Sunday, August 29, 2010


This One Is For Sans!

I have admired the elaborate painted wallpaper style known as "Chinoiserie" ever since I first saw some in a grand mansion we visited when I was growing up. There were trees and flowers and birds and butterflies strewn with elegant artistry across entire walls! But this type of wallpaper was very expensive and not currently in fashion, so it remained just a beautiful memory to me. The heyday of these wallpapers was in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century, and certainly only the wealthiest families could afford it. The origins are said to be the European attempts to portray the exotic flora and fauna of the Orient, versions of which arrived on porcelain and fabrics from India and China. The commonest motifs are pagodas, dragons, and elaborate Tree of Life designs, rendered with great imagination and little attention to reality. Or so it seems to those of us from the West who have never been to the East!

Perhaps it was in part that distant memory of these designs that prompted me to start painting trees and birds and flowers on the walls of my houses - in real life scale! I have included a couple of pictures from my former home where I painted the hallway with a mural of trees and birds.

These pictures were taken the day I moved out, so the house is completely empty.

This is the view from the top af those stairs.

And in my bedroom (in my former house) very much inspired by Persian illuminated manuscript miniatures, I painted trees and birds and flowers.

And below you can see the beginnings of my painting the walls of my bedroom in my new house with trees and flowers...... and the birds will follow in due time! And while this is not exactly "Chinoiserie", it is a very New England sort of version of the Tree of Life painting that is such an essential part of that "Chinoiserie" I admire so much!

Here I have included a few photos of pages I have torn from design magazines that show the type of wallpaper I am referring to. I realize it is difficult to see the details in these photos, so you will have to use your imagination!

And here is a sample of fabric printed in the elaborate Tree of Life pattern.

And another sample of wallpaper from a design magazine.

So, why am I showing you all these photos on my Dollhouse Blog you are wondering? Well, because then you will understand why I decided to paint the second best bedroom of the Lovely Old Dollhouse with a "Chinoiserie" mural - as if it were antique wallpaper! I have ALWAYS known that this room would be painted with trees and flowers and birds....... just as I have always known that it would NOT be easy to do it!

So some time last January, in the darkest time of the year, I began to paint the trees and flowers on the walls of the bedroom in the Lovely Old Dollhouse. You may recall that it looked like this when I showed you the newly painted peachy color.

This was before I had even finished the window trim or installed the lights over the mantle.

Here below, you can see the window trim and lights as well as the beginning steps of painting the murals. The tree stems are roughed in and the birds have been underpainted with white to show their position, but also so that their colors will be true when painted over the peach color.

Below you can see I have finished the glass window!

And also I have painted all the blue and white porcelain jars around the floor.

Gradually the flowers and leaves were added to the trees.

It was at about this point in the painting, that Sans! posted her blog about "The Tree of Life". Her story makes the true meaning of the Tree of Life so clear to me, in a way I had never understood before! We ARE all connected. In ways we cannot always understand. And her blog post made me realize that all this time, what I have been painting is called "The Tree of Life", in all it's varied and unique forms.... it is the Tree of Life that has been calling to me.

And even though I was not painting it in full scale this time, I was slowly making progress on the Lovely Old Dollhouse bedroom .

I added a painted "faux" baseboard, because I had started the mural before I remembered that this room would need a baseboard.........

The only part still to do are all the tiny birds in the trees.......

Mr Peacock has had his tailfeathers painted with gold.......

Here at last, all the little birds are done too......

Time for a closer view......

And on the left hand wall........

You will laugh when you hear that in order to paint all the smaller birds that were too indistinct to copy from the magazine references I had, I went to the internet to look up birds from China. I had always assumed (in my sheer ignorance and provincial outlook) that the amazing colors and shapes of the birds in these wallpapers were exaggerated or made up altogether. They just looked too fanciful to be true! Well, Imagine my surprise when I found the photos of the real birds and could recognize them all in the murals! Amazing colors and shapes are authentic ! Every One! So, you birders out there, go ahead and try to identify them! I just can't remember any of their names... except perhaps the Sunbird!

I am particularly proud of the job I did painting on the right hand wall! I am right handed and in order to get my hand in there and still be able to see where the paint was going, I had to turn myself almost upside down....... and somehow manage not to knock the lights off the wall at the same time!


And more......

