An Impressionist Bathroom

An Impressionist Bathroom

Mark Chamberlain
Feb 9, 2010

Longtime readers of this column know that I repaint my bathroom more often than I run out for eggs. There was the French Riviera mural, the faux Chinoiserie thing; birds, fishes and on into the night. Last summer it was time again, but after fits and starts nothing took. Everything I started was awful and the project sat unfinished.

Finally, I had a flash of inspiration from a photo of Yves Saint Laurent's country estate, a room painted in the manner of Monet's water lilies. Aha — I can do that! I wanted the feeling of a Japanese garden without being literal, something I could paint in a few hours. The mood would be murky, mysterious, rare and wonderful — just like me — and the sensation would be of looking at a middle ground shoreline where foliage reflects in pond water, and goldfish and lily pads compete for optic clarity.

As I approached this I was thinking of colorwashing a wall more than I was thinking of making a pretty painting. I was not trying to mimic Monet's brushstrokes, and indeed I was never his biggest fan, as for me his work is lacking in something of a gripping narrative. But his technique of painting in scumble seemed ideal for a surface treatment.

Colorwise, there are so many disparate pigments working in concert here that the eye never comes to rest on one. The base is a walnut brown from Fine Paints of Europe, G18730. The rest are underwater blues, blacks, gold greens and a touch of red sienna, all in acrylic paint. Make thumbnail sketches and sample boards to point the way, and then attack. Final photos look different then the feeling of the room, but it somehow reminds me of black velvet, and I truly can't stop touching the walls.

Fine Paints of Europe G18730
• various acrylic paints

- Mark Chamberlain, interior and decorative painter

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