Friday, February 27, 2015

Pompeii No.45: Refinished Regency Chairs

Last August I posted about four Regency chairs that were a gift from my friend Sandy. I talked about them and their interesting history in Pompeii No. 24, here.

The chairs were painted an awful mustard yellow, and had very dated upholstery. When I took them to a local refinisher, I discovered that they were made of mahogany, but that they also had endured several repairs. The refinisher insisted that he could redo them so that I'd never notice the repairs, but he doesn't know me too well! I opted to paint them instead.
I toyed with the idea of painting my chairs black and gold and upholstering them in a red fabric (which might have approximated the handsome Regency chairs above) but in the end, I decided to use colors from the mural. It's a small room, after all, and I wanted the chairs to complement rather than overshadow the art.

I had the chairs painted a color to match Sherwin Williams' "Arresting Auburn," and had them upholstered in a moire silk to match Sherwin Williams' "Alaea." Those are the two colors that one sees as the mural's columned backgrounds.

One of the refinished chairs

Here's one of the chairs in place. The chair and mural colors are more in sync than this photograph shows. Note that the back of the chair is level with the painted chair rail.

click to enlarge
Here's the first full view of the Pompeii Room as it appears today. Because the room is quite small, the chairs will eventually be grouped around a small table that will fit either under the window or against the wall opposite the right-hand doorway.

There are still details to address — the table I mentioned, a lamp for the table, a window treatment to replace the venetian blinds that I've been graying out, the tympanum that my faithful commentors urged me to detail, and the painting of a marble plaque to go over the window.

Those will all happen in due time.

But don't go away!! In my next posting, the mural of the Pompeii Room will migrate to the next room. I hope you'll be there for the next chapter!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Pompeii No.44: The Moulding & Chair Rail

I often paint mouldings and frames into the art I do on canvas, like the detail above. As I was working on this canvas (which is as yet unfinished), I thought it would be fun to incorporate such a moulding as an element of the Pompeii Room. Maybe a little simpler, though.

The moulding I settled on was borrowed from this exceptional stone entrance that I photographed in New York City.

As you can see from this early diagram (used in Pompeii No. 13), it was almost from the beginning my intention to have a chair rail and moulding separating the green bar from the red wainscoting. So let's get started.

click to enlarge
Here's how the chair rail and moulding look today. The green takes on a very different quality now that it's framed by the yellow and not immediately juxtaposed to that deep red. Below are other images of the room, and its new moulding.


Saturday, February 7, 2015

Pompeii No.43: The Right Pompeian Red
You may remember that when I started painting the Pompeii Room, I chose an earthy red that Sherwin Williams calls Ablaze. The Ablaze paint chip looks like the square below.

Certain paint colors — like red and yellow — can be tricky. When I study paint chips, I look at them in different lights, including taking the chip outdoors to see it in natural light. Nonetheless, the translation from chip to wall can be surprising. In my case, the almost brick red of the chip turned into a bright red on the wall.

While Ablaze was a little too bright for my specific purpose, it probably would have been the hue that the Pompeians themselves preferred.  |  |  |
The Pompeians derived their reds from the earth, using — from left to right — red ochre, iron ore, hematite and madder root. The image on the far left (of red ochre) is from the Wilgie Mia Mine in Australia.

Of course, when working with stuff that was quite brown in its raw state, a brighter color would be the most preferred. The best red of Pompeii was a vermilion made from the cinnabar mineral. We've come to associate the word cinnabar with fine Asian objets d'art like the box below, in the Victoria & Albert Museum.

photo by R. Weller/Cochise College  |
The Pompeian paint made from cinnabar was 16 times more expensive than the paint made from red ochre, and the raw materials to make the paint would have been supplied by the wealthy client.

Despite the prestige of a bright red made from cinnabar, I opted to use a darker red, more like red ochre. My thought was that the darker red would better complement the auburn that is the base color for the upper panels. I went with a color Sherwin Williams calls Cochineal, and above you can see the difference between the before and after.

I bought two quarts of Cochineal and began painting over the original red. To my great dismay, the darker red would not cover the brighter red! I went to Sherwin Williams (I am not remunerated for mentioning the brand), and the employees there informed me that I would need to cover the original red with a gray primer, and then paint at least three coats of the Cochineal red.
 I have to admit that for a moment I reverted to an earlier mode of expression.

Here's the wainscoting brought back to a gray primer. The paint store said I would need a least three coats of the new red, but in fact I painted four coats of Cochineal.

Here you can see the progression from Ablaze to gray to Cochineal. The Cochineal is essentially the color of the window frame's original shadow.

And here's the revised, deeper red. I still have to paint the switch plate, but I'm leaving that for a little later. In my next posting, we'll do something fun with that bar of gray, so I hope you'll check back then!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Pompeii No.42: A Return for Marcus Aurelius

My original idea for filling this wall was to create a trompe l'oeil arrangement that resembled a wall of the London residence of Sir John Soane.
Not only was Soane England's premier Neoclassical architect, but he appears to have been the first person to collect architectural salvage on a large scale. Later in life, he trained young architects from his house, and his collection became an important source of learning for them. Sir John Soane had a very modern design sense, and I'm a huge fan of his work. You can read more about him in the homage I posted here.

At some point, though, I realized that to continue my masonry lines and to also paint architectural remnants would be much too busy, and that I would be better off to pick one great sculpture and give it preeminence.

I settled on this huge sculpture of barbarians kneeling before Emperor Marcus Aurelius, who is about to pardon them. The sculpture, which is nearly life-sized, is incorporated into the main staircase of the Palazzo del Conservatori, one of the Capitoline Museums. It's interesting that the emperor's gesture mirrors the statue of him that is in front of the same museum, below.

Looking at the composition, I was bothered by one head that seemed slightly out of scale, and which, in my opinion, detracted from the head of the emperor's immediate companion, Tiberius Claudius Pompeianus. And so I took the liberty of removing it — adiós!

I begin by outlining the figures. All the straight lines are still in pencil because I'll go back and define them with a straightedge.

click to enlarge
Next I work in the middle of the image because I want to be satisfied with all the faces early in the process. I'm using Sherwin Williams paints the same way I'd use artists' acrylics, developing depth through washes of increasingly darker tones. I generally paint a range of middle tones, then paint darker tones, then paint highlights. Most of the real work is done in the middle tones.

click to enlarge
Here's the final image, what I call the Marcus Aurelius Plaque. You might recall that there is a roundel portrait of the emperor on the other side of the kitchen door, so I now also have a Marcus Aurelius Wall.

Looking towards the living room — I painted the plaque to match the coloration of the transom sculptures.

Here's a view looking back towards the kitchen.

In the next posting, I'll address something that's been bothering me for months, and I know it will improve the whole room. I hope you'll join me then!


Sunday, January 11, 2015

Pompeii No.41: The Kitchen Masonry

Here's the kitchen masonry painted, and now the Pompeii Room is starting to look finished on all three sides (four, if you count the transom). As you can see, the mural turns a corner into the living room, to meet a bookcase.

Because the masonry is rather stylized, I've kept the pediment equally simple, but I haven't decided whether it should be more ornate. On one hand, more detail might be fun, and on the other hand, no amount of detail will make the pediment truly trompe l'oeil because the 3-dimensional door frame is always seen at close range. What do you think — more detail, or leave as is?

Here's the kitchen surround, looking into the living room. As you can see, the kitchen masonry dovetails into the transom, which in turn meets the masonry of the opposite wall.

I've left room for a plaque to go in this space, and it might just be my favorite detail yet. Can you guess what will go here? All will be revealed in the next posting, and I hope you'll join me then!