Half Moon Bay Review
By Stacy Trevenon [ email@example.com ]
Published/Last Modified on Wednesday, Apr 02, 2008 – 02:02:47 pm PDT
Malinda Thompson, a concrete artist from Half Moon Bay, in front of one of her Fresco-style paintings in the Half Moon Bay Inn.
Time was when concrete was a plain old, boring, gray construction material that builders hastily hid away under aesthetically pleasing wood floors or carpeting.
Times have changed.
Certainly practical, despite the rough edges and all that gray, concrete has always found its way into highly functional and architecturally expressive purposes. With the integration of specialized tints, dyes, spray paints, stains and special tools, and with a new breed of artist known as a “concretist” who allows for serendipitous miscalculations, concrete now can be a place where function meets fine art.
“You can say that floors have become the canvas,” said Half Moon Bay artist Malinda Thompson. Her medium of choice is concrete. “People are falling in love with concrete. People are so turned on to it right now.”
More than just the foundation under the floors, concrete has a lot going for it — enough to spark a movement. “It’s really blossoming,” Thompson said.
She thumbs through an issue of Concrete Décor: Journal of Decorative Concrete magazine. Page after page shows concrete used in attractive kitchen countertops or bathroom sinks. Some show what she calls the “old-school” style of stamping pretty raised patterns into concrete, but other pages display floral or abstract patterns executed in concrete with specialized dyes, stencils or other inlay, embossing or etching techniques.
There are also sophisticated, sleek concrete sinks or tubs that look like they were made of polished stone or marble, and an array of stippled, textured, or other special effects. You can even put fiber optics inside concrete to light up countertops, Thompson said.
“As a design element, people are looking at it in a new way,” she said. “You can create a very personal environment. Concrete can feel comfortable and earthy and not super-modern. It’s not a slab anymore.”
She points to kitchen counters in concrete. “If this were marble, I’d feel like I was in a museum.”
Using acrylic, latex, house paints and special dyes on concrete, Thompson has left her mark on the Coastside: She created a custom fresco in a Half Moon Bay home, gave a facelift to an El Granada stucco home with a color wash and brightened the Half Moon Bay Inn by applying the two-tone, Tuscan-inspired color wash outside and retouching the front door with a Spanish-style architectural palette.
The evolution and self-determination of her style is as colorful and unique as the work itself. She began painting on canvas in community college in Alaska, where she lived for 10 years. Upon continuing her studies in California, she was influenced by the “Society of Six,” six West Coast impressionistic, plein air artists of the early 1900s.
In the early 1990s, she went to Hawaii to help in a reconstruction effort in Kauai after a devastating hurricane, and supported herself painting rebuilt homes. Returning to the Bay Area, she came to see decorative painting as “a more artistic form of treating interiors. If I’m going to paint, this is how I want to paint.”
In the mid-1990s she worked in Los Angeles as a decorative painter, creating faux finishes and murals in homes. She built a niche in decorating children’s rooms with lively cartoon or fairy-tale figures. (They can be seen on her Web site of www.malindapaintstudio.com.)
She perfected her new trade and took it to the Coastside and to Pier 39 in San Francisco. Beginning in mid-April, she will get busy at the New Leaf grocery market in Half Moon Bay, applying some concrete “magic” to its interior flooring.
To work with concrete, she plunges into the boxes of color samples, tints and specialized dyes she carries in her car, from which she says she often works. (She also maintains studio space at Enso in Half Moon Bay.)
She leverages her background in painting with latex, acrylic or house paints into painting on concrete with specialized dyes or stains. She applies the colors by spraying them or blotting with a rag, seldom if ever with a brush.
Key to the process of tinting concrete is sealing the work with one or multiple coats of lacquer, epoxy or floor wax. The sealing determines the look of the concrete — how shiny it is, for example.
For the designs in New Leaf, she is working with concretist Mike Miller of Benicia, who is part of The Concretists collective of artists. The vision they share for the market’s floor, he said, is as a 15,000-square-foot “modern-art canvas” which they hope to execute a representation of Half Moon Bay: natural history to indigenous residents to topography to culture.
He calls concrete almost organic.
“Concrete generally shows the hand of the maker,” he said. “If I want to see something that has a handmade quality to it, concrete is a material that has that.”
The image of concrete as just a drab gray building material, he added, needs to be rethought. “Simply by applying color to it, you have the ability to … make it quite lively.”
Part of the organic quality of concrete lies in its unpredictable quality, say Thompson and Miller.
“It’s not only the hand of the maker, it’s the hand of the material,” said Miller. “Like a good conversation or improvisation between musicians, the material is saying it wants to do one thing and the craftsman wants to do something else, and it will ultimately be resolved in a permanent and architectural way.”
“Part of the concrete aura is the design and flow of it,” Thompson said. “It’s hard to predict what happens with concrete, so you have to be fluid about the outcome.”