the counter, portraits, and color wheels

by | Feb 15, 2017 | All Things Home, Antiques, Artistic Endeavors, Watercolors | 23 comments

Thanks so much for all of the feedback on my craigslist counter.  I know when I ask about painting or not painting a piece, I will always get a lot of comments and opinions!  I usually have a clear idea of what I’m going to do with a piece, but I just knew I loved this one and I would figure it all out later.  And your input has been helpful.

I agree that it has some amazing charm, but there are a lot of issues that you can’t see in the pictures.  First off, here is what the missing side looks like…

Obviously, something has to happen there and it’s not as simple as slapping on a piece of wood.  It looks like it was sawed off of whatever it was attached to, without a lot of precision, so some finagling is going to have to happen to make that side pretty.

Second, the finish upon closer inspection, is not that great.  There are drips and paint splatters and some of the poly is flaking off in places.  I’m no perfectionist, but I do like my imperfections how I like them.

Even with all of these reasons to paint, I find myself wrestling over it.  I have decided to work on this piece in stages, taking it nice and slow, to make sure I get it right.  I started out by applying stripper to a small section of the side, so it wouldn’t be noticeable.  You can see a little square where the grain is a bit more pronounced and the wood is lighter.  (Sorry, the camera isn’t focused on it!)

The wood does look better stripped, but I’m still not sure what direction I want to go.  I’m still waffling.

Aaaaand, I’ve decided this one is a keeper.  It is a very special piece and amazing for a kitchen or studio, so I’m going keep it.  I am planning on selling some of my other counters and large pieces in the studio, though.  I’ll share more about that in a few weeks…

I also wanted to share my progress on portraits.  Man, this watercolor portrait class I’ve been taking has been amazing.  I am already planning to take some more classes!  I’ve jumped over some huge hurdles, like sketching my first portrait on real paper with graphite pencils…

And my first watercolor portrait…

My first painted color wheels to discover flesh tones and eye colors, which was really eye opening for me…

And my first portrait drawn freehand, using the “grid method”…

It didn’t end up being a true likeness, but I’m learning a lot about all of the nuances of the face…

…and I still think she turned out pretty, even though she’s not perfect.

I can’t wait to practice more portraits and jump over the next big hurdle…color.


  1. Kim

    I think your portraits are fabulous! You are so multi talented.

  2. jacqueline pankuck

    I’m so impressed with your painting. I have to take some of those classes. And I can’t wait to see which counters you sell. I’m definitely in the market!

  3. Ann Geistfeld

    marion your art is amazing!
    thank you for sharing your gift.

  4. Mrs. Kelley Dibble


    So enjoying the artwork!

    Q: Since the Craigslist Counter is a keeper, might you utilize the funky left side with a vintage towel bar or racks, or a wide till of sorts to hold sketchbooks, etc.?

    Excited to see what becomes of your new piece.


  5. Ellette

    Any recommendations on what kind of watercolor brushes to buy? Size, type?
    Thanks so much.

  6. Justin

    I’m not usually one of those people who is afraid of covering-up wood, but that particular piece begs to show its oak bones. A marble top would look gorgeous–especially an older one with some wear or discoloring. That’d probably be really expensive though.

    About the sides… What if you covered the ends and maybe the back, depending on how you plan to use it, with “stile and rail” wainscotting panels and painted them. It’d still allow the front drawers to show beautiful oak but cover-up the ends in a way that respects the style.

    Another option is to cover the end with new oak and then try to stain the whole piece to match.

    Or how about adding a bookshelf to the left end and extending the top over the top of the bookshelf so it looks like one piece?

    Or how about doing something intentionally unique and crafty with the left end like a chalkboard or magnetic primer under paint or some sort of organizer area with buckets and bins to hold pens and papers and things. Or mount a butcher paper roll and a peg board.

  7. liz

    Hi, just a suggestion to help your eye when drawing faces – take the photo and turn it upside down and draw it. That will trick your brain into seeing shapes rather than “eye” “nose” “hair”. It feels very weird at first but you will be amazed at how your drawing will progress when you can get your mind to let go of using the symbol rather than recording what your eye is actually seeing.
    Also, do as many fast sketches and paintings as you can – repeating the actions will improve the small fine muscles in your hands. One of my drawing teachers once asked me if I had a parent that was a surgeon or an artist because they both have such fine muscle control.

