Holden Art Painting

Gorgeous American Clay Earth Plaster walls by Holden Art Painting

Paint the Town . . .
Marc Holden of Holden Art Painting is a new sponsor of my blog, and what an on honor it is to have such a talented Dallas artist as a part of my team.

Artist Marc Holden

In business since 1994, Marc specializes in creating decorative paint finishes for walls, woodwork, ceilings, and floors; hand-painted murals; trompe l'oeil; and custom faux wood, stone, and metal finishes. He's also one of the few in Dallas who have mastered the technique of using American Clay Earth Plaster on walls.

Spectacular ceilings painted by Marc Holden

Marc, who grew up in Irving, is a West Point graduate who served as a tank commander in Desert Storm. An artist at heart, "I was a round peg in a square hole," he says of his five years in the Army. "I was always artistic growing up, but I didn't know what to do with it." After making captain and returning to the States, Marc and his wife Tamra were stationed at Fort Knox in Louisville, KY, where Tamra came across an ad for classes in faux painting. She signed them up. It was the early 90s, when sponging and rag rolling walls were the rage -- Marc learned the basics in class, and the rest he perfected on the job.

"I've always been pushed by designers to develop new ideas," says Marc, whose repertoire quickly went from sponging walls to more complex and refined techniques, such as what you see below.

Marc gave the walls of this powder bath a faux parchment look.
A hand-painted bamboo pattern on top mimics gold leaf

This glamorous painted entry wall mimics silver leafing

After the army, Marc and Tamra returned to Dallas in the early 90s to raise a family. Tamra helped build their art painting business by cold-calling on stores with design teams such as Gabberts and Adele Hunt. Their three children now range in age from 12-18, with the oldest spending her summer helping dad paint. "She doesn't realize it yet, but she has an artist's eye," says Marc.

The mantle at left is done in American clay. At right, the faux painted mantle
was done to match the exotic Italian marble in the rest of the room.

"Take what you have and give it an updated look with a different finish," says Marc, who is often asked to turn wood into stone, brass into iron, or plain surfaces into patinated copper, or mimic silver and gold leafing. Trends are changing, he says, and although there's still a big market for decorative painting, younger designers ask for more simple finishes on walls and furniture that are also easier on the environment.

Marc uses mainly non-toxic, water-based, low VOC paints. "Fifteen years ago, I'd be doing a glazed ceiling with the oil paint dripping on my head, and I felt like I had paint thinner coursing through my veins. Now the only noxious thing I use is a primer for wood, because it's the only thing that will provide a good adhesion for stain. I mostly use Benjamin Moore Aura paints, and their new Advance paints are actually water-soluble oil."

Faux copper, iron, and stone finishes

"I'm half artist, half engineer," says Marc. "I look at the stone, or the wood, or whatever the natural material is and I mimic the colors exactly. I have an analytic mind, which helps. And I don't use anything fancy, just cheap brushes, rags, or sponges. It's really about getting the color right and building up the depth with glazes."

Marc Holden's hand-stenciled walls

A faux painted side table, brilliantly mimics inlaid mahogany.

The technique Marc uses to paint over existing wood finishes eliminates the need for stripping the furniture first, which is toxic and time consuming. Think about that the next time you want to refinish something -- which technique would you rather use?

Out-of-date, white-washed oak cabinetry in this kitchen
was painted to look like polished mahogany.

In an economy where people are cutting back on renovations, Marc is getting more and more requests from designers to refinish cabinets in kitchens and baths for clients. He never strips the wood, but uses a combination of painting techniques to mimic just about any wood or color you can imagine, from polished mahogany, to rustic pine, to exotic zebrawood.

Marc created an antique finish on all of the wood cabinetry in this kitchen

In builder houses where interior architecture is sometimes an afterthought,
Marc often gives rooms a more finished look by faux painting plain white molding to go better with rustic beams on a ceiling, as he's done here.

"My specialty is imitating what goes on in nature," says Marc, who recently redid a Henredon bed for a client that had a dated whitewashed oak finish. "She wanted it to look stained dark, not painted, so I put a layered toned glaze to allow you to see the existing wood grain. I applied it softly until it changed the color of the piece. It takes a certain touch to be able to get it to look right. We created the look of a stained wood without ever stripping it."

Gorgeous American Earth Clay Plaster walls

Marc is one of the few local artisans who have perfected the use of American Earth Clay Plaster, a non-toxic natural plaster made in New Mexico. Said to emit a negative ionic charge that purifies the air around it, the clay also buffers humidity and sound. It can be custom tinted, and Marc can create a matte or buffed finish that looks a lot like Venetian plaster. Says Marc: "I'm also playing with decorative applications for the clay, such as creating different designs on the wall in a bamboo or floral pattern."

American Earth Clay Plaster walls with decorative patterns created by Marc Holden

A trompe l'oeil mural painted by Marc Holden for the entrance of a home theater

"I want is to bring something creative to people's homes, something they will love," says Marc. "It gives me a lot of satisfaction when a client says 'I love this piece of furniture now, or I love spending time in the room now that you've done those walls."

The biggest compliment of all comes when someone can't tell the difference between the real thing and a faux finish that Marc has painted. "I've had people ask me, 'That's such a beautiful wood, what is it?' not realizing that it's not wood at all, but painted."