19 February 2014

Bookmarks (1)

For those of you who’ve just discovered my paint, Chalk Paint®, and think I might be new on the decorative painting scene (well, there might be some!), let me rekindle the book that really launched me all the way back in 1988.

It’s not the finish, it’s the start that counts
But first a bit of background. . . After studying for a degree and a Masters at art collegeI moved to a small village in Oxfordshire with a young family, getting commissions from clients to paint murals and other finishes, and running courses and workshops. I learnt on the job, got my hands dirty and experimented with all sorts of weird and wonderful decorative techniques then in vogue – blocking, sponging, ragging, stippling, colourwashing, dragging, combing, flogging, spattering, marbling, tortoiseshellling, woodgraining, gilding, stencilling, and sgrafitto, to name a few. . . 

I relied on my art training, my passion for colour, my unceasing enthusiasm to experiment with different pigments and finishes, and a lot of trial and error. Having extensively researched the history and application of decorative painting, I realised that for such a wide subject there were very few accessible books around. That changed, as did my fledgling career, when I sat down to write The Complete Book of Decorative Paint Techniques.

This is me being presented to my new readership for the first time inside The Complete Book of Decorative Paint Techniques. I was still learning my trade. 

No flash in the pan
This exhaustive (and exhausting) title was my first published book, back in 1988. I’m pleased to say the result were well worth it: The Complete Book of Decorative Paint Techniques sold in the hundreds and thousands, was translated into 13 languages, and it really launched 'Annie Sloan'. 

Looking back on it now, I am still amazed at how comprehensive it was. I especially like the colour inspirations with the strong blues (see page extract below), reds, and greens etc.. These show how my background in colour – and hence part of this blog’s title – goes back such a long way. I also loved putting the objects and materials together to be shot – creating these montages for inspiration – long before the days of Photoshop!

My co-author, Kate Gwynn, had a design and print background and went to the London College of Printing. She understood how you put a book together – not just the visuals but the presentation of written material and information with images. At the time, it was very new to me. This is Kate (below) in the book.
Kate and I lived in the same Oxfordshire village and her husband Stanley Smith was a painter at the Royal College of Art. He knew that Mobius – a newly set up book packager (production company) at the RCA – were looking to produce a new title. So that’s how the whole thing started (you can see Mobius’s input on the imprint page below).

Many of the interiors shown in the book were mine, such as this kitchen scene (below). We begged and borrowed all the other house settings. 

In pages like these and below I can see both my apprenticeship on show, but also something of the direction I was to take – and a bit of my personality starting to come through.

We did the book using oil paint, because that’s traditionally the paint everybody used. Back then I thought it was the only way I could get that translucency. It may look a bit dated now  and fashions change  but I’m still tremendously proud of it. 
The ‘Blocking’ section (below), for example, is really ‘me’ and very jolly and done with artists' water based paint acrylic paints. 

As is this tree print project (below) for the kids’ playroom, and yes I did use real pears and swedes.

Colour all the way
One innovative feature we added to this book was the use of colourways at the edge of every right hand page in the ‘Basic Finishes’ section. Here’s an example using Dragging. . . 
This helped us get over people’s common objections to a particular technique based on colour i.e. “I don’t like that because it’s in yellow”. By showing a finish in other colours we could overcome those barriers. 

My back pages
Researching and writing The Complete Book of Decorative Paint Techniques and its success meant a sequel was needed (which I’ll post about soon). It also spurred me on to develop my own paints as I became more and more absorbed by what paint is and how it works. 

So looking back over a quarter of a century of apprenticeship, application and experimentation (when many of my stockists hadn’t even been born!) you can see that Annie Sloan and Chalk Paint® come with a history, a heritage.

Chalk Paint® can applied to so many techniques – its versatility is the name of the game – and it’s as versatile as my approach to painting. With Chalk Paint® you'll find my whole history of mixing and colour mixing . . . in a pot. 

Yours, Annie


  1. I have this book, bought it together with many others in subject hoping to create a new look to my furniture - even if it was almost 30 years ago it was an easy attempt to personalize ones home. I was sooo impressed by 2 young women doing this I was dreaming of. Thank you Annie for creating Chalk Paint - much much easier to use then all the recipes from the book.

  2. Hello my friend,
    One of your best posts ever...how great to go back in time and watch it all come about for you and Chalk Paint®. The block prints have always been a favorite of mine. Looking forward to 'part 2'

    be well,
    Janet xox
    The Empty Nest

  3. Love this post and all the personal updates, the "realness" of it... superbe!

  4. Inspirational as ever, Annie! As one of your stockists who WAS born and was also experimenting with many of the techniques you mention, I can only say I wish I'd had this book!

  5. Hi Annie,
    Lovely post! I'm so proud to know you! You inspire me in so may ways!

    Junktique Recycling

  6. Great post. I'll share with the US media. I can't recall if I told you that when my husband was unpacking a box of his old books last year, out popped one of yours, bought in the early '90s. It was fun to see - he bought it long before I knew him.

  7. A great read Annie. Love that we can share your history and background with all our Chalk Paint™ customers. en français too. :)
    Looking forward to seeing you soon.

  8. Hi Annie....Thank you for writing this blog. I love the fact that your passion for all things paint started early and continues to this day. You inspire us every day. See you soon.
    Chalk It Up Norcross

  9. This is why all of our exclusive paint by number kits are produced from original hand drawn and numbered artworks onto high quality canvas, all of which are quite large (Minimum 24in x 24in) and all paints hand mixed by our resident contemporary artists. Paintings you would be proud to exhibit at your home or workplace!