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She did it!

As a teacher, I feel really happy when a student gets highly motivated to paint AND she paints!

My Kuwaiti friend and student with whom I sat down and helped choose a colour scheme for her Hindeloopen project said she was going to do it when she went home, and she really did it.

I felt privileged to receive a blow-by-blow account of her progress with her blues three-toned hindeloopen tray project all day long. Via text message! A couple of days ago she brought over the finished tray project to show me and it was beautiful. She allowed me to share her adventure here.

Hindeloopen is easy to paint if you put your heart and mind to it – and provided you understand the simple principles and have developed the necessary strokework skills, of course.

The very first step - basing in the first strokes

The first stage is the easiest and involves involves painting every stroke of the design in the medium value of the chosen colour.

Stroking in the shadows

Next, the shadows are stroked in using the darkest value of the colour chosen for the project. These strokes are usually smaller than the base strokes so that the base colour shows through. These shadow strokes start to define the various objects whether they’re leaves, flowers or birds.

Painting the highlight strokes

The third stage involves lightening the medium value used as the base colour and using this to paint the highlight strokes.

The objects become more defined at this stage.

The completed Hindeloopen tray

And finally, the detail strokes are added in the lightest shade of all, almost but not quite white.

So there it is. Its really easy if you know how!

I knew she could do it and she proved she could do it. All on her own. Next week we will paint another Hindeloopen project in class in the traditional Hindeloopen colours and I’m sure it will be just as breathtaking!

Painting with confidence

It was a great morning shared with one of my Kuwaiti friends and students. Coffee and a conversation about our favourite topic – painting – is such a nice way to start the day! Its been a while since I saw her and she had a project she was trying to start. When we spoke yesterday I told her to bring the tray she wanted to paint and we’d try to sort out her issues.

This particular friend and student of mine is very talented and her passion in decorative painting is strokework. And why not – her brush work is very natural and she seems to be able to paint strokes effortlessly! When I first met her many years ago, she had found my decorative painting website and written to me. We met and she went absolutely crazy when she saw all the work I displayed in my studio.

She had everything one would need to paint projects endlessly – so many books, brushes and paints. AND she knew a lot about the various decorative artists and decorative painting styles. And she was especially interested in hindeloopen!

Having known her all this time there was only one thing that stopped her from painting as much as she wanted to – I think its called confidence…the confidence to put brush to paint to surface and paint away, and trust the project to turn out a beautiful work of art.

And if not? So what, start another project I say!

This time around, she had basecoated a tray with a light pastel blue and had even traced a Hindeloopen pattern on it. But she was still trying to find the right colours for the project. She had tried out a number of colour schemes for the tray and had done this by painting the design on a clear plastic sheet placed on top of the traced design. She wanted to make sure she had the right colours…she’s a perfectionist – JUST LIKE ME! LOL

When I was learning to paint, I was told it was OK to be a perfectionist but it was also OK to make mistakes. The adage “We learn from our mistakes” is so very true and its just as applicable in painting. Any kind of painting.

I’ve learned and discovered many new things from mistakes. Sometimes new techniques and sometimes new colour schemes. I call them “happy accidents”.

Anyway, we were determined that she would start painting this tray of hers when she got home. After discussing all the options and looking at the colour schemes she had tried, she finally decided to paint a blues three-toned hindeloopen, something like this coasters holder I had painted for myself.

Three-tone Hindeloopen Coasters Holder

Any hindeloopen design is usually painted first with a medium value (a mid-tone), then the shadow strokes are painted in a darker value followed by the highlight strokes painted in a lighter value. Finally, details are painted using a liner brush and the lightest value colour, almost white. The same principle is applied when painting hindeloopen in traditional colours.

We picked the colours then decided to try them on a piece of cardboard painted with the basecoat colour of her tray.

Colour swatch for Hindeloopen project

And voila!

This is the best method of determining the suitability of a colour scheme on a background. It doesn’t take a long time to paint a section of a piece of cardboard. And it gives you the confidence to start your project knowing it will turn out perfect!

Good luck with the project, my friend!

Trompe l’oeil….is it real?

