Category Archives: Art projects

Stuff I’ve been doing lately

I’ve been busy lately. We finally got the Subaru out of our driveway yesterday. I was going to donate it to a local organization, but they were having trouble working out the details so they could accept it, and Ron finally gave up and called a salvage yard to come and get it. They gave us $150 for it, which isn’t very much, but it’s better than nothing, and at least we don’t have to pay county property tax on it now. Bonus: The guy at the salvage yard thinks he can get my Judy Sings Dylan CD out of the stereo. It’s been stuck in there since it broke down. I don’t know why, but I was more mad about losing a CD that I bought used for $5.99 than I was about the $21,500 I sank in a car I only got to drive for a year and a half before the engine blew up and took the radiator with it.

Sometimes I don’t understand how my brain works at all.

In any case, I’m probably getting my CD back, and in the meantime, I have my driveway back, it’s spring, and vacation is coming up soon.

Here is a sign of spring:

Crocuses!
Crocuses!

And here is a project I am working on ahead of vacation:

Ignore the reflection in the middle. I'll take better pictures when I finish the whole project and seal the paintings.
Ignore the reflection in the middle. I’ll take better pictures when I finish the whole project and seal the paintings.

Bob Waldmire’s brother Buz gave me permission to recreate several of Bob’s postcards on 30-inch-wide pieces of Masonite board to take out to the Blue Swallow Motel next month and install in the same garage where I painted the mural of Bob in his VW last summer. I’m hoping to do five of them and get them sealed and cured and ready to deliver by the end of the month.

And finally, for no particular reason, here is a picture of the Esquire Theater in Cape Girardeau:

I happened to catch a bit of magic light just as we were going to dinner the other day, so of course I had to shoot this.
I happened to catch a bit of magic light just as we were going to dinner the other day, so of course I had to shoot this.

I’ve also been doing a lot of tiny-house prep lately. I got rid of a bunch more books and craft supplies, reorganized two closets, and bought three new kitchen tools that save a lot of space in the cabinet. I’ll share those in upcoming posts.

Emily

Make-It Monday: A quick mural job

I spent part of my weekend doing a mural project of a different sort.

A local church has elaborate airbrushed murals covering virtually every wall in its children’s wing. A recent construction project took out part of a mural in an entryway leading to a couple of classrooms, so they hired me to repair it.

It was more difficult than it looked, as I was not only using a different tool (paintbrush vs. airbrush) but was working on a different surface than the original artist and had to try to blend my efforts into what was already there.

After a couple of less-than-satisfying attempts to make my paintbrushes replicate the luminosity and softness of an airbrush, I decided it made more sense to match the previous artist’s work to mine rather than the other way around, so I used a brush to sharpen up some of the existing lines and then sort of feathered the new work into the old while trying to preserve the integrity of the original design as much as possible.

I forgot to take “before” pictures, but here’s what it looked like when I finished. You can see some of the original artist’s airbrush work at the corners and on some of the walls in the background.

The post at the corner is the original artist's handiwork. About a fourth of the mural on the right-hand side was missing, so my task was to complete it using the same style as the existing work.
The post at the corner is the original artist’s handiwork. About a fourth of the mural on the right-hand side was missing, so my task was to complete it using the same style as the existing work.
If you look closely, you'll see a slight color variation where the old surface stops and the new surface starts.
If you look closely, you’ll see a slight color variation where the old surface stops and the new surface starts.

It’s not the most exciting project I’ve ever done, but it was a good exercise, I learned a couple of things from it, and everybody who’s seen it seemed happy with it, so I’ll call that a win.

It also served as a good reminder of why I need to learn to use an airbrush at my earliest convenience. Ron ordered me one for Christmas, but it just came in a couple of days ago, so I haven’t had a chance to play with it yet. I have a feeling our basement walls are about to get really interesting.

Emily

Make-It Monday: Mural update

Laying in the color is a fairly quick step. The details will take much longer.
Laying in the color is a fairly quick step. The details will take much longer.

