Artificial rock work as a design medium (article #8 of 10)

Landscape Architecture for Landscape Architects Forums DETAILS & MATERIALS Artificial rock work as a design medium (article #8 of 10)

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    Matthew E Wilson

    Design theory (continued)

    Coloring, as with all art, can be very subjective at times. The only real criteria to follow for coloring artificial rockwork is to vary the colors, tones, and highlighting. Most technicians want to paint their rockwork monochromatically (monochromatically: all one color) because that is what they are most familiar with. For example how many colors are the cars, buildings, and most clothing found around you? One. You see it is easier to simply color with only one or two colors because it doesn’t require much thought but it also lacks any real depth or interest. Even two colors such as brown and gray can be varied by dilution, darkening, or combination to create a multitude of colors all within a desired range.

    All real rock has a variety of colors within very close proximity if studied closely. Attempt to vary the color selections within the range of colors that are required to mimic the rock sample. Another geologic coloring tip is the addition of a much diluted black coloring applied to the lower sections of fractures or rock separations and allowed to run down and stain the surface to replicate naturally occurring mineral streaks. These add visual interest and yet another dimension within the scope of real rock.

    Coloring is the greatest test of believability and can hide a multitude of sins, but if it is wrong it’s hard to make it correct. I remember a past project of mine where I had painted the base color of the rock outcropping project almost black in color to begin the process of making it appear as natural occurring serpentine rock found near the project site. My client came out very nervous and upset that I had, in the span of 20 minutes, “lost my mind”. I had performed my ‘A’ game up until that point, at least my client thought so, but somehow I had lost their confidence once I started coloring their rock black. I was asked to match the native rock which was very dark with a greenish outer glaze. To achieve the desired effect I had to start with a dark base first and the coloring ended up coming out superbly.

    The moral of that story is that once you loose the trust of your client it is hard to retrieve it. I should have spent more time explaining the process so that they where aware of what to expect before I performed this operation. I always recommend that my clients select the rock color from an actual sample of real rock that they provide and leave on site throughout the build. Keep in mind that coloring is subjective and if it’s not to your clients liking you will recolor for free until they are satisfied unless you use my ‘sample provided by client’ method.

    As a footnote, don’t experiment with coloring on the front side of your project. Practice on a sheet of plywood or on the backside of work so that you can arrange the sequence and selection of colors to be applied. Another key factor is weather which can play havoc with coloring so try to apply color on warmer, dry days until your skill level improves.

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    “There is dignity in suffering; nobility in pain; but failure is a slated wound, which burns and burns again!”

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