Earth Day

I had a massage this morning and work this afternoon, but in between, I had just enough time to celebrate Earth Day by weeding the Darwin Garden, filling my raised beds with a mixture of compost and peat moss and getting my tomato seedlings into the ground.

Behold:

I'm really excited about these raised beds. Hopefully the tomatoes will like them.
I’m really excited about these raised beds. Hopefully the tomatoes will like them.
I still can't believe these fish survived the awful winter we had.
I still can’t believe these fish survived the awful winter we had.
Darwin Garden is going strong, with arugula already going to seed and chives, sage and strawberries blooming.
Darwin Garden is going strong, with arugula already going to seed and chives, sage and strawberries blooming.
The asparagus I planted last fall is coming up nicely. We'll leave it alone and let it get established this year.
The asparagus I planted last fall is coming up nicely. We’ll leave it alone and let it get established this year.

I’m utterly amazed by my goldfish. We got that early, intense cold snap in November, and the top of the pond froze solid before I had a chance to dip the fish out and bring them inside for the winter. The layer of ice was thick, and the severe cold spells were spaced just far enough apart that it never thawed. I remember reading something that said not to break up ice on a pond, as the vibrations harm the fish more than the cold weather, so I just left them alone and hoped for the best. Upon discovering they’d survived, I promptly named them Ted Williams and General Skaldak, in honor of two other guys who were famously frozen.

I’ll get the rest of the garden in the ground sometime this weekend.

Hope your Earth Day was good and you found something kind to do for the planet.

Emily

Relighting the darkness

Ron and I got back a few hours ago from Tucumcari, where I spent the better end of a week painting what I hoped would be a photorealistic mural depicting some of the neon signs that once glowed along the shoulders of Route 66 in Tucumcari and San Jon.

I’ll leave it to you to determine whether I lived up to my Robert-Bechtle-inspired goal:

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Here’s the work in progress, in case you’re interested:

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And here’s a tutorial breaking down each step in this technique, which is ridiculously easy:

Step 1: Use chalk to draw a rough sketch on a black background.
Step 1: Use chalk to draw a rough sketch on a black background.
Step 2: With a stencil brush, create a glowing effect by tracing the chalk lines with paint. Use a pounding motion to apply a quick layer of paint along the lines, then come back and pick up some of the paint you just applied, using the same pounding motion to diffuse it toward the edges.
Step 2: With a stencil brush, create a glowing effect by tracing the chalk lines with paint. Use a pounding motion to apply a quick layer of paint along the lines, then come back and pick up some of the paint you just applied, using the same pounding motion to diffuse it toward the edges.
Step 3: With the "glow" applied, come back with a flatter brush and paint a black line where each neon tube will go.
Step 3: With the “glow” applied, come back with a flatter brush and paint a black line where each neon tube will go.
Step 4: When the black dries, paint the "tube" over it, leaving a black hairline border all around it. (This should literally be the width of a hair.)
Step 4: When the black dries, paint the “tube” over it, leaving a black hairline border all around it. (This should literally be the width of a hair.)
Step 5: Paint a very light-colored line down the middle of each neon tube to give the illusion that current is moving through the tube and lighting it up.
Step 5: Paint a very light-colored line down the middle of each neon tube to give the illusion that current is moving through the tube and lighting it up.

As I do with every mural project, I learned some lessons.

Lesson 1: When working on a gravel or concrete floor, wear rubber-soled shoes if you intend to be on speaking terms with your feet and hips the next day.

Lesson 2: If you have to kneel to reach any part of the mural comfortably, a foam-rubber gardening mat is your best friend.

Lesson 3: Leave enough room between the bottom of your design and the ground to allow clearance for your elbow so you don’t have contort your body into awkward positions to paint.

Lesson 4: A mahlstick will help keep you from smudging the paint and can be made easily from a half-inch dowel with a chair tip on the end, but make sure you use a rubber chair tip rather than plastic so it won’t slip while you’re using it.

Lesson 5: Interior latex does not like desert air and will turn into a gummy mess on the brush while you’re painting. Regular craft paint works much better.

Emily

Yes, I’m alive.

Sorry I haven’t posted in forever. I’ve been adjusting to the new work schedule and working on a couple of pretty substantial projects.

OK, so “adjusting” is probably the wrong word. “Reveling in the glory of following my circadian rhythm” and “catching up the sleep deficit I ran up while trying to conform to society’s asinine ideas about how my sleep cycle should work for 10 years” are probably more accurate descriptions of what I’ve been doing for the past two months. You have no idea how much better I feel. I’ve set an alarm ONCE since mid-February, and that was only because I had a prior commitment I couldn’t duck out of.

In addition to catching up on a decade’s worth of lost sleep, I’ve been revising my novel for the umpty-seventh time and working like a madwoman to get ready for a Route 66 mural-painting project that starts this weekend and should wrap up in a couple of weeks. I’ll blog about it when it’s all finished, but if you want to see the work in progress, I’m probably going to live-tweet it. The biggest mural I’m planning — which will take up three walls in a garage — will feature trompe l’oeil paintings of neon signs that haven’t lit (and in some cases, haven’t existed) in decades. The technique I use to get the glow effect lends itself well to live-tweeting, as it goes from blurry mess to photorealistic painting in a series of steps that are so easy, you really have to see them to appreciate them.

Once you see the technique, you’ll be mad you didn’t think of it yourself, because it’s so simple, I’m pretty sure my 6-year-old niece could pull it off. (And she’ll probably get the opportunity in the not-too-distant future. Something tells me she and the boys would really enjoy a little foray into superrealism.)

Stay tuned. I’ll have a photo-heavy post for you in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, you can follow me on Twitter at @redforkhippie.

Emily