This work in progress will probably remain in progress for the foreseeable future, as I have a small part of a very large mural project booked for next weekend, but I’m hoping by the end of winter, I’ll have my bathroom finished. The faux-stone look isn’t difficult, but it’s time-consuming, and I’m having to piecemeal it as time allows — an hour here and a half-hour there.

More color laid in and a little detail work started here and there.
More color laid in and a little detail work started here and there.
Here's the section directly below the part I showed you last week.
Here’s the section directly below the part I showed you last week.
And here's that small section below the (nearly) completed part to give you a sense of where it's going.
And here’s that small section below the (nearly) completed part to give you a sense of where it’s going.

I’ll post occasional updates on my progress so you can see the technique. If you like it, feel free to try it on your own wall. It requires more patience than anything else. When it’s all done, I might put together a tutorial.

Emily

Make-It Monday: I paint because I’m lazy

Longtime readers will recall my adventures in drywall repair last winter, necessitated by the slipshod home-improvement work done by the previous owner of this house.

The drywall in our bathroom was installed as poorly as the drywall in the rest of the house, and the paint job was even worse — drips and cracks and alligatored spots everywhere.

I could retape the joints, sand everything down, and repaint the walls in there with some textured finish that would conceal any flaws, but I’m not going to, for two reasons:

1. My projects earlier this year in the bedroom and office taught me that I haaaaaaaate working with drywall in tight spaces and rag-painting around obstacles.

2. I need a sample of trompe l’oeil mural work to show prospective clients, as most of my murals — with the exception of my faux-neon pieces — are done in a more cartoonish style.

With all that in mind, I decided to make the cracks in the bathroom wall look purposeful.

This is a work in progress, obviously, but here’s what I’m up to:

Preliminary sketch.
Preliminary sketch.
Closeup of a section that's about 95 percent finished. I need to come back and soften up some of the mossy patches on the stucco, but this is the upshot.
Closeup of a section that’s about 95 percent finished. I need to come back and soften up some of the mossy patches on the stucco, but this is the upshot.

It’s not perfect, but neither is the wall. Intentional imperfections, rendered in careful detail, seem infinitely preferable to imperfections created as a result of someone’s sloppy attempts at home improvement, and hopefully the end result will be realistic enough to earn me another paying mural gig or two somewhere along the line.

I’ll post an update when I finish the project.

Emily

Make-It Monday: Mural planning

I’m not at liberty to reveal the full scope of my latest project, but I have another mural in the works. I’ve started working on the canvas sketches for client approval. I will, of course, post pictures of the finished project when it’s completed, which I expect will be several weeks from now.

In the meantime, here are a couple of details:

This little guy is a margay -- a type of small wildcat native to the Amazon rainforest.
This little guy is a margay — a type of small wildcat native to the Amazon rainforest.
Golden-headed lion tamarin. He'll look much cuter at full size; rendering fine details on canvas at this scale (he's about the size of my thumb) is tricksy.
Golden-headed lion tamarin. He’ll look much cuter at full size; rendering fine details on canvas at this scale (he’s about the size of my thumb) is tricksy.

The guy at the top is an Amazon parrot. He won’t appear in the finished project, as he’s being replaced with a more colorful species (likely a scarlet macaw), but I think he’s cute, anyhow.

More images coming in a few weeks. Stay tuned.

Emily

Make-It Monday: Bob Waldmire mural

I was so busy battling headaches when I got home from vacation this summer, I completely forgot to post my pictures from the trip — including the ones I took of the mural I traveled to Tucumcari to paint in one of the garages at the Blue Swallow Motel.

I’ll remedy that with some photos of the mural in progress on this Make-It Monday.

I think this was a couple of hours in. I'm not sure why I did the headlights first, but they kind of set the bar for the rest of the project.
I think this was a couple of hours in. I’m not sure why I did the headlights first, but they kind of set the bar for the rest of the project.
The license-plate frame made me want to cry, for reasons I can't explain.
The license-plate frame made me want to cry, for reasons I can’t explain.
It's hard to keep everything in proportion and lined up properly while working in close proximity to a large image. I don't always succeed.
It’s hard to keep everything in proportion and lined up properly while working in close proximity to a large image. I don’t always succeed.
After realizing the area around the headlights was completely wonky, I painted over it and tried again.
After realizing the area around the headlights was completely wonky, I painted over it and tried again.
It took several tries to get his face right, but I think I finally got it.
It took several tries to get his face right, but I think I finally got it.

