Monday, 29 September 2014

Graining and Marbling Extravaganza

3 Award Winning Teachers in 4 days!!

Painted Faux Portoro and Mahogany
Graining and Marbling are techniques executed in paint that imitate marble and wood. They are almost the foundation skills of the decorative painter. Learning these techniques gives you core abilities in the manipulation of paint that you will continue to use throughout your decorative career.
I have been teaching graining and marbling for a lot of years, in colleges, art schools and private school here in UK and abroad as well as in our own studio.

Class at Lynne Rutter's studio in San Francisco
Graining and marbling can be applied to any surface that you can paint, so make a cheap fireplace into expensive wood or luxurious marble, have marble floors and walls in your gives the decorator the opportunity to really show off and also give the client really high ticket products at a much more reasonable price.
Carrara marbling in a home in St Andrews
Recently we decided we would like to put on a really special class and include some top UK specialists as guest teachers so that the attendee really gets a lot of bang for their buck. 2 classes of 2 days so you can choose to do one or both.

13th and 14th November 2014 - 1 places
Advanced class
15th and 16th November 2014 - 1 places

The first 2 days taught by me (Cait Whitson) is a class that will help beginners get a handle on the techniques and help those that have had experience in traditional oil techniques learn how to use the cutting edge Golden Proceed acrylic products that have been developed in America to meet today's market.You will learn white veined marble, Portoro marble and Sienna marble and then pine, mahogany and walnut. All these will be taught in water based materials.
A montage of some of the water based finishes we have taught in the past

Then we will have the great pleasure of welcoming Jeremy Taylor from Elgin and Roy Makin from Walsall

Jeremy is a traditional painter and decorator with an extensive training and experience in traditional and restoration work. He has a passion for decorative arts and has striven to attain training and projects that reflect this. As well as doing work for Historic Scotland, Jeremy has done work for Architects, Designers and the Scottish Redundant Churches Trust. More recently Jeremy travelled as far as Sweden to develop his skills further by taking a Trompe L'oeil class at Palm Fine Arts, learning architectural elements such as molding profiles and decorative ornaments, this is a wonderful addition to add to graining & marbling and

Roy started as a painter decorator at 17 and went into teaching in the eighties at Walsall College of Art teaching decorating, sign writing, French polishing, furniture restoration and marbling & graining. While at Walsall did some teaching at West Dean School in West Sussex, again teaching Marbling on their yearly summer schools. I was the first winner of the acorn gold award for decorative painting back in the eighties. Started as a self employed decorative painter completing projects  in and around England and France for 20 years, also teaching one to one courses structured around clients needs.


The second 2 day class we will be working extensively with these two wonderful guys. Jeremy will teach oak on the Saturday - this is his absolute speciality. Check his Facebook page and his site meantime here is a little taster

A Jeremy Taylor project in oak

 His other speciality is executing trompe l'oeil mouldings and ornament - this is the art of creating a realistic but fake moulding that is purely executed in paint. Here is a fabulous example
Jeremy Taylor trompe l'oeil moulding and ornament
He will be helping us start our career in trompe l'oiel by teaching a moulding on one of our panels similar to the one he has achieved here

trompe l'oeil

Roy Makin will be delivering a master class in marble - again his speciality. He will deliver a class  on the Saturday afternoon and here's a sneak preview of his work

Arabescato by Roy Makin

This is the panel that Roy will be teaching
Finally I will teach some crotch mahogany. This is also known as feather mahogany. It really needs 3 workings and so we will have a chance to execute the first two stages and then demo the overgraining and all students will go home with materials to complete at are a few examples of this technique.

A recent project after 2 workings

Grained door after 3 workings
Close up

Introduction/refresher class
13th and 14th November 2014 - 1 places
Advanced class
15th and 16th November 2014 - 1 places

Cost - £265 each class - £495 for both

For more info click  here and  to buy go here!

