Tuesday, July 7, 2009

How To Paint A Floorcloth

I have a friend who suggested I show readers how I create some of the things I make..."Okay, I thought, it's worth a shot". That said, I sort of feel like someone,who owns a restaurant, and gives out the secret ingredients in a dish the client likes.. However, I will share how I do floorcloths, because I know people often say, "I can do that"....and you can, but it is very labor intensive, so perhaps I can educate those who really want to do it themselves, and also, make those who balk at my pricing realize how much time, energy, and expense goes into making one.

I did a post on my floorcloths in the past, so I am not going to go through the entire explaination of what a floorcloth is, other than it is hand-painted canvas, that you can walk on...I suggest you go back into older posts, and read about the history, and see some examples (I have some at the end of this, as well), of what I have done.

My most recent floorcloth is a replica of an old, French Postcard. First, you need canvas....heavyweight canvas...I get mine at Jerry's Artarama in Austin, Texas, but it can be bought on-line, as well. It usually comes in a roll, and it's not inexensive. You can get a variety of widths (I prefer 52", but for larger projects you can get it as wide as 7 feet, even 8- it is very expensive in that width, and you need a huge space or surface to work on). To save money, I buy the canvas that is folded...it is much less expensive than the rolled, but then, you have to iron out the creases, and that takes a water sprayer (steamiron just isn't enough), and alot of patience.

So, you have your canvas. I know that some people, who make floorcloths, staple the canvas to a board or a tabletop. I used to do that, as it does shrink somewhat, but I no longer have a basement to work in - just a garage and no work table - I do miss my work table(very few basements in Texas), and it get's hot in the garage, but I make do. So, I went to Home Depot, and bought a large piece of mason board - it's about a quarter-inch thick, and is five ft. wide and about 7 feet long (or eight). I use it to roll my canvas out on after I have ironed it. I measure out the length...and then I cut it.

Determine what you want to be your finished size (I recommend starting smaller than wrestling with a large piece of canvas), and add two inches to each side...so it's your finished size & four inches on width and length.

While you are at Home Depot, go to the paint department...there's a "Whoops Pile" of paint, and I often pick up quarts of latex flat paint for a dollar...it's rejected because it wasn't the right color for the orginal customer. While there, pick up latex wall paint, flat, in a neutral color (get a gallon)...a roller tray (disposable liner), some fluffy, disposable rollers, and a long, detachable roller handle, so you are not doing this on your hands and knees. I also have a wide assortment of acrylic paints in my studio, so I have lots of choices when painting my floorcloth. You don't have to buy every color of paint in the world, just plan out what you want for your project, at first...It's gets expensive otherwise.

Ilay out my canvas, and roll paint on to it - going vertically, and then, horizontally. Let that dry, and do another coat. In order not to have my roller dry out, I put it in a large zip-lock freezer bag, and squish it up around my roller

I do two primer coats on one side, let that dry over night (I detach the long handle from the roller, put it in the zip lock bag, and then, put it in the refridgerator over night.)
Next day, flip it over, and do two coats on the other side...Told you this is labor-intensive. I primed this piece of canvas with a neutral primer, and then, put my base coat on it. I usually do my base coat on both sides of the canvas, as sometimes, if I change my mind about what I want to do, or mess it up somehow, I can just flip it.
So, here's my primed, base-coated piece of canvas - on paper or an old shower curtain liner works well, as well, laid out and ready to go.

I turn it over (as you can see, the underside isn't painted to the edges) and I use a straight edge (I prefer the sewer's plastic guide in the photo below - it really works well- measurements and a straight-edge in one), and straighten my edges of the floorcloth, since it is not stapled down, it gets a bit crooked while painting the base coat, etc.

These are the tools I use to hem the floorcloth; a straight edge, a brayer (to roll it flat after I've turned it under), and a piece of plastic to help crease it. It's got several coats of paint on it, so it takes a bit to turn it...Measure two inches all the way around, and turn the canvas up..flattening as you go. When you have turned it over, after mitering the corners, it will look like this...

Okay, I blew it...the next photos will show you how to miter corners. I'm still learning that I have to post the photos backwards to get them to come out in the order I want...weird.

Here, all sides are turned under. Next, take your straight edge, and place it at a 45 degree angle, making sure that inside corner where the edges meet, is right on the edge of the straight edge. I mark it with a pencil, take away the straight edge, and cut it on that line.

Here is your mitered corner...I take a bit of double-stick tape, and put it inside the hem, close to the miter, just to hold it in place. Some people glue their hems down...I don't, as I have found it holds it's hem just fine, once you've turned it over, and gone over it again with a brayer.I like to blend colors for my background..depends on what you want the finished piece to look like..In order to achieve this effect..you need: a natural sea sponge (I tear pieces off a big one), a container of water, and a natural bristle (badger hair - expensive, but it does the best job) brus
Again, I am having difficulty putting shots in the right order, but this is two colors, laid on with the sea sponge (see photo below), that have been blended with the blender brush.
Wet your sponge (tear it, so it has uneven edges) in water, squeeze out the excess, dip it in a dish containing acrylic paint (works better in this process than latex), and sponge it randomly onto the cloth- biggest mistake is to be too even...turn your wrist as you go...it's a bit scary at first.
Don't let it dry out...you need to work quickly..some people use glazing liquid, but then, it takes forever to dry for the next step. I often use a spray bottle of water to keep my surface wet.
Next, put another color on...I am using olive green and burnt sienna for this piece...Do the same thing...Then, spray a bit of water on the floorcloth, and go over it with a clean sponge..it will lift some of the paint, but that's fine.
Take your blender brush, and go over the floorcloth, blending up, down, across, and horizontally, wiping the brush off on a cloth (or the front of your overalls) as you go..This takes time, and guts...just don't panic..you can always paint over it if you don't like it.
Here is the piece once it was blended. I then market it off two inches all the way around (make sure your piece is totally dry, or it will lift the base coat), and put non-lifting painter's tape to mark your border (if you want a border)... Paint it, and then, lift the painter's tape pretty quickly after it's dried just a bit..otherwise it may life the border. If you have waited too long, and it's lifting the border, use a hairdryer on low heat on the tape, lifting as you go.

Okay, now you are on your own.. I draw my design on sheets of drawing paper (taped together to make the correct size - then, I turn it over, tape it to my french door glass - or a large window, so I can see the lines on the other side, and use a graphite no. 2 pencil to color over the lines, so that when I flip it over, and place it on the floorcloth, I can use another, harder pencil to go over my design, transferring it onto the floorcloth...Hey, I told you this is labor intensive.
If you want, just do a stencil, or grid it, or just do a Jackson Pollock thing...don't let it scare you..
Practice makes perfect.
Once you have finished your floorcloth, you need to put at least three coats of non-yellowing, water-based polyurathane on it. Let it dry well between coats... Some people use wax on them after they polyurathane them..I don't.
It is important to put a non-skid pad (not waffle weave, as it will show through) under your floorcloth for safety.
Sheesh, I'm tired just writing about it...
Have fun with it, or just let me know, and I'll make one for you....!
Here are some examples of floorcloths I have done...By the way, all of mine are free-hand.

1 comment:

  1. very nice work, don't think I'll try it though