Friday, November 04, 2011

Creating Painted Beauty

I am so excited to share with you the work of my friend Edward Schaefer, a very talented decorative painter who lives in the New York City area. I have long been fascinated with the art of decorative painting. In fact, I have checked out the late Isabel O'Neil's book The Art of the Painted Finish for Furniture & Decoration: Antiquing, Lacquering, Gilding & The Great Impersonators from my local library at least three times. Seeing that I have absolutely no experience in this type of painting, I read the book not so much for the instruction but rather to look at photos of all types of marvelous finishes.

When Edward first told me about his profession and his training, I was really intrigued. How many decorative painters do you know who received their education at the famed
Isabel O'Neil Studio? After attending classes there, Edward now teaches at the Studio as a way to both impart his knowledge to others and further hone his skills. I asked Edward to share his thoughts on his profession:

"This year marks my thirtieth year since I started taking courses at the Studio. In college I majored in Applied Arts and minored in Secondary Education. This required taking just about every art related course, everything from painting and drawing to commercial illustration and fabric design. This was perfect for me since I was always creative and loved making things. Since then, I have even taught myself bookbinding, silkscreening and sewing.

Then one day I wanted to learn how to paint tortoiseshell. I bought Isabel O'Neil's book, which by the way, was probably the only book on painted finishes available at that time. Little did I know that this was a rather difficult finish. I completed my project but was eager to learn more. That's when I decided to start taking classes at the Studio. Isabel was still alive at the time, so I was fortunate in that I began under her guidance.

She developed a system that was based on the guild system of training. Everyone, regardless of training, begins with taking Furniture Painting 101. This sets the foundation for everything to come in order to achieve the finest results. The next course was Gilding and I was hooked.

Almost immediately, you are encouraged to assist in classes in order to further your knowledge and training and eventually to start teaching others and thereby passing on your skills. I still teach there and have taught Glazing and Marble and continue to take classes and even assist in classes. There are always new techniques and tips and things to learn. Since various environmental requirements have changed many paint formulations, we have had to make some adjustments in our techniques. So, we use a lot more water based media rather than oil, for instance. Something that would have been anathema in Isabel's time. Some products have just been discontinued.

After reaching Journeyman status and further training I eventually became a Master. A requirement for becoming a Master is to develop a new finish. Mine was Russian Karelian Birch.

Over the years one starts to gravitate toward the finishes that you really enjoy doing. Some of my favorites are Shagreen, Breche Marble and Malachite and I execute these quite often. My latest fascination has been for Straw Marquetry which I am still trying to perfect my technique.

From the beginning I often incorporated stencilling and decoupage in my work which hadn't been taught before and is now fully accepted along with murals, vinegar and icon painting, to name a few new additions to the curriculum."

Edward has painted everything from floors to flooring cloths to boxes and walls. In addition, he has sold his painted accessories to stores across the country. In fact, his painted place mats are available for purchase at Leta Austin Foster in Palm Beach. (You can see a photo of them at the bottom of the post.) And of course, he does many private commissions. What I'm especially excited about is Edward's upcoming line of fabrics and wallpapers that are set to debut next year.

Below are photos that show the range of Edward's work. And if you really want to see the difference a decorative finish makes, just look at the images at top. They are before and after shots of chest that Edward painted.

To inquire about Edward's work, you can email him directly at And indeed, Edward does create beauty.

These are the place mats that are available at Leta Austin Foster. These are the three most popular colors, though they can be custom colored.


  1. Wow! Everythings So Pretty :D x

  2. Wow his works is great, especially capturing the malachite detail.

  3. I use decorative paint quite frequently, but I have never seen this level of expertise. Amazing. Thank you--I'm forwarding this on to my wonderful painter. Mary

  4. Eddie Schaefer! What a joy to see this wonderful profile on the remarkable artist. My copy of the Isabel O'Neil book has been much-used and is highly recommended as a staple in every decorative arts library.

  5. I am spellbound. Where are his creations available in Europe, ie in France, if at all?
    Chateau de La Barre

  6. I'm glad that you like his work as much as I do!

    Marnie, perhaps you could email Edward and ask if his work is available in Europe. I'm not sure if it is, but if there is something you're interested in, I would think that he could ship.

  7. Classicist- I completely agree with you about O'Neil's book. A must-have.

  8. Beautiful!! One of my oldest friends took classes at Isabel O'Neil and produced similarly beautiful small objects and furniture but finally got carpal tunnel from all the intensive work!!

  9. Thanks for sharing this lovely work. I've been a decorative painter and muralist for close to 30 years, and I learned a lot from O'Neil's book when I started out. it's so nice to see these traditional techniques making a bit of a comeback in design today.

  10. I want to paint like that when I grow up!

  11. Such beautiful work + Thank you for giving me his name.

  12. I especially admire pieces like the green chest which use the techniques to create an original effect.

    I'd love to see his Karelian birch. I've seen this complicated-grain wood before but didn't know what it was called.

  13. It is terrific to see Edward being featured today. He is a true inspiration to all of us at the Studio Workshop.
    Thank you.

  14. Stephen3:15 PM

    Wow these are some amazing pieces of work. The detail on these pieces is astounding. I have started taking some painting classes I found on to try and someday reach Edward's level.

  15. Tom Diffley12:21 PM

    To see Edward's work in person is just amazing. The quality of his workmanship, his use of color choices and his execution is superb! I can't wait to take a class with him at the Isabel O'Neil Studio Workshop in New York City in the Fall of 2012. I know people that have taken his recent class and they can't say enough good things about him. In addition, I saw first hand the pieces that came out of his class and they were just beautiful. Tom Diffley

  16. Beautiful work! Thanks for sharing...