Tole Painting - Decorative Art Designs w/ Photo Gallery
What does “tole” mean?
The word tole means lacquered or enameled metal-ware.
What is Tole Painting?
Tole painting is a type of decorative art where designs are painted on a variety of mediums such as tin, metal, wood, glass and ceramic. Painted objects can be anything from a vintage tin coffee pot, metal or wood utensils and even larger, modern pieces such as a toy box, hope chest and furniture.
The terms “tole painting” and “decorative painting” are used interchangeably when describing a variety of techniques used to paint functional as well as decorative surfaces.
History of Tole Painting
The practice of tole painting originally referred to painting on tin and began in New England during the 18th century following the Revolutionary War (1775 – 1783).
Traveling peddlers would sell their wares to settlers with the majority product sold being tin ware. Because they were not able to afford elaborate cookware or dinnerware, settlers would then decorate these tin pieces to make them more appealing. This included purposeful tin items such as
- serving trays
- tea pots
- document boxes
Tole Painting Today
As centuries have passed, tole painting is now more commonly referred to as “decorative art” or “decorative painting.” Resurgence of tole painting in the 1960’s and 1970’s became apparent with studios offering to train students to become “tole” or “decorative painters.”
The National Society of Tole and Decorative Painters was created in 1972. Today, it has expanded worldwide and is known as the Society of Decorative Painters.
Before we go any further, what are your current thoughts at the moment.
Do you think tole and decorative art painting is a craft or an art?
Example of bringing an object to "life."
Look at the plums in the picture below.
The base coat was a solid dark purple. Using a variety of techniques such as side loading and floating with contrasting colors of paint, the plums are highlighted and truly become alive.
It is possible that it may take 20 to 30 passes to get the depth of the focused object. Patience in creating the gentle color gradation is what creates the remarkable “life” effect.
Decorative Art Painting Techniques
There are many techniques that can be used within a single piece of decorative art. Here are some of the more common methods used.
Base coating is simply applying the base color of any object. For example, let's say you are going to paint an apple with a stem and leaves. You would first draw or trace the outline of your picture. Then, you apply a base coat of red to the apple and base coat of green to the leaves.
SIDE LOADING or FLOATING
Side loading or floating is the primary method of applying paint to give depth and life to EVERYTHING. Depth requires the gradation of color to show where shade and highlights exist.
A flat brush, sometimes called a “shader,” is dampened with water and then the excess is blotted with a paper towel. One corner of the brush is dipped into the paint and then blended into the brush using a back and forth motion. The blending motion moves the paint across the bristles.
A properly loaded brush will have full strength paint on one side diminishing gradually to pure water on the other side. It’s the gentle gradation of colors that creates this effect or depth. This takes practice . . . and more practice.
SPATTERING or SPECKLING
Spattering or speckling is a “spray” of small specks of paint onto a surface often done with the use of an old toothbrush and a flicking motion of a thumb on the bristles.
Dry brushing uses a brush where most of the paint has been removed. This technique can be used to highlight an object.
Stencils are used by many tole and decorative art painters.
The one-stroke method of painting decorative art has been around for centuries and remains popular today. Brushes are loaded with multiple colors of paint and applied simultaneously. This method is faster than applying each paint layer individually and provides visual depth to the piece.
Patty Sypek - Tole/Decorative Painting Artist
For over four decades beginning way back in kindergarten at the age of five, Patty Sypek and I have remained close friends. Although Patty’s successful career with the Cleveland Clinic Foundation has nothing to do with painting, she is a spectacular artist who utilizes her creativity in all areas of her life.
Whatever you wish to call it, tole or decorative art painting, Patty creates unique works of art. She also cuts out her own wood pieces to paint, giving them her special touch.
As you scroll through the rest of this article, I hope you enjoy all the photos that showcase Patty's artistic talent.
Do You Want to Learn to Tole Paint?
If you have the time, patience and desire to learn, search for classes at your local craft store. Also see if there is a local chapter of The Society of Decorative Painters nearby.
Most painters do not create their own designs but purchase patterns and books. The directions within the pattern will help the painter achieve the final result.
Keep in mind this is not an inexpensive endeavor.
- Brushes cost between $3 and $20 each (my friend has well over 200 brushes).
- You’ll need paint, lots of it!
- Patterns/books typically cost between $5 - $15 each.
- Surfaces to paint on such as wood, tin, porcelain, etc. can cost anywhere from $2 - $200 or more.
- General supplies such as palette paper and stencils cost too.
It takes many hours and years to become proficient at tole painting. As decorative painters perfect the side-loading technique where, for example, a bunch grapes look like they can be plucked off the painted piece and eaten . . . this is where the “craft” becomes a true form of art.
Door and Window Toppers
One of my favorite items that Patty makes are door and window toppers. She uses them sporadically throughout her beautiful home and changes them depending on the holiday or season.
Here are some samples of her toppers.
Decorative Art Storage Boxes
I love when Patty creates and paints multi-purpose items. These decorative art boxes can also be used to store or hide things. They are another favorite of mine.
Here are some samples of the boxes she's painted.
Holiday Decorative Art
Patty has painted all types of things for holidays throughout the year.
Here are just some of her other holiday pieces.
Decorative Art Checker Boards
One of Patty's unique creations are her decorative art-style checker boards. The details are amazing.
Check out the following three examples of her work.
Now ~ what do you think?
After viewing Patty Sypek's beautiful work, do you think tole and decorative art painting is a craft or an art?
National Museum of Decorative Painting
Did you know there is a National Museum of Decorative Painting? It opened in 1982 in Atlanta, Georgia for the purpose of displaying, collecting and preserving the art of decorative painting.
The museum showcases everything from historical exhibits to current works of decorative art. They also offer educational programs for the public to help increase the understanding and appreciation for the heritage, methods and techniques of decorative painting.
Every effort was made by Patty Sypek to give credit to the original designers if applicable. We apologize if anyone was missed. Feel free to contact the author of this article if you have additional information regarding credit for a specific design.
Thank you so much for stopping by. I hope you enjoyed learning about tole and decorative art painting. And I especially hope you enjoyed the photo gallery showcasing examples of decorative art paintings by Patty Sypek.
And to Patty, thank you . . . for everything.
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