Thursday, May 19, 2011

Exploring new territory? Anyone?

When I started this blog almost a year ago I envisioned using it to explore. One hope was that it would be a good place for me to experiment with ways to create art in new mediums and for new purposes, outside the realm of children's publishing. You may have noticed there have been no new posts here for a long time. That's because I've been exploring.

A wonderful friend of mine recently built a house. This friend has 4 sweet daughters. The oldest one still living at home is 13. Her name is Anastasia. In the new house Anastasia's closet door is quite interesting. It's meant to look like an armoire so the frame is built out a few inches from the wall and topped with a carved molding. My friend asked if I would paint this "armoire" for her daughter. The only request from Anastasia was to include the Eiffel Tower somewhere in the design. She had recently visited Paris you see.

My first sketches were small. Meant to give my clients a look at my basic design, as well as a choice of color plans. After all that was decided I did the larger sketch you see here. It's done to scale, about 1/3 the size of the door with much more detail.

During this early design process we had all decided that the outer frame of the door and most of the frame or molding would be done in a faux wood treatment. Martha Stewart acrylic house paint was my choice for the entire project. MS paints come in many great colors and I could buy small 8 oz. jars of every color I needed for just $2.50 each at Home Depot! Perfect.

Next I spent some time in Anastasia's room with the Martha Stewart color sample sheet. I needed two colors for the "wood". A lighter color for the background, a darker one for the grain, and I wanted them to be in the same color family as the real wood in the space. Then I found MS colors to match and/or compliment Anastasia's chosen wall color and the colors in the bedding she would be using. Home Depot also sells a MS faux finish kit with lots of tools and detailed instructions. I bought 14 colors of paint and two, 2' x 2' pieces of drywall to practice on. After a little trial and error using one of the MS brushes and an ancient chunk of natural sponge, this is the wood finish I came up with.

The door was then moved to my studio where we laid it out horizontally on some boxes at about table height. After completing the areas with the "wood" finish, I covered all those areas with tape and painted the thin salmon border and the light celadon green border in each section. (FYI, a lot of painter's tape is involved in a project like this!!) I could now stand the door up vertically and begin transferring my drawings to the door. My methods are so lo tech.

The vertical position was better to see if my proportions and scale were working and adjust if necessary. Then my husband and I carefully laid the door back down on the boxes so I could continue painting. With the door in this position I found I could sit in my rolling desk chair and scoot around the whole thing to paint. Very comfortable.

Here are two close shots of finished areas.

When the front and sides of the door were finished we took it back to the house where it would live. There I spent most of the next 2 weeks painting the frame and carved molding. When the door was hung I came back to paint the inside of the door and clean up a few dribbles on the surrounding wall. Here is the finished armoire!

Everyone at Anastasia's house is happy with the finished product, and I am too! Painting to illustrate books for children is still my first love. I hope to do more of that. In the meantime, painting for children OR adults on furniture or walls is another way I can earn a living with my art. And I enjoy it very much. There is a lot I need to learn but I'm excited about this new direction.

My next commission is already in! Waiting patiently in my studio is a lovely old rocking chair on which my client would like to see a sleeping calico cat painted on the seat and a favorite family quotation across the back! More on that as I go along. Thanks for checking in! All comments and suggestions welcome.


  1. Mary, this looks beautiful and it shows that you have enjoyed painting it. Please could you add a larger image, so we can see some details when we click to enlarge?

  2. That is terrific, the door came out wonderful. Good luck, I would also love to see a larger image, I enjoyed seeing the process.

  3. Delightful, Mary! Your enjoyment is obvious in the details, like the charming little snail hiding along one edge. What a fabulous gift for their child--she should hold a party in that room!

  4. That's gorgeous painting! Those faux finishes sound fun and intriguing. I guess you could have clients bring their furniture and doors to your studio for painting.

    Great idea!


  5. Mary, this door is absolutely AMAZING! You are such a wonderful artist and so versatile. Yes, I'm going through some career shifts too these last few years and it is exciting and exhausting at the same time. I can really relate! Talk soon.