The Green Door
On page 98 of our ‘Ocres et Peintures Décoratives de Provence’ there is picture of a grey-green door. I fell in love with it the instant I saw it and I vowed that, if the day ever came when I had a room of my own, this door would be its door. In fact, it was the first door that had excited me since my parents painted my bedroom door pink and green candy stripes for my fourteenth birthday.
Although it would be three years until I got to paint my door, I bought the pigments – terre verte and noir fumé, a grown up version of pink and green perhaps? – on the spot.
The day has now come, and we set about trying to assemble the ingredients for green-grey wax paint:
Fromage Blanc 0% Fat
Trying to get hold of ammonium carbonate was hard. I finally ordered it from the village chemist who handed it to me double-wrapped and at arms length, her nose in an exaggerated snub, like a stink-bomb. Then I found that the bottle of alcohol I use to clean my fingerboard was empty (something to do with cleaning dried paint off the artist's palette perhaps?), and replacing that (to dissolve the ‘noir fumé’ which is not an earth pigment and is therefore not water-soluble) on a Sunday morning in Bedoin turned out, especially with a hangover, to be a thankless task. I ended up in ‘Petit Casino’ listening to the serveuse’ recipe for preserved cherries for ten minutes before emerging with one arm full of feminine hygene products whilst the other clutched a bottle of Smirnoff. It was not a moment in which I felt especially kind towards the environment and I could have done with some cover. Anyway, if the Vodka didn’t work, I thought, it was still good for removing red wine stains.
We started to follow the recipe.
‘Wax and fromage blanc make a very happy marriage, used traditionally to paint troikas’ the book said. It was, for the moment at least, all rather romantic.
We added a teaspoon of ammonium to the fromage blanc to make casein and the romance was suddenly over. The pong seared through our airways and caused Manon and Oscar to evacuate the premises. Melting the beeswax with the water and inhaling the sweet amber syrup proved a much needed antidote to the ammonium but it was brief, and when we added the ammonium carbonate to the melted wax (this apparently creates a cream which enables the wax to be worked with when cold) we were engulfed in a cloud like a chemistry experiment gone wrong that jolted us out of our honeyed reverie.
"I'm not sure about how environmentally friendly this natural paint is" I said. "This surely cannot be good for our health. I'm going back to Dulux magnolia"
We read on. ‘Casein is a very nervous glue, softened by wax….’. By now the wax, which we had been whisking, was cool and looked like curdled custard.
I was starting to feel a little nervous myself and luckily it was time for the fun bit - to mix the pigment. Using Julian’s palette knife we creamed up the green and black in equal parts with a little water on a granite tile, ironing out the marbled streaks and arriving at a deep grey green. We added everything together, presuming the colour would lighten as we applied it to the white wood.
Unfortunately, despite our dreams of a cloudy waxy surface, the door just turned out streaky black with grainy bits of wax sediment in it.
Julian assures me that, by adding ‘blanc de titane’, more green and reducing the black, with several applications, by polishing and sanding and with a lot more patience, I will get my perfect door.
‘It’s just like making frames.’ He said. You have to keep experimenting to find the right recipe; you have to apply several coats; you have to keep rubbing it down and polishing it up……’
(Is that why all our pictures remain unframed, I wondered)
Looking at my morbid door at the end of the day I did not feel like a teenager in her new den, nor did I feel like a Virginia Woolf heroine, but rather some sort of middle aged Goth.