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Before & After: Succulent Scribbles

August 12, 2012


The quest for color in my garden accessories hasn’t ended … it’s just gone to extremes. And what’s more extreme color-wise than black, white — and both — mixed? In this project I’ve given two ’60s mod chairs a new life as garden seating with a succulent graffiti twist. As with my recent bench project (click here), the chairs came from Treasures N Junk in nearby Ontario; in fact I bought them on the same day for very little cash. My first thought was to give the chairs a good cleaning and paint them … problem was I couldn’t decide what color I wanted them to be. First, I thought, okay: Gray. Wait, maybe they should be black. No, white. Then: How boring … I set them aside. Later, while looking through some art books, I saw this piece by ’80s art hero, Keith Haring, and I got excited: I could do something in a similar loose, energetic style and use black, white AND gray. Though I wanted the chair’s design to be Haring-esque, I didn’t want to copy his style; I wanted it to look like mine. Plus, I wanted the design to reflect my love for succulents. So, I decided one would be devoted to the aloe, and one to the agave, and both would include representations of each, written as well as drawn. The finished chairs, above, turned out exactly as I envisioned them in my mind — lively, fun and graphic. Graffiti in the garden?  Yo! — it ain’t for everyone. But I think it fits into the mix at the Rancho just fine. Here’s how I did it …


The chairs, as I bought them, were in pretty messy shape. They’d obviously been through some weather and were pretty dirty and rough. I loved their scoop-y shape, though, as well as their splayed stands … I knew I could work with ’em.


First order of business: A good scrubbing … followed by some surface work with a sanding block. Layers of dirt and crusty gunk came off easily. The discoloration caused by water settling in the seats refused to budge, though. Time for neutralization.


To even-out the chair’s surfaces, I sprayed on multiple coats of Rustoleum paints in a textured metal finish. A dark, almost black, gray for the base, and a bit lighter gray for the seat itself.


Fully sprayed and drying, the chairs looked pretty good. Surface dings and unevenness were hidden by the textured paint and the chair’s space-age good looks were evident again.


Neutral was nice but the chairs needed some contrast … so, I sprayed a few coats of black paint on the seats, with white for the bases. No ordinary white paint, though, this was supposed to provide a stone-like texture.


Only thing was, when I sprayed it on it was less like stone and more like a crackle finish. Happily, I loved it! The gray undercoat was still visible through the cracks, adding yet another layer of contrast. Accidental, but perfect. Now for the seats …


To get the spontaneous feel I wanted, I knew I couldn’t over-think the seat’s graffiti design. So, taking one of my deep just-go-for-it breaths, I dipped my brush into heavy bodied, white acrylic paint and got started on the agave chair. I forced myself to move quickly …


… drawing and writing without stopping. Once the seat was filled, I stood back; looked great … but no time for exhaling. On to the aloe version …


I repeated the process, and this one went even faster … I stood back and thought I might like this one even better than the first.


 I had applied the white acrylic paint at full strength and while it went on well, it wasn’t totally opaque; something I liked. This quality lent the design a definite hand-painted appearance and certain rawness … in some spots, though, it was a touch too raw. So, Sharpie permanent markers to the rescue. Using the markers, I tightened up the design by outlining certain areas and defining letterforms.


Fully tidied, I added a few coats of all-weather protecting polyurethane. Now, I couldn’t decide which chair I liked better. Both had been transformed from past-their-prime mod has-beens to something new; something more decorative — organic, even. I decided I loved them both equally.

Now, to get started on my next B&A project: transforming two old metal and vinyl stools into hypertufa-topped side tables for the patio. Stand by!

35 Comments leave one →
  1. Monica Felt permalink
    August 12, 2012 2:11 am

    You’re a beautiful painter~ thanks for this.

    • reubix1 permalink*
      August 12, 2012 2:14 am

      You’re welcome, Monica… thanks for commenting!

  2. carol permalink
    August 12, 2012 5:38 am

    Wonderful! My favorite is the aloe chair. Somehow I get a Hawaiian feel from it. It seems very tropical. You’re so talented!

  3. August 12, 2012 5:39 am

    I LOVE what you have done with these chairs !!!!