These are on the left hand wall, so were easier to paint... relatively speaking! I still couldn't get very close......

Left hand wall by the door.....

And more close-up of the right hand wall......

So I was painting the "Tree of Life" and never knew it until Sans!'s post enlightened me.

Thank you Sans!

Chinoiserie or "The Tree of Life"


  1. this is a work of art! i thought i recognised the kingfisher, looks a lot like our kookaburra, (same family) you need a chinese screen in this lovely room and silk furnishings!! great room. :)

  2. Love the Lovely Old House's painted walls! Sans is really the person who can easly inspire others!:D

  3. Ewa, you are waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too generous with that remark but thank you from the bottom of my heart.

    I have to say though that for Betsy and her most outstanding work ,it just illustrated how much we are connected :). I am gobsmacked and in complete awe, woman !

    Betsy, words beggar my admiration for what you have done both in real life and in mini , to the walls of your homes. I love the big versions and I hope the new owners don't paint over the walls. I will be so devastated if they do. I love the colours you used in your Persian inspired bedroom . You even had lovely Mughal motifs curtains .

    But I think the work you did for the dollhouse is crazy , nutty , mind bogglingly brilliant. You are crazy to do it on the walls after they were installed. You could have made it so much easier by painting on a piece of paper and then glue it on the walls but no. You chose to do it as if you were painting in real life. Of course, I think you are nuts :):) but the best ones are :). With this, you are officially right up there with the nuttiest and the besty-est :).

    I love this post and every single picture I have enlarged to look at the details. All the brilliant, most magnificent , elegant details! Your artistry is undeniable. Thank you for dedicating this post to me. I am very flattered and honoured. :)

  4. Betsy, you are an inspired and gifted artist. I can't tell you how much I love this room and the work of art you've created in it. It's a masterpiece, and I mean that from the bottom of my heart.



  5. Thank you Christine! I was going to say the same about those "iron" beds you made from coat hangers! I'm gonna have to try that!

  6. And Thank You too Christine! The kingfishers were about the only bird I recognized myself - we have a version of them here too!
    As for the furniture for the room, I have to confess that I don't want to put anything in there at all and have it hide some of the murals! :( The one drawback to such lovely walls!

  7. Thank you Ewa! I agree with you that Sans! is very inspiring! (No matter what she says!)

  8. Sans! I am so glad you feel that way too! (That we are so connected :)) When you did the post about the "Tree of Life" I wanted to say "me too" - "I love them too!" ... "I am connected too!" .... I am just so slow at my projects... it has taken me all this time to finish the painting.... just so I could show you! I am not good at showing things that are only part way done.... they just don't get the idea across to people until they ARE done!
    As for the big paintings in my old house, I have been told by someone who knows the new owners that they treasure the paintings and would not dream of painting over them.... and I am glad... but I took lots of pictures anyway :)The "curtains" in the photo of the bedroom are actually gorgeously embroidered Saris that I bought from a local store that imports from India, draped over my four poster bed as bed curtains! There are 7 or 8 of them in all the colors of the rainbow - they just don't all show in that photo! I had to stop going to that store because I kept coming home with another Sari - gold thread, beads Sequins embroidered in all the amazing patterns you can imagine..... VERY hard on the pocket book! :)
    And yeah, I guess I am one of the nutty ones who absolutely LOVES to do an artistic project the hard way if it will get the desired results! It just wouldn't have been the same if it was done on paper first..... I really can't explain it.... I think a big part of the "perfection" of this Lovely Old Dollhouse is the imperfection of the obviously hand wrought and not-to-scale bits! At least it is so for me. This is, after all, the dollhouse of my heart, being moulded into the dollhouse of my dreams.... if that makes any sense at all!!!!
    As usual, Thank YOU for your appreciation, participation and inspiration!

  9. Thank you Nina! Your heartfelt words really mean a lot to me! Being artistic, I sometimes forget that others see what I do (that I take for granted) as something extrordinary. In the slow process and absolute familiarity with every bit of the work, I lose track of the relative quality (or lack of) of the results of my labor. I am happy when I can convey at least a part of the beauty I am envisioning. And I'll try not to mention the parts that didn't happen.... :)
    Thank you so much for your words of appreciation!They are music to my ears... and if I knew how to blush.... or bow...... I would be blushing and bowing! :)

  10. Stunning! I´m really impressed that you´ve painted directly on the walls, such an akward position to work in, and you´ve done a faboulous detailed job... I might be inspired by your work for my peacock bathroom. I love the symbolism of 'the tree of life'. I´m a norse pagan, and our mythology has a tree of life too named Yggdrasil.


