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!
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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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