Artwork, July Update

July has actually been a busy month for me in terms of art projects. While I haven’t made any new prints or cyanotypes, I have finished some mixed media paintings, and have undertaken a new knitting project. Today though, I’ll show you a personal project I finished last month: a painted end table.

The end table before repainting. We liked its height and shape, but thought it looked a little worn, especially around the legs.

Brandon and I recently acquired the table from Goodwill for our living room after realizing we’d been using a cardboard box for over a year (then again, we’ve been living in a pandemic since 2020, so not exactly a high priority). It was a perfectly serviceable piece, with pleasant, curvilinear legs and a couple of drawers, but it looked a little worse for wear, with various scratches and dents peppered throughout the piece. I figured that I could improve its appearance by repainting it though, so we took it home.

I’ve been painting furniture for several years now. In college, I spent the summer between my freshman and sophomore year decorating furniture for one of the local gift shops in Kennebunkport, painting mermaids, seashells, and other touristy subjects on everything from boxes and tables to giant clamshells. I’ve also occasionally painted furniture as Christmas presents for my parents and other close family and friends. While it had been several years since I’d last painted any furniture, I knew I’d be able to do it quickly and efficiently given my prior experience.

The table after I painted it gray. I like how the matte paint helped turn the drawers into a focal point, so I left them unpainted.

I painted the end table in about a week, and used cheap acrylic paint, which isn’t the best medium but it gets the job done. My goal was to finish the table before Brandon and I went on vacation, as I knew I’d probably lose interest in the project by the time we came back. For the base color, I selected gray because I figured it would harmonize with the rest of our furniture, regardless of whether we moved the table to another room in the future. Initially I was going to paint the entire piece, but I ended up leaving the drawers unpainted because I liked the contrast between the wood and the gray matte color.

In keeping with my overall interest in local flora and fauna, I decided to cover the table with one of my favorite subjects here in Virginia: giant magnolia flowers. Although I’d seen magnolias before, usually in botanical gardens or arboretums, I wasn’t familiar with the giant variety until we moved here. Initially I liked them for their novelty. They didn’t look like anything I’d seen in New Mexico, and they helped me begin to develop a sense of place in my then-new surroundings. Since then, I’ve come to love these flowers for their intense fragrance and especially for their velvety, luminous petals.

Here’s the flower featured in the above sketches. Naturally Gustave found the setup very interesting and had to investigate.

For the table, I relied on previous sketches as models. I used one of my most recent studies for the top, while on the sides I referenced older drawings that featured leaves as well as flowers, introducing more saturated hues into the piece. In keeping with my recent interest in further developing the painting part of my creative practice, I used no pencil outlines on the table, instead launching right into the project with paint.

Here’s the finished table:

Overall I’m pleased with how this came out. The table looks a lot better than it did when we first got it, and it’s definitely a big improvement over the cardboard box. I’m also pleased with my increasing comfort with painting, something I’ve been noticing since undertaking my daily abstraction experiment in 2019. And in keeping with my interest in working with practical objects, this is a piece that Brandon and I are already using, whether for setting down mail, or storing random tools.

Not bad for a Goodwill piece.

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