Starring Rachel J. Downs
(The opening scene is set in Wichita, Kansas in 2004, where the star of the show and native Kansan, Rachel Downs, has begun her career in decorative arts)
Rachel: I know the love that I have for transforming surfaces and spaces with the use of color, texture and design will continue to develop and grow, and one day my art will be found in theaters, homes and businesses across this great state and beyond!
Client: I absolutely love it! It is exactly what I was hoping it would be! (The clients’ line is repeated many times throughout Rachel’s storyline.)
Designer, instructor, muralist, award winning scenic painter, decorative finisher and recognized actor, Rachel Downs has applied a variety of painted effects on nearly every surface imaginable from walls and floors to elaborate theater sets. She has also had many opportunities to share her skills with students in a classroom setting by teaching Scenic Painting for Theater workshops at the Kansas Thespian Conference, as well as faux finishing classes at a number of studios and artistic retreats such as Prismatic Painting Studio in Ohio and Caring with Colors in Kansas.
When Rachel collaborates with interior designers as well as her clients, great ideas inevitably flourish. She explains, “I am always listening to what they want. I ask them questions about what they like and pay attention to their personal style. This inspires me to create a finish specifically for them. What makes my job fun is seeing the personal connection my clients have to the custom finish that I created for them.”
Many of Rachel’s contracts are located in or around large cities like Wichita. Many condo owners at Waterwalk Place in Wichita have utilized Shelly Rogers & Interior Trends to design their urban lofts and Rachel Downs’ artistry to bring color into the architecture to unify the design. Urban living, generally speaking, allows for a bit more imagination when it comes to designing ones’ living space--a perfect fit for an artist with a strong theater and set design background.
Who wouldn’t want to have an entertainment room and bar on the top floor of their urban loft, complete with Florida’s (unofficial) motivational slogan, “It’s five o’clock somewhere” hand painted on a faux brick wall that extends from the second to third floor. The “brick” is made from a neutral colored, compressed, lightweight material that was formed into panels and then applied to the surface. Once the panels were installed, Rachel began her process by first applying a primer and then a custom tinted SetCoat® color. True Tint Stone™ and FauxStone Pull Off® were both used to develop the gritty texture and feel of real brick, and then combinations of Burnt Sienna, Rouge Royale, Red Oxide, Italian Sienna, Black and Earth Brown FauxCrème Color™ were used to breathe life into the finish. The completed effect successfully allows the homeowner and all of their friends to enjoy happy hour at any hour! Cheers!
Rachel’s canvas artwork also brings a certain amount of drama and atmosphere to a living space. The two textured “tree” panels were created using a base coat of Black Venetian Gem® and several LusterStone® colors. The panels make a bold statement and the play of light brought on by the LusterStone® is dazzling. In the dining room of the same condo, Rachel created the look of oxidized metal on a wall that framed a long and narrow fireplace. Dark Brown SetCoat® was used as the base coat; then, a subtle texture was applied using Tiger Eye Venetian Gem®. Silver FauxMetal™ was then “skip rolled” over the texture, followed by the random application of a printed foil. Next, FauxCrème Color™ in a custom rust color was spattered over certain areas. The final step was to slightly “age” the finish by applying a combination of FXThinner™, FauxCrème Color™ and Stain & Seal™. The effect is dazzling. No one would realize this new finish wasn’t an existing metal wall!
Floors are at the top of Rachel’s list of specialties. “I’ve been hired many times to apply art finishes to floors in these condos. I do one for almost every Parade of Homes!” she states. Rachel has applied one particular floor finish on numerous occasions for several different clients using the same color palette only altering the tonal value depending upon the taste of the home owner. Rachel begins every floor project by doing “a lot of janitorial stuff.” After the floor has been thoroughly prepped, she begins the “staining” process by applying a slip coat of FXThinner™ and then simultaneously applying three separate FauxCrème Color™ and FXThinner™ mixtures in Brown, Dark Brown and VanDyke Brown. Rachel softly blends the colors and while they’re still wet, spatters on Metallic Bronze and VanDyke Brown FauxCrème Color™ followed by water to help the colors “ooze” together. Once the color work is dry, Rachel seals the surface with two coats of a high gloss sealer.
“Art” walls, a.k.a. “accent” walls, also play a large role in Rachel’s business. LusterStone® is frequently used in Rachel’s finishes. It is such a versatile product and can be used in any number of creative ways. “I love to use LusterStone® in my art work! The sheen goes in and out depending on how thick or thin it was applied,” Rachel explains. Over Royal Taupe SetCoat®, Antique Parchment, Charred Gold and Weathered Bronze LusterStone® were applied by trowel, creating a soft yet lively effect on the focal wall of this dining space.
The beautiful contrast of the metallic highs and lows of LusterStone® is showcased in this linear effect that Rachel has named “Jabberwock.” Tiger Eye Venetian Gem® was first applied with a twine roller. Next, Midnight Blue and Weathered Bronze LusterStone® were applied in a “flame-stitch” pattern.Designer Foil Size™ and Champagne Designer FoilFX™ were then sporadically applied, enhancing the shimmer of the plaster. Rachel then backfilled the entire surface with a skim coat of Snowflake White LusterStone® and then over stained it with FXThinner™ tinted with Rich Brown Stain & Seal™ and VanDyke Brown FauxColor®. This finish is regularly taught in Rachel’s classes.
DECORATIVE ART BY: RACHEL J. DOWNS
PHOTOGRAPHY PROVIDED BY: RACHEL J. DOWNS
WRITTEN BY: CAT FAUST
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