I had made this client a vessel last year. It brought him a girlfriend who turned into a partner and now they are having a child. He contacted me again, to ask if I would make a shrine the vessel could be placed in for safe keeping. Of course, I replied, let me begin.
Cleaning comes next. I use rubbing alcohol, to lift grease and anything "else" from the surface. It roughs up the finish enough, so my paints and glue can adhere without fault. Nothing worse than sending your finished piece off to someone, only to have its bits and bobbles drop off.
Then four coats of primer to seal it and give me a clean canvas to work with. This is followed by my initial three dimensional embellishment. I keep a supply of wood ornaments, metal and plastic do-hickeys around, so I have a big palette to pick from. My teacher, Michael DeMeng is big on keeping large boxes of items handy, so you don't have to stop the process of decorating as you go. I agree. Nothing is worse than having to hunt for that "something" while you are in the midst of your creative heat!
The embellishments are further added to by my all time favorite art item - DAP. Good old caulk. If only Home Depot knew where their caulk goes. I use it to finish the exterior, make wavy lines, anchor the wooden ornaments and texturize the surface, a la DeMeng. After applying the caulk with a large (and slightly heavy) caulking gun, I use a brush, a comb, my fingers and anything else I think leaves a cool impression. I draw vines and leaves with it, pull it into points, pile it on, then scoop it out. It's very forgiving and if I don't like it, I can easily change it. At about a buck a tube, art supplies don't get any cheaper.
Then, I hit it with a heat gun to fry it. The surface bubbles up like soap bubbles then falls, making dents and pools and places where my washes can slop together. It's messy at this point, but it gets better over time. I usually do this three or four times, giving it 24 hours in between to dry. The more texture I can create, the better the finish when I begin painting. I even "paint" the caulk over the wooden ornaments, to help them be less perfect. If I have learned anything from DeMeng, it is that imperfection is its own kind of perfect. As a graphic artist, I was trained to make straight lines, balanced compositions and keep everything ultra clean and sharp. This is freeing to me - using my hands, making a mess and seeing how the imperfect method becomes a thing of beauty. I am drunk on imperfection these days.
I also have to consider the interior at this point as well. Won't due to finish it on the outside, then mar the surface trying to decorate the interior. I will be hanging red velvet curtains in side, to further enhance and uphold the lush nature of the cabinet.
Once this initial coat of paint dries, I will be placing a base coat of color onto it. That will mean three layers of wash in three tones to give it depth and richness. When that coat dries, I will evaluate it to see if it needs more bits and bobbles. In this business, one can never have enough embellishment.