Faux Finish School: 17th-century castle wall recreated from 11 layers
of drywall and plaster using Faux Effects products.
Want to make $50-100 an
painters can do just that, which is one reason faux finishing schools
are making themselves available in many configurations, from traditional
classroom instruction to videos to interactive Web sites.
"It's much more
lucrative," stated Martin Alan Hirsch, director of The Faux Finish
School in Louisville, KY. Hirsch's contracting company, Decorative Finishes
Studio, just finished extensive work in the home of a country music star,
he said, and "our income from three weeks there was probably what
a regular painter contractor makes in six months."
to "In the News"
Faux finishing classes are geared for everyone, whether you're a rank
beginner, an art school dropout looking to start a new business, or a
working painting contractor. Several instructors emphasized that you don't
have to be an artist to do faux finishes. Many of the techniques are very
simple, although other, more complex methods involve duplicating woodgrain
or marble, which can require as many as 15 separate steps, as well as
trompe l'oeil ("fool the eye"), which does involve some artistic
skill. The range of classes available includes everything from economically
priced quick overviews to a glamorous excursion to Europe to practice
hands-on faux finishing in an Italian villa.
Whichever you choose, the timing couldn't be better: In terms of design
trends, high-end homeowners are striving to make their abodes more individual
and luxurious than ever. Both current trends - homey, authentic Old World
looks and clean-lined, elegant contemporary designs - lend themselves
to faux applications. Traditional-minded clients favor such techniques
as layered peeling paint and plaster finishes, as well as classic frescoes.
"As crazy as our society is, customers want a sense of permanence
in their home, not some contemporary wallpaper that is out of style in
six months," said Hirsch. Modern design, on the other hand, is perfect
for more subtle pearlized and metallic faux finishes. Either way, the
market for unique decorative painting is an ever-growing entity.
Back to school:
For those ready to take the plunge and make a real commitment to decorative
painting, in-person schools offer a wide variety of instruction. In most
cases, the instructors also run a full-time decorative painting contracting
business, thus keeping up with current trends in the real marketplace.
Martin Alan Hirsch's The Faux Finish School is a full-time working studio,
now in its 12th year. Featuring three curriculums, the first, The Art
of Faux Finishing, is designed for the contractor who wants to get into
the faux business. "We teach the beginner or the person who's self-taught
the business and art of the field. We discuss business and large-scale
applications, including prep," Hirsch said. The five-day course costs
Where will they apply their newly developed skills? Hirsch noted that
in the residential market, foyers, dining rooms, and kitchens are the
most requested location for faux, while in commercial, it's a popular
request in restaurant design. "They all seem to be getting on this
'We're tired of wallpaper' bandwagon," he said.
Hirsch insists that great creative ability is not a requirement for success.
"With our more advanced levels, yes, you need to be a little artistic,"
he admitted. "But the rest is product and technique, and the business
end of it. What makes us different is that we teach people how to do this
as a business; to complement their contracting business or go into this
The similarly priced Designer Wall Finishes class, also five days, is
geared for the advanced decorative artist who has already been in business
for some time. Covering more complex multi-layered finishes, such as Old
World frescoes, the class is designed for pros who want new, impressive
samples for their portfolio. All of Hirsch's students come in from out
of town; a discount is available at a hotel near the school.
Painting contractors frequently send their most artistically minded employee
to a faux school, but Hirsch cautions this approach can sometimes backfire.
"The problem that usually happens is we instruct them so well, you
lose them and they go out on their own. They learn these techniques and
they see how lucrative this business is: They're making $15 an hour and
they could be making $150." Hirsch said some contractors make their
employees sign a release, "saying that we're going to send you to
the school, but you're going to be committed to me for two years, otherwise
you have to pay back the cost of the school."
For those with more cash and time, the school's third program is by far
the most glamorous. "We take a class to Italy for two weeks and teach
advanced marbling and woodgraining in the field," Hirsch said. "We
stay in a villa in Tuscany. We also tour the entire countryside - Venice,
Rome, Florence." The $4,200 for two weeks includes classes, room
and board, and everything but weekend excursion travel and air fare from
the student's home to New York (air fare to Italy is included in the package).
"We base out of a villa and travel to different locations. This is
where we take our students for inspiration."