Oh, Vincent Van Gogh, How I Adore You!!

Oh, Vincent Van Gogh, How I Adore You!!

Every now and again, I do commission work.  It’s not something that I do often because, well because, essentially I don’t like being told what to do. Most of the people I have worked with know this (thank you, you lovely people). And while we talk about design/functionality/color/finish etc, once we have a rough idea of what the piece should/could/maybe look like, my clients generally give me the go ahead to ‘Just do you’. 

It’s freeing. It’s wonderful. It’s nerve-wrecking. It’s anxiety-provoking.

But it’s equally just stinking awesome!!

Besides, how can I write a contract with the words ‘distressed’ finish as the goal? What does ‘distressed’ even mean?? The clients that I’ve been fortunate to work with have seen my finishes. They know that I have a ‘look’ (as in how I distress/create patina) but each ‘look’ is always unique – whether I want it to or not. Does that make sense? I find it hard difficult impossible to copy or duplicate my own finishes. And they – my clients (thank you, again), appreciate that and realize that pretty much all of my finishes come to fruition organically.

Penny has been a follower on my Business Facebook page for a long time. She’s just a lovely lovely person, who reached out to me and asked if I would be willing to paint a piece of furniture for her. Penny had a designated place in her home for the piece, but hadn’t been able to procure said piece yet. For a few weeks, I would get messages on Facebook with pieces of furniture that were for sale, with Penny asking if it would work for an image transfer.  Finally, she found a lovely oak buffet (probably from the 30/40’s) and bought it. 

The next step was to try and find an image that she loved. If you’re going to have a commissioned piece done, you absolutely need to LOVE the image.  It’s not a cheap process. It’s an investment, and with any investment you have to be 110% certain that it works for you. And when it comes to art, I mean, you know the kind: the one that makes you STOP in your tracks and makes your heart go a little faster. That’s the one that you WANT. NEED. DESIRE. This stage took a little time because although Penny had compiled many many images on a Pinterest Board, not all of them would work with the piece of furniture. Either the scale was wrong, the image wouldn’t necessarily translate well with an image transfer, or the orientation of the image was wrong (obviously putting a vertical image on a horizontal space doesn’t really work; when you enlarge the image to fit the space you’d ultimately end up losing a lot of the thing that you love: the image!!

Finally, Penny decided that she loved Vincent Van Gogh’s ‘The Asylum Garden at Arles’ (1889).

How could you not love it! It’s a beautiful painting. A beautiful painting done at a time when he, probably, was in the most pain. He spent a full year (May 1889-May 1890) hospitalized in Arles, and he completed an astounding 142 paintings! Rather than being sterile and disconnected, his paintings during that time were considered to be his most exquisite pieces of work. It’s so strange, every time I think of this time – of him – I instinctively want to touch my heart. That poor troubled genius.  And it’s so sad to think that a year after he was ‘cured’, he died from a reported ‘self-inflicted’ gunshot wound. 

But let’s stay with the beauty here: the colors: deep rich, warm yellows, calming greens and blues. From the painting, Penny and I moved on to choosing the paint colors I would use. I like to think of the piece of furniture as a ‘frame’ for the image; and because of that the colors have to make sense because they have to coexist together – hopefully in harmony! I don’t consider myself an artist, but I have a great appreciation of the true artist; the painters who create beauty on a canvas. My job is to use their creations and frame them on a piece of furniture.  I can paint a great frame, but I am under no illusion that what I do is nowhere close to what an artist can do. Most of you probably know that I’ve been using Wise Owl paints now for a couple of months (fabulous paint and a great palette), and so it made sense to pick our colors from their range. Penny loved Relic, and looking closely at the painting Tourmaline would be a perfect partner. I also knew I would use use other colors for the shading/highlighting.

Now I will be completely transparent here THIS PIECE ALMOST KICKED MY BUTT!!!!!

I needed 16 separate tiles of paper (11″ x 17″) to get the entire image to cover the front of the dresser.

If you look closely, you can see the seams (this was probably half way through the ‘touch up’ stage).  Oh, I can’t even.

I ended up losing some areas of the image (worse nightmare), and spent hours with my acrylics and tiny paintbrushes to cover up the missing areas. I didn’t go into a full-blown panic attack, per se. But I came close. It wasn’t pretty. Ever had one of those jobs when you actually stop yourself and question if you know what the heck you’re doing???

Well, Punk – Do ya?? 

After the identity crisis and the faux panic attack subsided, I turned the corner, and it came together rather beautifully…and the angels sang, and life was good again. The highlighting was done with Wise Owl Beeswax (a very lovely yellow) to play off the yellows in the painting (see what I mean about the colors have to make sense), and the shading was achieved by mixing Charleston Green (my ABSOLUTE favorite color) with the other blues/greens and Wise Owl glaze in Java.

I think I used over 10 different products on this piece, sometimes you just need to get all of your products out and let them do the work. It’s all sealed with the matte varnish because you already should know that I don’t really care for ‘shiny’.  A good matte finish is always my  ‘go to’.  And here she is, in all her glory!

One of the reasons why Penny bought the dresser/buffet/cabinet whatever was the feet.  Gorgeous carved feet (on both the top and bottom) that ‘disappeared’ against the wood grain. We both agreed that they needed to shine.

Am I the only one that believes that the spotlight needs to shine on true craftsmanship?

I’m a fool for sexy feet, what can I say?

A little patina, going a long way.

Oh, Van Gogh.  This has been the first time I’ve used your art. I can not thank you enough.


I wiped the inside of the dresser (is it even a dresser, is it a buffet, or a cabinet?) with the furniture salve which, seriously, I just love. I used the Lemon Verbana this time because…well, lemons are yellow and my dresser has yellow in it (seriously, how ridiculous am I???). Rhetorical question, folks. Rhetorical question.

One of the delights of this job, is looking back on the progress of the piece. Comparing the ‘Before’ and ‘After’. If I can look at the ‘After’ and think that it looks ‘original’, then I’m satisfied.

In this case, I’m satisfied.  And the praise really needs to go to Penny. She had the vision. She had the confidence that I could pull it off. But this – this piece – it’s all Penny. And I thank her.

{insert catchy ending phrase here}


Diane aka The Paint Factory


For those interested in trying out Wise Owl paints, I still have my discount code for 5% off all products (including the Cling On paintbrushes). If you want to try them, this will be the time. Every little bit helps, right? 

Click here!: use code: THEPAINTFACTORY at checkout for the discount.

Here’s the link to my Facebook Live! talking about the piece.  

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