Friday, November 22, 2013

To Be or Not To Be An Artist

My Friend, Arizona Artist Anna Sadler posted this a week ago. The first thing that popped in my mind wasn't what to put after those two words but what do those two words mean?  An old exercise from English class is where I started:

"Am, Is, Are, Were, Was, Be, Being, Been."
These are the forms of BE. A linking verb that connects a subject to an ACTION.  Sometimes it is the action itself.  Shakespeare understood this:
                              "To BE or Not TO BE....That is the question"
It is actually The Ultimate Question asking you to make the choice to Exists or Not Exist.
So was does it mean to make the choice and exist as an Artist? Here are some thoughts.
TO BE BRAVE:  You have selected a path that asks you to expose yourself without the safety net of a computer, organization, or a one size fits all protocol.  You have made the commitment to take risks and trust your talent. Every day when you start a job you are agreeing to a new challenge. Put on your big girl or boy pants and walk out that door with confidence. It will help you BE Brave if you can also:
BE TOUGH: Choosing a creative path means you are opening yourself up to be judged every time you seek a project.  There is nowhere to hide. You are the cheese and the cheese stands alone.  People that know nothing about you beyond the fact that you paint will question you, doubt you, and test you. You will be insulted, lied to, and made to jump through hoops. And in the process you will feel frustration.  And become tired. But you are strong. You accepted the challenge of being your own boss- something many of the very people trying to bring you down will never have the guts to do. One way to Be Tough is to:

BE ORIGINAL:  Teddy Roosevelt said "Comparison is the thief of Joy."  When you find yourself comparing your work to others you are robbing yourself. One of the reasons you chose art was to be original. To contribute something new or unique that didn't exist before you decided to create it. You look at the blank canvas or space and see Joy. Judge your work by your standards and know that to excel, Original people learn to:

BE PATIENT:  Very few of us achieve recognition over-night. It is a process that requires dedication and self-control. For many Artists the ideas come rapidly-it is the execution that takes time. We live in a world where people always seem busy. Don't mistake activity for productively. Peace of mind can be a great asset for a successful entrepreneur and Being Patient will help to
BE OPEN:  To be an Artist is to be a life-long learner.  We all grow-up with a set of beliefs and we tend to surround ourselves with people that share our world view.  As Artists we need to be still sometimes and invite the Universe in. Learning to share our space with different people with different stories challenges our ideas and thoughts.  Open mindedness doesn't mean you sacrifice the values that define you, instead it helps you build experience and know that you are part of a much larger plan.  When we are open to experiencing the larger world, we learn how to:

BE GRATEFUL:  There are people who by virtue of location, gender, or cultural circumstance will be limited in reaching their potential.  You are fortunate to live where you can be an artists and entrepreneur regardless of your birth.  There are people who are luckier and may seem to have more but as an Artist you recognize the beauty and abundance in your life.  And every day you practice your trade you are celebrating the talents you have been given and showing your thanks.
So what are the words I will put after I AM, the present perfect of TO BE?
That is the shape of our reality.


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Snakes on the Plains

A phobia of snakes is just one of the three things I share with Indiana Jones. 
The other two being jaunty hats and vintage whips bomber jackets.

When my family goes to Chinese restaurants, My Dad likes to read the paper zodiac placemats-the ones with the Chinese New Year Animals and the listed characteristics. He scoffs at each one until he gets to mine: "Snakes don't have arms, so they use their mouths...A LOT."  It never gets old-to him.

Well, in case you didn't know it 2013 is the Year of the Snake.

Snakeskin is a classic that can be found on clothing, furniture, and wall coverings. It can also be found in unlikely places:

 Sweet Georgia Brown, let's hope you have some time
 for a few DIY Snakeskin projects.


Snakes on Paper.
My friend Gary Lord first showed me how to faux brown paper using a variety of  wall and cabinet products.  I love using the brown 3m masking paper for several reasons. It comes is varying widths.  It is inexpensive. The crinkling of the paper adds an unusual element to the finish. You can work in your home on a flat surface in front of you and then install in some one's home.  Applying the paper is faster in awkward spaces like ceilings.

