Though I’ve put paintbrush to furniture dozens of times, I still am often plagued with doubt when I try something new or different or if I use dark wax or go a little heavy on the distressing.
I can be a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to my creative endeavors. I rarely think what I make is good enough. I believe in The Nester’s philosophy that it doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful, but I have a hard time applying it to my own handiwork. I will nitpick myself to death, sometimes tweaking and tweaking and tweaking…
Uncertainty, tweaking and doubt came into play big time this week as I was painting a pretty little Franch side table with cabriole legs. I knew I wanted to French-ify the table even more, painting the legs and base a pretty French gray. But the topped begged for a more special decorative treatment.
Here’s a look at the table in progress, after I’d painted the top antique white and the base medium gray. Forgive my super-messy workspace. I suffered a paint spill as I was mixing up my gray because I failed to secure the pour top. Oops!
I thought about stenciling the top with a French saying or poem, as Marian, aka Miss Mustard seed did on this beautiful piece. But I didn’t have a stencil, I didn’t want to make one and I didn’t want to wait to buy one. Then, I thought of using the wax paper transfer method I used on my handpainted fromage tray to create an image on the tabletop. But since the tabletop is larger than a sheet of paper, I worried that the ink would smudge if I attempted to do the transfer in stages.
Other decorative painters, like Korrie from Red Hen Home, have used overhead projectors to transfer images onto furniture, and that’s definitely the method I would have used if I had an overhead projector.
So, I had to find another way to put this French advertising image from The Graphics Fairy onto my little table:
I decided to freehand it in chalk on the tabletop, already flirting with disaster because
- I am not an artist
- I do not have a steady hand
- I don’t think I have particularly pretty handwriting
Here is the table all chalked up. I simply sketched out the words, ribbons and some of the flourishes from the Graphics Fairy image in pink chalk, adapting it to fit my surface. I had a moment of panic — several actually — wondering if the pink chalk would disappear with sanding, but I decided to risk it.
Though I wasn’t sure at this stage whether I really “liked” the tabletop (or whether it met my vision of perfection), I dove right in and started painting the letters in gray. I used a variety of artists’ brushes to fill in the letters and fine lines. But, as I mentioned in Point 2 above, I don’t have a steady hand. So, the lines definitely weren’t crisp and some were pretty shaky. And I felt like I had overdone it with some of the flourishes. So, I painted over those.
By the time I got all the lettering done, it was past 11 p.m., I was stinky and sweating from working in a stuffy from working in a hot garage. I called in my husband for an opinion. “Be honest,” I told him, and he assured me that he liked the table.
“I want you to tell me the truth.” I commanded. But he didn’t waver.
I still wasn’t sure. So, I decided to shower and sleep on it.
The next morning, I still wasn’t sure about the table. But I decided to go all in.
I started sanding the table, giving the legs and base a pretty heavy distressing. Then, I went to work on the tabletop, erasing much of my painting with the sandpaper. I’ll admit I was a little reckless in my sanding, using coarse grit in places and not using very gentle or evenhanded strokes.
I still didn’t know if I liked the table.
So, I decided to wax it. One coat of clear wax. More distressing with sandpaper.
I still wasn’t sure about it.
So I attached it with dark wax (mixed with mineral spirits.) I waxed and wiped and buffed, until my arms were aching. Then I waxed some more with clear and filled in some spots with dark wax and buffed some more.
Finally, I had finished the table. Or gotten it to a point where I was finished with it.
But I still wasn’t sure about it. So, I snapped a few quick photos with my phone and posted them on Facebook with the question, “What do you think? Should I repaint this tabletop?”
I received not a single negative comment. So I decided to put the table up for sale in our booth at Golden Antiques & Treasures. For all the work this thing required, I priced it at a steal.
These photos make the top look really blotchy for some reason, but it’s not that blotchy. Might have something to do with the filter I put on the photo when I was editing it.
I still don’t know about this table. It’s not perfect — not quite what I envisioned — but maybe it is beautiful in its own right.
Maybe if or when somebody buys this table, I’ll feel better about it and my efforts.