Homeowner's Resource Guide. October 2004, p. 41.
Faux Finished Walls Add Dimension to Imagination
By Margaret Briller
Featureless spaces and blank walls become works of art when the brushes of Jim Todd touch them. His specialty is painting trompe l'oeil, or "trick of the eye" special effects to create a three-dimensional feel and texture to surfaces from doors to floors and everything in between.
Jim chose Dances With Walls as his company name when he was painting a faux finish on the walls of a building in Cleveland. After the crew had left, he had stayed behind to touch up a few spots. While he was working on the wall and the way he was moving with so much animation, he thought, 'This looks like I'm dancing with the wall.' "It struck me as funny, that if anyone saw me from behind, they would think I'm dancing with this wall. So I named my company 'Dances With Walls' by the way I work on them," he explained.
Jim has spent over 20 years as a scenic painter in theater, television, and feature films in California and Cleveland. For the last 10+ years, he has specialized in faux interiors of homes, furniture and murals. His talent for trompe l'oeil painting evolved while working in California when a theater, too poor to afford a piece of furniture or props for the wall, hired him to paint the set walls. "They couldn't afford to pay me very much, but I did it because I just wanted to paint all day," he said. "I did a lot of trompe l'oeil painting, convincing people there were things in the room that weren't really there."
Faux finishes for high-end homes have been the niche that Jim enjoys most. Homeowners are fascinated by stone finishes and textural features that complement a stone color in the floor or accent shade in their furniture. "I try to get a sample of the stone they have in their floor, take it home and try different techniques," he said. Jim enjoys the challenge of adding architectural dimension or imaginative accents to make blank walls and ceilings disappear into customized "stonework," "fireplaces," or aged panels for a more historic appeal. Jim also can highlight details in crown molding and woodwork. His paintings of rough-cut stone are so lifelike that people actually have to rub their hands on it to believe that there is nothing glued to the wall.
A large part of the challenge Jim loves is creating new and unique faux finished looks for each client. His techniques run the gamut from sponging and ragging to dripping and spattering. He's even used plastic bags, and often combines techniques, like sponging and ragging. Sometimes he's used as many as four layers to achieve the final look. "They say you can't paint in 12-degree temperatures, and they say you can't paint water-based over oil-based," Jim said. But he has.
Trompe l'oeil painting works well to reinvent structural details in homes wherever a homeowner needs to liven up an area with an illusion to disguise or enhance, or even make a philosophical or humorous statement. Jim has painted whimsical characters at Sullivan's Pub in Lakewood, as well as all the walls and doors at Pickwick & Frolic Restaurant & Club in Cleveland. The scrolling filmstrips featured at Pickwick's bar demonstrate the versatility of Jim's talent. "For large, silk-screening pieces such as the filmreel at Pickwick, I worked with my friends Bill and Kathy VanArnhem, at Green River Studio in North Carolina," he added. Jim also works with fellow artist Ruth Lohse on many jobs.
Dances With Walls can be found on the web at www.danceswithwalls.com.
221 Race Street - Berea, Ohio 44017
(c) 2004-5 James E. Todd : Dances With Walls : Berea, Ohio