To feel childlike joy, the fastest way is to get your hands dirty.
It’s proven science that getting your hands in the soil produces endorphins that make you feel joy.
It may not be proven by science, but I get the same feeling from painting with my hands.
It’s some fantastic medicine this time of year (February), when it’s too cold to dig in the dirt and I’m in need of some happy hormones to blow the winter blues away.
I used pallet knives and my hands last week to refinish a few pieces of furniture for my space in Kansas City’s West Bottoms.
These chests of drawers were in need of a new life…they were both chipped, peeling, and had some interesting character added in the form of glue stripes, stuff spilled in the drawers, ugly shelf liner paper, and large chips from a couple of the drawer fronts (I didn’t fix those; they’re great character).
I began by first wiping them down and doing a little sanding, then painting them with a few coats of paint, 5 colors blended together as I covered the pieces. I got the paint for $2.50 per quart from the “oops paint” at my local hardware store. It’s mistinted returned product.
I decided to give them a western theme, because I love to paint cacti, and mountains are kind of fun too. The church and moon were improv, and I’ really happy with them.
I did use a brush to do the base color application. I used water to make the paint run down on each layer, and I did four or five layers. This lends detail and depth and texture to the piece that you just can’t fake.
To add the paintings on the surfaces, I sketched them first with a Sharpie. On the lingerie chest, I used a rounded pallet knife to lay the first layer of paint, adding the texture with that coat. After that dried, I used a long skinny pallet knife to add dark shadow to one side of the cactus, then light shades to the other sides.
Then I was ready to add other color with my hands. I used my fingers and several colors of paint to add more depth and texture by rubbing a paint-covered fingertip over the texture from the first coat, which makes the paint catch on the raised texture, adding dimension to the work.
On the shorter chest of drawers, I used lots of color. I used a pallet knife for most of it, but the mountains have a lot of fingerpainting on them, and then added texture and depth of the cacti was done with my fingers. I used a tiny detail brush to add black detailing in the voids in the sky.
I used a brassy bronze paint to cover the knobs, and used a dry brush technique to add some of that color in gauzy streaks on each piece.
What do you think? I personally think this painting isn’t for everyone, not everyone will approve of me doing art painting on furniture, and there is someone out there for which it’s perfect. I also think that as long as the piece of furniture is saved from the trash, it’s a win. This set of dressers was headed for the trash when I got my hands on them.
I probably have 10 hours of work in the set, from stapling screen in the bottoms to keep insects and mice out to prepping and painting it from start to finish.