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Category: Murals, Portraits & Drawings

01 Apr

Spring Inspiration!

Spring is here! I actually feel like humming the holiday song “It’s the MOST wonderful time of the year….” as soon as I wake up. Trees are growing leaves again, flowers are blooming, bees are visiting our garden, birds are singing and the sky is a sunny blue. (I understand it may not be this way everywhere, but it is the current experience in Florida. I don’t have the pleasure of seeing snow during the Winter and so I guess it all evens out, no?)  I thought I would share a few images with Spring in mind…

We kick off with a colorful and fanciful canvas by New Orleans artist Gretchen Weller Howard.  This particular image was feature in the book Big, Easy Style by Bryan Batt. Her earliest works included graphic design and decorative painting.

This striking mural in polystyrene is in an attic apartment and mimics the exterior foliage.  Just so amazing and I love it in black & white. Do you? It was was featured in Livingetc.

Wall & Deco is one of my favorite wallcovering lines. They have such inspiring and creative works! This one is called Poppy.

The shadow mural of the bird on the branches is just so sweet! I think this dresser is adorable — and perfect for a spring-inspired guest room!  It was finished by the studio of Gypsy Barn. They didn’t do a reverse technique while masking the design. Instead, they chipped the finish off to showcase the mahogany underneath. Very cool.

Aren’t these gorgeous? LOVE them! They gigantic graphic flower mural is the work of Metro Finishes in Orlando’s Suite B Lounge. Below is a closer look.

I spied the picture below a few years ago in House & Garden magazine and have always enjoyed it…

I love how elegant and simple this sgraffito finish is — especially when paired with its inspiration.

I hope you’ve enjoyed our welcome to Spring with birds, trees and flowers!  I look forward to sharing more ideas, inspiration, artists and information with you as well.  Have a beautiful day!

21 Dec

Foyer Ceiling at Ca’ d’Zan

I have quite a few decorative painting pics to show you from some of my mini-vacations! This one is from a quick jaunt to Sarasota, FL, where a visit to the Ringling Museum was a must on the list.  We’ve previously seen their gardens and a bit of the Ringling family home, Ca’ d’Zan (Part 1 and Part 2).  This is actually a very special ceiling in the Ca’ d’Zan foyer.

To give you an idea of its space in the home, here is an image from the living room (an interior court). The foyer itself has glazed walls and Moroccan-inspired arched windows.

Here are a few close-ups.  According to archive records, the “ceiling beams enclose areas of canvas painted with conventionalized foliated motifs in red and gray. That decoration…[was] created by Robert Webb“. Mr. Webb was an artist who studied under John Singer Sargent and he mastered gold leafing and mural work while assisting him.  After a few years and solo projects on his own, he moved his family to Florida. It is said that while Mr. Webb was working on the grape leaf design on the foyer ceiling, his client John Ringling said, “Webb, hurry up! I’m running out of time and money!” to which Mr. Webb immediately put down his brush and said “I’m finished!”. The panel to this day remains uncompleted.  Here’s a few close-ups.

Grape tree close-up (above) and within the panel (below)

Do click here to see a visual tour — walk straight ahead and you’ll run right into the foyer. It is interesting to note that the artist, Robert Webb, had a daughter named Thelma who wrote his biography and filled it with his life story, experiences and anecdotes about his peers and projects. She called it Tramp Artist. I’ll be needing to purchase that.

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10 Sep

Ca’ d’Zan – Part Two

So, I think I might have mentioned that I went to Sarasota’s Ringling Museum recently. (As in this post on the incredible gardens and this first post on the Ca’ d’Zan interiors.) There’s a few more features yet to come as it’s wayyyyy too much yumminess to share on only one post.  Today, I’m going to show you the first floor Great Hall in the museum’s Ca’ d’Zan mansion but it does encompass the second floor as well.  It was the family’s main living room. Here’s the full shot…

Initially, I was like one of those puppies that couldn’t concentrate as there was so much artistry to take in.  It is a two-and-a-half storied interior court and it is approximately 40 feet long. There are several bedrooms that overlook the hall from a second floor balcony. The tapestries are from the 17th century and depict various scenes, including the life of Alexander the Great and the heroic career of Achilles.