Cut your paper into various lengths and lay on a flat surface.  Select one-two colors of FE Faux Metal.  This is real metal shaving in an alcohol base.  I selected Copper and Rich Gold.

Use a Japan Blade to smear the Faux Metal on a larger trowel.  With the trowel flat to the paper, blade it on.  The paper will naturally crinkle.


Next, select 1-3 Lusterstone colors. Any earthy shades will do.  I used some leftover Weathered Bronze and Charred Gold.  The Lusterstone is also randomly popped and bladed over the paper. 

When the Lusterstone is dry, I use the Snakeskin stencil from FE.  Place the stencil in the middle of your paper strips and pull either Tiger's Eye Venetian Gem, Black Onyx Venetian Gem, Brown Sapphire Venetian Gem, or Moonstone Grey Venetian Gem over the pattern.  Repeat to cover the strip.  I don't worry about exactly matching the pattern although I do keep the heavier middle part of the pattern lined up in the repeat.
To install the paper I use FE Aquaseal (Clear Setcoat). Roll the surface area first.  Then roll the back of your paper strip.  Place your strip on the wall and use your foam roller to smooth and stick it down.  I also use a plastic tool for smoothing wallpaper to get air bubbles out.  I cut the paper edges with a ruler and exacto-blade.  Then I made sure to line up each paper strip so the stencil pattern flowed from each piece.

I applied the paper above a fireplace in the lower level of our home. Once it was up I decided to blend it a little more so I troweled some Silver Taupe Lustersuede over the finish.  I used a damp cloth to soften any chatter from scrapping over the pattern.  I like soft blended finishes and this step is optional depending on how strong you want the snake pattern.
When my Lustersuede dried, I glazed over the surface using a mix of 3 parts FX Thinner + 2 parts Van Dyke Stain & Seal + 1 part Rich Brown Stain & Seal. Just brush on and soften with a dry cloth.
Here is the finished wall:
In case you are searching for another snake finish, here is another Snakeskin DIY.
Snakes on Metallics.
Paint the surface with the new Metallic Toffee Setcoat.  We rolled our sample board using a fluffy fabric Slim Jim roller head.  Metallics have a nap-in this finish it will not show.
Next place the FE Snakeskin stencil in the middle of your wall and trowel Lusterstone over the pattern. I used Weathered Bronze.
Don't worry about some bleed through on the pattern.  I also just eyeball the pattern match.
I tinted some Aquawax with Elephant Hide Metal Glow and troweled it over the dried snake pattern.  You could also leave the Aquawax un-tinted to show more of the snake pattern.
While the wax is wet, use our Cheesecloth roller to roll thru the wax. This will create a scales.
I glazed the dried wax with 3 parts FX Thinner + 2 parts American Walnut Stain & Seal + 2 Parts Ebony Stain & Seal.  I like using FX Thinner and stain over waxed finishes because it "bites" in stronger over the slick surface.  You can see in the picture how it beads on the surface. Just pat with a dry cloth or Neon Leon brush.
This finish would work well on furniture.
Let's ask another expert on snakes what he thinks.  Samuel L. Jackson what do you have to say about our snakeskin faux finishing?

It could have been:


Sunday, November 10, 2013

Going Grey: Three DIY Projects

There are several ways to go grey...
You can go grey young
You can go grey as you mature
or just testify before Congress!
Grey is having a moment. I like to think it's due to grey being a modern neutral and not that book 50 Shades of Stockholm Syndrome  Grey.  Our Faux Woe In-Box had 3 separate questions regarding different grey finishes.  One question was about a shiny grey that could hold up to a steamy bathroom (maybe it's steamy because they are reading that 50 Shades book in the tub?).  The 2nd question involved matching a linear wallpaper in silky sheen greys. And the final question referenced an old world type plaster in blue greys.
Finish One:  The Steamy Grey
Preparation is key in a wet room with no ventilation. Check the sub-straight  for bonding and signs of water problems like bubbled surfaces. These need to be repaired before base coating.  I use Setcoat as my base-any darker shade will do.

