The Faux Louvre series began with a trip to Paris in the spring of 2003. A less accurate start date would be sometime Before Christ, when an unknown Greek sculptor carved the glorious Goddess of Victory statue which graces the grand staircase at the Louvre Museum. My first drawing of Nike inspired sketchbooks of pencil studies of striking images from Western art. The Faux Louvre has grown to include over 70 watercolor & gouache paintings, each in a colorful, hand painted frame that also pays light hearted homage to art's long history.
     I'm very grateful to a great many … To every artist who achieved immortality through lifetimes of hard work so long ago and inspire me today. To the patrons & curators who kept these paintings alive and safe through the centuries, so that we may glimpse a window through time into the human spirit. To my mother who honored my six year old request that I might be allowed to take an adult art class and thus begin my own lifetime devoted to (among other things) the study of painting. And a thousand thank yous to the teachers, patrons and collectors who have supported my work.
     And to every person who has told me that owning my work makes them happy. You make it possible for me to continue to travel, study and record so many ideas & images that enrich our lives.
     I look forward to seeing you again this season. Please feel free to share your thoughts & ideas by e mailing

     Have a great history!


     How to Experience a Great Museum
     How to Commission a Work of Art


How to Experience a Great Museum

     There are many ways to enjoy a day in an art museum. The most satisfying way is to be entertained, enlightened and whelmed in a good way. Art experts (academics, curators, critics, collectors, restorers and other artists) have specific goals and tend to focus on the analytical aspects of art appreciation. Most everyone else has experiences that are more like listening to a traditional High Mass, or opera without subtitles. Lovely, but rather vague for those of us who don't speak Latin or Italian. The language of art is universal and speaks to our emotions. The trick is to learn about what we love by listening to our instincts. Practicing a few techniques is easy and fun.
     The most fulfilling museum trip is the one where you better get to know yourself and your tastes, and be able to translate that awareness to enrich your everyday life. Here are some tips for an engaging few hours with great art ...
     After getting a ticket & map, find the museum gift shop. The postcard racks will display the most important & popular pieces in their collection. Quickly chose a selection that appeals to you from the permanent collections & current exhibition. Next, sit down in a peaceful corner of the cafe with some tea and a croissant and look them over. Play with them. Arrange them as a collage of color patterns, or lay out a Tarot spread. Imagine a story. Look at them upside down. Read the backs if you must. Relax. There won't be a test. Check the museum map and circle your areas of greatest interest. You now have some knowledge, a plan and stable blood sugar. I like to begin with the Italian Renaissance and go from there. Linger where you like. The air is sparkling clean so breathe deep.
     You might walk into a room of 18th century romantic paintings and feel transported. Here is a fun exercise to try. Scan all the paintings in the room in a minute. Choose two. One that you think is the best (the critic), and one you would hang in your bedroom if you could (the appreciator). They are seldom the same. The one you'd like to own is the one you picked with your instincts. Stand in front of that painting for a full five minutes and try the practice of Zen-like detachment. Let yourself experience everything about this artwork that attracts you: color, angles, subject, movement, depth and emotion. Squint hard and it will become abstracted into light & dark shapes. Get 6 inches away and look at individual paint strokes. Contemplate it from further back. What was the artist's intent... Flattery? Truth? Decoration? Propaganda? Emotional impact? Exuberant joy in the act of painting itself? Observe how light falls across the surface. Study the frame and notice the color of the wall. Understand that if you ever see a modern painting for sale in a gallery, a fine art festival, bistro or an artist's studio that resonates similar feelings, it will be a painting you would love to live with.
     You'll get a small buzz of excitement when you find the paintings & sculpture on the postcards you picked out. Some of them will be on tour or in storage. Any docent will be able to tell you where they are if you can't find them. After a mindful journey through your wings of greatest interest, pick up the pace and tour the galleries you checked on the map.
     Absorbing everything is impossible. Just casually note what few works capture your attention. Its interesting to see how your taste is made evident in vastly different art styles throughout time and how your own preferences and perceptions shift with each visit. Finish your visit with a stroll through a section you would normally bypass and find something unusual to love. I once became enraptured for half an hour with the terrazzo decoration of an Etruscan tomb. It was a high point of a perfect day in Paris. Stretch your interests further each time and notice common threads that make your own unique tastes apparent.
     You are now a connoisseur. Anyone who has spent some time in art in galleries and museums, taken an art appreciation class, read some books, watched a little Sister Wendy, talked with artists during an Open Studios tour and formed some opinions has a basic art education. You have all the ability it takes to recognize whether a piece of original art is worth acquiring for your own home. Art appreciation courses are always helpful, but the innate ability to judge good art and shoddy work is intact within each of us. We have spent a lifetime being lured by images and don't need experts to tell us what is fashionable. When we take some time to really look at tasteful, sophisticated artwork, we can begin to understand why it affects our emotions. My favorite paintings inspire empathy and happiness. My favorite artists create with verve, mastery and clear, glowing color.
     Pictures by Tiepolo, Rubens, Toulouse-Lautrec or Dufy turn me into a mouth breather. Their subjects and styles are vastly different (legends, figures & urban-scapes), but they share a joyful energy of creation that makes each perfect stroke of color seem effortless. Their work inspires me to be less plodding and ponderous… to stop taking everything so darned seriously and lighten up. If I can channel more of that creative energy into my own life, perhaps I can pass that inspiration on in my own art.
     Original art gives off an energy of it's own. You know with your best instincts what has worth and merit the same way you know what kind of bedspread to buy, which flowers to plant or what concept of God feels right to you. The quality of a piece of art has little to do with price and everything to do with how seriously an artist has studied their craft and whether what they have created resonates a pleasant emotion in you. Enjoy the practice of art appreciation where you live. There is wonderful, unique work available from artists in your own community that is well worth the effort to seek out, enjoy and acquire over time.
     Develop an instinct for quality that is personal to you and transcends mass merchandise. You don't have to produce art in order to live creatively. Building your own art collection is a wonderful way to express yourself. You need not be influenced by anyone else's opinion (unless they happen to be your spouse). I know hundreds of people who have become collectors and without exception tell me that their lives are enriched in amazing ways by having original work. By learning about great art and becoming more clearly aware of what you really like, you can be more discerning and confident in your own judgment and taste. Your home will become a more comfortable & beautiful place to live, and an impressive & unique place to visit. On an even more practical level, property values are measurably increased in communities that support a thriving & vital art community.

