I wrote a few weeks ago about my latest artistic adventure – an introductory furniture painting class at The Isabel O’Neil Studio. Halfway through the class now, I’ve begun to see the resemblance of a final product. What started as a desperate Goodwill purchase, overpriced at $7.99, is turning into the only piece of furniture in my 350 square foot apartment to which I plan to apply harsh rules regarding beverage coasters.
When I last wrote, we’d spent a couple of classes prepping our pieces – sanding, filling holes, and shellacking – and had just gotten through picking our colors, mixing our paints, and applying our first layers. Adhering strictly to the furniture painting methodology dictated by Isabel O’Neil herself, we have since added three additional coats, and mixed and applied a different color of paint to certain details of our pieces.
In many ways the class is formal and structured, after all this is the first class of twelve in the process of becoming a Journeyman, so it’s important to the studio that everyone is trained basically the same way. However, there are just as many informal aspects that stick out with charm because of the juxtaposition. Take Joan, for example, the colorist at the studio who teaches a class in, you guessed it, color and also helped all of us to mix and choose our paints. From day one I have referred to her in my mind as The Color Surgeon. I’m not sure if it’s because she speaks with such confidence and authority, or if it’s because she wears a lab coat. But I do know that I’d trust her to give me a transplant and mix the colors for the walls of my dream home at the same time. Last week I was the last person in class (I’m not slow, I’m careful) so I had the pleasure of hanging/eavesdropping with the teachers. Most notably, Joan shared a story of a recent encounter with Moonshine (the illegally distilled liquor of choice for Southern mountain men). Imagine The Color Surgeon drinking Moonshine! And then talking about it with grace.
This contradiction exists not just among the cast of characters with whom I spend every Wednesday night, but also with the painting. Most women in my class (fine, all, besides me) are painting elegant dark wood pieces in brighter, more fun colors. I exclude myself because if I describe my initial piece as elegant I am completely changing the definition of elegant (or lying). The studio’s only rule about choosing a color is that you can’t use white. At least one person in the class was thrown by this at first, but now when you look at our pieces lined up, with shades of orange, green, and blue, you wonder who in their right mind would take a class to paint their bedside table white. (If you disagree, please leave your comments below, please). Because I have a little more freedom with my piece – it doesn’t need to match anything in my apartment because I plan to build an apartment around it one day – I was encouraged by my teacher and classmates to be a little more racy with my colors. It’s a “fun” piece, not a formal dining room piece. The result is really cool – a funky and adorable piece of furniture, if I do say so myself. The main color is a green that is less harsh than lime, with pink striping. Lily Pulitzer will be calling me any day now.
It’s a pretty great environment to work in – this informal yet serious, loose yet strict setting. You look forward to seeing your classmates, asking them how Thanksgiving was, and discussing the topics of the day – from Occupy Wall Street to kids with fake IDs, we know no boundaries. And then for moments, sometimes long and sometimes short, you get lost in the concentration of painting.
I’ll check back in soon about the class, but in the meantime, sign-up has started for the next term. Check out the Isabel O’Neil website for info on classes.