Trowel a layer of Stuco Lux Grey Skies 100%.

This will dry about 30-40% lighter. 
 Next pop in Putty Stuco Lux and more Grey Skies. Gently blade to mix the two.
This is what the wet half looks like compared to the dry side.

When the wall is all the same color, trowel on Stuco Lux Sealer.  This has a slight gold cast but you can tint with colorant if you want to kill some of the gold.

Let the sealer dry. You can polish at this point but I like to skip trowel in more of the Putty Color for depth. Then I use a rotary brush to polish.

Finished sample
Second Finish: The Woven Wallpaper.
Trowel a layer of Moonstone Grey Venetian Gem Plaster in a long stripe down your wall.
Then use a Bark Roller and roll vertically down the wall. I do this several times to break up the patters.  Surfaces has carried specialty rollers for over 3 years and this is the most versatile pattern.

When this is dry, thin Silver Stain & Seal and trowel tightly over the plaster. 
Use a cloth to soften chatter lines.
After the stain dries, tight trowel Queen Anne's Lace Lustersuede over the pattern
Again, use a cloth to soften chatter.
Finished Sample!
Third Finish: The Old World Plaster
Trowel a high/low coat of Nu'Villa Plaster in Pewter.
When this is dry, I tinted some O'Villa with Williamsburg Blue Stain & Seal.  I popped this over the base. I also popped in some O'Villa that I left untinted. Gently blend with trowel.

When the plaster is dry, brush on a glaze made with Dark Brown Faux Crème Color
and soften with a damp cloth.
And the finished Old World Blue-Grey Plaster
Here are the 3 shades of Grey I worked with for the finishes:
Only 47 more to go!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Decorative Artist Care Act of 2013

Due to my recent travels in the medical rabbit hole, I imagined what it would be like if our profession, Decorative Finishing, had a system similar to our national health care.

The  Decorative Artist Care Act (DACA)

Today, I propose to you the Decorative Artist Care Act (DACA) affectionately referred to as the FauxUAct of 2013.  This Act will insure that Artists receive the same consideration as other trained white collar professionals.  It provides every American greater access to the Decorative Arts by requiring every American to purchase Decorative Art Services.  Because we know at some point every American needs faux finishing. Plus people that buy Venetian Plaster are already paying for the sponge and rag roll jobs.

Article One:  Before any Decorative Artists visits your home/business, you must fill out a 10 page form either on-line or mailed to you with postage due.   This will let us know of your pre-existing conditions such as wallpaper, over abundant pet hair, or just general bad taste.  We don't discriminate based on your pre-existing conditions although you may have to wait 3 months to see us. Unless your address and occupation indicate that you have money-we will see you next week.

Article Two: When you make it through the paper work, we will schedule a consultation. Our automated voice system will call you late at night to remind you of our visit.  Please be waiting at your site 10 minutes early.  We will arrive sometime between 30 minutes to an hour later then the scheduled time.  Don't ask why-it is because we can.  We suggest while you wait that you read old Highlight or Redbook magazines from 1968.

Article Three:  A Co-pay Consultation fee is due on the day of our visit.  $75 for a regular 20 minute chat and $100 for emergencies (such as your Pet's Birthday Party).  We will look around your place to see if we can really make money on this job.  If not, we will suggest some lifestyle changes that will make you a better candidate for our services in the future.  In doing so, we fulfill our goal of access to our services-we made no promise of actual delivery.

Article Four:  Your procedure will be schedule when it conveniently fits around our golf game, scrap booking sessions, or yoga classes.  We reserve the right to cancel your appointment a day prior to start date.  If you cancel, we will bill you for the missed date and indenture your first born to washing our brushes. 

Please clean your home the night before with anti-bacterial soap paying special attention to crown and base molding.  All valuables should be locked away and please do not claim that the cheap cracked vase from Kirklands is an antique that was broken during the job.  We don't want to see your special creams, pictures, or toys. We support a variety of personal choices-we don't want to know what they are.  