This was the most challenging mural I’ve painted up to this point. Portraits are always tricky, but in this case, I was painting a portrait of two old friends, one of whom was an artist whose work influenced my style.

The first old friend is the late Bob Waldmire, the artist behind the wheel of the VW Westfalia. The second old friend is the Westfalia herself. She had almost as much personality as Bob did, and I adored her for it.

My fondness for Bob and my respect for him and his work made it imperative that I get a good likeness, and it took either four or five tries (I eventually lost count) before I was finally satisfied with it.

Getting the Westfalia right was a matter of proportion and symmetry, which are difficult to render at that scale. Compounding the challenge was the fact I’d tried to set things up relative to the ground, which — as you can see — is gravel and not really level itself.

I wound up repainting several parts of the Westfalia, and they still didn’t end up perfectly symmetrical, although both Ron and Kevin, the Blue Swallow’s owner, were quick to note that old Volkswagens are rarely 100 percent symmetrical, either.

It has its flaws, but I think it looks like Bob, and I really like the way the headlights and reflectors on the Westfalia turned out.

Emily

Another recent project

Following up on yesterday’s post, here’s another little project I did recently. The Blue Swallow Motel on Route 66 in Tucumcari, New Mexico — which we have long since established is my favorite place in the known universe — has a set of black cardboard information boards under the glass on the front counter. The boards have been in existence for as long as anybody can remember and provide information about other local businesses and services that might be of use to guests.

I’m not sure what was used to make the white letters on the boards, but it doesn’t respond well to spills, and despite the glass over them, moisture occasionally reaches the signs and smears the lettering. I’ll be in New Mexico soon to lead a motorcoach tour, do a few projects at the Swallow and spend a couple of days signing books at a festival.

The owner asked whether I could include restoration or replacement of the information boards among my projects. Based on the historic nature of the originals, we decided the best course of action would be to leave them as-is, remove them from harm’s way, and replace them with a set of updated boards featuring current businesses. Using paintmarkers and black poster board, I created these modern versions, designed to approximate the style and dimensions of the originals. The originals will preserved in some manner that maintains their historic integrity and protects them from further damage. I had the new ones laminated. Hopefully they’ll last as long as their predecessors.

The originals advertised a package-liquor store and a restaurant, both of which have since closed.
The originals advertised a package-liquor store and a restaurant, both of which have since closed.
A funeral home seems an odd thing to promote to travelers, but at the time the originals were created, there was no 911, and the local funeral home also ran the ambulance service, so it was good for guests to have ready access to the phone number in case of a medical emergency.
A funeral home seems an odd thing to promote to travelers, but at the time the originals were created, there was no 911, and the local funeral home also ran the ambulance service, so it was good for guests to have ready access to the phone number in case of a medical emergency.
The original version of the top featured a local car dealership, with stylized logos for the brands they sold. The bottom was just like this, except it had the original owners' names.
The original version of the top featured a local car dealership, with stylized logos for the brands they sold. The bottom was just like this, except it had the original owners’ names.
The original featured the Odeon and a long-closed drive-in movie theater.
The original featured the Odeon and a long-closed drive-in movie theater.

I’m looking forward to getting to Tucumcari and starting work on the mural I’ve got planned, which will be something of a tribute to Bob Waldmire. I haven’t had a good dose of New Mexico since October, and I really need one. While I’m out there, I’ll be signing copies of Greetings from Coldwater and the new print edition of Route 66 for Kids, which has been updated for 2016. (There’s also a Kindle version of the guidebook, but it’s the 2015 edition. I haven’t had time to figure out how to update it and link it to the print version yet. The information is mostly the same, but a few places have raised their prices or changed their hours in the past year.)

Emily