Chicago Botanic Garden Fountain Painting on Canvas – Step by Step

I am so fortunate to live only a mile and a half from the beautiful Chicago Botanic Garden. I find so much peace and inspiration there! I created this trompe l’oeil painting while exhibiting at the International Salon of Decorative Painters in Atlanta a few years back.

Chicago Botanic Garden Fountain

Here is the original reference image I shot at the Chicago Botanic Garden

The first step for this painting on canvas was to develop the shapes and shadows with an umber colored paint mixed with glaze. The first element I began to paint was the center satyr on the fountain.

Step 1

Step 1: Develop the shadows and shapes with an umber glaze.

values are defined in the first and second step of the painting

Step 2; continue to create values to define shapes

Colors are gradually layered in…

Further developing the painting with colors and textures.

Colors are added in layers to develop and enrich the painting

painting detail

Botanic Garden painting detail; the leaves and shadows are starting to come to life.

The painting is getting close to being done with highlights and shadows being further developed with warm and cool tones.

Chicago Botanic Garden Fountain acrylic painting on canvas © Bonnie Lecat. All rights reserved

Chicago Botanic Garden Fountain acrylic painting on canvas © Bonnie Lecat. All rights reserved

Prints of this painting are currently available. Looking for a custom painting for your home or business? Please contact me for more information.

Painting Chicago History

Painting Chicago History

Chicago building portrait

completed painting

One of the most exciting things about being an artist is that I am constantly presented with new ideas and challenges by my customers. One particularly interesting challenge came as a commission for a building “portrait” of a Chicago landmark building on Lake Shore Drive. Being a Chicago native and lover of architecture made this project really special to me. The first step was to meet my client at her home and listen to her ideas. She wanted something extra special as a gift for her husband, and she thought a vintage style painting of his favorite building, which was also the location of their second residence, would be just the thing. I happily agreed:) After deciding that an approach that mimicked a vintage travel postcard would be a fun way to replicate the building and hint at it’s historic past, I quickly got to work. I first photographed the building to get my reference. Then the fun began…

The first step after applying the plaster to the panel is to sketch in the building.

sketching out the painting.

I decided to create the painting on a cradled wood panel distressed with Faux Effects Plaster Tex to create interesting texture and an “aged” quality.  I then sketched a line art version of the building onto the panel.

getting to the fun stuff now!

now it’s starting to get somewhere…


step by step the building started to come to life…

adding details to the painting

adding details

I really enjoy getting into all of the tiny details that give the painting it’s character. The reflections in the windows are a fun challenge that make a ton of difference in the final painting!

Lake Shore Drive painting progress

Lake Shore Drive painting in progress- almost at last step

almost there…

detail of painting

Chicago Lake Shore Drive building painting detail

Chicago building portrait

completed painting

The wording at the bottom labeled the painting. The spelling of “ILL” also created an illusion of age because the abbreviation no longer is spelled that way. I custom ordered and hand painted a floating style frame to give it just the right mood.

To see more original paintings, please visit my Fine Art Gallery, if you are interested in commissioning a portrait of your own, please contact me.

Nantucket Mural


“By the sea, by the sea, by the beautiful sea. You and I, you and I, oh how happy we’ll be…”

Sunshine, seagrass, sailboats, surf. The perfect subject matter for a peaceful family room mural. Especially when that was the setting for your wedding, as was the case for a Glencoe, IL family who contacted me recently to paint a Nantucket beach scene in their new family rec room.

The mural started with a small color rendering, laying out all of the details clearly.

mural layout

first a small color “sketch” is painted to plan the mural layout and details

Once the layout was approved, all of the elements were painted on the wall in stages…

First the mural is laid out on the wall...

First the mural is laid out on the wall…

the sky, sea, and surf are added

the sky, sea, and surf are added


more details are added

more details are added

Each day more details were added, creating a visual story for the mural.


beach mural detail

beach mural detail

Lots of fun details like families playing in the surf, Nantucket’s famous “rainbow fleet”, sea grasses, wild roses and one of Nantucket’s iconic lighthouses were added to give the mural character and personality.

mural detail

mural detail


beach mural

Nantucket themed mural

The finished mural was 22′ wide by 7′ tall. This was such a fun project for a wonderful family! I hope they enjoy it for years to come!!

To see more mural examples and ideas, please visit my mural gallery. If you are interested in commissioning a mural, please contact me for more information.




music nursery

Music Theme Nursery


This summer I had the opportunity to create a really fun mural for a lovely family in downtown Chicago. My client’s requests were simple and well defined with the help of local Interior Designer, Norma Zeiger of Entwine Interiors. She wanted something gender neutral, modern, and sophisticated. After our initial meeting, we decided on a large scale graphic approach which included musical notes, a treble clef, and piano keys on a textured background. I put together a few options for her. Her two favorites are featured below.