I’ve noted arrows below where you can see the various areas of hand-painted ornamental works.

In case you’d like to pin this image without the arrows, click here.

Here are some close-ups for you.

Love the two-toned harlequins, the hand-painted design and the aging, too.  You?

The column below is made of a gorgeous onyx from Mexico.  To see a close-up, click here.

The furnishings all reflect the Italian and French Renaissance. Lovely gilding on the beautiful screen and furniture!

Thirty rooms spread out from this main living room and it’s the home’s unifying architectural feature.  The ceiling is coffered and made with Florida pecky cypress and frames an inner colored glass skylight.  The cypress has been hand-painted as well as the (previously-seen) ceilings surrounding three sides of the hall on both floor levels.

A truly amazing room.  In fact, if you’d like to take a virtual look at Ca’ d’Zan, the Ringling Museum has a fully interactive tour.  You can also read so much more in an extensive PDF about its architecture and design.  Hope you’ve enjoyed today’s post — have an inspired day!

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13 Aug

Portrait of an Artist: Annabel Armstrong

There are certain artists you correspond with that you immediately feel a connection to and one of those, for me, is Annabel Armstrong of Surface.  I enjoy the way she perceives the world and once I saw her artistry, I also knew I had to share it on Fauxology.  She has a beautiful touch with her projects – they are both soft and strong at the same time.  She has strengths in decorative painting for many surfaces, including glass. We travel to Boise, Idaho to meet Annabel and chat about her work.

Artist Annabel Armstrong

Sometimes, our careers choose us. “I didn’t come to the decorative painting profession until my early thirties, after spending more than a decade floating around between various universities and continents,” Annabel explains. “At that point, I made use of a great opportunity to train under a few well-known decorative painters in the San Francisco area for a few years before moving to Boise, Idaho, to start my own studio.”  Annabel Armstrong founded her decorative painting studio, Surface, in 1997.  Even so, collaboration brings her quite a bit of joy. “Even after all these years of running my studio and working for myself,  I find that I always appreciate the chance to work for other decorative painters. There is always something you can learn from another artist, and the collaboration benefits everybody. Hence, I’m looking forward to a mural project in India later this year where I will be working alongside several artists, including Kaveri and TJ Singh of Los Angeles.”

(above) A painted motif with acanthus and oak leaves was designed to emphasize the architectural shape of the groined vault. Annabel shares (below) that all of a room’s finishes, colors, and textures are taken into consideration when creating a decorative painting concept.

Annabel, what are your favorite design and/or finish styles?

For a long time, my passion has been working with paint and gold or silver leaf on the back side of glass, a technique popularly known as verre églomisé. Ever since I naively tried to pick up a fragile leaf of gold over 15 years ago—and watched it crumble and disintegrate into nothing in my fingers—I have been in love with this delicate medium. Getting a crazy-thin leaf of gold to adhere to the slick surface of glass is a magical process that surprises me every time.

Verre églomisé is so-named because an 18th-century Parisian art dealer named Jean-Baptiste Glomy was known for selling prints with gilded and painted decorative borders on the back sides of the glass under which the prints were mounted. The term is a bit of a misnomer because it implies that the process was invented by Glomy, when in fact the technique is much older than the monsieur and not even French.

(above) Square columns in a restaurant were clad with glass for a verre églomisé project. Antiqued silver leaf and mica powders were used to incorporate the restaurant’s logo.  This project was in collaboration with Cathy Conner of Studio C in Seattle.

Verre églomisé, sometimes just called reverse painting and gilding on glass, has precedents in Roman glass, but it wasn’t until the medieval ages that Europe began to see a lot of reverse painted and gilded glass. Italian artisans seem to have been the first to work with this art form (at least in Europe—reverse painting and gilding also has traditions in Turkey, Syria, Persia and India).  Nuremberg and Augsburg in Germany also became real centers for reverse painting and gilding. A lot of glass-work came out of the Murnau area, near where my mother was born and raised in the Bavarian Alps, so I like to think that it’s in my blood. There’s a wonderful little museum called Schlossmuseum Murnau, which has a substantial collection of works on the reverse of glass.