  11. I love it, every bit of it!! I love the birds and the trees and the roses. I love the temple jars hiding some secrets.The Tree of life is deeply inset in my culture and I have several examples of it in my real home. You have made it truer than I thought possible. Thank you for showing us and for sharing your talent. Rosanna

  12. Thanks, Annie! I love to be inspiration for others! I look forward to seeing your peacock bathroom! I know I intended to do my peacock's feathers in greater detail.... but ... it wasn't easy to see what I was painting in such a small space! So I stopped while I was ahead.... I am fascinated that you are a Norse Pagan... I only know little bits about Norse Mythology! I am beginning to think the 'Tree of Life' is one that is Universal..... we are all SO connected in so many ways.... :)!

  13. Thank You, Rosanna! Thank you for knowing they are temple jars hiding secrets... has the monkey just found one out? I love that the Tree of Life carries so many stories within it... from so many cultures! Thank you for your words of appreciation. It is my absolute pleasure to share this with you!

  14. Estoy con la boca abierta. Esta decoración la he visto en casas reales, ver tu casa pintada por tí ha sido un placer. Por lo visto vives rodeada de arte en cada rincón de tu casa.
    Todas queremos reflejar nuestra casa en la casamini y que te hayas atrevido a pintar esta habitación con tanto detalle ha sido muy valiente y un placer para mi vista.
    No sé cómo la amueblarás, pero espero que no sea mucho para no esconder mucho de tu trabajo.
    Es una maravilla. Me encanta.
    Besos Clara.

  15. Clara, Thank you for your words... I will either learn Spanish so I can speak to you, or learn to use the translator on comments! Please be assured that I guess a tiny bit of what you are saying because some words are similar in English, and I assume, in my vanity, that you like my blog post! I am very happy to share and happy that you enjoy my blog and my painted room!

  16. Wow! your artwork looks amazing!

  17. Betsy, This room is just stunning!!!! I LOVE everything about it and think you have done a brilliant job on both sides of the room!! I really love the pictures of your old house too. The trees going up the stairs are so splendid and I love the gorgeous colors on the wall making it almost look like dawn!!! I LOVE THIS POST!!!!! Thank you so much for sharing with us!!

  18. I'm a bit late to comment here, I have been here before admiring your walls, but sometimes when I see great artistry like this I'm lost for words! I'm in absolute awe by your work, and like the others I can't believe you actually painted directly on the walls and with such a stunning result!
    I love the walls in your old home as well, especially the corner of your bedroom! It is so beautiful, and I like the strong colours. The real plant blends perfectly in there too!

  19. Thank you Pan! And welcome to my blog!

  20. Thanks, Patty! I am pleased with the way thi painting turned out! It took me long enough... I just go slowly and then I have the patience to be careful.
    Im glad you like the painting in my old house too! I always intended to make it look like the sun coming in at dawn.... the tricky part was to backlight it and yet keep the visible side not too dark... don't let me get technical! I'm really glad you like it, and thanks for commenting!

  21. Thanks Helene! I am very happy with the way it turned out! And sometimes I start things and really DON"T have any idea how big a project it will be... so I get going before I realize how hard it will be....! In this case, I had some sense of the difficulty, but I just knew I needed it to be painted on the walls.... paper is too easy to remove later, it fades, it is less permanent... and it has a whole different look and feel about it! So I really didn't think I had an option and was really just going to need patience. I enjoy the process of doing it!
    I'm glad you like the colors in my old house.... that blue is just my favorite! I will have to show some photos of the other corners of that room.... I am currently using that blue on one of the rooms in the "Folly"... more to follow!
    Thanks for commenting... I almost missed your comment 'cause I wasn't checking for them!

  22. I was looking for better pictures of your ceiling, but then I saw your walls! Ooooh, so beautiful!!! I love that you painted your real house walls looked wonderful! And your dollshouse looks so beautiful! I wish I could express myself better in english...but I hope you can tell I really love what you made here!!!