One of my first big projects after coming to live here in the early 90s was the interior of a restaurant, which was to be called Les Fresques. It was attached to a Château in the throes of being gutted and restored as a hotel complex. On a previous château commission I had divised a way of creating a chalky fresco and paint finish for the walls to be in keeping with the crumbling, decaying old château and this was going to be perfect for the type of finish for Les Fresques.
The owner for this new project had thrust a magazine cutting in my hands to use for inspiration, a picture of a beautiful old crumbling Italian interior, so with this limited source, I did some test pieces on boards which were accepted. I plastered the walls with a plaster type finish, coloured into it, then designed and painted renaissance details round the doorways and on the walls inventing the details as I worked round the space, nowadays I would design the whole thing first and get approval, but then I had to think on my feet.
During my first couple of years here one drawback I had was not being familiar with French building materials and paints, whilst I knew my materials in the UK fairly well, coming to France it was like being a novice again! I’d go round the DIY stores surreptitiously opening lids and sniffing to see what the various products were, trying to find meths, solvents, white spirit and glues. (surprisingly, white spirit is the same, only it’s pronounced white speereet, and if you don’t pronounce it correctly you don’t get understood!)
They didn’t have PVA as such so, sniffing at a pot of wood glue, I deduced the smell was near enough, so I used that as my paint medium, mixing it ( diluted ) with tubes of colorants intended for colouring household paints. I even used diluted wood glue, as a final protective varnish.
These days proper varnishes have been developed for this purpose, however the restaurant decor is still there after 30 years, proof that it worked well!
Here are some doorways, the first opens through to a garden scene I painted inspired by the Roman Villa of Livia, just north of Rome (these were the loos to the restaurant).
Here’s the first Château I worked on in 1991 developing the fresco technique, keeping the finish subtle and non intrusive, so that was a soft background for the antiques
Influenced by the frescoes I then used the same technique in a few of my own artworks: here’s one example, my mum with Lucy kitten on her lap in 2005 (1.20m x1.70)