Recent Projects: Primitive Painted Trunk

Working in different spaces and with different people can mean painting in different styles — which was the case with my most recent project!

The room I was working with was a bedroom decorated in a clean, country style featuring a beautiful hand-made quilt.  At the foot of the bed was my project — a cedar trunk with a lid that was in rough shape (beyond the “added character” stage of wear). 


So - the challenge was to create something with the trunk that would add interest and beauty to the room while fitting with the overall country feel.  I also wanted to make sure that my painting on the lid of the trunk would “blend” with the sides of the piece - which has great character in the wood grain and signs of many years of use.


To accomplish all of this, I decided to do a primitive-style landscape and then “age” the finish to match the rest of the trunk. I had not done any primitive painting before, so I decided to do a good amount of online research to find a style that would capture the primitive look, but still go with the room.


Since I knew I would be “aging” my painting at the end, I started with an under-coating of different colors that I would paint over and then later reveal through a light sanding.  The first coat was a light tan, followed by a darker grey-blue.  Then for the sky, I chose a lighter blue that picked up on some of the blues in the quilt.

To complete the sky, I blended in a lighter yellow-tan color to create a feel of early morning/late afternoon and to add an antique feel to the painting.


Once this was complete, I started on the foreground.  My base-coat here was a darker grey, and then I used a brown paint to finalize my sketch of all the layers and details. These darker colors work well when they remain un-painted in detail areas of the final piece.


With the ground-work all done, I was ready to start painting the landscape itself.  Here, I worked in layers - starting with the grass, then the wheat field (to capture the yellows in the quilt), then the trees and finally the buildings.  When building out these layers, I approached the whole piece like I was creating a quilt, focusing more on the pattern and colors than on the details (in keeping with the primitive style).  I also focused on maintaining the late afternoon/early morning light that I began with to blend in the sky.

Finally, I “aged” the piece by sanding lightly across the painting, and harder in areas that would naturally get more wear (around the edges and corners).  This brought out a little of the wood of the trunk, in addition to the colors of my under-coats that I first applied.  To complete this look, I rubbed in stain leaving more at the edges to create an antique look.



After protecting it with a few coats of shellac, it was ready to go back to its final home.  The end result accomplished the goal of adding a whole new element of interest and beauty to the room - while really enhancing the comfortable, cheery feel of the space.

Happy painting,