Thursday, January 28, 2010

Children's Murals

Children's murals are the most popular type of residential painting across the world. Every parent wishes to dote on their little pumpkin male or female accentuating their personality and personalizing the room as a result. Murals have become increasingly popular over the years for a variety of many reasons. My belief is people have endured financial and emotional roller coasters over the past few years. We attempt to establish control and truly focus on making our homes a safe haven for family and friends. This is mostly accomplished by adding color to our walls and decorating environments with accessories that represent our individual interests and personalities. In short, we wish to define our homes with detail establishing an environment conducive for our children to stay in rather than out and for family's to bond.

I am working on a non-profit with Children's Hospital in Denver, Colorado. We are hoping to establish a system to execute a minimum of 4 murals weekly for children with on-going diseases. We plan to work inside the children's homes and do a room "makeover." Our belief is that environment weighs heavily on the emotional well-being of any individual. If a child requires at home care, the healing will take place in his or her bedroom. If you create an environment that reflects the child's interests and character in happy bright colors, this will enhance how the child projects his or her image. In short, picture your happy place or see yourself healthy frolicking about within this "happy place."...We can measure this hypothesis with biofeedback. And...that is what we intend to do. We are still waiting for the logistics of the non-profit to be established and for Children's to devise a plan on allocating the murals to specific and why.

So...with that being said, let us talk about various murals and how to approach them for a child's room.

Each room will contain four walls. Some of these walls will have windows, closet doors, and an entrance exit door. Make certain you utilize the space optimally. If it is an outdoor scene, see if you cannot incorporate the tree outside the window into the mural...being creative and innovative is what makes murals most enjoyable. Understand your composition.

Base out your ceiling and walls. Many times, the mural can be incorporated onto the ceiling or simply a cloud scene can be the ceiling accentuating the feeling of outdoors. If you are painting a space scene, the ceiling can be a darker blue with flares and millions of stars. If you are painting an underwater scene, the ceiling can be the water with sun shining through. I like to paint the ceilings because it assists in the believability of the faux environment.

Materials: Basically the same for every painting assignment
Drop cloths
Blue tape
Green tape
Light masking tape with a 1/8 inch width
Paint brushes of various sizes
Purdy or equal in quality 4, 3, and 2 inch brushes
Paint trays
Rollers and naps
Air brush if necessary

Select a mural theme. In this case, we will discuss a very elementary mural, Dr. Seuss' The Cat in the Hat.

This is one of those murals where painting the ceiling does not apply. We are not painting an elaborate scene but merely tattooing the wall with Dr. Seuss images in clever areas. I painted the room out in a sand color since this room is intended for an elementary school aged child. We are taking into consideration bangs against the walls and scuffing from chairs, shoes, or whatever. Use a flat paint for the base. This enables the parent to easily touch up the walls without having to worry about flashing. Many people will state that it is incorrect to paint a faux finish on a flat base due to the wall drinking the finish...this isn't really a faux finish but a drawing, if you will.

Once you have selected which images from Dr. Seuss you would like to place on the walls and where, you have two options. One, you can project the images onto the wall utilizing a computer projector or overhead or two, you can free hand. I prefer free handing with simplistic subject matter.

Just note, like in any rendering when utilizing a still life type subject matter, shading and shadows play an integral role in execution of your piece. In this case, soft and very simplistic shadow lines are laid down. These are cartoon drawings...not a challenge, but fun and whimsical. When enlarged and strategically placed, these cartoons can seem, to the child, that they are interacting with him or her.

Have fun and certainly feel free to inquire for assistance.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Pricing and Estimates

I thought it might be fun to discuss pricing per hour, per square foot, and per day rather than another finish for the moment. Every Decorative Painter enters into an odd arena of guestimating and pricing his/her services. We all understand that pricing is competitive and in this industry, based on skill. But in each situation, variables truly configure the real estimate.

