Sunday, April 12, 2015

ISATA Conference: Painting Seminar

Brick Painting

For the past four years, I have been privileged to be invited to present at the Idaho Speech Arts Teachers Association annual conference.  ISATA is an association of speech, debate and drama teachers at the high school level all across the state of Idaho.  I have enjoyed my association with ISATA and have loved getting to know many of the drama teachers across the state.  A few of them are my former students.  The cool thing about students is that some of them eventually become colleagues.  That is how I view my former students who are teaching high school drama.  It's great to see how they are taking what they learned at school and are incorporating it into their classrooms.

The first three years we met at the Sun Valley Resort at Ketchum, Idaho.  Last year we met on the campus of Boise State University.

The first year my presentation was titled, "Props on a Shoestring" and focused on props that could be re-purposed from thrift store finds.  The second year I presented  "Magical Tomes", crafting interesting book covers from thrift store books.  The third year I presented two different ways to paint woodgrain.

Last fall, I presented for the fourth time and I called the presentation "Thick as a Brick".  I taught four different methods of painting bricks.

Method #1  Sponge Brick
A few days before heading to Boise, I prepared a few sample boards with base coats.  I knew because I had limited time I would have to present this like a cooking show with pieces in stages so I wouldn't have to wait for paint to dry.

I painted a few of them with a grey on grey scumble, and a few of them with an earthy red scumble.  The grey scumble would be for brick painted with the mortar first and the reddish would be for brick painted with the brick color first.

On the mortar first sample, (I unfortunately do not have a photo of this step) I painted several different patches of red brick colors on a staging board then I pressed a butterfly mop sponge into it.  Just the head of the mop, not the whole thing.  Then, I pressed the sponge onto the grey painted board and repeated the process until I had the piece covered.  I paid careful attention to make sure the brick coursework was reasonably even but not too perfect.  At that point I had to set the sample aside to wait for the paint to dry.  While it was drying I did a different paint demo.

For the purpose of this blog post, however I'll go right on.

Brick shapes painted with butterfly mop sponge head

Once the paint was dry and I had a chance to come back to it, I took a wash of a darker brick color and painted it over random bricks on the sample board.  That's just for variation.  Then I had to wait for that to dry.  Next time I'll do more in the way of the cooking show samples.

Finally, I added shadow lines and cut lines.

Picking out a few bricks with a wash of color

Method #2:  Older, Decayed Brick
While in graduate school, I developed a custom tool, based on a tool my adviser had made.  He had cut a roller so you could paint perspective brick courses with it.  I adapted that tool to be a roller that only painted the mortar.  His tool painted bricks while mine painted mortar.  I found a roller sleeve that was slightly encrusted with paint, to the point that they were going to throw it away.  I marked where four mortar joints would be, with a sharpie, then I took it to the bandsaw and shaved off all of the nap from the roller that didn't fit within my mortar lines.  I showed the class members the custom roller, then I showed it to them in action.

The custom mortar roller

I started with a board I had previously painted with a reddish brick colored scumble.  Then I took a mortar color and painted some of it on a staging board and charged up the roller.  When you use this tool, it's imperative that you keep the tool moving in a straight line.  Otherwise you get wonky mortar lines that don't look particularly real.  Finally, when you have painted your first set of lines, the best way to keep them lined up is to overpaint the last mortar line with the first mortar line from the next pass.  So you end up painting three mortar lines at a time rather than four.

Showing the overlap

Showing the uneven quality of the mortar roller

The mortar roller is useful when painting older, decayed brick because it tends to be intermittent and the lines, while straight overall, have a jagged edge.  When all the horizontal mortar lines had been painted, I took a small chip brush and tapped in the vertical mortar lines.  Tapping or stippling helps get a similar quality in the vertical lines that you achieve with the mortar roller for the horizontal lines.