                                                                                                                                    Mernie Buchanan 2005

Be a Medici
Without having to wear a codpiece

How to Commission a Work of Art

Leonardo, Rafael & Michelangelo
Really good painters

The Medici family
Visionary patrons

     Without the largess of the Medicis, the High Renaissance wouldn't have so conveniently interrupted the Dark Ages, and Florence would be just another quaint European village.
     The Renaissance started with the rediscovery, examination & inspiration of the sculpture, manuscripts, legends & architecture of ancient Greece and Rome, bringing the world into an enlightened age.
     Perhaps you've recently become inspired to incorporate a version of classic style in your own palace. You can be a Medici for the new age and honor your inner patron. You might be thinking about a mural, or perhaps some less elaborate creative painting techniques to tie in colors and architectural details. Its always possible to find an artist who does both fine art paintings and decorative effects and is willing to work out a concept for an entire room. James Whistler was a master at this. Here are some tips on how to have fun with classic style and commission your own lively new Renaissance. The basics to consider when looking for an artist to work with starts with the obvious...
     Begin by finding a painter whose work you admire. Look for someone with a portfolio that shows a range of styles for both residential & commercial projects, has great references and a (C-33) contractors license for painting & decorating.
     Prepare for your initial meeting by having a file of images that appeal to you. They can be pages torn from decorator magazines, pattern samples and photos of murals you've seen and liked during your travels. Take a few months to collect images for this file. Artists are visual and its much easier to get a feeling for a client's taste with images rather than words. A pile of pictures is a good starting point for design directions. Decide which areas you'd like enhanced and have a price range in mind. If your limit is, say, $4500 for treatments in a living room, hallway & guest bathroom, communicate this during the concept meeting.
     A muralist will consider your ideas be they vague (an Italian country villa motif), or specific (this view from the terrace at the hotel in Maui), suggest practical ways to carry them out and ask more questions. Its very give and give at the beginning. In this first hour you will know whether to proceed or keep shopping. There has to be a good rapport & connection from the start. The process should be enjoyable and the finished work should satisfy you for a long time to come. Be open and follow your intuition If an connection doesn't happen, don't push it. There are plenty of walls and other fine painters with original ideas.
     The next step is a well conceived design, a color rendering to scale and a comprehensive estimate. Different decorative painters have different methods, but each should consider your desires, colors, space, style, art, furnishings & budget, and design accordingly. If all goes well, and communications have been clear, there might be some fine tuning and adjustments, but the concept itself will be exactly right for you and your home.

Combining the Faux Louvre with decorative painting ideas

     In Northern California (and in one special house in Las Vegas) are rooms that delight owners and guests alike with pleasing combinations of fine art, murals and painted decorative finishes by Benicia artist Mernie Buchanan.
     Gail Armand of Hercules customized her master bathroom with a new interpretation of 'The Goddess of Summer' as a lively mural. Donna & Troy Frost of Sonora transformed their living area into a 'faux Grand Gallery' with an eclectic collection of six original faux Louvre paintings. Elena Buchwitz of Vallejo commissioned a portrait of her dog as the centerpiece to her collection.
Lisa Seeno-Hofmann inaugurated this creative new direction by commissioning a series of site specific murals for her beautiful Lafayette home.
     Mernie's clients and patrons are, without exception, imaginative people living exceptional lives. Cynthia directs community philanthropy for an international corporation. Geraldine builds monumental stained glass windows. William imports French antiques. Tony designs Las Vegas hotels and casinos.
     Collectors of faux Louvre art include designers & artists, nurses & doctors, engineers & builders, educators, cast, crew & directors in theaters, an internationally renowned rare bunny breeder and an agent for the FBI who investigates organized crime. Mernie's patrons do interesting work, seek new experience through travel and community involvement, tell good stories and throw great parties. Their homes reflect their rich lives, engaging personalities and good humor.
     Modern spaces finished in the popular 'California/Tuscan' theme are especially suited to Mernie's decorative painting and fine art. Here are some ideas to create contemporary classic wall treatments in your own interiors... Consider 'framing' a wall with baroque co-co corners painted in a light-handed, lively style. Enhance a palette of earth shades with rich jewel tones. Highlight archways with dimensional flourishes customized to compliment your art and furnishings.

     Mernie Buchanan graduated with a degree in art from the University of Las Vegas in 1977, and went on to design floors, carpets & decorative treatments for the Las Vegas Hilton, Tropicana & Four Queens hotels. She has been painting professionally out of her Benicia, California studio since 1987 and is represented by Epperson Gallery in Crockett CA and Moloka'i Fine Arts Gallery in Kaunakakai, HI.
     Mernie has over thirty years of experience designing & estimating from both sides of the brain. She will work with you to find an inspired compromise between extravagant ideas and a practical budget. Call to arrange a free* one hour consultation. Day, evening and weekend appointments are available.

(*for clients in the following Bay Area counties: Solano, Napa & north Contra Costa. Other locations involve travel charges.)