Courses: Just give me a paintbrush and a plant pot, and I'll give you verdigris

You don't have to be an artist, or an expert, to create your own paint finishes, writes Catherine Stebbings. And it's fun

Decorating tends to be a passion. You may have tried the minimalist look, played with vibrant acrylic limes and lemons, dabbled in deep greens and regal reds, and ended up slapping on any old thing. You may, on the other hand, always have felt dubious about special effects. The fabulous interiors shown in glossy magazines can be a far cry from all that effort of messing around with paints and polishes, only to find it looks wrong when it's all dried and varnished. To see whether I could rag and drag with the best of them, I took a day course with Paint Magic, just off Portobello Road in north London.

Paint Magic courses are devised by a team of experts led by Jocasta Innes, the maestra of paint effects and author of the phenomenally successful Paint Magic. There are many courses to choose from; the company suggested "Basic Paint Effects", an introduction to decorative techniques for walls, woodwork and furniture.

The course was slickly presented by the shop's in-house teacher, Jacqueline Pederson. The day began with a cup of coffee and a slide presentation showing the various effects we would be discussing and practising later in the day.

Gradually Jacqueline introduced us to all the different media, from oil- based products to the more versatile water-based primers, paints and varnishes. Within an hour I was painting a picture frame with its first coat, and dreaming of where my masterpiece would hang.

Then it was time to try our hand at paint effects: washing, ragging, sponging and dragging. As I pondered over my board of lettuce green, gently stroking the brush across its surface as if it were a precious stone, I realised why paint effects are so appealing. This is not about slapping on paint to covering old blemishes and scars; this is about lovingly tending to your walls, putting your energy and care into creating something original and highly personal. As Jacqueline remarked, "Paint effects need to be subtle, to create a feeling or a mood rather than a clever look."

Throughout the day we were guided from one project to another, following a demonstration, then attempting it ourselves. There was no arduous washing out of brushes and collecting of paints. The mess was conveniently dispersed in a sink behind the screen, and fresh brushes and materials would be laid out for the next project. As a result we achieved a great deal.

My primary trophy was a distressed picture frame - a rather impressive effect created by smothering the undercoat with candle wax, painting over it in top coat and rubbing the dry frame down with wire wool. While the others put the finishing touches to their frames, stencilling on fleurs- de-lis and delicate marine life, I waxed and polished mine for a more rugged look.

While we learnt about both oil- and water-based paint, we used only the latter, because they dry quickly. As Jacqueline explained, "water-based products are much easier to use, mistakes can be washed off or painted over and drying times are quick - creating special effects is much easier than it used to be."

Courses generally take between six and 10 people, to give time for individual tuition. People's reasons for joining vary from wanting to decorate their own homes, to professional decorators, both men and women, wanting to learn new techniques. Rachel, a researcher in the City, saw it as a pleasant way to spend a Saturday: "It's very therapeutic to do something creative that doesn't require a lot of artistic ability or intellectual input."

Our final artistic venture was a small terracotta pot painted in verdigris, stippled in two shades of green and finished with a fine line of copper- coloured wax. The result looked remarkably like ageing copper. That's one I will definitely do again, to transform all those plastic pots at home.

Perhaps one of the most refreshing aspects of the course was its objectivity. Naturally, we used the in-house products during the day, but Jacqueline gave us a good overview of what is on the market in both specialist and DIY stores. It was also not assumed that we all had dreamy houses; the course was geared towards giving you confidence to go home and do what you wanted.

Can I now earn a fortune decorating the homes of the rich and famous? Probably not, but I am now confident enough to give my home the sort of face-lift I thought I could never afford.

Paint Magic Courses run throughout the year in shops around the country. They run for one to five days; prices start at pounds 60 for a full day's tuition, 10am-4.30pm, plus materials.

For details, contact Paint Magic, 79 Shepperton Road, London N1 3DF. Courses around the country: London (0171-792 8012), Richmond (0181-940 9799), Islington (0171-359 4441), Bath (01225 423040), Arundel (01903 883653), Guildford (01483 306072), Marlow (01628 477707), N Ireland (01232 421881).

Suggested Topics
News
Alex Salmond said he accepted 'the democratic verdict of the people'
newsSNP leader says Scotland must move forward as 'one nation'
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
tvSeries celebrates 20th anniversary
Sport
Yaya Touré (left) and Bayern Munich’s Spanish defender Juan Bernat
footballToure's lack of defensive work is big problem for City
Voices
voicesApple continually kill off smaller app developers, and that's no good for anyone
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Sport
Wembley Stadium
footballNews follows deal with Germany
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

News
ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Nursery Assistant Plymouth

£10000 - £20000 per annum: Randstad Education Plymouth: Randstad Education Ltd...

Psychology Teacher

£110 - £130 per hour: Randstad Education Reading: Psychology Teacher needed fo...

Food Technology Teacher

£85 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Randstad Education are curren...

Physics Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: Physics Teacher required for ...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week