Thursday, March 31, 2011

Back to the Future?

Profile of our latest project... quite reminiscent of my first!
Three-color sponging technique, strie' mouldings and a colored ceiling.
"The wheel is come full circle."  William Shakespeare

Return to the Start.  Everything old is new again.  Back to the Future.

Am I experiencing a time loop?

Funny.  An amazing thing just happened.  I just re-created my first professional job ever!

Remember sponging?  Well, I started my career because I was a whiz with a sponge.  Here is the first, real job I ever did for a paying client that wasn't a relative!  Circa 1997, Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn NY.  (For an more embellished and entertaining narrative of how my business came to be, please read the story I wrote for NY Resident.)


I recently installed a fresh finish for an awesome client inspired by the above project, MY FIRST JOB EVER (did I mention that already?!).  And here I am "reflecting" on how far I have come in 14 years.


This is a sponging variation technique that I have mastered.
It is created with at least 3 colors.
The trick is to always keep a clean, wet sponge near you...
for knocking down the wet color and softening the freckles.
Sponge On, Sponge Off...
What they say about time is turing out to be quite true.

Yes, it does go fast.  And yes, much has changed yet much remains the same.

The wall colors vary slightly from the Alpha to the Omega, but both ceilings are Benjamin Moore's #256.  It's still one of my favorite colors.

#256 is not yellow.  It's not green.  It's Golden Green.  A rich, full-bodied color that is the ultimate neutral.  A little bit of a "surprise," lending a gentle "pop" to a very classic, serious room.  It pushes the envelope ever so slightly... just enough to keep you on your toes.  Gorgeous with red.  Stunning with navy blue.  Lovely with yellows.  Elegant with browns.  And magnificent with creamy whites.

I have to laugh because when I started my career Benjamin Moore did not have names for their colors. Colors were only referred to numerically.  And so things change.  #256 is now referred to as Westwood Tan.

Yet, nothing changes either... and to this day, whenever I show someone these old snapshots of the Carroll Gardens job, everyone ignores my painting and fawns over the fireplace!  You did too, didn't you?!


Monday, March 28, 2011

Divine Intervention: Rescuing A Room

So what happens when you have a room, with walls that boast a very expensive, muli-layered finish (like venetian plaster)... and you can't stand it?

Perhaps the artisan who installed the finish made one or two boo boos that you thought you could live with.  And you were wrong.

Perhaps this room is a small powder room on the first floor of a really busy, bustling home... and is hands-down the most often used room in the house.  Over time, additional boo boos, nicks and bruises appeared.

And finally, perhaps you have children... three to be exact... so add them and their antics to the mix and well, you can guess the picture...


Before you paint over it and trash the whole thing... is there another alternative?  YES!  You say a little prayer and you call Divine Rooms!

This olive green venetian plaster treatment was discolored in a
few areas. Note the patch above the sink.  This annoyed my
clients but they cleverly hid the spot with a mirror!
This would bother me too.
These patches happen when the plaster is applied too
thickly.  It tends to dry darker.  Very thin, tight coats are
critical for proper installation of venetian plaster.
I'm not really big on "inheriting problems" (contractor-speak for fixing, repairing or finishing another artisans work).  But I felt up to the challenge.  It was a perfect candidate for Divine Intervention.

Venetian plaster cannot be repaired.  I knew to "fix" this issue I would essentially need to do two things: 1.) distract the eye and 2.) camouflage the boo boos with "pattern."  The perfect way to achieve this was to stencil a dense design and add more colors.  Because the surface was a high gloss, waxed finish I didn't want to compete with the shine... so I selected mica powders as my medium, for their rich metallic lustre.  Gloss and lustre compliment each other quite well when you are looking to enhance with richness and depth.

This stencil, called Corsini Damask, is from the lovely
and comprehensive Royal Design Studio collection.
I chose to work with a darker green (for a tone-on-tone effect) and a complimentary reddish, coppery color for highlights.  The green color was created by mixing a Modern Masters green metallic, gold mica powder and brown metallic powder together with a pinch of a very durable, clear medium that dries rock hard.  The second color is a coppery reddish gold mica powder mixed with a touch of brown metallic powder, also with the clear medium.  Applying anything over a waxed surface is not easy, as wax is intended to seal and thereby render the surface impervious.  However, I tested my mixture on sample boards and was confident they could withstand wipe downs and heavy room traffic.