(above) 23-karat and 12-karat gold leaf, aluminum leaf, collage, oil and acrylic paints, polyester plate lithography on the reverse of nine glass panels. To see them individually, please click here.

What are your favorite websites, blogs, and/or message forums on Internet?

The Textile Blog is a great resource and inspiration for decorative painters. The blog provides insight into not only textile design but all forms of design, decoration, and craft. This on-line resource has a massive yet consummately organized library of images with everything from examples of 16th century lace to 1890s wallpaper design. The video library is equally broad-based: if you look under Tile and Mosaic Design, you can view a video about Portuguese azulejos one moment and in the next you’ll be learning about Escher’s mathematical approach to design. “Like” the Textile Blog on Facebook, and you’ll never run out of interesting links.

What I appreciate about the Textile Blog is its broad-based approach to design, something that’s needed by today’s decorative painters. Too many of us are caught up in capturing a painted effect or in perfectly imitating something such as leather, without asking ourselves why we are painting that in the first place. Decorative painting has to interact with a space, and importantly, it also has a profound effect on anyone interacting with that space. There’s a lot of responsibility that comes with that. Decorative painters should be actively studying design and thinking about it in broad terms, not just about our little niche. Our work needs to be an integral part of the design process.

(above, below) Grottesca ceiling project completed on canvas with Nicola Vigini of Vigini Paint & Design. He let me do quite a bit of the design, but more importantly, I had the opportunity to work with a brighter palette than the one I gravitate towards on my own projects.

What are the most inspiring spaces you’ve seen that had decorative painting?

This spring in Germany I visited the Würzburg Residenz palace, famous for the Tiepolo frescoes but also for its Spiegelkabinett. A Spiegelkabinett is essentially a room of mirrors, usually consisting of panels with inset mirrors and carved stucco or wood ornamentation, and can be found in numerous German baroque and rococo palaces. The Würzburg Spiegelkabinett’s floor-to-ceiling mirrors on all four walls incorporate reverse painting and gilding in a Chinoiserie style. The room was built and decorated in the 1740s but was destroyed—along with most of the palace—during an air raid in 1945. Based on a late 19th century watercolor of the room, numerous photographs of the original interior, and just one surviving mirror fragment, the Spiegelkabinett was meticulously restored in the 1980s. The restoration of the gilded stucco ornamentation alone required 2.5 kilos (more than 5 pounds!) of gold leaf!

(above) Handpainted papers created by Annabel Armstrong and (below) is a detail of a powder room mural with the client’s favorite bird, the red-breasted nuthatch, in a tree, followed by a gorgeous crackled plaster finish in ochre.

If you could write a book about any subject, what would it be?

It would be about bacteria, if only for the chance to create the illustrations. Bacteria are such weird little things that come in wacky shapes. And bacteria fascinate me because they represent a vastness that—although literally right under our noses, covering both the insides and outsides of our bodies—goes by mostly unnoticed.

I’ve read that there are typically 40 million bacterial cells in a gram of soil and a million bacterial cells in a milliliter of fresh water; in all, there are approximately five nonillion (what does that even mean? is nonillion a real word? you can’t even wrap your head around this stuff) bacteria on Earth. I love the fact that they form much of the world’s biomass and can be found just about anywhere, including deep underneath the Earth’s crust.  They’ve evolved along with our digestive and immune systems for millions of years, and shaped their environment to create a better bacteria nirvana. That means: not only have bacteria evolved in order to adapt, but we have actually evolved to provide a better home for them. It makes you wonder who’s in charge here.

The mural in the image above was inspired by the frescoes in the Villa Livia in ancient Rome.  It’s the first work I saw of Annabel’s and it still thrills me.  I hope you have enjoyed today’s profile — please be sure to visit her website, Annabel Armstrong Surface, to see more of her artistry.  I thank Annabel so much for her time and for sharing her projects.  I hope they were a beautiful way to start your week!

