On a recent job (working in a model home in Champaign, IL), the builder and I decided that just the perfect touch would be some shadow painting in strategic spots on the walls of the formal dining room. The fabrics being used in furnishing this home are basically black with rich warm burnt sienna and gold, often having an Oriental feel. The perfect answer, then, was to use bamboo!
The walls are painted a rich but soft tone of gold. A warm tone that could almost be a warm "taupe" for lack of a better word. Anyway, what the walls needed was just the suggestion of something there, but not quite there.
I began with the wall color and added a touch of brown colorant, really a burnt sienna, making it almost a tone-on-tone color. To this color I added a metallic acrylic from Americana called Champagne Gold. This gave me a soft color with a bit of a sparkle or glint. Just right for an upscale look!
If you make the color you are going to use appear to match the dried wall color, you will usually come out with just about the right tone for this type of painting since most pastel paint colors dry about 10% darker than they appear when wet. You also need to plan the painting to be very simple. An outline or silhouette, so you don't need layering or highlights to get the effect you need. In a few places, though, I did tip the brush in Champagne Gold for a little extra sparkle!
Bamboo is beautiful when done well and at the same time, simple. It works very well in silhouette and monochromatic applications.
I began at the baseboard with a very large long-bristled round brush which I purchased especially for the job because I wanted a watercolor look, but watercolor brushes are generally too soft for the "knocked down" finish the walls in this area of the house have. I needed to carry lots of very fluid paint and that required a special brush. Add to that the fact that this was one of the few suitable brushes that were available at Michael's when I went to find one.
Filling the brush heavily with the paint and using it on it's side, I moved it slowly up the wall to about 1/3 of the height the bamboo stalk was to be. Before lifting the brush from the wall, I stopped pulling and put pressure onto the bristles, making a little joint at the stopping point.
Then I reloaded the brush, laid the brush on it's side with a bit of pressure to make the top of the little joint and pulled the next section. This was repeated for each stalk, letting the top section just taper off. Each joint between the sections has a little line across it, with a small "barb" on each end.
The branches are formed much the same as the stalks, with a slight curve for each one, but without the little line at the joints. For the branches, I used a smaller round brush, laying it on it's side when I needed a wider line and using the tip when the branch was smaller.
Leaves are added - two to start with and then smaller ones may be use around those and between them. All branches come out of the joints in the stalks or from joints in other branches. Leaves are basically "poliwogs"; a stroke taught in basic strokes for Tole and Decorative Painting. A poliwog is like a small paisley shape. You will want to have some that are sort of flat and some that turn, but the basic shape is much the same.
The effect was exactly as we planned! When you look into the dining room, the bamboo seems to be a shadow cast by the light fixture or something else in the room. Success!!
One of the bamboo shadow paintings.
Another of the bamboo shadow paintings.
You can use Google images to look for pictures of bamboo and see just how the stalks are built.
Below you will find a couple of links to books that can be helpful to your painting. One is a book on Oriental Brush Painting that demonstrates how to do bamboo as well as many other Oriental watercolor-type subjects.
The other is a link to a book with techniques and types of paint for painting on walls. If you are considering a wall project, you will find this one informative and useful.
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