My Love Affair with the American Flag – an Old and New Interpretation
Why do we have certain loves that are imbedded so deep within us that sometimes we do not even know how they got there? Maybe it was the way we were raised, or a simple word or song that struck a chord with us long ago and took hold of our hearts, or something we observed that swept us with emotion.
Well one of those loves for me is the American flag. For as long as I can remember, I have had such a strong sense of patriotism for our country, and at the heart of it is our beautiful red white and blue flag. I am lucky to have a gorgeous view of ours in my most favorite spot to be in the world: the corner of my front porch on our white rockers sitting next to my best friend and hubby, cozy and safe and relaxed in our little corner of the world.
Remember my last post (you can view it here) when I came across a gorgeous circa 1860 American quilt in one of my quilting books? I used part of its design, which I named the “lollipop” block, for the motif for the child’s desk that I recently painted.
What originally caught my eye though was the center block with an interpretation of an American flag. Something told me to paint a variation of it on an old thrift store oak table I had recently picked up. Its thirteen stripes symbolizing the thirteen original colonies were blue and white – a beautiful bright but richly-hued blue which I knew would be perfect with the Soldier Blue milk paint (The Old-Fashioned Milk Paint Company) that I wanted to paint on the table top. The stars on the block were eight-pointed stars pieced together with yellow and red fabric. I’d have to think about how I wanted to paint mine.
So I lightly sanded down the little table and covered it with three coats of the Soldier Blue. It already started to chip slightly in some areas, more in others, and I loved the golden wood peeking through. I wanted to save my favorite part of brushing off the chippy flakes until after I painted on the flag.
I first figured how much of the table I wanted to remain exposed with solid blue. It worked out easily that four 8 ½ x 11 pieces of paper taped together into a rectangle covered exactly the area that I wanted while leaving a generous border. I absolutely love that blue, so there was no way I would leave a skimpy outline of it around the perimeter! I then laid-out on the paper the area for the fields of stars and stripes and transferred the markings with white transfer paper onto the blue table-top. I then free-handed the star onto cardstock and traced it directly onto the table’s star field in the areas I wanted them to shine. I divided the stars into sections but then divided each section in half so that I could create the 3D effect that I had decided I wanted to achieve.
Now I’ve been thinking quite a bit lately about wanting to create a sepia effect with the milk paint when painting more detailed designs on the base coats of some future projects I have in mind. Well, I didn’t quite achieve that this time on the overall design; however, I liked creating a washed effect for the white stripes by really diluting the milk paint with water and letting it just flow off the brush onto table, without overworking it and instead letting the blue shine through. The red saw tooth design around the perimeter I was hoping to mute as well, but it came out…well, sort of…red. But that’s OK with me because I liked the way it was coming out, even though it wasn’t my original vision.
Now for the stars, I was really excited about my decision to create a 3D effect for them similar to what I had achieved on my son’s toy box years and years ago when I painted on 5-pointed stars. All I did was divide each section in half, painting one side dark and the other side light. The light was a watered down marigold yellow. Following the advice of my daughter, I added just a little yellow to the driftwood to finally get a bit of that sepia tone that I was looking for. Yay for the power of yellow and artistic daughters!!! With that little bit of new knowledge, my mind is already working on those future project designs.
As I let my happy folk-art flag cure, I gently flaked off the table body’s chipping paint and then applied a generous coat of hemp oil and wet-sanded it using 220- grit sandpaper, working in sections. That beautiful butter-smooth finish still amazes me, as it is so easy to achieve and seals the milk paint beautifully. I have had one mishap on a previous piece with using hemp oil over white milk paint as it seemed to draw out the stain of the wood, really discoloring the white paint. I did not want to chance on ruining the flag, so I simply clear-waxed the part of the table top that had the flag. The rest of the top was oiled. The hemp oil always darkens the tone of the milk-paint, an effect that I love as it richens the piece. I loved the tone of the Soldier Blue in its raw state, and was really surprised at how much it darkened after being oiled, but all-in-all I am very happy with the results of the entire table.
Soon I will be setting up a shop on this website featuring all my redesigns, so if you are in the Northshore area (north of Boston, Massachusetts) I would be happy to meet up if you are interested in anything! Just drop me a note in my contact form. You can always browse my gallery as well to see what’s new!
Thanks for reading!