Posts Tagged ‘paint’

A recent customer wrote to me:

I love your style, a perfect combination of texture, color, and form, that looks and feels gently worn, yet alive.

“Gently worn, yet alive” is exactly what I’m going for. My birds tell a story. The first story in the story of my experience with the bird. The second story is what I put into the bird through form, color and texture. The third story is the story revealed to the viewer what they hold a bird or whale or goat in their hand.

I study color and texture an experiment in ways to convey them in my work. The following pieces are from my collection of stuff and are textures that I cherish and work towards re-creating. These were created by the master of distressed and interesting surfaces — Time.

Tfullsizeoutput_8a7his is the tool box that I take to demonstrations. I bought it for the finish. It’s a simple well worn homemade plywood box with steel hasps and corners. It had a disintegrating wet formed leather handle that I recovered.

I love the pale green alligatored paint with subtle white splatter. Bare wood The circle is from my own shellac can. The single light blue drop is mine as well.

fullsizeoutput_8a8This is another side of the same box. I stenciled “50 Little Birds” across the side. One this side there are two layers of bright yellow-green paint. The top coat has alligatored into fine grains. The paint is worn to wood following the grain of the plywood veneer. The hardware is painted as well.
This is the top of the wooden stool that I sit on at my bench. It was left behind when a co-worker left the school where I was teaching. He always knew that I fullsizeoutput_8a9liked it and I suspect it was left on purpose.

It was once painted red over white and then alligatored. Decades of rear ends have worn much of it to bare wood that has been rubbed smooth. It has some splatter — black spot can be seen here.

fullsizeoutput_8a6This is one of the many white cedar lobster bouys that I picked up as a kid. Lobster bouys were so much more substantial and interesting when they were made of wood. These were made from massive blocks of wood and were turned on a lathe. This wasn’t fancy work and the gouge marks are still visible.

This bouy was primed in orange — often whatever house paint that could be aquired. The red with a green stripe indicate which fisherman owned the bouy. An identical one was displayed on the boat. I love these three colors together. I also love that the red exposed beneath the failing green paint has not faded. It’s also important to note that most of the red paint is missing from the surfaces that would make the most contact.


Years ago i got a bargain on a huge poplar dresser and cabinet. It’s almost 5′ tall and 6′ long. It contain 8 drawers (Three of which are larger than most dressers) and a hanging locker. It was so large that we had to remove the cap on my full sized pickup to load it.

It was to be put in my (then) upstairs studio — but it could not negotiate the turn in the stairs. It now sits in our living room with the TV atop.

It’s been painting — at least — three times. It has a few stories to tell and I’ve can’t make sense of them.

IMG_0810Looking at the door, It is clear that the green paint is under the grained red paint. This is counter to what would be expected. In general faux grained finishes pre-date “institutional” green. The hardware is painted with both colors indicating that there is — probably — at least another color (the original color) underneath.

Another mystery is the row of orange dots under each bin pull/drawer pull. They were painted when the piece was “institutional” green.

These are the finishes that I seek out. These are the finishes that I collect. These are the finishes I strive to re-create.

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As you might imagine I draw birds a lot. Many folks have suggested that I sell bird drawings or painting or sketches or prints. I also would like something that can be quickly reproduced for repeat sales. (I’m always a little jealous of artists that sell prints. How I would love to quickly and inexpensively reproduce a carving that took me 3-4 hours to produce and sell it again!)

I’ve developed five or six 5″ x 7″ bird portraits. Pictured here is a first color study.

I see several options and would be interested in advise or opinions.

1) I could do a few of these, scan them and sell the originals and digital prints.

2) I could scan the black and white outlines, print them digitally and hand color each print.

3) I could scan the black and white outlines and have plates made to letterpress the outlines and hand color.

Each option has pros and cons. I love the last option but the plates are expensive. It can also be a lot of work getting clean prints — but boy are they snazzy!

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Class Title:  Creating an Interesting Finish –  Little Bird Carvings
Instructor:  Geoff Davis
Cost:  $60 including materials, $100 combined morning and afternoon sessions
Date and Time:  Saturday, August 7,  1:00 – 5:00
Location:  Judge Stone House – Woodworking Studio, 107 S. 8th Street,  Noblesville, Indiana
Registration:  Call (317) 565-7132 and leave a message.  You will receive a confirmation call.
Class Limit:  8 Students

Skill Level: Beginner to Intermediate

Class Description:

Geoff Davis carves little birds.  Last year he pledged 50 to help the Folk School to raise money for construction and technology costs.  Since this time he’s carved and painted nearly 100 little birds.

In his unique style influenced by folk carvers such as Charles Hart and Wilhelm Schimmel, Geoff carves and paints the birds that are a part of his life using simple and inexpensive tools and materials.

Join Geoff for an afternoon discussing an exploring the many steps to producing a distressed finish using a combination of modern and traditional finishes. Geoff’s finishes have a rich depth and luster that invites observers to handle and rub his work.

Students may bring their own carved and unfinished birds to be decorated.  Students who do not have a carved bird may purchase flatties (unpainted 2-dimensional cutouts) for $5 each.

Combine this class with a carving class the same morning.  You will save money and have a bird ready to paint.

This class often fills quickly.  Register soon.

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Color is an important element of my work with 50 Little Birds.  I’ve described my work (and more interesting I’ve heard it described) as three dimensional paintings.  Non-bird elements of my work — bases, cabinetry, shelves and boxes — are also painted.  I use a limited palette to maintain the look and feel that I desire.

When I first wrote and taught about my painting techniques I was a bit of a snob.  I only used the highest quality aritst acrylics.  I mixed each color it was used.

Last summer my wife, Julie, was painting our Hannah’s, our oldest at home, bedroom.  I particularly liked a smoky grey-black that she had chosen for her trim.  I began, without much thought, to substitute this color for the black that I used on my crows and penguins.

I began to haunt the mis-tint shelf and home improvement stores.  I discovered a great robin’s egg blue that I’d been trying to mix with limited success.

Lowe’s began to advertise that they would mix any color in sample sizes.  I collected paint chips (Which I do anyway…Is that an artist thing?) and looked for the colors that i needed to execute my work. (Valspar, Lowe’s House brand, has Indianapolis roots)

With few exceptions these paints perform as well or — in some cases like yellows and blues — better.

The best news?  These paints cost about half what artists’ paints cost and I’ve eliminated most of the messy and wasteful mixing.

Recently I reviewed my basic rules .  Here’s Number 2.

2) I use only wood, found materials, tools and finishes that would have been available to vernacular artists in the 1930s or before.

The use of locally mixed colors from Steve (Yes, I’ve come to know the paint man) at Lowe’s fits well with this rule.  In fact, I’m not sure that artist paints should have been used in the first place.

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Saturday, May 15, 2009
1:00 – 5:00
Geoff Davis, Instructor
Blue Stone Folk School Parlor Studio
Cost $60 includes materials.
You will need to bring an unfinished bird (or two) from the whittling class.

Geoff Davis carves little birds and he recently pledged his first 50 to help the Folk School to raise money to complete our new studio and gallery.

In his unique style influenced by folk carvers such as Charles Hart and Wilhelm Schimmel Geoff carves the birds that are a part of his life using simple and inexpensive tools and materials.

Spend an afternoon with Geoff discussing the notion of “honest distressing” as you explore adding subtle layers of color and texture to develop a sense of age and wear.

Each student will leave class with a their own finished songbird carving and the knowledge and skills to begin to tackle other distressing projects on their own.

Additional carving blanks will be available for purchase.

Skill level beginner to intermediate.

Click here to reserve space.

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