Philanthropy: The Old Gypsy Wagon
and The “Veranda” Finish
by Randy Cotita
We were recently contacted by participants of artists4others who were engaged in a philanthropic project in the hurricane stricken area in New Orleans. We were requested to participate in one of several projects in the works: including a Habitat for Humanity house and a fund-raiser for the SPCA animal shelter.
We chose to participate in the SPCA project, which involved the design, construction, and application of decorative art to a doghouse for the purpose of it being auctioned in the fundraiser. Connie’s imagination got into high gear and she settled on using the design of an “old gypsy wagon” for the doghouse.
Internet research was done, photos perused, and soon a design was on paper. Under normal circumstances, we would have actually constructed it ourselves but due to time constraints we requested the help of several friends and other craftsmen. We managed to get generous donations, including construction of the house using Connie’s plans, a custom copper roof, hurricane shutters, and even the 24-inch wooden wagon wheels.
Connie’s plan was to apply a variation of a finish, which she calls, the “Veranda” finish. It is her version of a finish she saw on the cover of an issue of Veranda magazine, which she successfully duplicated it in the studio.
Now for the “nuts and bolts” of applying the Veranda finish.
It begins with a white primer. Next, applied in vertical fashion using a dry brush technique, were colors including a soft yellowish gray green, medium aqua, blue green, and umber. Each color was then softened in a vertical manner with a damp terry cloth. This added a subtle blending effect to create an aged wood look.
Next, the patterns for the trim and molding were drawn onto the surface, dividing it into panels for the hand painted motifs. The moldings were treated in the same manner as the walls except a darker green was used for added contrast. The darker green was allowed to dry and then, using a dry chip brush, a lighter green was dry brushed over it to simulate wood grain.
After applying the faux wood grain on the moldings, lines were taped off on the sides of the wagon and painted a darker green color to create the look of individual boards.
The Punchinello and dog motifs, by Domenico Tiepolo, were then hand painted into the designated panels. After the motifs dried, a check roller was used along the grain to simulate an old worn wood grain look on all the boards and even over the top of the artwork.
The same finish was applied to the wheels, but red undercoat was used for additional interest and the topcoat was rubbed back.
The entire piece was toned over lightly with dark gray, once again using a dry brush technique for additional aging characteristics.
As a bonus, in order to invoke the party spirit of New Orleans, Connie created a special whimsical character consisting of the ‘man in the moon’ wearing a jester mask. Under, and beside the character, was placed the French phrase “laissez les bon temps rouler,” which is popular in south Louisiana. The translation of which is: “let the good times roll.” The saying was also meant as a humorous throwback to the wagon style of the doghouse. The ‘man in the moon’ motif was carefully placed on the inside back wall of the house, so as to be framed by the door opening when viewed from the front of the wagon.
The doghouse is scheduled to be auctioned off by the New Orleans SPCA during the 2010 benefit fundraiser.
Randy and his wife Connie, who work as a team, formally formed Studio Abbellire as a full time venture in the mid nineties. After majoring in art in college in the late seventies, they were involved always in the decorative field. Even as Randy did a decade long stint as a police officer, they worked in the remodeling and decorating of homes, with Connie always having art related projects going.
Connie began working with local decorators and designers and immersed herself in the industry, using the opportunities to expand her knowledge & experience. Having worked together in the remodeling/decorating field for years part time, when Randy decided to quit the police department, they opted to go full time and created Studio Abbellire (pronounced ah-buh-leer-a). Abbellire is an Italian word, which means, ìto adorn or make beautiful.”
They took additional classes from teachers across the country and honed their skills working with discriminating and talented designers and decorators in areas such as marbling, wood graining, gilding, applied ornament and custom carpentry projects. . They are particularly fond of creating faux “pietre dure” pieces and custom furniture. Randy has been trained in the application of plasters made by Safra of Italy and Armourcoat of the U.K
A major inspirational turning point for them occurred in 2002 when they received invitations to the International Decorative Painters Salon hosted by Vigini Studios in San Antonio. While attending, they saw the immense talent and camaraderie of some of the finest of decorative artisans. They desired for others to see and share the plethora of talent and availability of products available to the industry. For that purpose they created a web site call InfauxWorld as a service to the industry.
In 2005, Connie and Randy were invited to display their work at the Salon gathering in Philadelphia hosted by Ross O’Neal, and again in the 2006 Salon hosted in the Netherlands by Jan Berghuis and Cornelius Sheer of the Nimeto Art School. This was an amazing venue and opportunity for all artists attending. Many Salon artists, including Connie and Randy had their work selected for display in the M.C. Escher Museum in The Hague for 3 months. They have continued to participate in the Salon gatherings as their schedule permits.
In October 2007 the two were selected along with 61 other artists to particpate in the “Meeting of the Masters,” hosted by Faux Effects International in Dallas, TX.
Their works have been displayed in Delta Style magazine, The American Painting Contractor, Artistic Stenciler, SB Magazine and the local News Star. October 2008 their work was displayed in “Designer Faux Finishing” a book by Victor DeMasi. The two recently finished and submitted works which will be featured in “It’s Faux Easy 2” by Gary Lord, which will be out spring 2010. In 2004, Connie reworked 33 pieces of donated furniture by adding decorative finishes. The pieces were auctioned off for a charity called “Night of the Child,” which helps fight child abuse. Connie has been a member and certified stencilist through the Stencil Artisans League, Inc. (SALI) since 1998.
Currently Connie & Randy are based in Louisiana where they are traveling and working in homes and condos along the gulf coast. They own a home in the northeast where they plan to fully relocate to in the near future and locate their decorative art school.
Read this column and then POST a comment – Randy & Connie will be reading these comments, so speak directly TO them and other readers and let them know what you got out of this article!
Jane Drew says
I’ve seen it in person…it really is breathtaking! The photos just don’t do it justice…
Judith DeMaestri says
Can’t wait to take a class from you guys!
This is one doghouse any husband wouldn’t mind getting sent to! LOL
Looking foward to hearing more about your school- and very interested in attending your classes!
Thank you so much for giving artists such a presence with NOLA SPCA.
Micki Coles says
This is wonderful! I love the colors and the whimsy of it all – fantastic! Thank you for sharing it.