Friday, December 28, 2012


Details can make or break a project. I recently worked with a client who understood the importance of every detail in the creative process, what a delight to work with!

They had me copy their family crest and apply to the large chandeliers in the main room.

When these vintage sconces were added to the clubroom, they were a little too rustic for the drapery hardware.

Adding some gold details tied the two together and made the wall flow.

The client wanted the look of old zinc on a new bathtub. I started with washes of grays on the sides and asked the carpenter to make me 20 wooden rivets for the bottom band..this was his humorous way of letting me know he made one extra!

Pitting and the illusion of oxidation were added to give the aged look the client wanted.

A few touches of gold and the look is complete!

I saved the best for last, there were four sconces from the Madeleine Castaing estate that needed a little love. I gently touched them up and they now have a new home over a wall of Farrow and Ball wallpaper...lovely!
Many more touches of detail were added to transform this house into a very custom home. When working with projects, never forget the details!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Curtain Call.....

Theatre me, they are the most grand illusion and example of trompe l'oeil. Ravenswood Studios created this illusion.

Sande Chase of the blog, A Gift Wrapped Life,  just posted on Bergdorf Goodman's holiday windows. Designer David Hoey also seems to appreciate the grandeur of trompe theater curtains.

This is the famed Opera Garnier in Paris. Most people would not know these are all trompe!

Sfumato Pintura Escenica excells at trompe theatre curtains! The scale of this project and detail keep me in awe...

Being able to study these step-by-step make it even better!

These curtains from Hillsborough, New Hampshire were sold at one time to another theater and are now restored and returned to their original home.
Never pass up an opportunity to tour an opera house or old theatre...the trompe is usually well worth it!

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Illusion of Sgraffito....

Have you ever been to Italy? Florence, more specifically. There are so many wonderful examples of sgraffito on building's exterior walls.

Sgraffito is a process of layering tinted plaster in contrasting colors and then scratched to produce an outline drawing.
I recently had the opportunity to create a little illusion of sgraffito on an exterior fountain wall.

Hardie board was used for the wall and then troweled over with tile mortar. The mortar was tinted three different shades of dusty pink, leaving the strongest band at the top for the design.

Some of the medium pink is seen through the main part of the wall as the last coat was skipped troweled to give partial coverage.
The lion head was an "as is" damaged piece with a large chunk missing from the mane. That was filled in and colored to match and made the lion look good as new for a steal of a price.

The sunlight is beautiful against the trim and lion creating nice shadows on the plaster.

Now for the fun part! I needed an authentic, intricate design to use on the top of the wall to imitate sgraffito. (Yes, true sgraffito was the first option, but when this stencil was found, plans changed) The stencil is from  the fabulous Helen Morris of  Stencil Library and is under the gothic and medieval stencils in the border stencil section.

I used marmorino plaster and pounced it on with a stencil brush due to the intricate stencil design.

Here is the completed project. The illusion is complete!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Postcards from Venice...

On my last trip to Venice, I wanted to find the Libreria Acqua Alta touted as "the most beautiful bookshop in the world".

I have a penchant for jumbled, chaotic bookshops that have stacks of books with a few stray cats roaming the aisles.....throwing a gondola in the middle of the room was just icing on the cake!
I picked an overcast day to find the shop. Located in the Castello sestiere, I wound through tiny calles , some so small that as the rain started, my umbrella scraped both sides of the stone walls.

And then I found it! The tables outside were covered with plastic due to the rain and the cats took refuge inside...a soft rain was falling....perfect book browsing weather!

Luigi Frizzo, owner of the shop, was very kind as he allowed me to dig freely in the two rooms of books. I found a rare book that caught my eye, some art prints and then I found the boxes of postcards!

I was fascinated. I bought way too many, but the artwork and writing on the back was intriguing.

The ones I bought had postmarks from 1910 -1925. They represented people just like me who traveled to Venice to see the same buildings I was seeing. Not much has changed in Venice for hundreds of years.

The postcards will be used for reference when I am painting. Some are photos and some are lovely artist's illustrations of gondolas and other iconic images of Venice.

What things do you gather on your journeys? If ever in Venice, I highly recommend visiting the Acqua Alta bookshop....the most beautiful bookshop in the world!

Saturday, October 20, 2012


Sometimes, I take for granted the things that are "in my backyard", festivals and events that I have grown up with in my hometown. Tyler, Texas is known as the "Rose Capital of the World" and the annual Rose Festival is something I have seen my whole life.

I couldn't ignore going this year though, with the theme being "Indochine-Year of the Dragon"! The weather was perfect for the Queen's tea, so I and about a zillion other people fought the traffic and crowds to attend.

It was so worth the effort. Pagodas and dragons abounded along with red lanterns and lovely bouquets of roses in the colors of the court.

The Queen and her attendants (seven attendants, nineteen ladies-in-waiting and twenty-three duchesses and their escorts)dress in resplendent costumes that illustrate each year's theme. Mandarin collars, coral and dragons were interpreted through textiles and embellishments in the court's gowns.

The detail was amazing. Layers and layers of silks, beaded voiles and fur told the story of Marco Polo's travels from Turkey to India, southeast Asia, Japan and finally, China.

The tea is held in the Tyler Rose Gardens throughout the grounds and inside the museum itself. An Asian backdrop with the floral arrangements was the main photo op spot as the girls took turns standing  for photos.

The details are what always attract me. Nothing is half way done. The gloves, necklaces and shoes were all perfectly coordinated to each costume.
The line for the Queen was almost an hour long, so here is a back shot of the train and her inner court!

I did shoot this cute boy, one of her attendants, still smiling for the camera after sitting there for three hours! 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Peles Castle....

The Romanian castle Peles has 160 rooms...and each room was decorated to reflect a different European country.

The exterior is in the German neo-Renaissance style with rich, darkly carved wood, spires and murals in the inner courtyard. (source

Flickr-Espino Family
Built for King Carol I, this was the first castle in Europe to have central heating and electricity. 

German architect, Johannes Schultz caught the king's eye by combining his love of different classic styles and created a grand palatial alpine villa

Between three and four hundred men worked on the construction .With Queen Elizabeth of the Romanians being a patron of the arts , detail was not spared on the exterior as well as the interior.

Look at the trompe l'oeil stonework. Crests and window ornamentation also decorate the facade.


A quote from Queen Elizabeth of the Romanians during construction helps define the architectural style-Italians were masons, Romanians were building terraces, the Gypsies were coolies. Albanians and Greeks worked in stone, Germans and Hungarians were carpenters. Turks were burning brick. Engineers were Polish and the stone carvers were Czech. The Frenchmen were drawing, the Englishmen were measuring, and so was then when you could see hundreds of national costumes and fourteen languages in which they spoke, sang, cursed and quarreled in all dialects and tones, a joyful mix of men, horses, cart oxen and domestic buffaloes.

flickr-John Connell
If you can get past the exterior, check out the inside. Beautiful gilding, and mural work along with ornate carved wood fill every corner of the walls.

And if you can't get there in person-check out this youTube video!

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