Friday, August 20, 2010

French Antique Paint Techniques

French antique paint techniques can be used on furniture, picture and mirror frames, door and room moldings, or room accessories such as boxes, lamps, and candlesticks. These finishes work well on wood, but wrought-iron pieces, if cleaned, sanded, and primed, can be finished the same as wood. Wrought-iron pieces will need a final coat of non-yellowing polyurethane sealer to complete. Create wear, age, and add a hint of wealth and prosperity to any room with these French painting techniques. Does this Spark an idea?

Show Wear

Duplicate the intensely laborious painting technique incorporating gesso that the French used by using latex or acrylic paints and a wax finish---to obtain a sheen very similar to gesso. The most dramatic look occurs with a light-colored paint such as a white or off-white, but the process will work on pastels or lighter hues of blues, greens, reds, and yellows. Apply the paint in several coats, allowing each to dry to the touch. Mix a raw umber pigment (a dry powdered pigment found at professional art stores) with a beeswax polish---locate a polish that does not contain toluene, it's a carcinogen---and rub the mixture over the dry paint. If painting a wrought-iron piece, use a glazing mixture of raw umber and water (half and half), apply, and wipe off with a damp cloth when paint is slightly tacky. Use a fine grit sandpaper and rub the surfaces to reveal wear. Rub at corners, edges, around handles, and across the top and sides allowing some color to remain---but revealing the texture and surface underneath in sanded areas.

Show Age

The French love the use of a crackled background to show age. Decorative painting can be applied before or after the crackle effect has been applied. Crackle mediums are popular and each will have its own directions for use. However, there are a few ideas that need to be understood with any crackle product. Use at least two, preferably three, base coats before adding the crackle medium. Any color can be used for a base coat, but if adding decorative painting (fruits, florals) on top of or below the crackle, a pearl white works especially well. Do not use quick-dry paints. Allow the paint to dry naturally over the course of a day or two. Do not play with the crackle medium surface after it has been applied because it disturbs the chemical process taking place. The crackle pattern can be emphasized by brushing a dark glaze (half water, half paint) of burnt umber, black, or even a dark black-green over the dry crackle finish---and then using a damp cloth to wipe it away when it is still slightly sticky. Crackle finishes can be applied to wrought iron. Check the product before purchase to make sure wrought iron is listed as a safe surface.

Show Wealth

During the reign of Louis XIV, gilding was added to French antique painting techniques. This decorative technique is best used on furniture that has carved details, but it can be applied with a steady hand to a smooth surface along edges and curves to create a detailed gilded look. It works well over a painted surface that is then sanded away to show wear by applying it before the sanding occurs. An inexpensive way to apply gilding is to use a bright gold metallic paint and a small, pointed paint brush that fits easily into the cracks and details. Place the item being painted on a work surface so it can be seen at eye level.

Tags: been applied, crackle medium, damp cloth, French antique, painting techniques