Be prepared for our arrival at 6am. We will show up at 9:00 am.

Article Five:  There are risks involved with every job.  Colors change in different lights.  Hidden surface flaws.  More product. We make no guarantee of the outcome although we will do our professional best and will bill you accordingly.

Article Six. You will be billed separately for every item used including ladders ($200), Drop Cloths ($100 a piece), tape ($75 a roll) and brushes ($65 per brush).  There will be random charges on your bill-please don't ask us what the codes mean. You will receive your bill one week prior to our start date.  We accept all major credit cards, cash, or your home/car as payment.

Article Seven:  We can only perform procedures that are in our "speciality."  Taking off switch plate covers, vents, moving furniture, disconnecting water lines, cleaning ceiling fans, taking out the trash, and baby sitting are no longer in our scope of work.

You are allowed a limited number of questions before you bore us and our assistant pops in to remind you gently that other people are waiting for faux-so wrap it up. 

Article Eight:   In the event that you are unhappy or your home still looks bad, we will schedule a follow-up visit that you will pay for.  At that time we will also present you with any unpaid balance from the procedure you are now complaining about. Our conversation begins when payment is approved.

We will look around and appear concerned. But ultimately it will be determined that it is your problem and not ours. We will give you the name and number of another faux finisher that is in our network as a referral. It is your responsibility to make the calls and start the procedure all over again. 

Plan Funding:  DACA will be subsidize by a 1 cent addition on state sales tax because everyone has to buy something at sometime.  2 cents will be charged to people who call it Fox Finishing. And people that refuse to buy our services and recognize our artistic contribution by claiming, "it doesn't look that hard" will pay a penalty on their income tax. Or be shipped to Canada where you have to wait years to get faux finishing - or so we've been told.

Since you no longer pay 100% directly for our services and are required by law to purchase quality faux finishing, you may no longer arbitrarily deny us payment, ask for freebies, and threaten to replace us with cheaper labor.  We now have a minimum reimbursement for any service we delivery. 

With time and compounded interest, our reserves will grow until we can provide unlimited faux to the group that is subsidized needs decorative painting the most-the elderly.  Because nothing makes Assisted Living sparkle more then a bling finish. And when we prop granny up and she gasps, "where am I ? The pearly gates?" we will know that our billed hours were justified. 

The greatest triumph of the DACA is the minimum services that every citizen must purchase and that every faux finishing plan must offer. Those of you offering junk plans will no longer be able to undercut the market  (and pretend on Facebook that you are awesome).  Your client is only satisfied with your services because they haven't needed really good decorative painting yet.

You will be given a 3 month opportunity to actually attend a class, work with good products, and budget to pay your workers a competitive wage. If you fail to make these changes you may no longer call yourself a decorative artist but a DIY'er with a fan page.

Citizens will now be required to purchase Faux Finishing Plans that cover proper preparation, adequate dry times, at least 3 trips around the room, professional scaffolds, patterns, foils, glitter, and topcoats.

Even if you fall under the poverty level -you will get faux too.  Following the habitat model, you will be required to assist us in cleaning, taping, base rolling, and clean-up.  And in return you will enjoy the benefits of faux finishing that lead to a longer healthier life. Plus our tromp skills can make a single wide easily appear to be a double wide.

Plans will be offered through Facebook or Amazon. Because let's face it. We can land a jeep on Mars but can't design a working website.


This was meant to be a humorous post about a very real problem.  Most finishers are self-employed and responsible for buying our own health care.  We also work a job with physical requirements so at some point you will need services.  Plus wages have stagnated the last 20 years while healthcare costs have increased 40%.  This not only effect us but the disposable income of our potential future clients.

The US spends more on health care than the next 10 biggest spenders combined: Japan, Germany, France, China, the U.K., Italy, Canada, Brazil, Spain and Australia. And compared to these countries our health outcomes in most major indicators are worse.