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07 Aug

Bricks of Art

On my Pinterest account, a space with bricks of blue is one the most popular pinned images I have.  It was created by architect Coleman Coker for a ranch in Vegas.  Here’s another view.

Of course, you can also color the bricks in cool funky colors like the Green Avenue Bench Collection did…

The main thrust of this post, though, is to showcase bricks that have been enhanced with gorgeous typography or a mural — in some cases, both.  Starting with an image from Concept Blanc, here’s the rest of the eye candy!

(above) Cool painted bricks by decorative painter Kristen F. Davis and (below) a guest bath designed by the fab Beth Dotolo for her own home.

Love the restaurant design above!  The sign for “Cardui – A Woman’s Tonic” is original to the space and was kept as an overscale art element by designer by Jones Baker.  The space below is the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis.

SO beautiful, right?  Traditional brick colors are not the only option and I do hope these examples proved inspiring!  Do you have a favorite?

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19 Jul

Kitchen Week: Gina Garner

Kitchen Week: Culled from submitted entries, the week-long series focuses on five artists with extraordinary projects.  For the first time ever, each artist and five readers are receiving prizes for their beautiful artworks. Look to the end for today’s sponsor and your chance to win! Our Kitchen Week continues with another old friend of Fauxology, Gina Garner, who paints Italian-Renaissance inspired ceramic pieces.  We have profiled her fou our Faux-cus on the Pros series.  She created some for her own home as well as doing a few paint finishes and textures…but let’s let Gina tell her story.

A sampling of Gina Garner's ceramic artistry

We lived in the big city but spent weekends in the country in central Utah, in a small artist community.

After we retired we decided that we liked living in the country.  We have visited the Veneto region of Italy many times and especially liked the smaller country villas of that region.  Most often those that were designed by 16th century architect Andrea Palladio.  We found a beautiful piece of property and built our house right in the middle of a very large Alfalfa Field.  Our house, and for only minor details, was  finished in 5 months.

We designed the kitchen.  We laid floors and installed handpainted ceramic tiles.   I painted my kitchen cabinets a celadon green.  It actually has 4 layers of glaze applied, each different color adding to the whole.

These hand painted plates are not just for show…they get plenty of use.  Having everything handy and ready to use.

The Kohler artist line, Lavabo, serves as a second sink. I also painted the Delft-inspired ceramic wall.

I finished the walls with joint compound into which I added builder’s sand and straw.

Making preserves from fruit grown on our land is a yearly activity.


And in another corner of the kitchen is a table which most often is used as my “corner studio” where I paint my ceramics.

We built our house in this particular spot because a very deep spring feeds this pond year around.

~  ~  ~

Hand-painted ceramic tiles, cabinet refinishing and uniquely textured walls — isn’t it wonderful to be able to incorporate your given artistic talents in your own home?  Gina’s ceramic works have been featured in museums, magazines such as House Beautiful and she travels the world to be inspired and learn more of her craft.  She also teaches classes in her lovely studio.  Gina maintains a wonderful blog, Art and Alfalfa, where she chronicles her beautiful country life, her travels and her ceramic artistry.  One thing!  Gina has advised that she would prefer if you not pin her images and thanks you for honoring her wishes.

For her winning submission for Kitchen Week, Gina will receive a Cabinet Refinishing Kit of her choice from Star Scenic.  Would you like to win this prize as well? Scroll right below or click here!


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18 Jul

Kitchen Week: Zebo Ludvicek

Kitchen Week: Culled from submitted entries, the week-long series focuses on five artists with extraordinary projects.  For the first time ever, each artist and five readers are receiving prizes for their beautiful artworks. Look to the end for today’s sponsor and your chance to win! Our Kitchen Week continues with an incredible artist based in Sarasota, FL: Zebo Ludvicek.  She has also been profiled in several books and we’re happy to feature her with a historic technique: Marouflage.  

