Painting VaVa Vienna

VaVa Vienna   68Hx26Wx16″D   With Garrett Hack furniture maker   2011   available

When Garrett approached me with the idea of collaborating on a piece of furniture I was hesitant. I had contributed to several 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 expensive item that I had ever painted. Not to mention all of the hours of perfect craftsmanship that would precede my part of the bargain. Not to mention that we had to live through the process together and with the results.

I began with trepidation to evolve 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. I worked on that 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 try to transfer the design to the front of the curved cabinet successfully because it was such a freely drawn pattern. Since 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 teaching, which was helpful for keeping stress at a minimum.

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

Since the inspiration was the city of Vienna, the design reflects some subconscious twist on folky 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.

Here are some images that show different trials before the final painting.

First design VaVaVienna

First design VaVaVienna

Second design VaVaVienna

Second design VaVaVienna

Third design VaVaVienna

Third design VaVaVienna

Forth design VaVaVienna

Forth design VaVaVienna

Fifth design VaVaVienna

Fifth design VaVaVienna

Painting the cabinet

Painting the cabinet

VaVaVienna finished in the shop

VaVaVienna finished in the shop