Kitchen makeover

Sorry I’ve been so quiet lately. Here’s my excuse:

My little sister gave me a set of Pfaltzgraff dishes for Christmas. They’re very cute — all Irish-themed, with pretty little flowers and cottages and funny little characters from Jana Kolpen’s book Circle of Kindness all over them — but they didn’t go very well with my dark, increasingly shabby-looking cabinets, so I used them as an excuse to give my kitchen a much-needed facelift.

Of course, the Red Fork Hippie being the Red Fork Hippie, I couldn’t just hit the walls and cabinets with a coat of paint and move on. The cabinets were in pretty lousy shape anyway — too cheaply made to be worth repairing and refinishing, and covering them with solid-colored paint would only magnify their many scars and blemishes — so I decided to give them the same kind of treatment I’d used at our old house in Belleville, where I gave new life to battered old cabinets by painting scenes from Route 66 on all the doors and Burma-Shave signs on all the drawer fronts.

This time around, I decided to use a garden theme that would complement the flowers and cottages on my dishes, but instead of painting scenes from Kolpen’s book, I decided to paint scenes from gardens I love.

The picture with the beehive in the background is sort of an idealized version of our bee yard. The birdfeeder and irises are on my mother-in-law’s back stoop, which is a haven for birds and butterflies and various other critters. The mythical characters are based on Dave Dardis’ Secret Garden in Makanda, Ill.

In real life, the mermaid statue has kind of a soft, rusty patina, but I saw a very similar statue at Little Tin Barn on Route 66 near Vinita, and it was painted silver. I decided the silver would show up better on my cabinets, so I took a little artistic license. Apologies for the lousy photo quality; after three days of home improvement work, I was just too tired to hunt down batteries for my Speedlite, so I just used my crappy Nikon pocket camera to shoot my handiwork.

I’ve always thought the guy above was a Green Man, but after I started sketching him, I noticed some details — specifically, the dreadlocks instead of leaves and the small clusters of grapes around his face — that suggest he is actually a Dionysus figure who is masquerading as the Green Man by hanging out on an ivy-covered garden wall. Either way, I think he looks hella cool, and it’s nice to have a little bit of Makanda in my kitchen 500 miles away.

I still have 12 doors left to paint. Stay tuned….