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Thursday, April 28, 2016

ACE Hotel New Orleans

   

starting the 2' x 5' masonite panels
     For a couple months this Fall, I worked on a series of decorative panels for the new ACE hotel in New Orleans. I was contacted by their designer this past summer, who found my website somehow (I guess those Google searches really do work), to see if I would be interested in creating a series of painted motifs for custom armoires in the hotel rooms. The ACE brand is a trendy boutique hotel from Portland, and they try to use original artwork in their spaces and rooms. I was definitely intrigued by the idea, and since I had many years experience with decorative painting and interior design work, I thought it would be a fun project.
starting the first set
     They basically wanted Southern pastoral scenes, inspired by the Bloomsbury group artists, to act as vignettes or portals in these armoir door faces, to both add color and a sense of expansiveness to the room. Due to time and budget constraints, and the fact that I've never been to New Orleans, we agreed to reproduce details or sections of existing paintings that I've done, rather than create a whole new series of work. They helped me select images from my website, and after some modification, I agreed to paint 10 sets of 2' x 5' panels. The 1/4" Masonite panels were shipped to me and I was responsible for prep work, painting them, putting on a varnish and repackaging.
blocking in the shapes
     I've wanted to work on a larger scale recently and this seemed like a great opportunity to do so. I bought large chip brushes and house painting brushes and set up my large palette to mix large quantities of color. Originally, they wanted the paintings to be done with water based paint, but since I'm more comfortable with oils, I told them I didn't want to try and figure out a new way to paint on this project. In order to ensure a quicker drying time I used an alkyd white as the base (a regular Benjamin Moore white) and mixed tube oil colors into this. Gamblin also makes a quick dry white (also an alkyd base) so I was able to use a combination of these two, along with a medium of higher proportion mineral spirits than I normally do to dry out the oil fairly quickly. They also gave me a Pantone dark green that was going to be a reoccurring color in the room, so I had a quart of Ben Moore alkyd mixed to match that, which I could add to the panels as I went along.
panels in progress
panels in progress
     I primed all the panels with a water-based primer first, and then applied either 2 coats of gesso (if I was working off a white ground) or 1 coat of gesso with a toner coat of burnt umber/raw umber mix (if i wanted to work off a toned ground). My biggest concern was the drying and turn around time, since there was only about 8 weeks between the time that I got the panels and when they needed them back. The combination of painting in oils, a humid Southern autumn and the fact that they needed to be varnished too, had me somewhat stressed, but all went well. It was kinda nice to work on paintings that didn't require me to think too much about working out a composition, since I was basically reproducing images or details of my own work, scaled up. Having a lot of experience in the decorative painting world and being used to production work, my biggest concerns became surface quality and color purity. It was very nice to wield a big brush again and sling paint around in my studio.
detail
detail
detail
     I tracked the hours I spent on each panel, and rotated through them, sometimes working from the original painting if I still had it in the studio, or from a JPEG if it was either sold or in a gallery. At times I felt like the smaller version, especially with the brush marks, didn't 'translate' to the larger 2' x 5' version, so their was some modification along the way either with the structure or the color of each. Since it was an extremely wet Autumn here, I bought a de-humidifier for my studio to help things dry out quicker...I needed all the help I could get.
packing with my studio assistant
      For the final varnish, they left it up to me to pick one. I usually don't varnish my paintings, so I had to find one that was both quick-drying and would yield the most even, matte finish. I asked around at Artist and Craftsman supply, and I left with a few choices: Windsor and Newton quick dry retouching varnish, Golden MSA varnish, and Gamblin Gamvar. I made a few small, sample 'paintings' on panel scraps, and did some varnish tests. I settled on the Windsor and Newton quick-dry retouching varnish, because a) it was removable if needed and b) it dried the quickest and left each panel with a fairly even, low gloss sheen.
      After drying them out for about 10 days in my studio with the de-humidifer, I repacked them in the original crate, wrapping each in clear plastic wrap and layering with bubble wrap. I called up the shipping agent who came back and hauled them away to New Orleans. I had to wait until the hotel opened (March 14th) until I could publicize this project.  So if you're ever in New Orleans and stay at the ACE, snap a picture and send it too me!
in situ (not my painting though!)

6 comments:

  1. Congrats! That is so exciting...that's two things that I love coming together, ACE hotels and your work. Brilliant. New Orleans was next on our list so when we get there, I will send you some pics.

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    1. thanks so much...I've always wanted to go too!

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  2. The strong vertical lines are perfect- great way to open up a room and with a different viewing height. Feels like I could step inside- modern day Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe.

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