Its very important to me to show students the techniques I am teaching them step-by-step without painting ON their projects. To do this, I usually paint the same project with them – either on my own surface or sometimes on a piece of canvas, or black practise paper.

I usually pick a piece from my stash (yes, stash!) of basecoated pieces or sometimes I deliberately basecoat a suitable piece from my other stash – a delightful collection of things I want to paint which I buy whenever and wherever I see them! I have wooden clogs from the Netherlands, carved candle stands from somewhere in Europe, musical door harps from someone on the internet who makes and sells them, an MDF calico cat, even a nest of Matryoshka dolls I bought in St Petersburg, Russia!

I have a lot of painting I want to do! LOL

Yesterday, while teaching red roses on fabric I demonstrated the techniques on a piece of black paper and, as stunning as the project was on linen, I have to say it didn’t look too bad on the black paper!

The red roses on black paper....sigh..

After the class, I remembered that sometime ago, Nina had given me a tea box. I had even prepared the faux finish background on the lid and left it to cure. Its been there a long time waiting for something to be painted on the lid. Of course I exclaimed, “I could have painted those roses on this tea box instead of the black paper…!” Why didn’t I think of that…

I decided I’d paint it later during the day after class….”Hmmmm do that….it should take you only fifteen minutes to paint that on your tea box!” So I retrieved the tea box and set it on the studio table resolving to do just that..paint the red roses on them later, really quickly.

But when I looked at the tea box, I remembered that I had always wanted to paint something trompe l’oeil on it…like teabags maybe?

Trompe l’oeil is French for “deceive, fool or trick the eye” and is an art technique which involves realistic imagery that creates an optical illusion that the painted objects appear in three dimensions.

It is the artistic ability to depict an object so exactly as to make it appear real. A heightened form of illusionism, the art of trompe l’oeil flourished from the Renaissance onward. The discovery of perspective in fifteenth-century Italy and advancements in the science of optics in the seventeenth-century Netherlands enabled artists to render objects and spaces with eye-fooling exactitude. Both witty and serious, trompe l’oeil is a game artists play with spectators to raise questions about the nature of art and perception.

Famous painting of a boy

And that’s the textbook definition of trompe l’oeil. In decorative painting, trompe l’oeil is similarly applied by painting items on objects to look real e.g. strawberries and chocolates painted on trays, spectacles and pens on a desk box and many more possibilities.

So I went to the kitchen and looked around for some objects to create a still life composition for my tea box. I selected three teabags in individual paper bags, diffused some tea to get a used teabag, and my Delft blue used tea bag holder. Then I set it up on a piece of mounting board.

My still life of selected objects from the kitchen!

Next, I drew it in white pencil on the cover of my tea box, selected my colours and started painting. Of course it took much, much more than fifteen minutes because in painting trompe l’oeil, the goal is to make objects appear as realistic as possible. So you guessed correctly that a lot of detailed work was involved! But the finished product was gratifying, as indeed, it looked real.

The finished painting, viewed from the top...how you would see it.

So “real” that when I was painting the used teabag tab, I borrowed a fresh teabag from the kitchen to look at the details. I put it down for a moment to get something and when I wanted to start painting again, I tried to pick up the teabag tab I had painted! :-)

My new teabox enjoying its place in the kitchen

Everyone can paint very simple trompe l’oeil projects: the important thing to remember is that other than trying to make the painted items as realistic as possible in terms of the drawing, colour, texture, detail etc, they have to be life size i.e. the same size as they are in real life, and they have to be painted as the eye would see it on the object i.e. in terms of perspective and elevation.

And the final thing to remember is – to have fun!



Stunning red roses on fabric

Most of the projects I teach my students are painted in class on wood or MDF (medium density fibreboard).

Having said that, the beauty of what I teach in my decorative painting classes is that you can paint the same subject matter on many other different surfaces. The medium we use – acrylic paint – is very versatile and can be used to paint on canvas, metal, leather, fabric, even candles and plastic!

Today I had a class with a student who had a red piece of linen-like fabric on which she wanted to paint roses. When completed she would have the painted fabric fitted onto the cover of a tea-box which she will give to her sister for Christmas. I suggested really red roses and she loved the idea. Red is after all, very festive this time of year.

