I think handpainted chairs are so special! You can take a keepsake...your childs first rocking chair or your fathers chair that he always used at the table and really personalize it. There is something uniquely welcoming with a chair. It invites you to rest, perhaps we will slide it next to that special someone to share some smiles, and an empty chair can invoke anticipation of a friends visit. We can rock in them, sit with our arms resting on them, or watch our little ones squiggle at the thought of being big enough for their own chair. They can be painted to suit well in our nests or perhaps be painted to look perfect in a friends home. I love painting everything from large adult rockers, adult chairs, small rockers, and childrens chairs.
I want to preface this with the fact that you can make it amazingly simple or as ornate as your hands (and patience :) ) will allow. It's up to you. First...if this is a keepsake you are keeping or giving look at it as such. Are you going to use colors and designs that will go along with the memories of the chair? If it's your dads...you can use colors that invoke him and his preferences. Did he like to fish, hunt, work on his car, camp, bbq, construct...use these images and put them on the seat or along the top back of the chair. I like to paint and use pictures to inspire me. If handpainting isn't your thing maybe you could find some images that represent the feelings you are trying to convey and modge podge it onto the chair. You can even modge podge a cut length of fabric from your grandpas shirt or grandmas apron onto the top back of the chair/rocker. For a childs chair you could make it with tiny flowers for a little girl or a race track across the top back down the arms and onto the seat for a boy. For my taste I don't really get into the aspects of decorating with licensed characters. There is enough of that stuff out there to choke a horse. Besides if you are going to go thru the effort of doing this work...why have what someone else has. You can use simple strokes to paint petals, leaves, vines, etc and the end of your paintbrush or end of an eraser for circles or berries. Handlettering is also a nice personal touch but you can use thin paper letter cut outs and modge podge them on if that's your preference.
When you pick out your chair...take a good look at it. If it needs some minor repairs, sanding, peeling paint... get that out of the way. Prep it by cleaning it very well. All the spindles, slats, rockers need to be scrubbed up. If not you will see extra bumps and even dirt/grease rolled in your work. Yikes! The extra attention to the details will make it worthwhile in the end. After you've cleaned it you can lightly sand the entire thing. This to remove the top layer so your paint will adhere nicely to the chair. After completing this you need to take a damp cloth/tac cloth to get in and around all the crevices and it will remove the sanding dust. You can choose to spray prime the chair grey if it is unevenly colored to give it a nice jumping off point. I have done it both ways so it is just personal choice. Decide ahead of time your colors and use painters tape to contain the areas you want to paint. For example if you want to paint the spindles/slats one color and the seat another... tape off areas to keep the paint colors crisp and separate. It may very well take several layers to give adequate coverage. Thin even coats are really crucial to a nice look. Do not use thick layers of paint to hurry the job. It looks blotchy and generally pretty bad. If you are in a hurry.... wait and do it when you have the time. I use my absolute favorite PLAID brushes for painting chairs. They have some larger ones to cover more area, but I love the control of smaller brushes. Yes it takes longer but it's worth it. Believe me... one chair in particular that I painted took me about 24 hrs total. I didn't want to see a chair again for at least a week LOL! It was worth it though in the end. After you have completed the chair and like what you see...you can spray clear acrylic paint to seal it or varnish it with a few light coats. Now...pull up a chair and enjoy having created something that will bring lots of smiles and uniquely yours! I would like to give credit to Renee Mullins for her snowman design that I handpainted on the middle chair seat!! Blessings, Dawn