The Twinsburg Public Library Art Gallery
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Quick and easy!
The Twinsburg Public Library is one of Twinsburg's most dynamic community hubs. On any given day something interesting is taking place, with community or non-profit groups engaged in educational, cultural, intellectual, government or charitable activities throughout the year. But the one thing the library lacked was a gallery space to display works of art from local and other exhibition artists. Laura Leonard, the library director, had in mind to utilize a corridor space immediately left after the main entrace as an art gallery.
The corridor passage lead to restrooms and to double doors into other areas. The space was also used as an information center with brochure stands, plaques and a bulletin board along one of the walls. However, the wall directly across had art "show" potential. But how to make the space "gallery worthy"? Before we move on I want to give you a simple definition of what an art gallery does. Well, an art gallery does the same function as an art museum, that is, they exhibit works of art. However, and this is a big distinction, an art gallery is also a place of business because you can buy the art. This is why "gallery artists" would rather show their work in a gallery where it can be sold than have a painting hanging in a museum.
The first thing that came to mind as my partner, artist James Todd, showed me the space, was how cluttered and narrow it looked. Some weeks back Jim had been asked to come up with ideas for murals in another part of the library and I was doing a site visit to reinforce the "two heads are better than one" cliché. Now, if you want more on the story, please check out 2011, "Twinsburg Library Murals". In this page we will deal with the "faux" decorative part of the commission, and not the creation of the murals. Why? Because the decorative art of faux is different than the execution of fine art painting. So I thought it would be better to give each subject a different page. Okay? Now back to our narrative.
During the visit I took photographs of the area and then we proceeded to take measurements of all the walls. When doing decorative work one must have architectural blueprints, especifically, a floor plan and wall elevations. The purpose is to recreate scale renderings on which to "draw" designs. All decorators follow more or less the same process but I like to take this a step further. In my experience clients like to see a "photo" of the finished work BEFORE giving the green light. You can explain your ideas using sketches or simple color diagrams, but the great mayority of people do not think in "3D". It's hard for them to visualise and make up their minds. So for my own purposes I like to do computer simulations of the "before and after". This is the best way to "sell" any design and analyse the strenghts or weaknesses of any project.
Having the ability to carry out this kind of work is a must for any "conceptual artist". In fact, this is one of my greatest strenghts -and the reason I get so many commissions. I put on a good show. Most artist of a certain age do not use a computer to make renderings. They do what they have been comfortably doing for years, which is, using pencil and paper. Younger artists and designers who have grown up with computers tend to stay away from pencils. Sadly, some couldn't find their way to a simple sketch without a computer. I'm pragmatic. I will use the most effective way to get my point across and save time in the process. I like quick and easy! So working my ideas on PhotoShop has become my work model. This way I produce finished designs ready for execution and renderings ready for a PowerPoint presentation in one sweep.
After concluding our visit to the library, Jim and I stopped at a local coffeeshop to brainstorm ideas on the project for both gallery and murals. Discussing the gallery took less time since we saw the work as a straight forward decorative job. Jim's business, Dances with Walls, specializes on this kind of thing. For my part, I have done more walls than I care to remember. But the one undisputable thing about the entire commission was the given budget. It simply was not enough to do everything that was desired. But fortunately, after we presented a PowerPoint with our design ideas to library director Laura Leonard, she understood our predicament and in the end approved the necessary budget to complete the project as conceptualised.
Once we got the green light and initial funds were made available, we began work at the gallery space. You begin by stripping down the walls and then masking the top and bottom of the walls to protect the ceiling and floor. Then the walls were painted with a basecoat of Sherwin Williams water-base paint. I usually use Behr brand paints because I like their pigment saturation. However, Jim prefers Sherwin Williams brand. Both are good brands, but each artist has a personal preference. Now, since the walls were in excellent condition, priming was not necesary -though we hand washed the walls with a solution of soapy water and ammonia. The base-coat color, determined by your design, is darker than your lightest tone but lighter than our darkest tint.
Our design consited of painting a faux (painted) wainscot around the walls of the room and then applying a different finish to the upper section. Wainscoting panelling is usually done in wood to provide protection and old world charm to walls. In addition to an elegant look, it gives the optical illusion of making the walls look horizontally wider. What's more, by dividing the wall into two contrasting sections, the top darker than the bottom, it made the place look larger than it was. Walls tend to "draw back" when they are done in darker tones and "draw forward" when lighter tones are used. Compare the conceptual "before and after" renderings to see what I mean.