Drawing by Zebo Ludvicek

Marouflage (a French word originally referring to sticky, partly hardened scraps of paint) is a technique for affixing a painted canvas to a wall to be used as a mural, using an adhesive that hardens as it dries, such as plaster or cement. Marouflage is a 3,000-year-old technique.  Historically, artists used several types of adhesives including a rabbit-skin glue. White lead ore was used in the 19th and 20th centuries in the mixture to help it dry.

The murals are normally painted on large canvas in the studio and attached to the wall on site, using a starch based glue (applied to the wall only). Once the canvas is mounted to the wall, pressure is exerted with rubber hand rollers to smooth the canvas and remove any bubbles.  By following proper technique, the murals can then be moved by a professional with minimal damage and re-instated elsewhere if required.

I was contracted to paint a mural on the underside of arches and their columns in an open kitchen/bar/wine closet area. The clients, designer and I preferred a design with a bit more whimsy than grape leaves with branches twining around a lattice.  Haven’t we all seen that WAY too many times?  I looked up at the arches and saw monkeys in my mind…as simple as that.  Drunken monkeys to boot — like in the game “Monkeys in a Barrel” where the monkeys hook around each other in a variety of ways.  The clients loved it.

Since I had previously painted a large tropical scene in their entry foyer niche and the space was very open, you would see both murals simultaneously from various vantage points.  We wanted to keep this painting neutral so as not to clash. The palette was tone on tone, browns and white with a slight blueish tinge to the monkey faces and background.  So as not to compete, we also opted for a totally different style of art than the trompe l’oeil mural: more like an etching – an exaggerated, quirky etching.

I decided on marouflage for two reasons.  One, my neck, my arms, my back!  Because of the fine detail of the artwork, it would take many hours on scaffold with arms and head up.  No way!  Two, the surface of the arches was too rough to airbrush and paint a refined, detailed line.  I needed to work on smooth canvas.

Each arch design contains a different group of wild and crazy monkeys, though the wine glasses remain consistent. The monkeys are contained by an acanthus leaf border. Each column contains the same acanthus leaf scroll design, fairly formal. A nice juxtaposition with the whacky monkeys on the arches.

The big question was whether to paint each arch mural and connecting column mural as one continuous strip of canvas or paint separate canvases for each. There are disadvantages to both. With the continuous strip, the area where arch and column meet may bubble over time and is difficult to repair. Painted separately, the seam shows. I opted for one strip. I would not suggest this option unless you have an excellent installer, which I fortunately do.

I utilize Golden Proceed Acrylic paints in my work. Their qualities mimic those of oils, but are water soluble.  After I lay down the basic shapes, I airbrush highlights, lowlights and shadows.  Finally, I detail it with a variety of materials from gouache to tomboy pens. For repetitive shapes, as on borders, I sketch the design, then cut a stencil (both positive and negative) out of mylar. Now I can quickly trace the image and then airbrush through it.

(above) Extreme close-up of Ian, one of the many monkeys that Zebo affectionately named. (below) More of the extraordinary “exaggerated, quirky etching” type of artistry she was going for.

Since we wanted the canvas to virtually disappear on the wall, I took the same paint as the walls and columns, and painted the outside edge of the canvas to the acanthus leaf border. We did two skim coats to smooth the walls, sanded, and then primed them before our installation began.  When the canvas was finally installed on to the arches, I finger troweled plaster on to the edge of each canvas and painted over the dried plaster with the wall paint.  Now, no edges showed and the walls and columns blended perfectly with the canvas, making it invisible!

~  ~  ~

What a cool project!  I thought it would be wonderful to not only share Zebo’s considerable talents but also to include a kitchen project that involved an age-old technique.  Do be sure to visit Zebo’s site — love her style!  She is based out of Sarasota, FL, but has and does travel for commissioned projects.

For her winning submission for Kitchen Week, Zebo will receive her choice of either a Granite Countertop Kit or Stainless Steel Kit from Giani Granite.  Would you like to win this prize as well?  Scroll right below or click here!

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