The mica mediums went on somewhat sheer so as not to obscure the venetian plaster underside.  Oh!  And before I began I washed down the walls.  Very important if you intend on "rescuing a room."  Always, always, always start with a clean surface.  You wouldn't put make-up on a dirty face, would you?

Beautiful!  The essence of the room is hard to capture
due to the high-gloss shine and glow of the materials. 
The wall with the most damage... viola!
Nothing but gorgeous now!

Another look... BEFORE
and AFTER!
Sometimes it really isn't necessary to scrap a room and start from scratch. Sometimes all you need is a little faith, some patience and a pretty stencil!


Thursday, March 24, 2011

Spring Forward 2011, part 2

The hearty crocuses in our front yard now covered in snow. as I was saying with Monday's post... what a difference a day makes!  And still trusting in the Divine Design...  the walk of faith continues...

In Brooklyn, we awoke to snow on the ground for the second day in a row.  We are still moving forward into Spring... although this wintry mix has us all thrown.  Sometimes a frozen day is just an optical illusion!

Here's my story: I prepared (for 3 days) an outstanding blog posting on a recent design event I attended in NYC.  This blog was pretty comprehensive... chock full of inspirations, information, photos and corresponding links to artists and designers I wished to share with my readers.  

I incomprehensibly (and stunningly) accidentally deleted it.  

I tried for nearly 2 hours to retrieve it, to no avail.  So, rather than just cancel a blog entry today and curse the computer gods... let's instead look at what simultaneously is on my desk top.  And let's remember there are no accidents. 

Important: to hear the gorgeous music that fully enhances each video clip, please disable the music on DivinePainter by pressing the pause button on the aqua blue ipod to the right and down a bit on your screen...

This beautiful video was posted on the incredible website Crystalinks.  This is a website devoted to all metaphysical topics.  The founder, Ellie Crystal, practically invented the blog over a decade ago.  I couldn't believe the synchronicity of our recent blog postings.  I watched this video with tears streaming down my face!

This clip was shared by friend, Matt Wade, this morning and absolutely made my day...  Incidentally, Matt is the CEO of Talisman Guidance Solutions.  Talisman: from Greek word "telein"means "to initiate into the mysteries."  How rich is that?!

Divine Design.  I am a part of the Great Creation.  

Isn't it amazing how the universe immediately shifts and hands you a situation to match your thoughts?  A chance to put wisdom into action?  The unseen hand has other ideas about what I should be sharing today! 

These videos are simply extraordinary.  Aren't you incredibly uplifted knowing you are a part of this Great Creation?  Isn't technology (another aspect of the Divine Design) playing an extraordinary role in our enlightenment and spiritual development... (especially when we delete stuff)?

Wishing you all warmth and joy on this early spring, snowy morning.  Happy weekend!


Monday, March 21, 2011

Springing Forward 2011, part 1

What a difference...
...a day makes.
(Small and hearty crocuses in our front yard!)

A special person (Kindred Spirit) in my life is undergoing a complete transformation (upheaval) and experiencing all sorts of wonderful opportunities (crises).  Here's a sampling of our most recent dialogue (therapy session) that I just have to share with you (remind myself):

KS: I am numb, completely numb.
AGP: Have faith.  Just hold on and have faith.
KS: In what?  Nothing is working out.  Nothing is going as planned.  Everything is falling apart.
AGP: Have faith that it's all coming together, it's all going according to plan.  Not YOUR plan.  THE plan.  Divine Design?
KS: I'm trying, I'm trying... it's so hard and it hurts so much.
AGP: The root of all suffering is attachment.  LET GO and let it happen.  Let it unfold!
KS: I know, I know... I have no choice, I'm exhausted.
AGP:  That's why they call it "surrender."  When you are exhausted and have exhausted all means by your desire and your will, then let go and let it be.  I tell you this from experience.  From the experience of heartache and despair, I tell you, just HAVE FAITH.
KS: But faith in WHAT?  What am I believing in?  
(Um, this is a really good question... I think this is the question that pretty much defines the human experience.  And it's one that I've struggled with.  Acutely.)
AGP: Well... I know this: you are a part of the great creation.  So do nothing.  Full steam ahead... doing nothing.  Have faith in the Divine Power.  And walk the path prepared by the very same Force that created the snowflake and the sunflower!
KS: (silence)
AGP: I mean, I think you're in good hands...


