Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Golden Rule of Aging...Furniture!

If I had lived thirty years ago, people would have thought I was crazy for putting fresh new paint on something...and then making it look old.  But isn't that what's all the rage right now?  And I also find that it alleviates some of my don't-scratch-the-brand-new-shiny-paint stress.  Because no one really notices a scratch on a piece that's already distressed.





Newly built table, aged with lots of love...and paint.
So how does one make a piece look old, when it's relatively new or has a new paint job?  Each type of material ages differently, and I'm not going to go through them all, but let's talk about a couple that will demonstrate a principal.  When we get the principal, we can pretty much age anything we want!  Well, not anything, but you get the point.

Well, I'm going to start by sharing a secret with you--the secret of where I learned most of what fills my bag of tricks.

I learned most of what I know in theatre.  During college & 2 years after, I was a Scenic Artist.  Scenic Artists are a little-known huddle of people who paint theatrical scenery.  Contrary to common beliefs, there are no little magic painting elves who come out at night.  Nor is there a giant "rental store" in the sky where theatres get their sets.  People design them, build them, and paint them.  It's still pretty magical, though.  They take things that are brand spankin' new, and make them look like they've had a long life.  Like this set below from the show Urinetown (Say What?  Yeah, it's really called that), which was rust-free...before me.  This is after about a month of painting.

Age using Rust
 Credits:  Produced by Dordt College 2009.  Set Design by Laurel Koerner, who is now studying to be a world famous actress.  Seriously, she's fantastic.

I know what you're thinking.  "Was that a toilet??"  Yes, yes it was.

Oh, and did I mention that I was also in this show as part of the ensemble?
Because I'm into publicly humiliating myself and I have no sense of shame, meet "Soupie Sue"--together with her then-boyfriend, Joe.  He still asked me to marry him--at least I know he didn't marry me just for my charming good looks :)
Before we talk about the steps to painting rust, and while I give you a chance to recover from that nasty toilet, let me introduce you to my Golden Rule of Aging.
The most effective finishes take into account how the piece would age naturally.  Where would the paint chip off?  Where do people kick, touch, spill, etc...?  A good aging job ages a piece where it would naturally occur--around handles on a dresser or door, near the ground for a building, high-traffic areas on a floor, crevices on a sculpture, etc...  Thinking through the natural process keeps me from "Over-Distressing" a piece.  Now on to the details.
Painting Realistic Rust  
Basically, rust has 3-4 colors.
1.  Pale whitish-green.
2.  Burnt orange
3.  Medium-dark Reddish brown
4.  Dark, Dark brown (think dark chocolate...yum)

Using a sponge, apply each color, starting from the top of the list, to whatever object you want to rust.  Start with #1, and let that dry.  Then go on to #2, etc...

KEY #1:  The trick to realistic rust is that it does not cover the entire object evenly.  Rust forms where water stays, so the lowermost part of an object will be the most rusted, whereas the top may just show some oxidation (the oxidation is paint color #1.  Metal turns green with oxidation--think Statue of Liberty).  THEREFORE you should paint a large area with #1, a smaller, lower area with #2, and so on, until #4 is only used on the darkest, most corroded areas.  When in doubt, refer to the "Golden Rule of Aging."

KEY #2:  Since water is what forms rust in the first place, sometimes using some water in the application of your paint can give it some nice drippy parts.  Have fun, it's just paint!  (But maybe stay away from your hubby's brand new shiny metal toys...I'm an advocate of lifelong marriage).

Age Using a Bronze Patina
Next from my bag o' tricks, let me introduce you to a bronze statue, located in Medora, North Dakota.  This is the real statue, which was my job to replicate:
We constructed the man from mannequin parts and clothes, attaching each piece this way and that until we had the structure right.  Here's a picture story:
Yes, that is blue yarn hair.  Jealous?
After he was all together, we sprayed him down many, many times with polyurethane to make him...well, for lack of a better word...stiff.
Moving On.
Ahem, next we painted the guy Bronze.  Why did we paint him bronze first?  Because of the Golden Rule of Aging, of course!  You have to start from the beginning and work to the end.
After much patina-ing (is that even a word?) he looked like this!
We started by spraying a dark brown into the crevices to create contrast.  Next we sprayed, sponged, and ragged-on (wad up a rag, dip it in paint, and use it like a sponge!) on aqua blue/green, making sure to pick places that we wanted aged, and leaving some places a bright bronze.  

Here is a side-by side comparison. 








































I think our guy needs to eat a little more.   

Now, I don't believe that you're going to go out and buy yourself some mannequin parts and boots, or that you're going to age all the duct work in your home (If you do, please send me pictures).  But these helpful hints apply to any aging, including furniture (see how I'm bringing the point around to application?  This is like a 3-part sermon, look at me!).  For the completion of my "application" point, here is the desk from last week for you to check out.  


Check Ya' Later!

~The Doodle Bug


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