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This marbling job was quick and fun. This beautiful fireplace surround was cut from an unusual black and grey stone with irregular stripes and blobs. Unfortunately, the slab that lay on top had been cut from a completely different stone. The designer asked me to paint the top to match the other marble.

First, the offending stone was sanded, primed and base coated in a solid gray.

Using acrylic glaze, plastic wrap and a 2-inch wide brush, I created patterns with the same dimension and flow as the original stone. The plastic wrap was laid onto a wash of color, then pulled off quickly, creating random patterns with crisp edges, a look that can’t be created easily or quickly with a brush. Then I went back in with a small brush for detail work.

The “after” photos are a bit confusing because the fireplace backs up against a mirrored wall that’s partially covered in paper, so you’re seeing both the newly painted surface and its reflection.

To tie the stone together, I painted the top to look as if the pattern below was a natural extension of the pattern above. It was sealed with three coats of water-based varnish.

When I’m painting marble and other complex finishes, it helps to play music or the radio. It’s always easier to paint or create if I’m listening to something. But why is that?

The theory is that our left brain is verbal and rational, thinking serially and in language; our right brain is non-verbal and intuitive, thinking in patterns and pictures. I’ve discovered that when I give my language-loving left brain something to do by listening to music, my visual-loving right brain is free to go along its merry way, fluidly solving creative puzzles with agility, falling into that blissful state of flow where time loses all meaning and the work is effortless. If I’ve given my left brain something to do, it doesn’t come knocking, trying to butt in and boss things around. Many artists work with music playing, and that’s one reason why.

I learned this a long time ago from the classic instruction book, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. If you’re someone who says, “I can’t draw at all,” this book will prove you wrong. It’s your left brain that’s sneering, “you’re no good at this.” Your right brain has something else to say, and if you can get your left brain out of the way, amazing things happen. After all, every one of us drew as a child, without inhibition. We can learn how to draw well at any age, we just have to send our bullying left brain off on an errand for a little while and let our right brain run around gleefully by itself.

To complete the marble story, here’s what the fireplace looked like after all of that blue tape was pulled off, the dust swept away, the mirror polished and the furniture installed. Such a difference!