Pregnant Pause...

Deep sigh...



The very same Force that created the snowflake and the sunflower.... I think you're in good hands!

Did I really say that?!  Did that come from me?  I love it!

And if I could expand upon that for a moment: remember, no two creations are ever alike.  That's right.  Infinite possibilities.  

Divine Design

Remember, no two are ever alike... and they are all perfect.
Photo by Wilson Bentley

Divine Design
...and again, no two are ever alike.
Photo Credit: Terry Sohl
Happy Spring, my dear readers and Kindred Spirits.  Get ready for the captivating, spectacular production nature has in store for Earth and FOR YOU.

Part 2 tomorrow!


PS: Happy Birthday to my sister, Livia!  Isn't it amazing how a sibling can be the closest thing to "you" and simultaneously the furthest thing away?  Oh right... no two are ever alike... 

Thursday, March 10, 2011

My Yoga-licious Life

Is it a bird?  A plane?  No, it's a Divine Painter!
Yoga has enabled me to be more flexible and given
me better balance for work... and play.
On March 8th I celebrated my one year anniversary as a Yogi.  This is a re-print of a Testimony I wrote and had published in Bikram Yoga Bay Ridge's Hot Times newsletter in August of 2010.  It's worth sharing again 6 months later, as I truly believe devotion to this practice has altered my destiny.  

"One often learns more from ten days of agony than from ten years of contentment." 
- Merle Shain

Sometime during the Winter of '08 I was walking on 83rd Street and happened to run into a friend of mine, Jeff, a contractor who was building out a new store on the corner Fifth Avenue. He took me in for a tour and explained to me what the space was intended for. He told me all about this new exercise craze... people doing yoga in intense heat. I thought he was pulling my leg. People intentionally enduring high temperatures while doing yoga poses? To sweat? In an orange and purple room? This felt wrong on so many levels. Bay Ridge wasn't ready for this, I thought cynically. In 6 months this will be just another nail salon! But strangely, this non-distinct little brick corner studio must have had some sort of staying power.

For two years, as I did my errands or circled around looking for parking on Fifth Avenue, I would curiously notice the sweaty people leaving... or milling about inside... and I would shake my head and wonder why. But I have to admit I was intrigued. Not enough to actually walk into the studio and inquire... but enough that it stayed within my peripheral vision. What brings people here, I often wondered, and what do they take away with them? I just couldn't figure it out.

Besides fast-walking I never really exercised. I was in pretty decent shape because of my active lifestyle. I am an artist, an entrepreneur and a single mother. Not an easy combination by any stretch of the imagination. I own and operate a decorative painting company that specializes in faux finishes, Divine Rooms. My life and my work largely rely on my physical strength, stamina, skill and agility. Just living my life is a "work out." It's not easy to maintain a home, raise an active young boy and haul paint cans or climb up and down ladders all day.

For years I took my health and my youth for granted. I smoked cigarettes. I drank lots of wine. I ate whatever I wanted. It was nothing to coast on 5 or 6 hours sleep, a few coffees and the sheer will to succeed. Then, last winter, life woke me up with a thump and said in oh so many ways: that's over! And my body chimed in and said: you'd take better care of me... because I'm all you got! I turned 40 and almost like clockwork things started to wilt. My complextion changed. My back hurt. Somehow, I was making it through each day. But I was tired of pushing myself and I have to admit, I was depressed.

A fellow artist friend began chirping in my ear about how wonderful her life had become since starting a yoga routine, at, you guessed it, a Bikram Yoga studio in Williamsburg. She was in great physical shape and I noticed her posture had improved. At the risk of sounding too poetic, I must say she looked almost metamorphisized. I wanted what she had. That peace. The glow. An exercise that gives you energy? Keeps you youthful? Works all your organs, muscles and tendons? Cleanses and detoxes? Improves your emotional balance? I thought of the non-distinct little brick corner studio just 5 blocks from my home... and I knew in my heart I had to try it.

Bow Pose or Dhanurasana (Sanskrit)
One of my favorites of the 26 postures.

The very next day I found myself nervously sitting on my brand new yoga mat, in this very, very hot room, anxiously surveying the crowd, wishing I had brought a bigger towel and more water, barely able to breathe. I silently prayed I wouldn't get sick, or worse die, and wondered why it was so quiet. I told (warned) the two people next to me this is my first class... and I'm really clumsy... They smiled and assured me I was going to be OK. 

