How to paint furniture in a traditional Indian Madhubani style

by JustRestore

We promised you global influences from Indian born, Dubai based world traveller Painter In Residence Sabah Bardhan of JustRestore – and global influences is what you’ll get. This cabinet is Sabah’s tribute to the tradition of Madhubani Style, a school of painting named after the region of India where it originated.

Unusually, compared to most art movements in the Western world and Europe, the Madhubani style was pioneered by women. The mothers and daughters of the Madhubani region in Bilia State, India, developed their striking folk art style in the domestic sphere, painting the walls and floors of their homes using a paste of powdered rice. The powdered rice was dyed with plant-derived pigments such as ochre and lampblack to create a colourful and bold palette to work from. 

The paintings feature celebratory bright and bold two-dimensional renderings of people and nature, in domestic or mythological scenes – as with most folk art around the world. The sun, the moon and religiously significant flora and fauna are often depicted, as are scenes from royal courts, weddings and feasts.

JustRestore has painted a couple on their wedding day, wearing their traditional finery, in the vivid, joyful, eye-catching style of this art. We’re so grateful to her for teaching us the history of this style and she’s helpfully provided a step-by-step below for those who want to try Madhubani painting for themselves!

1. After cleaning the cabinet thoroughly, Sabah painted the entire piece in two coats of Chalk Paint® in Giverny. 

2. Next she used a Large Chalk Paint® Brush, dipped in Chalk Paint® and Provence, wiped off the excess paint on scrap cardboard, then brushed over the base of Giverny using quick, gentle, sweeping strokes. This dry brushing technique adds texture and makes for a really eye-catching bright blue base. Adding more Provence in some areas creates depth and texture.

3. Once dry, JustRestore sketched the portrait of the man and woman using a pencil. (Annie’s tip: You’ll notice folk art traditionally uses simple shapes and repeated patterns – circles, lines and dot work commonly feature. Research your design on the Internet and adapt to reflect your ability; as the women of Madhubani would have done when they were painting. Rather than painting human figures, consider more simplistic sun and moon designs if you aren’t as confident with a brush as our PIR!). 

4. JustRestore then used a palette of Chalk Paint® in Barcelona Orange, English Yellow, Tilton, Emperors Silk, Napoleonic Blue, Old Ochre, Athenian Black, Oxford Navy, Amsterdam Green, Firle, and Honfleur to paint her couple and tree. Bold colours are key!

5. Next, she used Chalk Paint® in a mix of Athenian Black Paint and Honfleur to create a rich dark brown with which to outline all the details to make them “pop”.

6. Once all the painting was completely dry, JustRestore applied a coat of Clear Chalk Paint® Wax using a lint free cloth to protect and finish. She allowed 24 hours for this to set and dry and then applied a second coat for added protection. 

7. The final touch was to use Bright Gold Gilding Wax to create a border frame around the portraits. JustRestore followed the lines of the cabinet itself for best effect.


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