PaintPRO, Vol. 6, No. 2
March/April 2004
Vol 6 No 2

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Other articles in this issue:
Choosing the Right Wood Stain
Wallcovering Adhesives
Caulking Guns
Traffic Paint
Learning New Skills
Paint Stippers
Estimating, Etc.
Contractor Profile: The Flood Company
Manufacturer Profile: Siegner & Co.
Paint Industry News
Product News
Product Profiles
Painting Tips


PaintPRO Archives — Focus on Education
Marbling Workshop



Faux Painting, Marbling

Faux Painting Techniques & Marbling Workshop Inspires Painters
by John Strieder

The Institute for American Craftsmanship kicked off its inaugural slate of classes with a three-day workshop on marbling, the art of painting a surface to look like classic marble.

Michele Santilli, director of the North American School of Decorative Art in Chicago, taught a class of six at the Institute’s new headquarters in Eugene, Ore. Professional Trade Publications Inc., publisher of PaintPRO and Concrete Decor magazines, operates the nonprofit facility.

Santilli’s lectures covered structure, color, anatomy, brushes, and even geology. She shared techniques for painting veins that seem to pop into view, subtly shift color, then fade away, creating the illusion of depth. She also showed how to create the gentle, cloudy drifts of color that are the hallmark of aged marble. “The better your marbling skills are, the better your finishes will be,” she said.

Marbling WorkshopThe students, four women and two men, came from all over western Oregon. They represented a variety of occupations, from residential contractor and part-time faux painter to wallpaper specialist and paint salesman.

The six surrounded Santilli, watching with rapt fascination as she used a fine brush to recreate a vein in a piece of Sienna marble, then smoothed the line out with a badger-hair softener brush. “This feels so yummy,” she told the class.

After she demonstrated the technique, the students retreated to their own canvases and make their own attempts. While no two tries looked alike, Santilli said that every student was at least blessed with a good eye. “This” — she slapped the back of her hand lightly — “doesn’t always obey. But everybody in this class sees what they’re supposed to do. If you see it, the hand will follow.”

Marbling WorkshopThe institute’s first students seemed to enjoy the experience. April Olson of Springfield, Ore., who attended with her husband, Todd, said the training would help them expand their residential painting outfit. “Some persons in town say there’s no market for decorative painting. They are dead, dead wrong,” she said. “Todd gets calls all the time for it. We wanted to train and get good at it before marketing ourselves.”

The pair met Santilli at a PDCA conference last year and became enthusiastic fans of her work. When they heard she was coming to teach a class near where they live, they jumped at the chance. “That woman is truly a master,” April said. “This is her passion. She lives, eats and breathes Sienna marble.”

Cynthia Jones of Eugene, Ore., also gave the instructor high marks. “She’s willing to share what she has learned over 20 years,” she said. “She’s easy to talk to; she answers questions.”

Jones also liked the group element of the class. “It’s good to be in a group, because everybody has questions and can answer questions.

“This is the most fun I’ve ever had,” she said of the class. “I’m having a blast.”

Marbling WorkshopSantilli said her marbling classes combine old methods with the choicest new technology. Her techniques are shaped according to European traditions that are centuries old. Marbled walls have been discovered in the ruins of Pompeii, she notes.

The end result serves as art, decoration and preservation. “Some of these patterns are all quarried out,” she said. “You can’t find them anymore.”

Santilli acknowledged that the course required trainees to absorb a lot in a short time. “They get a lot in three days,” she said. “There’s so many things to think about.”

But the way she sees it, education is essential. In Europe, she said, painters apprentice for seven years, learning the basics, then marbling, wood-graining and other specialties, before they ever call themselves full-fledged professionals. “The more skilled we are, the more opportunity we have to work in different areas.”

For more information on Michelle Santilli and the North American School of Decorative Art, call (630) 833-5050 or visit NASODA online. For more information, call (877) 935-8906 or visit the Institute for American Craftsmanship Web site.


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