  8. Diane

    I say paint it! Your transformations are part of what makes you Miss Mustard Seed! I can’t wait to see what you do with that piece – whatever you do, it will be beautiful!

    Daily amazed at how talented you are.

  9. Jennifer Phipps

    I only see two things that would have made a difference…If you had made the left side of the mouth lighter, not so dark, and then the right eye ball just a hair smaller, this would have been dead on!! So good!

  10. Cathie

    The portraits are amazing!!
    My two cents on the counter…what about taking off those vertical boards (if you can) and attaching reclaimed (unpainted) boards horizontally on both sides and maybe the back, then stain the whole piece?
    Something like this –
    And a marble top 🙂

  11. Kay

    I’m happy you are keeping this piece and taking your time to decide what you want to do with it. There are products that will clean up the stain without stripping it completely. I think Formby has a product like this. I also know that with mixing various stains, you could match this color on a new end piece. Using an old piece of wood would maintain the integrity. There are so many choices for the top, I too would be confused until I had the piece for a time to see how you might make use of it . I am looking forward to your final decisions.

  12. Frankie

    I think that piece is a keeper too — it’s amazing! I know I’m in the minority, but I’d be painting that piece. I know that I don’t care for oak so I have no problem painting oak pieces so that I can enjoy them. I know that whatever you decide, it’s going to be beautiful after you’ve worked your magic on it!

  13. Beth Beal

    What a fabulous piece and I personally feel that it definitely needs to stay true to its roots! I can just imagine the beauty of that fabulous oak!

  14. Maggie

    Looks like a pretty good likeness to me. Love the piece of furniture too. Can’t wait to see what you do.

  15. Wendy Johnson

    I have no opinion on the cupboard, I am sure it will turn out spectacular and how it is meant to be. But I am in awe of your drawings, even if they aren’t “perfect’ the fact that the eye is so perfect is amazing. It is like looking at a person…as you can tell descriptive writing isn’t my forte

  16. Cheryl

    I love your portraits!! I have always wanted to draw them but have been to scared to try so great job jumping that hurdle!

  17. Vicki

    Is this an on line class?? Your work has jumped hurdles,and you are off and running…good for you! Everything you learn will used in all the creative areas of your life.

  18. Stéphanie

    And what about a medium blue-grey for the body of your hutch, a dark grey for the top, and natural oak for the drawers, with all the original hardware ? Of course you will have to sand them, but i guess this boy might be thankful !

  19. Krista

    Your portraits are beautiful! You are so talented in so many ways! Also, can’t wait to see what you do with the counter. It will look fabulous no matter which direction you take!

  20. B. Folk

    Glad you are keeping the counter, it is beautiful! There have been so many good suggestions on what to do with it, I don’t need to add. Now that you’re keeping it, you can take your time figuring out what will serve you best and please your personal aesthetic.

  21. Chandra

    Hi Marion,

    I’m one of your readers that doesn’t post much but your story about painting color wheels put me in mind of a painter I follow here in Atlanta. She’s a fine art painter who incorporates sewing into her pieces. She’s constantly posting the process of how she arrives on a particular color palettte, much like what you posted here.

  22. Alice

    You HAVE to check out a soda blaster! My sister blasted a really old armoire that had fantastic veneers that came out so beautifully. It didn’t take very long. So much better than stripping and it looked brand new. Those drawers look solid. Best wishes.

  23. CeCe

    Oh so jealous. I cannot draw, just like I cannot sing. I have a lot of talents, but drawing is a no no. Your’s look great…continue and grow! Enjoy!


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Marian Parsons - Miss Mustard Seed

I’m Marian, aka Miss Mustard Seed, a wife, mother, paint enthusiast, lover of all things home and an entrepreneur, author, artist, designer, freelance writer & photographer.  READ MORE to learn more about me, my blog and my business…


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