    • reubix1 permalink*
      August 12, 2012 5:53 am

      I appreciate it, thanks!

  4. August 12, 2012 6:10 am

    Oh my god! If you ever have another sale I am dropping everything and driving down. I love these! I think I’d especially love a set of four as my dining table chairs.

    • reubix1 permalink*
      August 12, 2012 6:11 am

      Loree, guess what? Treasures N Junk’s got two more of these chairs in their garden shop … 😉

  5. August 12, 2012 9:47 pm

    These are so, so cool. Devastating.

    • reubix1 permalink*
      August 12, 2012 10:15 pm

      Muchas gracias, mi amiguita!

      • August 12, 2012 10:54 pm

        Have you ever considered designing prints for fabric?

      • reubix1 permalink*
        August 12, 2012 10:56 pm

        Funny you should ask, I’m working on some stuff for Spoonflower, the do-it-yourself fabric site. Will keep you posted!

  6. August 12, 2012 11:02 pm

    That design belongs on a couch!

    • reubix1 permalink*
      August 12, 2012 11:14 pm

      I think I’ll go back to TnJ for the other two chairs and do two more: echeveria and euphorbia.

      • August 13, 2012 12:01 am

        LOL, I was just planning a trip to TnJ, myself. I think you should have them, though.

      • reubix1 permalink*
        August 13, 2012 12:24 am

        Eek — I better send Paul to get those chairs asap!

  7. daveinToronto permalink
    August 13, 2012 3:10 pm

    Sir, you could probably fund your retirement with this kind of stuff. They look fabulous.

    • reubix1 permalink*
      August 13, 2012 3:28 pm

      I’m forwarding your comment, Dave, to my accountant!

  8. August 14, 2012 12:03 am

    BEST EVAH EVAH!! I’m not even going to try to rave. They speak for themselves. So raw and gangsta and JR and all that, but also clean and mod and sculptural. Best of all–totally original! I know I love something when all I can think about is copying it!!! Thanks so much for the tutorial. You are as generous as your creative!

    • reubix1 permalink*
      August 14, 2012 12:14 am

      So happy you love ’em… please let me know when you do yours by sending pics …cheers!

  9. August 14, 2012 5:12 am

    Wow these are amazing! You are quite an artist and should be so proud! You know you don’t want to but you could sell these for sooooo much money! Well done!

    • reubix1 permalink*
      August 14, 2012 5:20 am

      Thanks so much, Candy … Cool stuff on your blog, too!

  10. August 14, 2012 3:40 pm

    Oh Reuben ! I want to make cool chairs too ! your are a fabulous graphic designer, i adore your style… Bravo !

  11. August 15, 2012 3:21 pm

    Awesome! I’m inspired…

    • reubix1 permalink*
      August 15, 2012 3:44 pm

      Yay… Send pictures!

  12. August 16, 2012 1:29 pm

    I know I’m crazy, but I really LOVE graffiti art… probally why I love Basquiat so much. Anyhow, these are great and so much more interesting than a flat color. Don’t get me wrong, there isn’t anything wrong with plain ol’ color, but I really like what you’ve done here.

    • reubix1 permalink*
      August 16, 2012 1:42 pm

      Thanks, WF, I love Basquiat (and graffiti art), too … I wish he were still here creating art …

  13. August 17, 2012 4:26 am

    These are FABULOUS! Sounds like you are healing well.

    • reubix1 permalink*
      August 17, 2012 4:51 am

      Thanks much! But the healing’s still to come … I’ve not had my surgery yet!

  14. August 20, 2012 3:17 pm

    SO freaking amazing! I love that you chose to use a black and white palette. I would buy these in a minute!

    • reubix1 permalink*
      August 20, 2012 3:21 pm

      Thanks again, I’ll contact you when they go on the block!

  15. August 22, 2012 8:05 pm

    “Aloe? Is anyone there?”

    “Agave at the office.”

    Brilliant the way you transformed those chairs, Reuben.

    • reubix1 permalink*
      August 22, 2012 8:14 pm

      Thanks for the compliment and the succulent humor!


  1. Walking Tour: SDBG Garden Art | Rancho Reubidoux

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