Saturday, 19 January 2013

Painting a Gypsy Wagon -Part One

There is a traditional way of painting a waggon with scrolls, lining, fruit, horses, horse shoes and lots of gold leaf...but in the past not all waggons were decorated by artists...they often painted their own. A bit like today when we choose what colour front door we want or what type of curtains or bedspreads....its all a matter of personal choice....and of course what materials and money is to hand.
I remember a lovely friend of mine telling me that her Mothers waggon had large daisies painted on the front....years before the hippy 1960's.
Different painters had different styles, painters such as Jimmy Berry...regarded as The master was painterly, you could see the flow of the brush. He was even known to have used grass dipped in paint to line with. He lived in a waggon and often painted on the side of the road. There are many wonderful waggon painters I could mention but I'll write about them in their own individual blog.
Looking through Google images I came across a couple of great pictures, really displaying the hand painted originality of past waggons. The Museum of English Life.
The first picture is from 1920, it has very simple scrolls in one colour but fitting each panel.

The second is a close up of the canvas on two waggons from a photograph in their collection. It is great to see the canvas decorated too, something that I haven't seen done on any modern waggons.....

I rather like it and I think I will do something similar on my waggon.
Here are a few blogs by artists who stray from the traditional decoration and add their own flair and imagination to the decoration....I have to admit that my own style is very traditional but that doesn't stop me enjoying other artists work.
DebHunt Very bright and patterned horses..and she is out there living in her waggon.
Brad and Dave Builders of waggons in America...also have a clip of our English painter John Pockett painting.
Gypsy trailors usa
Ps...I'm not sure if wagon is written with one or two g's...I prefer one but spell check says two...Do you know ?


  1. I would go for one G in wagon, looks right somehow, but have seen it spelt with two. Probably no right or wrong here. Also like the idea of painting the canvas...after all, canvas is used all the time in art :) happy days.
    Hope you and yours are well. love ann & graham xx

  2. HI Ann and Graham, yep I think the same...You are so good at writing your blog, lovely to see what you are up never know this could be the year that we actually get to see you on your own home turf ! xx

  3. Hi Katie,
    Waggon with two gs is the more common gypsy way of spelling it I think, but actually the two g version is just the more archaic British spelling whereas the one g version is the more modern/American spelling.
    Happy new year to you!

  4. Hi Rima, Thanks, it's interesting to know where the spelling comes from. I hope you are well and keeping warm, all the best and Happy new Year, KT

  5. waggon with 2 gs first written down 1601 from Dutch wagen, became one g victorian times and since except for Sentinel in the UK who made steam waggons, and in Britain lorrymen still call themselves waggon drivers. Was driving them for 20 years and been painting them for a living for 30 I always say 2 gs.
    PS Fred Fowle real craftsman, good luck/kushti bok

  6. My husband and I are building a home made gypsy wagon. I am trying to decide if the main color should be sprayed on or painted with a brush or roller. What do you suggest?

    1. Hi, I'd always use a brush, personally I feel that you get a thicker coat and there are some good coach enamel paints around. The key to getting a good finish is in the preparation...lots of elbow grease!I'd love to see a picture when you have painted it.



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