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French folk art at the Lille Christmas market

Its always nice travelling during the festive season. One year we were in France on a road trip and we stopped at a Christmas market in Lille. It was very cold yet when we stumbled on the market, I didn’t mind taking my time walking around looking at the Christmassy wares on sale.

One of the stalls I found was a peinture d’art folklorique stall. The artist had put up for sale a large collection of painted work, every one of them painted simply on an off-white background.

Christmas market at Lille 2

Many of them were painted with various fruits motifs – apples, cherries, lemons. Some were painted with lavender and others with more rustic motifs such as chicken! Christmas market at Lille 1

There were also pansies and I saw a nice teapot painted with a lavender garden. Very quaint!

Christmas market at Lille 4

The artist had painted on various types of surfaces too. Many of them were enamel or other metal objects and they were everyday kitchen items like teapots and coffee pots, jugs and colanders.

Christmas market at Lille 5

This ordinary metal colander has been painted with pansies and turned into a lamp shade!

The artist was very creative with these everyday kitchen items turning them into clocks and light shades! This jelly bowl clock for example, was decorated with cherries and Roman numerals!

Christmas market at Lille 6

And how about this great kitchen clock?

The artist was obviously very talented at turning everyday objects into useful items for a rustic kitchen as she also took a simple garden shovel and turned it into a clock!Christmas market at Lille 3

There were other items like letter boxes, organisers and bread boxes which were made of wood and I loved every single one of them! Unfortunately I had to stop myself buying any because I simply did not have space in our luggage… :-(

The folk art paintings I saw at this Christmas market stall just goes to show that decorative painting is a very simple and rewarding pursuit – you don’t need to do anything complicated to turn simple everyday items into beautiful items to treasure.

Just pick a colour scheme, a simple motif and paint away!


No, we’re not talking about swimming here! “Floating” in decorative painting refers to the application of colour to an object to create shadows and highlights.

It is a basic skill decorative artists learn so that they can paint realistic, three-dimensional objects. This skill is used in painting many subjects including fruits, flowers, inanimate objects, even teddy bears.

What are shadows and highlights anyway? In painting, there is something called the “light source” which is basically something the designer or you yourself can decide. It is the direction in which light is coming from in your painting. This determines where the shadows and highlights will fall—shadows occur in parts which are hidden from the light and highlights occur in the brightest parts where light hits the object.

Floating colour is done by loading a flat or an angle brush with colour on only one side. Only a little colour is applied to the brush. The brush is then blended back and forth on a palette until the brush paints a stroke which ranges from a solid colour of the paint on one end of the brush hairs fading into nothing at the other end. This colour is then “floated” on the object usually at the relevant edges where you want to create the shadow or highlight.

The colours used depend on the object being shaded or highlighted. Highlights are floated in colours lighter than the base colour of the object and shadows, with colours darker than the base colour.

Floating applied to a fruits design

This fruits project illustrates the use of the floating technique to create shadows and highlights.

Antiquing…first you paint it, then you age it!

Sometimes newly painted projects look, well, too new. One of the ways in which we make them look like heirlooms is to age them and there many different ways of doing this – "antiquing" being an example.  Antiqued Fruits Placemat

Antiquing also adds depth and warmth to a design.

There are many ways to antique a project and most of you have learnt one of them – oil-based antiquing, where we used oil paint and lean medium.

You can also antique a project using a water-based technique. Here is how you can do it quite easily.

BEFORE YOU START – dry your painted project completely and apply a coat of Jo Sonja’s Clear Glaze Medium to protect your painting. Leave your project to sure for at least three days before doing any water-based antiquing.

° Use any acrylic colour – raw umber if you want a sepia look, a darkish green if you want to add a green glow to your project, burgundy if your project is painted in pinks and purples – “play” and discover what appeals to you. If you liked what you did in oil-based antiquing, stick to burnt umber.

° Using a ¾” or 1” flat brush, mix a little of the paint with Jo Sonja’s Retarder and Antiquing Medium. Apply a thin, even coat to your painted project. You must be able to see the design through the colour. If you can’t see your design, you’ve probably put too much paint. Add retarder to the surface and smooth it out.

° Wet a sponge, squeeze all the water out and start removing some of the colour starting at the centre of the design, moving outwards. Leave the edges dark. Use a dabbing movement – the sponge will pick up the paint. Dab the sponge on a piece of paper towel to remove the paint you pick up. Continue until you’re satisfied with the distribution of colour.

° Using a mop brush, smooth the surface using a light touch.

° The retarder will keep the paint wet for some time, so if you don’t like the results, use a clean sponge, wipe it all off and start again. If you like it, use a hairdryer to fast dry the surface and leave it for at least a week before varnishing.

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