Before & After: Succulent Scribbles
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!