Mermaid Table

This 3 foot diameter whimsical mermaid table was painted to be a centerpiece for a Florida foyer.

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    This round coffee table was another lucky find- a really interesting table in basically good shape, just needing personality. It’s about 3 feet in diameter, so there was a nice large surface to work on. This one did require some sanding, to knock off the original finish and give the paint something to adhere to. The entire table was painted with a flat acrylic paint in turquoise, a beautiful base for an underwater scene.
    The client requested a mermaid, but the rest of the design details were left up to me. I like to start planning a painting by going to a fine art site, like, or even, just to get some ideas of works that have similar concepts. I certainly don’t mean you should copy someone else’s design- I’m talking about going directly to a professional art source to get a feel for balance, light, and color. It’s very much like visiting museums for inspiration and to learn about good art. Looking at a Van Gogh landscape to learn about good design has nothing to do with stealing Van Gogh’s ideas. Especially as a beginner, it helps to see how someone else has put together the pieces of a good design.mermaid table close-up
    Once you have figured out a general sense of the shape of your design, you have to choose the individual elements. In this case, they would be things from the sea, like shells, fish, and plants. My trick for finding examples of these possibilities is to use stencil catalogues. Again, this does not mean to copy the stencil designs. Stenciling involves breaking everything down into individual parts, which are then combined and layered to create a balanced design. Stencil companies have beautiful catalogues that are available by mail for a small charge, or online, for free. For instance, if I’m looking for different kinds of shells, the catalogues will probably have between 5 and 10 different kinds, each shown individually, and often one shell will be shown from a few different angles. I can show these examples to my client, and ask which kind of shells she prefers, making it clear that in her piece, the painting will be done free-hand but the stencil illustrations are just for reference and clarity. Clip art illustrations are another excellent source for individual design elements, as long as the examples you are using are not too cartoonish.
    Once you have a good idea of the parts of your design, you can start to fool around with colors. Color and balance are the two keys here, and again, that’s where it’s helpful to look at other paintings for ideas and reassurance that your plan will work. For this table, I had to work on the water background first, so the other parts could be painted over it because most of the painting is in blues and greens, it needed the extra shot of color that the little orange fish provide.It’s not obvious in the photo, but there are some metallics and alot of iridescent paint used here- it helps to get that shimmery water effect.
     The four tops of the legs and cross-sections are painted with a bright gold metallic, which also adds some interest to the whole design, and gives it some glamour.  As usual the whole table has several coats of polyurethane sealer, this time in a high gloss finish, for durability and a wet, shiny, look.mermaid table side view