I have always had a fascination with faux finishes whether it was stone, wood, leather or brick. There was just something about it that always fascinated me. My earliest recollections of this fascination was in Middle School (Junior High) I started building doll houses. I called it my secret shame – lol, not many people knew I did this. I remember I wanted a kitchen cabinet set, it was solid mahogany and real marble. The price was close to $800 (seriously building doll houses is like model trains it can be expensive!) My mom laughed at me and said no. I just spent $90 on a solid oak table (no chairs) for my doll house – it was my money but still I can’t fathom spending now, lol. My grandmother suggested that I should paint it to look like marble and mahogany. My response was you can do that? My grandma said oh yes and they have been doing it for centuries. Very skeptical I went to the library and got a book about faux finishes. The book contained pictures from a house in Macon, Georgia called the Hay House (little did I know 10 years later I would be visiting that house for school.) I was fascinated if you didn’t know it wasn’t painted you would have no idea. The marble looked real and the wood was so fantastically done you could have sworn it took years to carve but no all FAKE!
I ended up faux painting the whole doll house. The tiles in the bathroom, the tub, the kitchen and the fireplace. I was hooked I wanted to Faux EVERYTHING! When you are in middle school there isn’t a whole lot to faux, lol. My faux knowledge did come in handy in high school with doing set design. I faux finished a fake curio cabinet and all the trim to look like a 19th century Victorian Style interior. I was quite proud of that. The other was a huge window on the drop (for the Sound of Music) that my friend and I decided needed to happen opening day. Thirty minutes before the curtain opened we (there were 8 of us) were on scaffolding with 8 hair dyers trying to get it to dry faster. Good Times!
Then I decided on the Major Historic Preservation (yes I did choose it by throwing darts at a dart board but it was still a fun major). One of the classes I took was Historic Paint Analysis. I can’t even describe how much I LOVED this class (if I could have taken this class over repeatedly, I would have!) Not only did you learn about the chemical make up of paint through history but you learned about how to paint faux finishes from a restorationist’s point of view. We learned how to paint frescos, other faux finishes (stone and wood) and how to see how many layers of paint there is on a wall and match the color. The field trip for the class was to the Hay House in Macon, Georgia. It was amazing and everything was a faux finish: wood or stone. I had to write a 12 page research paper on Lapis Lazuli and its uses throughout history (I also needed to provide an example of a faux piece.) Some of the interesting things I learned about Lapis Lazuli it was ground into powder and used as eye shadow for Cleopatra, also used as the blue in Ultramarine Blue up until the19th century, when synthetic were introduced. Lapis was a status symbol in ancient civilizations because the stone was only found and mined in modern day Afghanistan. I personally love Lapis Lazuli it is one of my favorite stones and granted the faux is not as nice as Lunar Skies real lapis pieces but I think it will fool most people.
First you need a reference picture or the real thing. Then the hard part figuring out the colors. I use very mid-evil technique called eyeballing it. I literally hold the bottle up (if it is clear) or unscrew the cap and compare the color to the reference photo. I then work from the base up.
The colors used in this project:
FOLK ART #484 Brilliant Ultramarine
APPLE BARREL #20411 Cobalt Blue
LIQUITEX Phthalo Blue
FOLK ART #954 Fresh Foliage
APPLE BARREL #20583 Victorian Green
APPLE BARREL #20512 Burnt Umber
FOLK ART #515 Vintage White
You will need assorted brushes and an old toothbrush.
The base is the Brilliant Ultramarine. I painted it solid over a piece of an old cereal box. I then used the Phthalo Blue to in random c-stroke fashion to mimic the depth of the stone. Working quickly I added Cobalt Blue and mixed on the cardboard with water. I added the Fresh Foliage and a little Victorian Green to add to the depth of the piece. The Brunt Umber was also added to mimic the stone. Once that was complete I took a toothbrush and splattered the Victorian White and Brunt Umber to reflect the flecks in natural Lapis. I then added Liquitex Gloss Medium and Varnish to finish the piece (make it shiny!)
Close up of the Faux Lapis Painted on a Cereal Box
The Faux Lapis Lazuli on a piece I casted with my homemade casting.
I will demoing this technique LIVE at NOON EST on In the Paint Box in