1) The first option was created with Faux Effect Plaster Tex and glaze. It was rustic in feel and neutral in color.

music mural ideas

sample for music themed nursery mural

2) The second option was more of a “modern” take on the same idea (see above) and featured the same elements painted and embellished with a clear “wax-like” product from Golden Decorative paints; “Smooth Translucent Glazing Medium” plus sheer color. The result was a change in sheen and a modeled effect over the painted elements.

The mural also included very subtle large scale musical notes “dancing” around the room.

music themed nursery

music themed nursery detail

To see more mural samples and ideas, please see my mural gallery page 

raven painting

Rustic Autumn Artwork, It’s Time to Decorate for Fall!

Hooray! It’s here…It’s time to decorate for fall! It’s the season of bonfires, hot cocoa, hoodies and new boots:) I love it!! I also love pulling out all of my autumn decorations and adorning my house with the colors of the season. Halloween and Thanksgiving provide lots of great inspiration for me:) Here are just a few examples of new and old pieces…most are available on my Etsy store.

Tiny pumpkin painting

This tiny folk art piece pulls all of my favorite fall colors together. It works great as an accent piece or propped on a bookshelf.

Pumpkins make great subject matter for decorating throughout the fall season! Put them out in September and keep them on display until you are ready to put up your Christmas decorations. I have special pieces that I pull out every year for the holidays. Each one holds special memories and will one day give my kids the opportunity to pull them out and revisit their happy childhood memories of home and family celebrations.

folk art halloween painting

“Trick or Treat” 12″ x 12″ x 1.5″ acrylic on wood panel

I love the halloween and fall colors, green, orange, black and tan are the most prevalent colors in my home:)

another small pumpkin painting

“Witches” 6″ x 6″ x .5 x 75″ mixed media on wood panel

Witches and pumpkins and black cats, “Oh, my!” This painting is one of my personal favorites.

"bad kitty"

“bad kitty” 12″ x 12″ x 1.5″ acrylic on wood panel

Crows and ravens also make great inspiration for halloween decor that also can be left out all year!

crow painting

“Crow” 12″ x 12″ x .75″ acrylic on wood panel

How do you like to decorate for the holidays? Leave me a comment and let me know! I’d love to hear…



Only 3 more weeks until IDAL Convention 2013! I’m looking forward to seeing old friends and seeing new products on the market. Tons of ideas and inspiration for decorators and decorative artisans!! Don’t miss it. Here are the classes I will be teaching. Sign up today at

grisaille landscape

Grisaille Landscape Mural Class Panel

cardinals on a branch mural

IDAL Convention Birds and Foliage class

I hope to see you there!

DIY Copper Pumpkins for the Holidays

Aged Copper Pumpkins

I was recently asked to paint and donate a pumpkin to Meadowbrook School in Northbrook to auction off at their upcoming “Pumpkinfest” celebration. I have had a ball coming up with ideas…now the hard part will be deciding which one to donate, which ones to sell and which ones to keep!! I thought I would share some of my ideas with you along with a “how-to” for my Aged Copper Pumpkins.

Pumpkin painted with the face of an owl
"rusted" pumpkin
back of “rusted” pumpkin
Old Tin Pumpkins


You will need:
-craft foam pumpkin
-spray primer (I use Bin 123) in white
-chip brushes
-Copper Schabin or decorative foil
Wunda Size or Faux Effects Aqua Size
-black paint
-Modern Masters metallic paints in copper, brass, and “reactive” bronze
-Modern Masters reactive paint activator in Blue, Green, and Black
-Modern Masters Permacoat Sealer

1) First prime your pumpkin
2) Apply 2 coats of black paint mixed with a little Brass metallic with a chip brush

3) When dry, coat with a single layer of size. Let size get tacky (about 15 minutes)

then add your schabin or foil. In this demo, I am using Schabin. I bought mine from Kathy Carroll at

4) Once you have covered your pumpkin, while leaving some holes or “holidays” use a dry chip brush to go over pumpkin and press down any loose leaves.

5) Now it’s time to “age” the copper. Using a combination of copper paint, and reactive paints, loosely scumble on paint with a chip brush, covering about 75% of pumpkin.
while the paint is still wet, pour the blue reactive and green reactive paints on top of pumpkin, letting it drip over sides, then spritz with the black reactor.

6) Let it dry and coat with the PermaSeal Coat to stop the reactivity.
7) I added some bronze carpet tacks which I purchased at Lowe’s

THAT’S IT!! Now go paint some pumpkins:)

Unique Father’s Day Gift Ideas

Unique Father’s Day Gift Ideas

With Father’s Day just around the corner, I thought I would share some of my favorite online and diy gift ideas for Dads.

Of course, my first and favorite search spot for unique personalized gift ideas is etsy!  Here are a few finds that I think are really cool…

cute Father's Day gift

this t-shirt from ebollo on etsy is so cute!

Picture frames are always a good gift idea! I like this one from SouthernHomeDesigns

Of course, I offer personalized magnets in my etsy store that make fun gifts, too! Here is an example of one that I just made for a customer as a Father’s Day Gift.

Father's Day Gift Idea

This customized fridge magnet makes a fun Father’s Day Keepsake!