Really red roses on red linen

The finished painting was really very nice, bravo! I’m sure her sister will be very proud to receive such a nice piece of work, and for sure its going to be a family heirloom!

Painting on fabric is an easily learned skill, especially if you have painted the subject matter on a wooden item before.

Some things to note about painting on fabric are as follows:

Your fabric should, preferably, be “mounted” onto a piece of cardboard. This serves two purposes – firstly, your fabric won’t move around when you scrub your strokes, and secondly, the cardboard absorbs the paint that seeps through the fabric. I use masking tape and this is easily removed once the painting is completed.

As with painting on wood, you can trace your pattern onto your fabric using the regular transfer paper or if you prefer, the transfer paper specifically produced for fabrics. You would buy this in a haberdashery. Of course you can also free-hand a design onto your fabric using a water soluble pencil or fabric pencil.

Pattern hand-drawn and painting begins!

The brush is normally “scrubbed” into the fabric otherwise the paint doesn’t get transferred to the fabric – so you would need a flat or angle brush with stiffer bristles than those used for painting on wood.

With fabric medium, the paint is easily scrubbed into the fabric

Because I paint mainly with acrylic paint, I have never tried fabric paint to paint any of my designs on fabric. I simply use my acrylic paint with a fabric medium and it works out really great. I can use my favourite colours and apply my colour palettes to any of the projects I want to paint.

There are many different brands available on the market but I have used DecoArt Americana fabric medium as well as Jo Sonja’s textile medium and both convert acrylic paint into a fabric paint which easily penetrates and bonds with fabric. Both are permanent on the fabric once heat-set and the painted fabrics are hand-washable.

Once painted, your fabric needs to be heat set to create permanence. Heat setting also softens your painted fabric.

Its easy to have a go at fabric painting: all you need are your decorative painting instructions, a piece of fabric, an old shirt or T-shirt, you acrylic paints and some fabric medium and you’re all set!

A UFO here and a UFO there

Last week I discovered five UFO’s in my studio and I just about freaked out.

Not Unidentified Flying Objects!

UFO’s are the dreaded “Un-Finished Objects” which every decorative painter tries to avoid but sometimes doesn’t succeed! These are the projects which get put off from one day to another until they are hidden from plain sight and forgotten. I discovered one project which I did not finish from 2006, one from 2007 and one from 2009. Another was a class project I taught the week before and the last one was the most recent class project..I was really disgusted and resolved to finished ALL of them before starting any new project! I painted everyday until they were all complete.

Thankfully I can go back to a normal painting life now..

UFO’s happen many ways. Many people have “good” reasons, like having to travel on an emergency (me!), running out of paint and no time off from classes to go out and get fresh supplies (me!), waiting for inspiration on how to complete a design (me!) etc etc  Most of the time its just pure procrastination. Is there ever another reason? LOL.

Anyway, UFO’s are not good at all. For one thing, depending on how long you’ve left your project lying around, a layer of dust and grime have collected on your painting, making it not the most friendly surface to paint on. You will find that paint tends to run off the surface when you try to paint it and it gets quite frustrating. What to do? Once I had to gently clean the surface with a soft sponge wetted with some water and a touch of hand soap. Then I dried the surface thoroughly with a hairdryer before I started painting on it.

If you’re painting from instructions, you will also probably be hunting high and low for those instructions. Maybe its instructions I gave you or maybe its instructions in one of your books or magazines. Do you even remember in which book or magazine it was??? Sometimes you may have the instructions at hand but it has been so long since you painted the project that the instructions don’t seem to make any sense. Another frustrating thing about UFO’s is that your wet palette has completely dried up or has been cleaned many times over and you no longer have the colours you used to paint that particular project. Its even worse if any of the colours you were using were mixes. Far worse if you don’t have the paints and the paints in your palette were the ones provided by your teacher at class!

Once I had a UFO which was a box with a cover and as usual I had removed the screws when I basecoated the box. Although I was careful enough to put all the screws in a little plastic container, God forbid, I had misplaced it! Thankfully, I found it in the end….but it was quite unnerving when I could not remember where I put it.

