Today I'm happy to have Sybil Johnson, the author of Fatal Brushstroke, guest posting here on my blog. All I really know about tole painting is that my mother and grandmother used to do a lot of it. Sybil has kindly offered to fill in the details for us...
I started tole painting (or decorative painting as it’s usually called these days) in the early 90s when a group of us at work gathered in a conference room once a week or so, ate lunch, and worked on various projects. The experienced painter in the group taught us newbies the basics. During the period we were active, we painted many different designs, starting simple and getting more complex as we gained experience. Here’s our first project.
Every time I look at this wooden house, it reminds me of those first steps we took. How we learned to read a pattern, prepare the wood, transfer the design using a stylus and graphite paper, basecoat and paint the project and, finally, varnish the finished piece.
Over several years, we painted Christmas ornaments, cookie jar lids, sweatshirts, and a host of other projects. We practiced floating and comma strokes. We learned the difference between painting on wood, tin, and fabric. Some projects took longer than others, stretching out over several weeks or even months. (Because of deadlines at work we weren’t always able to paint every week, but we persisted.) This was one of our longer projects, a wooden box with a heart-shaped top I use today as a container for my sewing supplies.
The composition of the group ebbed and flowed as people left and joined the company, stopped painting or, in one sad case, passed away. These classes served as a solid basis for my later painting projects.
I no longer have all of the projects the group painted, but I do have something I consider far more important—the memories of those classes. How we talked and laughed as we worked on a project, helping each other out as we went. I never really thought about it at the time I started working on Fatal Brushstroke, but I think that camaraderie is one of the reasons I decided to set my mystery series in the world of decorative painting.
Now, I largely paint by myself, but every year my sister and I attend a painting convention together. Here’s a Christmas-themed tray we painted in a class a few years back. Every time I look at this tray, it reminds me of the fun time we had together.
So for me, painting is not only about creating something special, but also about making memories, memories that will stay with me forever and remind me of the friends I’ve made along the way.