – show variation in form and spacing – and look very angular.
When I paint marble, I paint fragments, not veins or breccia. I look at the negative shapes that the veins make to create the fragments. Determining and practicing the shape, size, and angle of your fragments prior to marbling is always something I suggest.
This is the second and final part of my scagliola inspired, Yellow Sienna marble mantel (part 1).
As we left off, the background was being laid down with aggressive movement with a palette of colors. The areas were then softened.
The background layer was achieved using slow-dry glaze and colorants. Therefore, the glaze was tacky enough to create this negative technique using a wet brush to disperse the background glaze. I started using the pointed 2-header and then graduated to the straight pointed 3-header. Another quick texturing step.
Finally, using a flat brush, a transparent earth-orange glaze was added. All areas were lightly softened.
From my palette, the veining begins. With the background in place, it is clear where to paint the breche (generally).
The pointed 2-header.
All of the sides of the mantel must work with the overall direction as if they were cut from one big piece of marble.
This step is finished.
Using a single-headed brecher, the fragments are enhanced with a whitish earth yellow.
The round softener is a great tool for accurate softening. Always have a clean rag to keep the brush clean.
The overglaze step consists of more dramatic flames and crystallization using brighter toned whites.
After the painting was finished, the surface was sanded lightly and dusted in preparation for the varnish. In this case, the client wanted a satin sheen.
This project was very enjoyable and the client was happy. As you saw from the first picture on this post, there’s a framed photo that the client planned on hanging. We were pleased with the direction and intensity.
A new client came my way who wanted a scagliola inspired, imitation marble on his mantel. He was very interested in a theatrical rendering with aggressive breche and color — right up my alley!
This was the inspiration for the yellow sienna marble. Scagliola is a process of imitating real marble by using “dough” from lime plaster and pigment. The result is a more dramatic and less refined look.
My brushes for the project — I didn’t use them all, but all of the essentials are there.
The substrate needed some aggressive sanding to make it suitable for the finish.
We applied a warm basecoat primer.
As we do with all jobs, I made a sample first to nail down the technique.
The sample is based out with the same paint.
My mother glaze consisted of Proceed Low-Viscosity glaze along with burnt umber, raw umber, yellow ochre, and raw sienna. Using these slow-dry acrylic colors on my palette, I was able to have enough working time.
With a flat, badger hair, 2-header, I sketched out the breche.
Even though this is just the background layer, it is the best time to decide on the major direction and toning for the marble.
Colors are altered from the palette.
As you can see, I also added whitish areas from my palette.
Here is this step on the mantel.
Finally, a light softening with a round badger will complete the background layer.
Part 2 is coming next week …
A “Mother Glaze” is an essential ingredient when creating faux marble, woodgraining, certain organic textures, and any other technique that involves the expressive use colors. I’ve coined this pot of glaze as a “Mother” because it is the base for all offspring colors.
For example, when creating the major veins of a marble, I create a mid-tonality medium that I use to mix the colors of my palette. The mother glaze is poured into a palette cup and used to mix with the vibrant colors on the palette.
What’s the recipe? It depends on each project and the size of the surface. Basically, for projects being done in oil, I use my 3 x 1 mixture (using less linseed oil for a faster dry time). For water-based projects, I use a slow-dry acrylic glaze (like Proceed by Golden). If I want a faster dry time, I would add a fast dry medium like Matte Medium or Acrylic Glazing Liquid.
Here are some examples of the usage of a mother glaze:
In a previous post, this faux breche marble was created with the palette below.
Rouge Royale - I used a brick color as my mother glaze.
Oak woodgraining palette in oil.
Oak in process. The mother glaze is used effectively for sketching out the major tonalities — adding the colors from the palette to add tonal streaks.
In this previous post, Shagreen is created using a mother glaze.
A darker blue was added to the mother glaze to create this center variance.
If you use a tinted mother glaze instead of just clear medium, you will have better control over the results.
English Pine can be a simple woodgrain to create as seen in this post. It requires 3 wet layers to complete (not including basecoat or varnish steps). I have used oil many times to create this finish, but today’s water mediums (like PROCEED by GOLDEN) are perfectly fine. In this case, I used a fast dry acrylic for a small surface and the convenience of recoating quickly.
Follow these steps to complete.
Layer 2: Using a flat, pointed synthetic brush, the heart grain is sketched out.
It is important to soften your grains quickly as you go. Soften in one direction — going away from the center heart. The round badger brush works best for this.
Complete the heart grain keeping the characteristics of Pine in mind. See here, I added a spot for a knot.
Using a tooth veinette, the sidegrains are created by dragging softly. Soften.
To begin creating the knot, draw an oval shape.
Then, using the tip of your brush handle, scratch and scribble the oval in a way that is characteristic to Pine knots.
Layer 3: Overglazing
Glaze the surface with a translucent glaze. Apply with a pointed glazing brush for control.
Apply the glaze as evenly as possible. Not too greasy or too thin.
Stretch the glaze softly with the tip of a spalter. This is an important step that gives an even “canvas” for the next steps.
Using the spalter on its tip, gather the glaze towards the knot to create a butterfly effect.
Moire’s are created using the same spalter.
Finally, using a skunk brush, wipe out the glaze past the ends of the oval.
And that’s the finished English Oak sample. This technique requires some confidence in sketching the grain. Confidence comes with practice and studying how Pine looks in nature.
For a proper presentation, I’ve added some trompe l’oeil to give the illusion of a baseboard molding.
For those of you who know me or have taken a class with me, you know about my job recipe cards. I am a stickler about these for every technique on every job. With a completed recipe card, I’m able to know the recipe for every client who may need a touch-up or if they want to repeat a specific finish. Also, if a client/designer chooses a sample from my library that was completed for another job, I have the recipe.
Here is the form I use. I print them on card stock so the wet paint sample doesn’t buckle.
This is a recipe card for a faux oak door we completed in an elevator vestibule in Manhattan.
The recipe card gives us the important information about color and general tools and steps used to complete the project. See the door as seen on a previous post.
Recently, I completed a seagreen marble for my students (previous post). Notice on the second block that I simply dabbed the colors on my palette. Just knowing the colors I used is just the information I need to recreate the finish.
Here is an example of painted seagreen marble. It’s not the exact one from the recipe above, but you get the idea.
Here’s an example of a great reason for a recipe card. We had a client in Long Island that we did a weathered finish on the walls of the mud room. After, they wanted us to repeat the look on a pair of lamps. With the recipe card below, we were able to re-create the finish without traveling to Long Island!
Completed weathered lamps from a previous post.
Finally, this fantasy faux marble was completed in Japan, as seen on a previous post.
Having the discipline to properly record finishes is definitely a time-saver, even though it seems like a nuisance at the time.
I’d like to highlight this great book; La Realta Dell’Illusione by Silvana Ghigino.
As I’ve outlined in my 2 posts: Italian vs French style of decorative painting, there is a noticeable difference. Much is written about the French Style, but this book is a great example of Italian trompe l’oeil, faux marble and woodgraining.
Silvan Ghigino was one of the most celebrated facade artists in Italy. His career spanned many decades and his variety of works are numerous.
Even though the text is in Italian, the sheer amount of photos and step-by-step reference will give you all the necessary information to see how Silvan created his architectural trompe l’oeil and ornamentation. The illustrations and photos make it easy to understand perspective concepts. This book also includes al fresco and scraffito techniques.
This book will be our DEAL OF THE MONTH for November. Be sure to sign up for our monthly newsletters to catch the big discount! It’s a great addition to your library of reference books on decorative painting. And hey, invite an Italian over so he/she can translate for you!!
Here are some page excerpts from the book: