July 5th, 2011
Painting at the Monestir
I have been super fortunate to have been given the opportunity to plan and lead painting adventures to many beautiful cities and countries of the world: France and Italy with my friend Gary Lord, and Marrakech with the help of Maryam Montague. These trips have now actually become an integral part of my business AND personal life. I love doing all the research and planning for both painting and enjoying the local culture, and most especially introducing new experiences to the students who sign on to these trips. With the help of my friend in Barcelona, Paul Deprez, I have just returned from a 2-week stay in Barcelona and the Catalunya region.
This was my fourth visit to Barcelona, and each time my love for this city grows exponentially. So much so that I am already planning a return painting trip for September 2012! But back to THIS trip….I have so much to share, but thought I should start with the primary reason *cough* for the tour-the decorative painting classes.
The trip was planned to include a 6 night stay in the city and 6 nights in a former monestary in the hills nearby.The monestir, Sant Jeroni de la Murtra, was partially burned and sacked in the 19th century during a widespread backlash against the corruption and power of the church. It is now run by a private foundation that maintains it as a place for solitude, silence, and encourages artistic pursuits.
We were able to set up some small, low-ceilinged rooms as studio spaces to work on a range of projects. I wanted to take the opportunity to incorporate some forthcoming stencils from The Hearst Castle Collection, as these were designs created by Julia Morgan to decorate Hearst Castle in a Spanish/Mediterranean Revival style.
The Delphine Panel sample was done on smooth textured plaster background. We laid in the initial color and pattern with a simple dry-brush stencil technique. I was inspired by the amazing work of Italian artist, Carolina d’Ayala Valva, to overpaint the stenciling with washes of color to create a luminous look.
Some day, I would love to have the opportunity to study with Carolina in her Rome Atelier, but in the meantime I have her wonderful book, which I highly recommend! After painting with watered-down acrylics (as opposed to the traditional egg tempera) the painting on plaster was sanded to distress, and given a soft toning glaze.
Here is lovely Nancy showing off her own completed panel.
Another panel that I have taken from Julia Morgan’s amazing architectural drawings is the Pescado Panel. It is full of whimsical birds and fish that appear almost happy to have been caught-ha!
This panel is stenciled with three colors of our new Royal Stencil Cremes over a background of composition gold leaf. The gold leaf has been patinated and distressed with a safe chemical process that I am still perfecting-as much as you “can” perfect a chemical process! Once I have it a little more “under control”, I will surely share the details.
Another project that we worked on was a faux tile mural. For this we again used upcoming Hearst Castle Collection stencils. In this case we simply used them as patterns to trace and then add loose hand painting to create the look of classic Portuguese tiles. My sample above shows the mural in various stages of completion. I hope to finish the mural in the next couple of weeks. It was thrilling for me to have the time to actually pick up a brush and paint, as it seems my hands are most often attached to a computer keyboard these days!
This study shows the final effect of the last step-adding a China Crackle layer (from Modern Masters) and rubbing in a toning glaze to reveal the cracks and add depth and aging.
Here is a completed mural by Debbie Hayes, who was the fastest painter of the bunch of us! It’s quite beautiful, isn’t it? All of the stencils featured in the projects above will be available soon from Royal Design Studio stencils!
Another decorative style that is synonymous with Barcelona is Modernisme, the uniquely Catalunyan version of Art Nouveau. I wanted to honor that heritage, and so we also did a tecnique using metallic foils with a new Modello Marquetry Masking Pattern stencil from Modello Designs.
On our way from Barcelona to the monestir, we stopped at Espintura Studio to do an embedded tile pattern technique with SkimStone and a Modello masking pattern.
Now that I am back, I’m continuing to work on the videos and lessons for my next Virtual Workshop combining these two mediums.
I hope you enjoyed seeing our painting samples from Barcelona! As I said above, I am already planning a return trip in Sept. 2012, so drop me an email if you want to be the first to get those details when they become available!. The details on this recent trip are still available here.
You can view more photos from the Barcelona painting class and trip in my flickr sets!
June 20th, 2011
New Virtual Workshop Sneek Peak
In the fall of 2009 I began introducing Virtual Workshops as a way to teach decorative painting techniques to students around the country (and world) through web-based methods. To date, hundreds of students have enjoyed learning new techniques such as metallic foils with Foilin’ Around, Stencil Impressions, and the popular patterned finishes for mirror and glass through a series of recorded video lessons, detailed manuals and review webinars. These have been very successful in this current economy where funds have been limited for travel to participate in hands-on studio workshops. Recently, we began production of our 4th Virtual Workshop which combines our Modello Masking Pattern stencils with one of my favorite concrete resurfacing products: SkimStone. This new workshop will be available in late summer. One series of video lessons will guide students through the process of competing a beautiful floor project from start to finish. I am joined in this video series by Katrina Johnson, technical sales director for SkimStone, and her wealth of product knowledge from her ten years with this amazingly simple yet versatile product. Would you like a sneak peek? Well…..ok….and to celebrate this upcoming workshop, we are offering super pricing on our current ones for a limited time here!
It was a lot of work trying to do this project and film it well at the same time, but it will be SO worth it to be able to show a major project from start to finish, in addition to the basic studio lessons and Modello finishes. I think it will really take the intimidation factor out of tackling a floor project that incorporates pattern work, as I get the opportunity to show how easy it is to make adjustments with the Modello stencils. Oh, and I love my new floor! Look for more info in this new Virtual Workshop coming soon! Meanwhile, you can check out quite a few previous SkimStone posts here.
May 9th, 2011
There are two major projects that are the focus of most of my thoughts these days (though it’s pretty crowded inside my head, as usual!). They are: my upcoming painting trip to Spain, AND my new collection of stencils and Modello patterns for The Hearst Castle Collection, inspired by Julia Morgan’s architectural drawings.
With this post I get to combine the both. You see, much of the influence and architectural features for the design and furnishing of Hearst Castle came from Spain. They were able to rescue and repurpose whole antique ceilings from churches, monasteries, palaces, and villas. Nonetheless, a great deal of the relief plaster, tiles, ironwork, moldings, coffered ceilings, wall treatments, etc. were designed by Morgan herself and fabricated by local California artisans. Now, I have the happy job of translating Morgan’s extensive design talents into classically inspired stencils that decorative artisans can use for years to come.
And what better time to introduce these new designs than for the hands-on class I will be teaching my students at the monastery outside of Barcelona? After much thought and image sifting, I had landed on these lovely samples to start with. The students will have the opportunity to be the first to work with these new designs in a combination of stenciling and hand painting techniques. We will be working on and with a variety of materials, including silk linen, SkimStone, plaster, and gilding, to create faux mosaic, Spanish-style glazed and crackled tiles, grisaille painting, and more.
So, if you are saying to yourself, “self, I REALLY wish I was going on this amazing, artistic adventure with Melanie and a lovely group of ladies” then I have great news for you! There is still ONE spot left open for this fabulous trip, June 16-29.
Download the Spain Painting Adventure brochure here.
April 15th, 2011
The Art of Procrastination
Today being “tax day”, April 15th, they ran a story on the news last night pointing out that a full 25% of Americans put off filing until the last two weeks before the deadline. I’m guessing THOSE are the people who aren’t expecting refunds?! Anyhoo, it prompted me to come clean on a character trait I have that I am none to proud of: I am a serial procrastinator. This fact is all to evident in my own house (and lack of regular blog posts), where the wheels of decorating grind slowly and projects get get pushed off for years. As in, MANY years. Gulp.
It’s been 4 years now (she writes incredulously-where DID that time go??), since I wrote this post about redoing my home office. I actually dismantled the room shortly after writing that post, and it’s been living in “no man’s land” ever since.
Back then, I was SERIOUSLY into Japanese decoration. Actually I still am, but the problem is, I am seriously into lots of OTHER decorating themes as well. That seems to be the problem. I have been back and forth, up and down, and even sideways trying to settle my mind on something that I will want to live with-and so, I’ve done nothing. Brilliant, huh? Until now…
I have loosely settled on a boho/contempo/Moroccan/upcycled/glam theme. Actually, that’s not a theme at all and obviously my brain is still crankin. But while my brain takes its time getting it’s thoughts together, I have at least started something. I am decidedly NOT a linear thinker, and take an “organic” approach to design. What that really means is that I figure it out as I go along. The main thing is to GET STARTED, and I am starting with the floor.
On my trips to Morocco, I have always been drawn to the zigzag zellij tile patterns on the floors-usually done in black in white or green and white. I was also inspired by Maryam’s kitchen floor tiles. I love the dusty look of concrete tiles and SkimStone is the perfect medium to give me that.
So, I came up with this sample, and havc the floor all ready prepped with the creamy white layer of SkimStone. Note: to get here, I removed the existing carpet from the concrete slab and spent some time removing the excess glue and scrubbing the heck out of it to get it super clean.
It’s going “down” this weekend, with the help of a custom-fit, Modello masking stencil, and here how it all lays out. It’s a smallish room (11′ square, more or less) and the stripes will definitely help to enlarge is visually. I will be adding an area rug at some point, but I really wanted a “neutral” but zingy (or should I say ziggy?) floor as a starting point.
So then what? Well, after considering about 183 different options, I think I am going to do a dado, made from upcycled cabinet door parts. I am quite partial to the look of this furniture piece I saw on this “Get the Look” post on the Etsy blog. Again, it reminds me of Morocco, where they reuse EVERYthing. I will need to cobble together a mix of old pieces and new pieces that I just make “look” old. I have been dying to check out Annie Sloan’s Chalk Paint, and think this will be the perfect opportunity to do just that AND utilize a bunch of unfinished cabinet doors that I’ve had sitting around for years now ;).
And what else?? Well I currently plan to cover the rest of the walls with an off-white organic plaster, and am DYING to do the ceiling with this pink color as seen in the May issue of Elle Decor (it’s in Marrakech-where else?!). This will probably be done with Sydney Harbour’s Interno Lime Wash.
This is unsurprisingly turning into quite a project….let’s just get the floor done first…BTW, if you were one of those who put off doing your taxes till the last day, you’re in luck! The IRS is giving you till the end of the day Monday! So….you can put it off till after the weekend….
April 8th, 2011
Rockin at Rocketown
It’s already been a couple of weeks since I attended and taught at the Concrete Decor Show, but it’s never to late to share a great project! I told you about it first here in this post. Besides teaching an 8 hour hands-on training class with Katrina Johnson from SkimStone, we left a fabulous finished floor at a very unique and deserving and thriving community center in Nashville called Rocketown. Rocketown was founded in 1994 by singer/songwriter Michael W. Smith as a place to give teens a positive alternative to the many negative pressures they face in the world these days.
The first of its kind in the Southeast, Rocketown has grown into a regional outreach as well as a model for faith-based relational outreach across the country. Their goal is to lead and inspire youth through creative programs and mentoring relationships that are culturally relevant and eternally significant. Participant circumstances span the range of neglect, abuse, poverty, absent parents and normal peer pressures. Rocketown engages local youth with a facility that houses a coffee bar; photography, art and dance, and recording studios; stages for live entertainment; and Middle Tennessee’s only indoor skate park. To date there have been more than 425,000 visits with an average of 1,350 teens from across Middle Tennessee participating in programs each week. It’s quite an amazing place, and we were happy to donate our time and materials to make it even more special, along with many other decorative concrete artisans who left their art in various rooms and areas throughout.
Audie Adams was one of many teens who actively participated and benefited from Rocketown’s programs and influence. A local stencil/graffiti artist, he has contributed much of the artwork that is found on the walls in the various studio rooms and offices. The project for Modello Designs and SkimStone was the recording studio/music room, and Audie provided the design inspiration that we adapted for the large floor graphic. I slightly simplified his original design concept to make it “doable” in two days and three layers, and Michelle did an awesome job of setting up the Modello stencil patterns in record time!
Katrina led off the class, which was a combination of hands-on and project demo, by discussing the basics of prepping for a SkimStone floor and mixing it all up. Her brother Pablo had done an awesome job of prepping the floor a couple of days early by applying a layer of their Bonding Primer over the existing finish.
Katrina and Pablo then power-troweled out the first coat of gray SkimStone over the Bonding Primer basecoat while the students looked on.
After a couple of hours drying time, I explained the design and stencil pattern process that we used and began the laying out the first layer of Modello stencils for the areas that were designated to be blue.
With all the vinyl stencils securely in place, we began applying an overlay of blue-tinted SkimStone. You can see the art canvas on the wall that Audie Adams created, which was the inspiration for the floor design.
With the blue color down and the first layer of Modello stencils removed, we began the next day…
…and laid down the second layer of Modello stencils to complete the white areas of the design.
The last layer of Modello stencils added the finishing touches in bold red.
The red areas of the design overlayed right on top of the blue. Because SkimStone is an integrally colored overlay, it is possible to adjust the color to make it either opaque or translucent. We did two quick trowel layers of red for complete coverage and began removing the stencil immediately.
And here is the finished floor after sealing with 4 quick coats of Penetrating Sealer the following day. Rocketown reports that everyone there is thrilled with the floor, and we were so happy to be able to leave this “gift” to them!
Meanwhile, as the floor was “in progress”, Katrina and I kept the students busy in the other room learning all the ins and outs of SkimStone and how to creatively incorporate Modello stencils for custom graphics and design additions. Phew! It was a very busy two days but everyone was left happy!! If you want to find out more about the Concrete Decor Show, Dana Tucker did a great overview post over on the Fauxology blog. Next year’s show will be in San Antonio, one of my favorite cities in the country of Texas!
February 21st, 2011
Modello Concrete Carpets
Continuing a focus on patterned decorative concrete, I’d like to share some beautiful projects by Nancy Tomaski of Paint My World in Johnsonburg, Pennsylvannia, using our Modello decorative masking stencils. Nancy is a long-time customer of Modello Designs, and you can see some of her amazing projects in our inspirational book, Modello by Design, Volume II. Alas, these projects were done after that book went to press, but I am very proud to share some more of Nancy’s work here!
This first project uses a custom Modello stencil pattern created from our one-time-use masking material. Nancy was able to create this original pattern with the help of Jillian from our design team. This photo shows the pattern all laid out and ready for color!
Nancy used SkimStone for this project, applying different custom-mixed colors of this easy-to-use cementitious overlay directly onto the concrete slab.
After the “concrete carpet” was completed, Nancy went back and created a realistic faux tile treatment using another concrete overlay system designed specifically for floors from Granicrete. Isn’t this an amazing transformation??
This next porch project features a custom adaptation of our popular Chavall carpet design.
Our specialty at Modello Designs is customizing our existing patterns to existing project parameters, and Natalie from our design team did a great job of recreating this design to fit the irregular shape. If it looks like this pattern was perfectly designed for this space, it’s because it WAS!
This last concrete porch transformation features our Toldeo carpet pattern, and Nancy did this one for herself, perfectly copying the color scheme represented in our Concrete Carpet and Panel Catalog! Yeah Nancy!
For this project, she used products from the iCoat concrete system to create both the faux carpet AND the faux wood and surrounding brick. Now, perhaps you are wondering how you can create some of these looks for yourself! All of the companies mentioned in this post offer hands-0n training and distribution of their products around the country. They can also recommend trained artisans in your area if you’d rather watch than do!
And a reminder…..I will be teaching a hands-on Modello/SkimStone class with Katrina Johnson from SkimStone at the upcoming Concrete Decor Show in Nashville. Go Girl Power!
February 18th, 2011
SkimStone Tag Team
I am going to be teaming up with Katrina Johnson from SkimStone/Rudd Company to teach a hands-0n SkimStone + Modello workshop at the upcoming Concrete Decor Show in Nashville, TN on March 17-18.
The class is “officially” called Masking Patterns and MicroToppings for Ultra Decorative Finishes if you want to check the schedule. For some reason, in the concrete world they don’t like to “name names”, but rest assured it will be all about SkimStone and Modellos. I have posted many times about SkimStone here before, because it is one of my favorite mediums to work in for decorative floor applications.
Katrina is THE authority on SkimStone applications so this class will be full of great technical application information (the brains!) as well as instruction, inspiration, and sample making that features Modello patterns (the beauty!)
In addition to the class samples, students will have the opportunity to view and participate in a whole decorative floor treatment that we will be completing at Rocketown.
One of my favorite ways to incorporate SkimStone is with patterns from our Carpet and Panel Collection. We have recently updated the catalog with some beautiful new designs, like this new Bristol Carpet.
