This past summer I received a grant to paint a bench on the Cocoa Village riverfront as part of the Art Beatz Community Art Project. Here is my step-by-step process.
0) my design proposal & the unpainted bench
1) sand and prime the bench
Try to sand the wood to a smooth surface, remove debris, and as much rust as possible before priming. Prime with an exterior primer. I used Kilz Exterior white primer. As you can see in the next step, I also used a canvas drop-cloth. It's handy for keeping the cement clean and catching drips.
For this step, I used a mix of primer again with the real paint for the wood portion. I wanted to be sure the paint would adhere. For the metal parts of the bench, I lightly sanded the primer coat and painted directly onto the armrests and metal support bar underneath using Behr exterior paint.
3) background color and elements
I painted a thorough coat of the background color at full strength. I added the contrasting background elements (the green tufts of grass).
The green paint was not opaque so it took several coats to get full coverage over the yellow base coat.
Every one of these coats of paint took at least a day to do! I suggest whatever paint you decide to use if you're doing a bench, to make sure it can withstand some rain just in case you have to pack up quickly. The summer weather in Florida varies from 90F+ heat to tropical storm... so the amount of progress on each day varied with the weather.
4) Transfer the concept onto the bench. I used black chalk because I knew it would wash off. If I had had charcoal, I would have used that instead. After sketching on the basic forms and overall placement, I added the bigger inner shapes. I do the details in paint.
Despite the heat and rain, I was really charmed by my view. What a beautiful view of the Indian River!
5) After finalizing the shapes, I added details and painted multiple coats on any parts that were not looking opaque. The orange paint, for example, was not opaque. Between every coat and step, I would re-use the caution tape to warn visitors that there was wet paint. If you paint a public bench, I urge you to let people know by using cones or some kind of caution tape. Note: make sure the printed side of the tape is not touching your paint. It will transfer the black ink onto your surface. The heat is that strong!
The final step is to seal the deal. Literally. Seal the bench using your most trusted clear non-yellowing spray. I used two coats of varnish (Minwax Helmsman Spar Varnish spray) and roughly 2-3 coats of the clear coat provided by the Art Beatz committee (Rustoleum Automotive Enamel in clear). The spray takes a bit to dry and it's tricky to stop people from sitting. I only taped the center of the bench so I would spray the center first, then do the sides so the center would be dry enough by the time I was ready to go.
Image gallery above.
And that's it! I hope you enjoyed this tutorial and you find it helpful. If you have had great success with a different clear coat, we'd love to hear about it! If you'd like to sponsor an art bench, let the Cocoa Village Art Beatz committee know. Any business can sponsor a bench, and they're always looking for local businesses to sponsor them.
Are you working on any public art projects? I'd love to hear about them!