It’s Not So Black and White
As you may have read from my Color Post, I have always loved color and the inspiration it brings, and painting with it brings even more happiness. But I will let you in on a little secret of mine which is typical of my self-labeled “Woman of Many Conflicts” nature: I absolutely love black and white as well!
So remember the little primitive $10 dresser mentioned in my last post that took a back seat to the Colonial Cedar Chest?
Well it boldly stepped forward this month, ready and waiting for a redesign of its own – in black and white. How’d you guess?
Technically, black is the absence of color since it absorbs all the light shining on it and does not reflect any back to the eye; therefore the eye does not see any color when viewing black objects. And white is the presence of all colors since objects that appear white are actually reflecting back all the light, and everyone knows that white sunlight bent through a prism shows all the colors in the rainbow. So I guess my love of color applies to white as well, and black is just the perfect complement to it!!
Just snagged this little rainbow from an old prism that has sat on our kitchen window sill since our children were tiny and that has withstood countless falls from many a rainbow-catching lesson over the last twenty-five years!
I like to at least start out a project with some type of plan, knowing full-well that at any given moment for any given project (remember my Contrast and Harmony Table??) that plan may have to be modified.
I knew the design I would draw (more on that below) and decided for this piece I did not wish any chipping to occur which milk paint so characteristically does when applied to a previously-finished piece. I felt the chipping this time would compete too much with the design. I also had been dying to try Tung Oil as a final sealer, so here was the plan:
First: one coat of The Old Fashioned Milk Paint Company’s (OFMP) Pitch Black with OFMP Extra Bond added to prevent subsequent chipping
Second: one coat of straight OFMP Pitch Black
Third: laying out and hand-painting of design using OFMP Snow White
Fourth: application of Tung Oil and sanding immediately with 400-600 grit sandpaper
Fifth: rubbing in oil and buffing to a smooth sheen
Here’s the dresser in the sanding stage with my old friend, the tack-cloth. In general, whether I want a chippy finish or not, I do hand-sand a piece (although I would love to obtain an orbital sander someday!), usually less-extensively when I do want chipping. I have been using tack cloths for decades as I believe they offer the best way to remove sanding dust that even the vacuuming stage can leave behind. It also eliminates having to wait for the piece to dry if a damp cloth is used instead to wipe down dust. I use them over and over until they get pretty darn dark and lose their tackiness.
Next I mixed up with my hand whisk some OFMP Pitch Black paint, using one part powdered pigment to one part water, as directed. I always use very warm tap water as I find the warmth tends to allow better mixing. I think I used a half cup of each for a dresser this size to begin with. From this mixed paint I took out about ½ cup and mixed it with ¼ cup Extra Bond in a separate container. Only the first coat needs to include the Extra Bond, and the basic recipe is two parts mixed paint to one part Extra Bond.
As you can see, the Extra Bond coat covered very well. It almost didn’t need a second coat of paint! But after the recommended two hours of drying time, I did indeed paint the second coat with just the straight Pitch Black. I think I needed to mix just a spec more to finish the coat.
Now for the design….If you have been reading my blog for a bit or seen my About Page, you would also know that I am very interested in the Colonial and Federal periods of American history and like to incorporate into my designs some of their inspiring images. In a recent search, I came across a black and white checkered burst design (similar to the graphic designs I have seen on American Colonial floor cloths and floors) and was intrigued by its bold graphic nature. Upon further delving into its origin, I found it to be a vintage colonial-inspired design by Spicher & Company.
I proceeded to sketch out a modified version (my take has many more “petals” and features only part of the original design) to suit my dresser size and to figure out how all the pieces of the design fit together. I then drew the outermost circle (with my very high-tech crayon and string method!) and made two cardboard templates for the “petals” of the sunburst after a little geometry helped me determine their sizes.
The final design was then transferred directly to the dresser using white transfer paper.
Now it was time for fun – hand painting the design! Because milk paint thickens and dries fairly quickly even in the container if not used right away, I like to use little glass jars that I recycle (I think this one was an old artichoke heart jar) to mix up small batches when painting detail work since only a very tiny amount is used at a time. Even then, I add a couple of drops of water on the surface and not mix it in so as to keep the paint from solidifying. I then use another little jar of water and continuously dip first into that and then into the paint jar as I bring the paint to the wood and begin to move it around like watercolor.
I enjoy this step so much and kind of get lost in the process as I put on WCRB (Classical Radio Boston) and paint away. As touched-upon in my Traditional with a Twist post where I also used milk-paint for detail work, OFMP true milk paint is so similar to watercolor because of the water-added-to-a-solid factor, and I plan to use it even more extensively for detail and design work in the near future.
Now The Old Fashioned Milk Paint Company’s Pitch Black is a true black as can be seen in this photo where the dresser is up against our black-lacquered piano. It is almost impossible to see where the piano ends and the dresser begins. Especially when sealed, in this case with Tung Oil, the milk paint becomes rich in hue, as can be seen below. To the left is part of the dresser with a layer of Tung Oil, and to the right is the raw unfinished milk paint.
The OFMP Company carries Hope’s 100% Pure Tung Oil which I used for the first time on this project. It is all natural with no additives and is solvent-free with no VOC’s. It has a warm nutty aroma and seeps into raw wood or porous finishes, creating a durable seal which resists water, alcohol, and oils. Since milk paint is porous, Tung Oil is the perfect sealer. It is a particularly good choice to use as a sealant over Pitch Black. I applied it fairly generously with an old T-shirt and then immediately sanded it with 400-grit sandpaper. Milk paint dries with a slightly rough texture. Sanding over the oil, with just a few quick passes, instantly transforms the paint to a silky-smooth surface. Now Tung Oil does tend to slightly yellow milk-paint over time, especially when applied over white. However, for this application I welcomed that possibility since I thought it would add to the worn, sepia-like look that I hope it will achieve. It is just something to keep in mind for your project applications if you try Tung Oil.
While sanding, the black pigment transferred to the white-painted areas and therefore knocked down the brightness of the white which is what I was aiming to do. You can see in the picture below the difference in brightness between the oiled/sanded drawer on the top and the non-oiled/non-sanded drawer on the bottom.
It is always difficult, I find, to sand over a newly-painted design, but I am becoming braver, since I can look forward to the final step to really achieve my desired end product. In this case the final step was wiping off the excess oil and sanding particles and then buffing which showcased the paint’s wonderfully-mottled depth and now beautiful sheen as well.
The dresser was now ready to be adorned with its hardware. I chose these little crystal-like knobs because I thought a solid might perhaps be too heavy with the design, and these also perfectly mimicked the sunflower-like painted design with its flat circular center and radiating facets – like mini-prisms reflecting the light!
I think they also bring a little bit of bling to this black-tie affair! 🙂
I hope you enjoyed reading this colorful black and white tale! I love comments so feel free to share below!
This post was sponsored by The Old Fashioned Milk Paint (OFMP) Company of Groton, Massachusetts. I discovered their company in September of 2015 while searching for an American manufacturer of milk paint. I can honestly say it was love at first phone call. I began using milk paint that month and have never stopped. Milk paint was the center around which this blog was built, and as I grow and learn about natural paints, my plan is to continue to keep it as the foundation of and constant contributor to my painting experiences. In July of 2016 I was honored to accept an invitation to be an OFMP Official Brand Blogger as part of their Ambassador/Blogger Outreach Program. Although I have received OFMP products at no cost for the completion of this post’s project, all opinions and gushing admiration for all its wonderful milk paint properties are my own.