It is customary to offer a free consultation. It is most beneficial to meet with the client at the place of which the finish is to be rendered. With your professional eye, you are able to ascertain the walls' condition, what prep work will be needed, to assess the furniture and discuss how the furniture and accessories will be moved out of the area, and to pinpoint a color palette. Each of these considerations are necessary components for working out your bid.

After your consultation, you will have assessed what types of finishes your client is interested in having and the color palette. At this point, you will render some sample boards for your client to see in the area to be painted. I suggest not offering more than three boards with various intensities and color range, otherwise, it is overwhelming and decision making becomes difficult. While in your consultation, it imperative to pinpoint your client's desires. If not, you have wasted both your time and that of the prospective client and you have risked losing the bid. With sample boards, I utilize melamine 2 x 2 feet square. Everyone offers different pricing for their sample boards. The price range runs the gamut; free to $100.00 per board. I charge $40.00 a board. This price is derived from the cost of the board, paints, glaze, time to base and execute the finish, and prep the presentation boards for delivery. This fee is a small and reasonable. Ultimately, it is up to you to assess your charge.

When working up the estimate, square footage,technical difficulty, and product cost are variables to assess the bid. Color washes and stries are usually $3.50 per square foot. Murals range from $12.50 a sqft to $300.00 a sqft. The vast discrepancy in price is dictated by type of mural. With children's with fun whimsical themes, these murals are easy to execute and are priced in the lower range. With trompe l'oeils with shading and detailed elements, people, and perspective, these murals are charged at the higher end. Innovative finishes such as marbling, leather, crackling, stippling, moires, veining, stenciling, etc.. run approximately $6.50 a square foot. The finishes requiring plaster, venetian, bas relief, lusterstone, etc..where product ranges from $35.00 a gallon to $100.00 a gallon, these finishes are labor intensive and expensive to render. I charge anywhere from $12.50 to $18.00 a square foot.

Another approach to estimating a bid rather than offering a square footage price, is to assess a day rate. Each artist realizes what they are worth through years of experience, range of abilities, and stamina. I typically work a 6 hour day. My day rate is $600.00. This rate hasn't changed for years. I am comfortable earning this amount for rendering finishes otherwise you price yourself out of the competition.

Many artists struggle in assessing prices to charge for their services. The simple rule is to understand your competition and your abilities. Do not be afraid to charge what you are worth. I have GIVEN many renderings for little charge...some were favors and some were moments of weakness. Do NOT allow yourself to be taken advantage. There are many other artists who are willing to give their services for too little money and many clients who, of course, are willing to take advantage of this very opportunity.

Following these statements is the concern for not earning enough money to sustain your career and being productive. Network, advertise, and run your company like a major corporation. Your attitude and skill will become known and sought after with exposure and stamina. Good luck!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Modern or Contemporary faux fresco

When realizing fresco, a true fresco is painted into wet plaster creating a chemical bond between the lime/pigment mixture and the plaster. This method requires incredible stamina and a significant discipline.

A cheat or a faux fresco, if you will, is painting on dry plaster. This method is Secco or Fresco secco or dry fresco. Mix dry crushed pigment with egg white or egg yolk, or animal glue ore, or adhesive like casein or gum arabic establishing a tempera type medium. Make certain that your medium is more on the thin side. Remember, in traditional fresco painting, we glaze layer upon layer of pigment to establish a more saturated image.

To begin with, your wall will have been plastered and cured for a few days to a week. You can continue with a couple of possibilities.

One method is to prime your wall and base coat with an acrylic base paint. Paint two coats. Allow the wall to cure over night. Next forming a glaze out of an oil base, rub with a cotton non-linting rag in a circular motion to create the ground for your mural. Fold your rag in your hand tucking all edges inside the ball of the rag. Dab a little bit of glaze onto your rag. In a circular motion, rub the glaze onto the wall. Work in sections approximately 3 to 4 feet square. Within these sections, randomly add glaze and continue to render in a circular motion. Blend the edges of one circle into the edges of another. Be light on the touch and patiently move across the wall section by section. The result will be a soft glowing effect resembling that of a soft color wash.... Allow the wall to cure then paint your images with the above medium (the tempura type mixture) or simply a variety of glazes. You always have the option to either varnish or wax the wall once it has fully cured. The last finish is to seal the work and offer a simulated finish as seen in traditional frescoes.