Another thing I am quite excited about it that we are now offering the Carpet and Panel Collection catalog in both a beautiful high res printed version, as well as a free eCatalog-available here. I’d love to know what you think about this format!
February 21st, 2010
Inspired by Italy
You may have noticed that I have been absolutely HORRIBLE at accomplishing regular blog postings lately. Between a multitude of major new projects, trade show preparations, planning painting trips, and a honeymoon and a wedding (in that order), there seems to be precious little time to stop and EXPLAIN what I’m up to (and up against!). SO-this post is designed to cover a few topics at once, based somewhat loosely around a theme. Here goes….
Aaah, Italia. So enchanting, so delicioso, so artistically inspiring!! Italy is just one of the countries that have inspired the finishes offered in the upcoming European Cabinet Finishes class that we will be hosting here at the studio in June. Barb Skivington’s class draws from inspiration gained from past painting trips with me to both Italy and France, as well as finishes interpreted from the highly popular new Belgian look and what I see as an emerging trend towards Spanish-inspired design and fashion.
If you’d like to explore the possibilities and benefits gained from taking this class, Barb and I have created an informative free 30-minute webinar for the new Design Your Success site (another new project!) that details these elegant finishes and their possibilities for application. Barb has an extensive background as an artist AND and educator and was featured in this recent profile in The Faux Finisher that I authored.
Speaking of inspiring trips to Italy, and attempting a not so subtle segue; there is an upcoming opportunity for YOU to join us on a return trip to enchanting Italy this coming October. Gary Lord, Alison Woolley and myself are planning a return to the sights of two previous painting adventure tours, the Castello di Casigliano in Umbria and La Fattoria di Maiano in Florence with our upcoming Art in the Heart of Italy trip.
These trips offer so much in addition to all the inspiration that the natural and man-made beauty of Italy provides.
The friendships that are formed through shared experiences…
and educational classes and group painting projects is truly unique and special. Are you feeling inspired?!
European Cabinet Finishes Class
Art in the Heart of Italy Trip
December 4th, 2009
Pssst. Hey Santa!
You know how when people ask you “what do you want for Christmas?” and you can’t think of anything off the top of your head. Well, that’s what happens to me anyway….Whether your list for Santa is long or short, you might want to consider asking for the gift that keeps on giving….and creating.
We now have Virtual Workshop Gift Certificates available in our online store. They are good for any Virtual Workshop offered in 2010, including the two current offerings: Foilin’ Around and Stencil Impressions. Coming soon are Patterned Glass and Mirror, SkimStone Surfaces and Marquetry Effects on Wood, Walls, and More! If you’ve been a good boy or girl and whisper in the right ear, you may just find one in your stocking this year….
September 6th, 2009
An Unrestrained Hand
This coming September 14-15, Modello Designs will be displaying at a booth at the HD Boutique in Miami for the first time. I’m very excited!! Our Modello Decorative Masking Patterns have been used before in hotel projects: The Grand Del Mar near San Diego, Peocock Pavilions in Marrakech, and the Lesic Dimitri Palace in Croatia. But that is just scratching the surface! My brain spins with the possibilities of our patterns dressing up surfaces in hotels and resorts all over the world…SO, this booth is my chance to introduce THAT world to MY world.
Our space is small (10′ x 10′), and I have a lot of possibilities I want to show, so my initial thought was to use a restrained hand and stick to a neutral color palette-to keep it very chic and elegant and “designer-ish”, based VERY loosely around a theme of a contemporary Moroccan-style tent. I started off well enough, sticking to a nice cream and warm beige for the Moroccan tile floor done in Skimstone to mimic inlaid travertine tile…..
…with tabletops done with Aurastone (thanks to David Rairick!) to look like inlaid marble.
I decided to use large-scale geometric patterns for the inside “walls” of the tent…
…introducing little pops of color here and there.
Little pops of color led to bigger pops of color for the outer walls…
…which led to even BIGGER pops of color for the “embroidered silk” panels that will hang in between…
over which specially designed patterned and distressed mirrors will hang…
…and did I mentioned that the inside of the tent ceiling will feature twinkling little mirror shapes cut from acrylic mirror? So much for using a restrained hand!!! See how and IF this all comes together next week……….;-)
for more photos on this “process”, please visit our Facebook Fan Page!