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Behind the Texture

with Dee Lenehan

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Deanne Lenehan from Lenehan Studios specializes in unique and innovative painted solutions for interiors, which include faux finishes, murals, custom fine art and more. She loves to collaborate with interior designers and clients alike to create unique and beautiful spaces that will be enjoyed for years. Lenehan has served clients across the mid-Atlantic and loves to travel wherever the project may take her.

How did you get into decorative arts and was it a career you saw for yourself early on?
Growing up I was always making something, whether it was a castle made from cardboard boxes with my best friend or puppets from papier mache´. My family is very creative and drawing came naturally to me. During summer visits to Michigan to visit family, my grandmother, who was an elementary school art teacher, nurtured my interest in art. We would often stay up till two in the morning making something. As I got older I was always was able to adapt my technique in order to mimic different styles of art, so I never truly felt like I had my own artistic voice. I decided I would become an art teacher because I knew I wanted to have a career in art and I wanted to make sure I had a stable income. During my first year teaching in 2001, a friend asked me to paint a mural in her daughter’s room and I was hooked. Not only could I paint for a living, I could be my own boss. I realized with this skill and my fine art background that I could paint for others what they want, thus using my ability to adapt my style to the client’s desires. At that point I discovered decorative painting in all of its forms, a career path that before then I didn’t know existed. After growing my business on the side, I quit teaching and went full time in 2008.

Where are you from? Where and what did you study?
The short answer is Baltimore. The long answer is my family is originally from the Detroit area. My parents moved to Maryland following my dad’s career. I still have family in Michigan but a lot of my cousins now live all over the country. I earned my Bachelors of Science in Art Education at Towson University in Baltimore and have also studied at Maryland Institute College of Art, Pratt Institute and McDaniel College. I’ve had the opportunity to study with artists including Jean-Luc Sable, Pierre Finkelstein, Carolina D’Ayala Valva, and William Cochran both in the US and in Europe.

What are your interests outside of decorative art?
Besides creating my own personal paintings, I like to make beaded jewelry. I also grew up playing string bass and I now play in a bluegrass/Americana band. I am an assistant coach for the local high school mountain bike team and I do CrossFit. I also have a goal to get back to riding motorcycles. Besides all of that I have two cats and an amazing boyfriend who lives in LA who also happens to be a decorative artist!

What are your thoughts on Pantones color of the year, Pantone 17-3938 Very Peri?
I think that “Very Peri” is an interesting choice and a departure from the 2021 colors of the year. I personally really like the warm blue hue, it reminds me of my favorite flowers, lavender and lilac. I think blue is a very versatile color and with this warmer blue hue it can lend itself to both analogous palettes as well as brighter, cheery complimentary color schemes. I can see it layered in with pinky reds and mauves to create a soft and inviting environment which is perfect for the current state of affairs in the world. Conversely I can see it paired with a yellowy orange to make it pop. 

Whats your favorite thing about the decorative industry/community?
I love seeing artists help each other, whether it be with figuring out a finish, coming together to lend a hand on a larger project, or even sharing stories. Our industry is unique in that we are typically an isolated bunch with most of us working solo. With the tools of social media we can reach far beyond where we live to seek support and inspiration. But most of all I love the creativity; in finding solutions to design challenges, creating new finishes, new ways to use age old materials, or even the use of new products.

When I first started this journey I was eager to learn about different faux techniques, but traveling wasn’t feasible at the time. I had grown up taking art classes but the world of decorative painting was new to me. My first class was at a local studio owned by a woman that a friend had met. With the advent of chat groups and then Facebook groups I learned so much, far beyond that local studio. With social media we are able to share and connect more easily.

What influences do you think shaped your approach to decorative art? 
Boy thats a question! I would say the two biggest influences have been my teachers, both in school and in the decorative painting world, as well as my travels. I gravitate to artists who I would say are more traditional in their style. I am drawn to the challenge of realism and technical skill. I appreciate the talent, and more importantly, the dedication to the practice of perfecting techniques but also brush work and efficient use of color. Being fortunate enough to travel and experience different cultures and environments have definitely influenced my work.

However, oftentimes I am asked by clients and interior designers to create finishes that are anything but traditional. Sometimes they’re inspired by texture found in nature, a wallpaper sample, or they’re looking for a certain vibe but they just don’t know what. It’s my job as an artist is to use my skills to meet their request. With my knowledge of techniques and experimenting with different media I can come up with innovative finishes. I think that is the definition of what it means to be a decorative artist.            

For those interested, I have started a “Finish Challenge” series where I take inspiration items and create finishes based on them. I will be launching a Facebook “Live” (or Instagram, I haven’t decided which platform would be better,) where I will demonstrate a finish and get a chance to talk and answer questions from viewers. If you are interested in watching and perhaps even creating your own finish along with me, make sure you subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on both Instagram and Facebook. If you have a Finish Challenge for me, send it my way and I may use it to create a finish live!

See more of Lenehan’s work at lenehanstudios.com

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