Remember, in faux finishing, there is no definitive method for doing anything. It is always an innovative approach for replicating the real.


Fresco is a method of mural painting utilized ever since plaster was constructed on walls. We know the word fresco originated from the Italian word affresco meaning fresh. It seems as though our history's knowledge of frescoes is deeply rooted with Italian artists, i.e., Giotto, Michelangelo, Raphael, and Tiepolo.

In modern day, we utilize the fresco method of painting to offer a room a soft, warm glow. This finish is achieved by painting on "still-wet" plaster. What this means is: the plaster is put up on the wall wet. This initial stage is when we paint the background of the mural. This stage of the fresco enables us to utilize approximately six to eight hours for laying in the color on the "still-wet" plaster. Using a semi-dry brush or a rag, we paint in the background. If using the traditional method of a brush, utilize some lime and mix it with the pigment establishing enough body for modeling. This method of mixing pigment and lime is called verdaccio.

After you have painted in the background using verdaccio we then paint our image using many strokes of brush and many coats of glaze to build up our color; rendering with glaze. By using this method of painting, we are not over saturating the image but sustaining the softness of the fresco.

Towards the day's end, you will realize the plaster has begun to dry and when you apply a brush stroke, you must be delicate. At this point in time, this could be the most rewarding time of rendering your mural. The plaster is thirsty and you must change your method of painting. By using a more watery medium and watercolor brushes, you will find yourself more apt in detailing your images. Be careful not to disturb your ground work. If you happen to be heavy of hand and expose white spots, stop painting. A long ago used remedy to "fix" the pulled ground is to mix sugar water and milk and paint into the limed plaster.

Once the plaster dries, your fresco is permanent for the life of the wall.

Now for the worst part of any decorative painter's reality: The REPAIR:
The fresco will take approximately four weeks to completely cure. In some climates, this may be longer. DO NOT begin any touch-ups or repairs prior to a minimum of four weeks.

In order to touch-up or repair a fresco, we can utilize a few mediums.
Wax ammonia-or cera colla...paint by stippling onto the area requiring help. I will offer the recipe at the end of this blog.
Use Zinc white for white colors.

Cera colla: I suggest you use a diluted industrial strength ammonia. Dilute the ammonia with distilled water. 95% water and 5% ammonia is then heated just prior to boil. Melt an equal amount of wax per volume. (Bees Wax). Pour the heated ammonia/water mixture into the melted bees wax stirring constantly until cooled. This mixture will effervesce and expand to ten times. Stir until the reaction subsides and remove from heat. Keep stirring until cooler and creamy with the texture of whipped cream. This consistency is easy for storage and may be diluted with water when prepping for painting.

In order to paint with cera colla, allocate the amount of medium desired from storage, store the remaining mixture. Add dry crushed pigment to the cera colla and water mixing for desired consistency.

The Egyptians used this method on their walls and some hieroglyphs. This medium, once dried, can be buffed and offer a soft warm glow. have been given a true artist and old master method of painting a fresco. Keep in mind, this method of painting requires stamina. This isn't a painting of which you can begin and come back to in a couple of days. Once the plaster is put up on the wall, you are facing a marathon of painting....anywhere from 12 to 22 hours depending on how detailed your mural. Enjoy and happy creating!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Wiping off glaze on a decorative relief

We love to accentuate decorative motifs in faux finishing. One of the best and easiest ways to make a fast and dramatic effect is glazing and wiping off glaze. Many people consider this finish, "aging". This finish can be used on any architectural element i.e., baseboards, moldings, decorative medallions, chair rails, etc..

