Painting VaVa Vienna

VaVaVienna blog

VaVaVienna detail

VaVaVienna 68x26x16 collaboration with Garrett Hack

When Garrett approached me to collaborate on a piece of furniture I was hesitant. I had contributed to several of his previous pieces by painting small panels or columns with faux finishes of marble, malachite, or lapis lazuli but this time he wanted me to freehand a pattern for the front of curved cabinet that he was planning on building in rosewood. He was confident that we could create a design that would give this rather formal piece a lively persona. He handed me a small sketch of a few squiggles and dots and told me to take it from there.

As a theatrical designer/scenic I’ve painted on lots of kinds of surfaces and objects but this was definitely going to be the most demanding piece that I’d ever painted after reflecting on all of the hours of perfect craftsmanship that would precede my participation.

First design VaVaVienna


I began by translating the squiggles and dots into a design scaled to size on tracing paper. The next step was working with color that could live on the rosewood. I decided to faux paint a piece of canvas of the same size as the front of the cabinet to match the rosewood that he was working with and developed designs on the painted canvas until we came to some agreement about the pattern and color scheme.

The pattern that we came up with was flowing and had tendrils that floated on the wood surface. It would be risky to transfer the design to the front of the curved cabinet successfully because it was such a freely drawn pattern and because there were still alterations that I wanted to make in the design. I decided to freehand it. We moved the piece into my studio and I painted it while Garrett was away which helped to keep stress at a minimum.

Third design VaVaVienna

I chose colors that would enhance the beauty of the wood and concentrated the brighter color towards the center of the piece as a focal point. The colors become darker and closer to the value of the wood as the pattern moves away from the center. I added gold leaf in small areas and texture to contrast the smoothness of the wood surface.

Forth design VaVaVienna

The inspiration came from the city of Vienna and the design reflects a subconscious twist on eastern exoticism. The forms flow like parts of a Klimt painting but with a nod to the Turks who almost overran the city in 1683 and whose influence on design can still be seen there, as well as Dr. Sigmund Freud who was probably haunting my unconscious mind while designing this.

Fifth design VaVaVienna

Painting the cabinet

VaVaVienna finished in the shop