Those are just some of the problems with UFO’s. Maybe you have an experience to share?

So to end on a high note, here are a few good reasons to finish every single decorative painting project in good time and not procrastinate:

  • Your palette is still fresh with all the colours you used to paint the project
  • If you started painting the project in a class, techniques taught are still fresh in your head and you can still make sense of the instructions provided to you
  • Your surface is still fresh for painting – no dust or grime to deal with

Most importantly, remember the high that you feel when you look at your completed project…that’s the best reason to finish your painting project.

Painting on a canvas

Sometime back, I developed a penchant for painting on canvas instead of the usual MDF or wood items I had been used to.

It all started one day when I realised that I didn’t have time to basecoat an MDF item to paint a new project in class with my students. I thought of painting on paper but I discovered canvas boards among my hoard of “paintable” items and that became the perfect surface!

Since then, I didn’t have any qualms about taking any decorative painting design and painting it on a canvas board or stretched canvas.

Roses on bin

For example, I had painted this MDF bin with a roses design and much later painted the same thing on a rectangular canvas board.

Roses on Canvasboard

I also encourage my students to have a go and some of them actually like it. Its good to paint on traditional surfaces like the canvas, for a change! LOL

Basecoating your canvas for decorative painting is a little different because the canvas surface is not smooth like the MDF or wood surfaces we’re used to. So you will find it quite a challenge to basecoat it with a brush and thick paint straight from the bottle or tube.

But there is an easy way – I use a small roller sponge and extra pressure. Basecoat once, dry with a hairdryer and then basecoat again and voila…its ready to take your decorative painting.

You’ll also finish in half the time because no sanding is required….that should make a lot of painters happy!

Painting your design is not much different once you get the hang of moving your brush around on the basecoated canvas surface. You will always feel the texture of the canvas but all the decorative painting techniques you’re used to will work on the canvas.

No worries. You just have to try it to find out.

So why not have a go?

Girlie daisies

I painted this very “girlie” daisies project for a “taster” class in Kuwait which will start this week. Its a very simple project which everyone will be able to finish in two sessions of three hours each.

Daisies Plaque - Taster Class

A “taster” class is exactly that – a class to get a taste of decorative painting! In two sessions I will teach everything you need to know to finish this project – starting with basecoating the woodpiece and preparing it to be painted, applying the pattern, a bit about brushes, brush loading, a bit about colours, basic round brush strokes and varnishing.

At the end of two days, of course, everyone takes home their project and try to convince their husbands and their kids that they ACTUALLY painted it! Yes, that’s always the best part…that’s why I always take photos of students painting – that’s the proof they painted it!!! LOL

If you live in Kuwait and would like to attend this or any other taster class, please add a comment and we’ll take it from there! See you soon..

Class dates are:

Tuesday and Wednesday, January 26th and 27th, 2010 – 10am to 1pm
(one place available)

Tuesday and Wednesday, February 2nd and 3rd, 2010 – 10am to 1pm
(3 places available)

Tuesday and Wednesday, February 9th and 10th, 2010 – 10am to 1pm
(4 places available)

Tuesday and Wednesday, February 16th and 17th, 2010 – 10am to 1pm
(4 places available)


“{Tole Painting} Fun to Paint Dots & Daisies: 25 Projects-Flowers, Butterflies, Snowmen & More Created With Fun Sponges & Dotters” (Carol {Designs By} Mays)

The studio is refurnished!

The studio has a new look, with country-style wooden shelves and cupboards which I reclaimed from our study! I think it is more at home in my studio than the study because its all high-tech there and very country here *LOL*

A panoramic photo of the studio

The cupboards I “re-claimed” are L-shaped and fitted just nicely into the corner where I used to have my desk. I always thought the units would be too large for my studio but apparently its not!

Hubby had this great idea of positioning the table diagonally and it actually looks very nice there. Lets hope its also better feng shui? Not that I know too much about feng shui..

A view of the studio with the "new" wooden shelves and cupboards

Of course I had to remove some odd pieces of furniture that were here and after re-arranging my projects in their new home, I have to say the studio looks more alive!

Here’s to great painting days in the “new” studio!

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