Monday, 5 May 2014

Makeover Magic

What happens when stuff gets you throw it out? Sometimes yes if it's broken, that's the best thing to do. What if an item has still got life in it and it's just a bit tired or dated? I think we all feel these days that we should try and reuse or recycle it. There are lots of ways to reuse, you can give things away through Freegle and Freecycle, you can recycle if it is made of a recycleable material or you can "upcycle"...which means to change it and make it better than it was.

The painted revolution has made many of us think again about throwing useful things out - even an old bike can get painted turquoise and popped in the garden as a feature - this one aint too shabby and is pretty chic in my opinion.....recycling it took not much effort as you will see from the link below.

pop over to I Love That Junk to see how this was achieved

So if we love saving the small stuff, why do we throw the big stuff......clever paint finishes can turn something like this from ebay

To this at Carte Blanche Studios and you can learn how this was done on our  

But people are ready to throw out much bigger purchases, like a full blown kitchen, even a well designed one. Lucky for us a few people who see the opportunity to save money and create something new and fresh from the old  

This couple could see that opportunity and with a little colour help and a lot of labour we gave them a totally new space.

This is what they had - a really high quality well designed kitchen that used the space well. Not everyone has as good quality cabinetry as this but often there are very few designs that can be executed in someone's space and if you have solid units  and a good layout, why go through the upheaval and cost of a new kitchen

 and this is what we left them with. Now we didn't manage this alone - we did it with the help of our lovely friend and colleague Andrew Fizpatrick the most laid back, easy to work with, super cool cabinet maker and kitchen maker that I have worked with ever (testament is I've worked with him for 17 years!!!). He made new doors, tightened hinges and we got going with the paintwork.

A fresh new space!!!

Now none of this is rocket science but it is a LOT of work and not everyone has time to do it themselves - you can give us a call or drop us an email with images and we'll send you a price. Alternatively come on one of our classes and learn how to do it yourself.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

General Finishes - What is is GOOOD for? ....absolutely everything

Some time back we had a call from one of our favourite suppliers General Finishes UK to tell us they had moved their warehouse to Scotland and inviting us to pay a visit. The timing of this call was amazing. We had some time earlier decided to concentrate more on contracting and teaching than retailing.......but we still needed product to teach classes with and I needed something new to work with, I felt I was getting a bit stale teaching the same thing over and over and I also felt that people were looking for a new fresh looks so here we are, with a lovely new range to play with.

We have been using the products for an absolute age.....they are a truly professional product range that I never thought to bring to the DIY market but as soon as I had the call it was like a lightbulb moment.

So what does this product range offer the painter? A fully versatile easy to use paint and varnish range.
The Milk Paint was the first product we used about 10 years ago - washes of the paint were applied to beech units and then it was varnished with their High Performance Topcoat. We were so impressed, not just by the ease of use but how durable the system was

Three years later we had a large job toning new woodwork to match old woodwork and it all needed staining and varnishing and we used the water based Sanding Sealer, the Glazes and once again the High Performance TopCoat


Both these projects have lasted an absolute age...High Performance is really High Performance.

So what are the benefits of these two products over other paints, waxes, varnishes and lacquers

  • Easy to use paint  
  • GF Milk Paint isn't actually a traditional Milk Paint it is actually an acrylic paint, based on primer technology so it is self - priming. It will go over and adhere to old varnish, lacquer, paint (oil gloss as well as all others), wood stains, french polish; it can go inside and outside
  • Beautifully smooth even when applied by the least experienced of us
  • Consistent colours and quality - every tin is the same as the last
  • Keeps without loss of quality for YEARS - providing you store it in the right conditions. We have some that is 10 years old and it is still good to go.
  • No colour leaching
  • Very quick drying
  • Easy to touch up with no visible difference in colour - providing this is done before varnishing
  • No need to wax or varnish in low traffic areas
  • No wax
  • Sealed with their varnish it is REALLY hard wearing for kitchens and bathrooms and high traffic areas
So here are a few questions I have answered recently about it -