Tapping or stippling in the vertical mortar lines

What that looks like

As with the other sample, I had to put that aside while I waited for paint to dry, and did another demo.  The final piece of this one was to add shadows and cut lines.  I use Paynes Grey, thinned to a transparent wash for my shadow colors.  For the cut line I use flat black.  If I have Rosco Velour Black, all the better.  The shadow goes opposite the light source, so it's important to remember which direction the light is coming from.  I shadow one side and the bottom of each brick.  The shadow gets cast into the painted mortar, not on the brick.  Highlights (if you use them) go on the brick, not the mortar.  The cut line is a very thin line in flat black right where the brick meets the mortar.  I paint that with a one inch Purdy.

Painting shadows

I worked with a painter one time that hadn't really every painted shadows.  We were doing a stone wall for a castle and he did a really excellent paint job of individual stones.  He didn't think we needed shadows, but I painted a small section of shadows and had him look at it from the audience.  The shadows make the bricks pop out, visually.  Makes them look 3-D.  He understood, then we painted in the rest of the shadows.  The detail work is only about five percent of the job, most times.

Method #3:  Newer Brick
For this brick, once again I started with a three color brick red scumble.  This time, instead of painting the mortar lines with a roller, I measured them and marked them with charcoal then I painted the mortar lines with a straightedge and a small scenic fitch brush.  When that was done, I used the same brush and painted in the vertical mortar lines.

Starts with a three color scumble and a little spatter

Mortar lines with a lining stick

Cleaner mortar lines

When using the lining straightedge with a fitch, the quality of line is cleaner which gives the appearance of newer brick, brick that was laid with care.  When the horizontals are done (and dry) you use the lining stick for the vertical mortar and alternate from row to row so you get the overlap to look like true brick.

Once again, shadows and cut lines.

Brick with shadow lines and cut lines

Method #4:  Tape and Texture
The last method I showed was three dimensional brick made with stucco.  I created one of these  prior to my presentation because this one takes about 24 hours to dry.  I needed one to paint for the demonstration.

First of all, I go to the local paint stores and ask for a product called Total Wall which is an acrylic based stucco.  I ask for the mistints because they can sell them very cheap.  Mistints are when the paint store employees make a mistake and add the wrong color.  The mistints sit around in the shop taking up space and generating no income.  Then I come along and take them off their hands.  When you have a limited budget, this is a great way to get some special paint effects for not much money.

The first step in this process is to lay out the mortar lines with a straightedge and a pencil.  Then you take half inch wide masking tape and lay down over all the mortar lines.  It's important to determine which side of the line you are going to put the tape down on so you get the same size bricks every time.  The horizontal tape lines go on first then the vertical lines go on.  It's important for the horizontal tape lines to project past where you are going to place the stucco so you have tabs to pull.  It's also important to overlap the vertical tape lines onto the horizontal lines.  When you pull the horizontal tapes, they will raise the ends of the vertical tapes.

Once the tape has been laid down, you apply a generous layer of stucco.  I like to lay it down at least a quarter of an inch thick.  Then you can take a brush and create textures in the stucco.  Sometimes I put lines in it, sometimes I stipple all over.  Just depends on what look I'm trying to achieve.

Putting texture on taped surface, using a large putty knife initially

Stippling into the texture

Once you have the texture how you want it, it's time to pull the tape.  The tape can and should be pulled as soon as you have the texture the way you want it.  Do not allow the stucco to dry or set before you pull the tape.  It's disastrous if you do.  Pull the horizontal tapes first and they will lift the ends of the vertical tapes.  It's really quite easy and you get a lot of bang for the buck.

Pulling the tape

Then, when the piece is dry, 24 hours later, it's just a simple paint job.  Scumble on the brick color and then fill in the mortar color with a smaller brush.  The brick scumble and the mortar color can be painted wet on wet if your paint isn't too wet.  I like to add modulations in individual brick to make it look more realistic and less like a paint job.  Let the paint dry and you have 3-D brick.

Painting mortar wet on wet

There it is.  Notice the darker colorization on a few bricks.  Makes it more legit, I think.

It has been a fun association for me to present each year at ISATA.  I enjoy hanging out with the high school drama teachers.  I enjoy being able to share some of the things I have learned with them.  Then they can take those skills back and teach their students.  I hope to continue this relationship for many years to come.

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