Suddenly, the flourescent lights flip on and a near-naked man in tight, tiny yoga pants welcomes the group. We stand up for Prana Yama Breathing and I am already sweating... oh dear... I have no idea what is in store for me.. but I let it all go and decide to just flow with the experience... and simultaneously, at that moment, I cross a threshold. At that moment I am at my most naive and my most brave. I take the proverbial leap of faith. I have no idea how profoundly that 90 minutes is going to change my life.

I somehow make it though this class without dying. The next morning I wake up sore all over and feel a strange sensation, like a tiny current of positive electrical energy is running throughout my body. I feel something I haven't felt in a really long time: alive.

It's been six months now, and I guess you can say I am hooked. I feel stronger. I am more disciplined. My balance is better. My skin glows. I am more emotionally stable. I feel purified from the inside out. Gone are the blues, gone are the restless, sleepless nights. There is an incredible sense of satisfaction and accomplishment after each and every class. I enjoy the friendly, familiar faces at the studio. I feel like I am a part of a meaningful movement, like I'm part of something important. When I am practicing I feel connected to something. The edge is now gone from daily life. I feel softer, lighter, happier and healthier than ever. My work has improved and my stamina for physical labor has increased. I swear I feel younger than I did 10 years ago. My body has become a finely tuned instrument.

My arms are raised about 50% of the time I am working.
Practicing Yoga has helped further strengthen my
muscles and build more stamina.

Nothing good in life comes easy, and this is no exception. It's a big work out and a huge commitment. I still hate to sweat. And some days I am so tired from working so hard... but I come anyway. It's a love/hate relationship. I hate it while I'm there but I love it after I leave! I guess there is a beautiful duality about Bikram Yoga. For example, you are alone in your practice and yet you are in a room of people. It's a pretty "loud" experience: the heat, the sweat, the pain... but it's also a place that forces you to hear your own silence. You will fight to find your peace. For 90 minutes you put 100% of your head and heart into a practice that somehow manages to reveal your soul. Tense, stretch and release... and get ready to sweat out all of the tears you can't cry.

I saw a t-shirt recently that to me sums up the essence of Bikram Yoga perfectly, it said: "Pain is weakness leaving your body." How true! My entire relationship with myself and my life is truly evolving. And this is totally and directly proportionate to my new relationship with pain. In the human experience pain is unavoidable. I have learned that pain is not something to fear. It is simply something to move through. As soon as you make the decision that pain is temporary and you are brave enough to feel it, it's over. Gone. That's it. I am devoted to pursuing Bikram Yoga because this practice has replaced my weakness with strength of mind, body and spirit. Every day I tell myself what I learned in class: keep bending and you will never break!

Bikram Yoga (a form of Hot Yoga) is a set series of 26 postures and two breathing exercises ideally practiced in a room heated to 105 degrees with 40% humidity over a 90 minute duration.  The postures systematically move fresh, oxygenated blood to one hundred percent of your body, to each organ and fiber, restoring all systems to healthy working order, just as Nature intended. Proper weight, muscle tone, vibrant good health, and a sense of well being will automatically follow.

"Come every day for the next three months and I will give you a new body, a new life!" - Bikram Choudhury, Founder


Monday, March 7, 2011

Anatomy of a Wall

A shimmery, crystally, classically-modern Master Bedroom Accent Wall
(Private Residence, Brooklyn, NY)

All hand-painted walls with subtle depth and rich finishes require many, many layers of work to achieve.  The artist has to actually create a "formula" to achieve these results.  The invention process takes place off-site, in a studio, on sample boards.  I'm not sure how everyone else works, but for me, this is the most special part of the process.  I love playing around with different products, mixing up colors and experimenting with new things.  The most important part of this process is keeping good records (or "recipes," as I call them).  You have to be able to reproduce your creations!

Here's a glimpse of a work in progress in the studio.  I have kept
test cards, recipes and records of every color, every finish and
every project ever accomplished in my 14 years of painting!

Before I get to the design studio, the genesis of all new projects really begins with a Consultation.  This is a no-charge, initial meeting where I travel to a client's home, view the space to be painted and discuss ideas and designs.  Measurements are taken, samples and photos are shown, colors are debated and a preliminary budget is discussed.  This is, in essence, a "first date" of sorts.

