This is not a step-by-step because it is a very painterly project. This post is more of a gallery of the different plates we completed for this particular room. The work was gratifying and the client was impressed. This job was hired by Anthony Baratta in NYC.
Here is another small project of painting switch plate covers to match embroidered fabric on the wall. See tile match post.
Softening with a round badger between steps.
Don’t forget to texture the inner plate for the edges.
Here’s where the decorative pattern hits the plate:
Using a piece of vellum paper, the pattern is traced with a hard, sharp pencil.
Use the traced area for the switch plate.
On the back of the vellum, scribble the area with a soft pencil.
Turn the design face up and carefully re-draw the pattern using a firm touch.
The pattern appears on the plate.
The area was painted lightly for sketching purposes.
Using fluid acrylic colors, the fine hatching of the stitching was applied with a sable, pointed liner brush.
It was very important that the embroidery painting was done with care as it was not possible to touch-up the background, easily.
On a recent trip to Utah, we completed a series of switch plates — this switch plate cover matched the tile in a bathroom.
The first thing we did was take a picture of the plate. Then, it was brought back to my working station in the house.
We were given 2 actual tiles for reference. The base coat of the plate was meant to match the white of the tile.
With a hard pencil, the pattern is drawn on the plate.
With skinny tape, mask off the white areas. The tape should be well burnished (see post on protecting fragile surfaces).
After the initial red and black squares were based out, a little variance of tonality was added. Still with the tape on, the trompe l’oeil effect was next.
A small slanted brush was the best brush for the delicate striping.
Then, the tape was removed. Here is a picture of the actual tile. You can see the 3-D element of the little lip on the edges. This lends for a stronger accent and highlight (see elements of light and shadow).
With a selection of fine, trompe l’oeil brushes, the final shadows and highlights were painted to finish the plate cover. Additionally, a little aging was added to the white tile.
After a varnish, this one is installed and admired . Then, on to the next one …
… more switch plate covers to show you — coming soon!
Performing a touch up on a polished plaster wall, can be a huge challenge. If the area is small enough, it can be masked using this technique below. Previously, we’ve discussed the “touch-up” subject before; once on touching up a hole on a wall and more recently, how to touch up a cracked strie.
Here’s our main foreman, Jon Smith with his tutorial of how it’s done at Grand Illusion Decorative Painting, Inc.
Jon: “Where’s the touch-up?”
This is the damaged area on the polished plaster. It’s a 3-D divot in the wall from the movers, we’re guessing.
Here the hole is taped off (being careful to leave a 1/16 inch of wall exposed) and ready to fill.
I mixed a combination of 80% ez-45 compound and 20% plaster of Paris.
Using a palette knife (best because it is a flexible blade), I generously fill and smooth.
Use a hair dryer to speed up the dry process. Still, make sure the patch is completely dry to the core and not just the surface.
Sand with soft 320 pad, softly and with gradual pressure.
Wipe away the area with a damp rage and continue to sand until you can see the original taping.
Remove the tape and you will be left with a very small lip of plaster.
Sand with a 800-1000 grit pad to remove the lip. Being careful not to over sand or damage the surrounding area. Feel with you hand to make sure you are 100% smooth with no lip or dimple.
The plaster has now been sanded smooth with the surface.
I used some thinned down shellac. This seals the plaster so the water based paint will not reactive the plaster and cause damage to the nice, smooth touch-up I created with the plaster.
Apply the shellac with the correct brush size for the job.
Make sure you carefully apply the shellac on just the area that’s damaged.
Side view of the shellac over the touch up
After the shellac dries use a used 800-1000 grit sand pad to sand down any brush strokes that may have been cause by brushing on the shellac.
The colors I used to match the color.
I add 5-10% of varnish for the appropriate sheen to my water that’s in my pallette cup. Reason for this.. When you dry down a color and then apply a varnish over the top this can sometime cause the color to change and you have to start all over again…. So by adding a small % of varnish to your water helps you see the true color and close to the right sheen once it dries.
It’s important to work opaque with your color but keeping your paint thinned down , once again so you get the touch up area as smooth as possible so it blends in with the rest of the plaster.
Shows in progress. I mix on my palette to the overall color of the wall and paint out the area. Dry it down and then take that color and slowly adjust it by adding some darker colors to create some darker values to mimic the darker areas in the plaster caused from burnishing the plaster.
It’s important to work within the touch up area. If you don’t, your touch up area will grow and grow.
This is a difficult step of the process, but try to get the color right the first time and avoid painting the area over and over again.
Touching up adjusting the color slowly as I work and constantly drying it down.
You can see the touchup on left hand side 1/3 of the way in just under halfway.
Where’s the touch up???
Lacquer thinner is a high solvent like acetone. It is extremely smelly and dries extremely fast and hard. This particular solvent is unique because it is actually a mixture of different solvents that allow for ideal thinning and dissolving characteristics. The combination of solvents that are used is up to the manufacturer.
The thinner has two major uses; to dilute/thin lacquer paint (and one-part epoxies) and to dissolve paint, tar, and other mediums. Lacquer paint (and therefore, thinner) is heavily utilized in the automotive industry.
Lacquer thinner is a great cleaner for dried oil and acrylic. It will remove paint on a substrate as quickly as any other solvent. It’s perfect for removing paint spots on non-painted surfaces like door knobs and hinges.
Since it contains denatured alcohol, it can also dissolve shellac. You can also use it to remove the sheen or gloss on most substrates.
Primarily, in our shop, we use lacquer thinner to clean our spray gun equipment after use. It is the best cleaner of the many small parts of a spray gun that must be kept pristine in order for the gun to work properly.
Other than that, we mostly use lacquer thinner as to dissolve and clean.
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.