Our color palette was a warm earth tone which is very pleasant to the eye and a somewhat neutral background when paintings are hung in front. We added texture by sponging the surface with two different tones of it. For this part of the job we continued using water based paints. However, to avoid hard edge and achieve a smooth blend, the wall was kept wet by brushing water into a section before being texture. The color for the texturing was several shades lighter than the base coat. To lighten, we added white, yellow, water and clear medium (also called glazing medium) to the mix.
Before texturing, we marked the chair rail -a type of moulding fixed horizontally to the wall around the perimeter of a room at the top of the wainstcot, and then masked alone the line with one inch tape. We also drew the 'panels' on the wainscot section and taped this shapes as well. Next we did the texturing all over the walls and tape. When texturing we made sure to do so in a random pattern. However, when applying the second layer of texture, we worked some areas in a slight diagonal direction to create movement and interest to the wall.
After the texturing was done, we removed the masking tape to expose the base color. This became the "shadow" line of the panels and chair rail in the design. Next we painted the "highlighted" sections of the design to give it a simple but effective three dimensional look. We also painted the highlighted section of the chair rail, but once it dried, we covered it with masking tape (being thrifty, we actually used the same tape we previously removed from the shadow line).
The final step of the process was applying a dark semi-transparent glaze over the upper section of the wall. I wanted to achieve a smooth "leathery" look with tonal variations. I had used this technique before with very satisfactory results. Sunlight bleaches color away from walls in proportion to the amount of exposure. Therefore some areas appeal darker and other remain more saturated. To achieve this naturalistic look you apply more glaze in some areas and less on others. The important thing to keep in mind is to "think like sunlight". In other words, figure out the areas with more or less sun exposure.
Since you need time to work the wall and do very gradual blendings, we used an oil-base glaze because it takes longer to dry. To prepare the glaze we used a mixture of refined linseed oil, odorless turpentine, and a measured amount of Japan Drier. Glazes can change the chroma, value, hue and texture of a surface. But since they are semi transparent, you can still see the texture. To darken the glaze, we added Artist's oil colors (raw sienna, burnt umber and raw umber). Applying the glaze is easy enough. Simply brush it on the wall at a random pattern. Then blend the glaze on the surface and smooth out 'pouncing' the surface with a 'square stippling brush'. If you want to lighten an area either apply less glaze or wipe of any excess. To darken, apply more.
Keep in mind that linseed oil takes a long time to dry to the touch and even longer to cure (totally harden). To speed up the drying process we add Japan Drier to our mix. Japan Drier is an oil drying agent that accellerates the hardeing of oil paints. However, if you add too much drier the finish will "skin" over as the paint surface dries too fast. So experiment in advance and use liquid measuring cups when putting together your own formula. Add Japan Drier by counting a specific number of drops. Write down your fomula in case you need to make more medium or make quantity adjustments.
Having a glaze that takes longer to dry is ideal, but if you apply too much glaze it will run down the wall, especially if the wall is well primed and not very absolvent. Wipe off glaze with a cloth if the surface is too wet. The addition of Japan Drier to the mix will also shorten the time to do blending. So you have to work fast to avoid hard edges from glazed areas that are already setting in.
After dark glazing the top section of the walls, we glazed the lower section with an almost clear medium to bring out the richness of the texture. Then we cordoned the area from traffic, posted signs, and then waited 24 hours. The glaze has "skinned" over, which means it is dry to the touch, but it hasn't cure. It will take another two weeks for the oil to harden. In humid climates it could take a little longer.
We completed the job by removing the masking tape covering the chair rail highlight, retouching any areas where the glaze had bled through the tape, and then adding a deeper shadow line below the highlight. Then we cordoned off the area from traffic, posted signs, and then waited 24 hours. By then the glaze had "skinned" over, which meant it had dried to the touch, but not cured. It would take another two weeks for the oil to harden. In humid climates it could take a little longer.
Later on strip lighting was added to the ceiling and picture rails to the top of the walls from which to hang art works from strings or wires. Using this hanging method made sure the wall finish would not be destroyed by screws or nails. The entire project five days to complete. In closing I want to mention the fact that there are several techniques to achieve similar faux effects. For this job I combined water-base texturing with oil-base glazing because it provides speed as well as subtle gradations of tone where is needed. In addition, the cost of materials is very low but the results look very high end.
Library patrons were pleased and amazed with the finished look, especially considering that the entire effect "is only paint". Yep, and I have to agree with this assessment. You can do miracles with paint and you can do it fast. Just keep in mind one thing, "quick and easy" works if you use the right techniques and if you have the experience to do the job right.
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