In order to execute this finish with a soft and cohesive finish, stippling method is advised.
Apply the glaze to decorative element using a 1 or 2 inch brush. Paint the glaze into the cracks and crevasses of the element making certain the entire surface is fully coated.
Using a stipple brush or a stain brush, softly stipple the decorative element forward and then back over.
With Cheesecloth, form a soft pad. Use the cheesecloth to wipe off the decorative element. Use short strokes constantly folding over the cheesecloth keeping the cloth somewhat clean.
Make certain to wipe the edges of the decorative element. If glazing molding, make certain to stipple a fade onto the wall with a dry stipple brush establishing a shadow making the molding look more natural.

In order to paint this effect, first base out your decorative element with a solid color using two coats of paint. Let the paint cure until completely dry. Your next step is glazing.

To create a glaze: Use acrylic umber or burnt sienna if you are going for an antiqued look. The mixture should be 50/50 paint and glaze. Or if you are using oil based products, use 1 part oil paint to 1 part linseed oil and 2 to 3 parts turpentine.

With all glazes, play with the mixture and practice on a sample to see if the pigment depth is achieved.

Have fun! Be certain to check out pictures and more ideas on under Painted and Brushed, LLC. There you are able to interact with me and ask for specific advice. See you there.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Trompe l'oeil

Trompe L'oeil is a french term for "trick the eye". In truth it is wonderfully imaginative and fun! Three dimensional renderings are always easy for the viewer to fall into. They capture our curiosity. Escher was a master of architectural illusions, study of infinity, and tessellations. The architectural illusions or architectural trompe l'oeil is known as quodlibet. This form of illusion features realistically rendered paintings of every day items such as ribbon, playing cards, pens, knives, brushes, make it look as though the items were haphazardly left on top of the painting.

Tricking the eye is best achieved when we have something to reference. In the case of quodlibet, the use of every day items assists in tricking the eye and bringing the otherwise flat image into a 3D proportion. We see wonderful trompe l'oeil murals all throughout the world. Some of the most fascinating utilize a person seemingly outside of the mural looking into the mural. A well known artist, John Pugh often executes this very example.

Trompe l'oeil is mostly associated with murals. We thrive when confronted with a mural. As Grhamam Rust states:
"From cottage to palace, there is always a place for a Mural Decoration; it can transform darkness into light, the humdrum into the exotic; it can lift the spirits of the meanest room and visually transport the occupants into another world."

Perhaps you would like to know how to execute a trompe l'oeil?

For beginners, start with something simple. I suggest you use an everyday. Lauren Cole Abrahams is an artist and a teacher. Below, she walks you through the basics:

I have my students use simple everyday playing cards. There are a few hard and fast rules for choosing what to depict....

  • The items have to be the SAME SIZE as the real object....
  • they have to all have the SAME LIGHT SOURCE....
  • and SHADOW RENDERING is very important.....
  • the objects have to be STATIONARY, NOT MOVING to be convincing....the minute you try to capture movement, the illusion is broken.

You can't get a convincing illusion if you are painting something that comes away from the surface very far...choose objects that are low to the, envelopes,keys, ribbon, fabrics are just a few of the many things that translate well into trompe l'oeil.....this pertains equally to vertical surfaces as well as horizontal ones....if you try to paint a tall glass of wine on top of a tabletop, it will be hard to convince someone that it is really there..if you have it on its side, with wine having been spilled, it works.....

Please visit this site for a fantastic HOW TO lesson!

Enjoy life and painting what you depict!

Contemporary trompe l'oeil artists are: Ellen Altfest, Julian Beever, Daniela Benedini, Henri Cadiou, Ronald Francis, Richard Haas, Ranier Maria Latzke, Istvan Orosz, Jacques Poirier, Susan Powers, John Pugh, Pierre-Marie Rudelle, Graham Rust, Anthony Waichulis, Sara Watson, Asha Zero, and Kurt Wenner.