Wednesday, March 21, 2012

If You Can't Afford It, Make It Yourself

Once upon a time, I was in the furniture section of ABC Carpets in Manhattan and I fell in love with the Tibetan or Chinese painted cabinets.  They were very expensive.  Even on ebay.  What does one look like?  Here are a few examples.  You should really search google images to see how varied and colorful they are.

Aren't they pretty and old looking?  I had to make one of my own.  Of course, it wouldn't be old for a long time, but that's okay.  Those were once vibrant and fresh.  I had a spot in mind in my old apartment in NYC and that meant in the hallway across from the bathroom.  I needed a bookcase anyway.  The cabinet had to be shallow because it was in a tight spot.  I ended up getting a pine bookcase with doors made to my specifications at Gotham Cabinet Crafts.  I decided to paint the cabinet a base color of a darker red.  I used Ralph Lauren's Kilim Red.  I also used a clear gloss on all of the inside shelves to cut down on scuffing and marks.

The picture is old.  Sorry.  I then had to lay out very carefully how I wanted the cabinet to look.  I decided to use the Chinese mythology as inspiration.  I knew before everything else that I wanted a dragon and a phoenix on it.  It is hard to explain it all but I used: the four elements- water, fire, air, earth. The four seasons- winter, spring, summer, fall.  The four directions- north, south, east, west and the symbols for the four creatures that would center each pane- dragon, phoenix, tiger, snake.  I found inspiration for what all would look like online and got started making templates on tracing paper.  I then painted a light background on each of the panes.  I taped the stencil on to the pane and with a pencil, I traced very hard the outline of the drawing so that a clear indentation was seen on the light background.  Then I carefully outlined the indentations in black paint.  This was a painstaking process and took a long time but I felt it was necessary to get everything right.  I didn't want to free hand paint it and make mistakes.  Here is what the process looked like.  First the drawings on tracing paper.

Two of the panes, traced and outlined in black.

After all the outlining was completed which included the chinese characters mentioned above in all four corners of each pane, it was time to start adding more detail and then to start painting.  It took a long time to paint and I took my time to get it right.  When I finished the panes, I made stencils using a heated stencil knife for the wood around the panes and then for the outside border as well.  Several stencils were made. Here are a bunch of detailed pictures.

One with flash so you can see more of the colors and details.

Now for some close ups!

For the dragon, I made the scales have texture so you can feel them when you run your fingers over them.  For the snake, I wanted the water to look more realistic and I used shading throughout to give the paintings more depth.  I hope you enjoy.

Now that I am in my new apartment, I find there is too much red and so I am going to modify the borders to fit the purple wall color behind the cabinet.

Thanks for stopping by and Stay tuned for more creativity!

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