What Dad doesn’t like a handy and comical way to hold his beer? Fun AND functional:) from…

Beer Holster for Dad

How about a “beer holster” from

Pinterest has some great do it yourself ideas last minute gifts…

This darling craft idea was found on Pinterest and pinned from the blog, rambllingsfromutopia

Of course, what Father doesn’t like breakfast in bed. Surprise Dad with a special breakfast with all of his favorites and a homemade card. You can find lots of great hearty recipes online that are easy enough for the kids to make. How about a a bacon and potato breakfast pizza?

Bacon and Potato Egg Bake

Bacon and Potato Breakfast Pizza for Dad

Gift certificates for a special activity that kids can do with Dad are a wonderful gift for Dad, too! It also is a gift for Mom because it allows for some “Mommy-time;)” How about a day of fishing with a guide or a paid round of golf? Or even a dinner at Dad’s favorite restaurant with just him and the kids. Father’s Day is such a great opportunity to tell Dad how special he is! Enjoy it and spread the love. Go Dad!!

American Folk Art

By bonnie | Published June 26, 2013

The fourth of July always makes me think of all of the great American folk art that can be found in our country. Wikipedia describes folk art as :”Folk art encompasses art produced from an indigenous culture or by peasants or other laboring tradespeople. In contrast to fine art, folk art is primarily utilitarian and decorative rather than purely aesthetic.[1] Folk Art is characterized by a naive style, in which traditional rules of proportion and perspective are not employed. Closely related terms are Outsider Art, Self-Taught Art and Naïve art.[2  ]Following are some examples of some amazing folk art:

Folk Art Flag Gate found at the American Folk Art Museum

Folk Art Flag Gate found at the American Folk Art Museum

This beautiful and exciting example of Folk Art was said to be originally found at an auction in upstate New York surrounded by garden furniture. I think that’s a pretty good motivator to go to auctions, huh? It has been an icon of the museum since the 1960′s.


Weather vanes are another classic form of American folk art. According to the American Folk Art Museum, “Weathervanes are a form of folk art that, although originating in Europe, reached its greatest development in America.” There are many examples of beautifully and thoughtfully crafted weathervanes that were not only functional but designed to be decorative as well. Collector David Davies began searching out weather vanes to decorate his converted barn on New Jersey’s north shore. His splendid collection was featured in Architectural Digest.

this wonderful collection of antique weather vanes featured in Architectural Digest

this wonderful collection of antique weather vanes featured in Architectural Digest


Another one of my favorite examples of Folk Art is the Trade Sign. Trade Signs were originally created to advertise and announce a business establishment. They are highly collectible because of their decorative nature and make wonderful art pieces displayed on the wall.

folk art trade sign

folk art trade sign

Folk Art Optician sign

Folk Art Optician sign

an example of antique trade signs displayed as folk art

Sandy Klempner Antiques had a wide array of antique trade signs on display

These types of folk art signs have really made the transition from function to fashion and are highly coveted and often reproduced and sold as home decor.

To see more examples and learn more about Folk Art, visit the website for the American Folk Art Museum. Or better yet, visit the museum in New York! If you’ve been, I’d love to hear about it…please leave your comments below. There are also tons of books available on the subject at your local library or on Amazon. I’m fortunate to have a large personal collection of folk art thanks to my husband and in-laws and will post them soon:) Until then, I hope you’ve enjoyed learning a little bit about this delightful art form!! God Bless America and Happy Independence Day!!!


Keep your dog “cool” this summer

Keep your dog “cool” this summer

The best part of summer for me is spending time outside with my dog, Roscoe. He is an eight year old havanese and loves to be outside in the sun, so I’ve searched out some “cool” products online to help keep him happy and healthy this summer.

Roscoe relaxing on the deck

Summer is such a great time to enjoy with your pet! But the hot summer months can be brutal on both of you. Check out this cooling mat to keep your pet comfortable during the warm summer months.

keep your dog comfortable with this great cooling mat

keep your dog comfortable with this great cooling mat

I found this practical bag to help keep all of the things I need for taking Roscoe on a walk handy and organized on your dog in style this summer with this great "Doople Bag"

walk your dog in style this summer with this great “Doople Bag”

Need a new leash for your furry friend? I found these fun, stylish leashes that have matching collars on Etsy, too! Visit Collar Habit on Etsy for more…


If you need a place to store your cool new leash, I offer custom dog leash holders in my etsy shop that you can make with your dog breed or name. I will even make one with your dog’s silhouette if you send me your photo!

Keep your dog leash handy with this super fun dog leash holder I have on my etsy shop!

Also, don’t forget to make sure your pet has plenty of water when you are spending time outside. This portable bowl from REI makes it easy to keep your dog “watered” anywhere!

portable dog bowl for keeping your furry friend hydrated

portable dog bowl for keeping your furry friend hydrated

Finlly, give your buddy a treat! Roscoe loves these organic treats from Bubba Rose

Enjoy the remaining weeks of summer with your pet and have fun checking out all of these “cool” products!