  • Q. Can I distress it?
  • A. Yes it distresses beautifully. If you are not too worried about cutting right back through to the substrate then just layer the paint and sand back. If you want to isolate a colour and ensure that one coat only goes through to the next then apply a coat of topcoat between layers. Here is an image of what we produced in a recent class


  • Q. Is it suitable for painting prefinished kitchens - mine is looking tired
  • A. YES!!!! Uber-suitable. Here is a kitchen that we originally painted over 15 years ago. Originally we painted it in oil based eggshell, glazed in oil based glaze and put the most durable oil based varnish we could find on it All these years on we were back to give them an equally long lasting finish in water based paints - using General Finishes Paint. 

  • Q. Can I antique something I am painting?

  • A. YES!  you use the premixed coloured glazes to put a transparent wash of colour over the surface - here is a tray we antiqued in that way. No wax!!!
  •  Q.Can I use it on floors?
  • A. YES!! Lovely to use on floors but use a few coats of the High Performance Topcoat. Here is our studio kitchen floor finished in a dry brush technique

Hopefully this gives you a bit of an insight into the new products. If you would like to find out more, then join us for one of our new

Furniture Painting 101 - General Finishes Painting Class

or join us for our Painting Party on the 26th April 2014

    Wednesday, 8 January 2014

    Apple Store

    We have done a lot of work in the last year at Fasque House in Kincardineshire a wonderful wedding and conference destination that has been created in the house and grounds former home of Prime Minister Gladstone's family.

    The owners Doug and Heather Dick-Reid have taken on what is a seemingly impossible task of restoring and bringing to life a house that seemed beyond economic to do so. With a whole floor of the house attacked by dry rot and parts of the rest of the house that hadn't even been opened in 30 or 40 years, and if they were to get grants it required them to  replace like for like lathe and lime plaster had to be replaced with lathe and lime plaster, stone had to be repaired with lime mortar.  No plaster-board and silicon for these guys...that puts a huge strain on the budget even when you have grants given. Sometimes a grant given to help rebuild an historic home is only just economically viable depending in the constraints that are levied on the restorer, and the hoops that are required to to be jumped through can be endless, paperwork alone taking many hours to prepare.

    A little part of Fasque's estate hidden down in the then dilapidated kitchen garden was the sweetest building originally called the "Apple Store" now known as the Garden Rooms and sometimes referred to in documents as Fasque's Gothic Pavilion

    Source here

    Here it is looking a tad sorry for itself, windows broken, roof crumbling and in desperate need of repair.

    When we first took a tour of this building they had just started on the renovations and much of the original character remained despite it's sad state

    The stair turret
    The distempered walls in a sky blue were charming but flaking beyond repair and while the green is a rather stunning colour it is mould...

    original graining but only one small section could be salvaged

    Upstairs in what is now the bedroom and toilet turret the lath and first coat of lime plaster was in full flow

    traditional lathe hand made by the builders on site
    Using traditional lime plaster limits you as to what you can apply to the surface in the ensuing period. The walls need to breath and must have vapour permeable products applied. This precludes all normal vinyl matt paints and acrylic paints as well as oil based products, nor can you wallpaper as the wall will "sweat" beneath the paper or non breathable paint and the alkali nature of lime will break down these surface coatings.

    We had a challenge ahead when we were asked to complete decorative finishes that would look amazing and could be applied to fresh lime plaster....of course we rose to the challenge. And we have some of the most beautiful and innovative finishes in this tiny building- necessity is the mother of invention as they say.

    Here is the Lathe and Plaster room finished

    a close up of the sparkly finish

    The graining done afresh although one area that will still good was retained

    The bedroom

    The ceiling and wall finish

    A sky ceiling was applied to the stairwell

    Along with a cherub or two

    And here is Emily my stalwart throughout much of this project, very adequately demonstrating the conditions on the site.
    But this is how we left amazing team!

    To see more of how it is today visit -