I have a pretty good sixth sense at these meetings.  I seem to have the ability to pick up on a client's creative vibe.  Sometimes, I intuitively know what they would like and then attempt to translate that into what would work in the space.  Sometimes, it's not that easy.  I have to ask lots of questions and dig a little to get those answers.  Once in awhile, I show photos of previous work or tear-sheets from magazines... and as soon as I see a client's eyes light up, bingo!  There's a clue.  Other times, I get lucky, the walls just speak to me and I "see" something in my mind's eye.  Mostly, I just absorb what is already in the space that inspires me... and then I take that to the next level: selecting colors and patterns that will enhance the prettiest things already in the room.

There was a little bit of everything happening on this consultation, for a Master Bed Room.  The clients were a fun and friendly couple with three young children.  They were extremely good communicators, very receptive to different ideas, willing to take a design risk and supportive and understanding about the creative process.  I kept envisioning a "boutique hotel look" for them, and imagined a luxe, tranquil space for them to sink into at the end of a long day.  They commissioned me to make them a few samples based upon a few ideas discussed, and loved what I presented to them a few weeks later.

I was really attracted to the smoky mirrors and silvery accents already existing in the Master Bedroom.  Silver, glass and mirror always lend such understated elegance to a space.  They suggest a little romance, a hint of mystery and a sexy, old Hollywood vibe.

This gorgeous piece in the room inspired me with it's
shimmery silver-leaf and classic, geometric lines.
I also really liked this smoky, oversized mirror with beaded trim
The other accent pieces were of mirrored finish and all of the
artwork was framed in a silvery-hue.
To compliment all of the existing elements in the space, I specified a sophisticated indigo for the room.  The perfect cool hue to ground the light and sparkle of the rest.  The headboard wall would be the wall for my special hand-painted creation.

I started out on a pale grey, flat painted "canvas" that was prepared for me by another painter.  My first step was painting the wall metallic silver.

Always apply a metallic over a base of paint in similar color.
It will give a richer over-all hue to the finished product.
In this case I used a base of flat grey for a silver top coat.
Next up was a troweled-on layer of ShimmerStone tinted silver.
ShimmerStone is just like Venetian Plaster, except it has a
"pearlized" finish as opposed to a "glossy shine."
I love working with it!
Note: This is what it looks like while it's "setting up."
I know, scary right?
And you thought airplane pilots had nerves of steel?
Next up was a custom sized stencil from Wallovers.  The entire wall needed
to be stenciled with flat white paint as a "backing" for the glassbead gel
that I would be applying. The glass bead product dries to a clear and
would get totally lost on the wall if I didn't back it with something.  
So, here is the wall, now completely stencilled in white and ready
for the lovely glass bead gel application.  As I was working, the
wife just happened to mention that her hubby has OCD.
I could tell he was kind of a perfectionist, but... seriously?
Um, Great! Thanks for mentioning that!
Better knowing late than never!  That level never left my side.
....and.... I called in the Reserves...
Here's my clean-freak, slightly neurotic (in a good way) friend,
dear Robin. I hired her to clean up after me and keep the stencils
SPOTLESS, thereby insuring the crispest lines on the wall.
Fighting fire with fire!
I applied the final layer, Golden's Glass Bead Gel, with a rubber
spatula. It was pretty simple, like icing a cake, but a little tedious
because it added weight to the stencil and required scraping of
the excess and cleaning the stencil after every pass. Oy.
So here is the wall half-way stenciled with glass bead gel.
You have to wait until one area dries to the touch before
stenciling the area next to it, as the stencil must overlap
the previous area to form a continuous pattern.
The gel goes on white but will dry clear.
So there you have it.  The wall is really beautiful and looks different
from every angle of the room, depending on how light hits it.
Silver, pearl and glass beads all reflect and glow differently!
Here's another view...
Note: the white spots is where the glass bead gel is still setting up

Here is a detail close-up of the glass beaded stencil pattern
And one more shot of how the wall works in the space...
The clients were ecstatic over the finished product... and Mr. OCD was relieved that he could now sleep in the room.  Mission accomplished.  Beauty, custom art and... comfort to those afflicted with anxiety disorders.  Can I now add this special skill to my promotional materials?!