Category Archives: Art projects

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

Tee Pee Curios mural

tepeeday1
All in a day’s work. This was about four or five hours into the project. Love, love, love how that turquoise note turned out.

As promised a couple of weeks ago, here are photos from the mural I completed in October on the east side of Tee Pee Curios in Tucumcari, New Mexico. I still can’t get over how fast and easy that neon technique is.

koko4
All done; just waiting for the scaffold to come down.
koko3
Detail shot.
koko2
Gar wanted a mural that would catch the eye of passers-by. Even on a cloudy afternoon, I think this pops out nicely.
souvenirs
I picked up a souvenir while I was in town. This great hoodie came from the Dollar General store in Tucumcari. I have matching sweatpants I bought on the same trip. I wear them all the time.

Spending a couple of weeks in Tucumcari this year has confirmed some things for us. First, it showed us we’re definitely on the right track with our long-term goal, which is to build a tiny house in northeastern New Mexico and retire there. The people in that area seem really nice, and the town is just about perfect in terms of size and proximity to larger cities and wilderness areas.

Second, the enthusiastic responses I’ve gotten to my murals have shown me this might make a nice cottage industry, so after New Year’s, I’m planning to take out an ad in the service directory part of the paper and see if I can rustle up a few mural-painting gigs in Southeast Missouri or Southern Illinois. Even small projects would bring in a nice chunk of extra income to save toward the tiny house of my dreams.

It’s good to have a long-term goal and a specific plan for reaching it. Even if something happens to throw us off-track, there’s never a down side to retiring debts as quickly as possible, learning new skills, or saving money for things you really need.

One day in the not-too-distant future, I’ll share our six-year plan for paying off our debts and putting ourselves in a position to make our very specific dreams come true. It’s a pretty good to-do list, even if you’re not planning to build a micro-house in the high desert.

Emily

More artwork

It’s been an artsy sort of weekend. I made a double batch of hot-process soap yesterday and had enough time left to paint the prototype for my next mural, which is going on the side of Tee Pee Curios on Route 66 in Tucumcari the first week in October:

kokopelli

I’m looking forward to that project, although I’m a little antsy about having to work so high up off the ground. This mural is going on the side of a building that’s quite a bit taller than the garage walls I painted last spring. We’ll see if the magic of New Mexico is powerful enough to override my acrophobia.

I’ve also been using every spare minute to add more book illustrations. I’m looking at about 28 images by the time I finish. Here are the most recent ones:

officeweb

journalweb

letterweb

laundryweb

pickweb

smokeweb

scoutsweb

milagroweb

dianaweb

snakeweb

cellsweb

monolithweb

Each image precedes a chapter and represents something significant from that chapter. You’ll have to read the novel to find out what a neon sign, a journal, a letter on motel stationery, a clothesline, a guitar pick, a burning cigarette, a snow cone, a milagro, a toy camera, a gopher snake, a seventh-grader’s biology assignment and a replica of the monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey have to do with the story.

Barring any unforeseen circumstances, I’m about four illustrations away from being able to submit this thing for publication, although I’m sure I’ll spend at least another week fussing over it before I work up the nerve to send it out into the world.

Emily

I’ve been busy.

Yes, I’ve subjected this blog to a shameful degree of neglect this summer. Here’s what I’ve been working on:

That’s right, kids. I’m about an eyelash away from being ready to publish Greetings from Coldwater. I’m anticipating a fall release on the Kindle version and — God willing — a paperback edition in time for Christmas. I shot the trailer above on and around Route 66 in New Mexico last spring, and I’ve been dinking with the novel ever since we got back.

frontcoldwatercover

When I started this project, I swore I wouldn’t self-publish, but the publishing industry has changed so much since then that self-publishing now requires less financial risk and far less annoyance than shopping a manuscript. I can go through Amazon to self-publish electronic and paperback editions without spending a dime. All I’m out is time — and less of it than I’d spend writing queries and copying manuscripts and standing in line at the post office to send them to people who may not bother reading them anyway. A big publishing house could probably sell more copies, but I don’t have the patience to read a thousand rejection slips before I find the right publisher. If some big-deal publisher reads it and likes it, we’ll talk.

I’ve spent most of the past 24 hours formatting the manuscript to Amazon’s specs, designing a cover, reskinning TumbleweedMotel.com, printing a proof, and uploading the trailer to YouTube.

I’ve also been busy drawing illustrations for the past couple of weeks:

 

freedsgarageweb

swinneysweb

graveweb

milagromirrorweb

tumbleweedweb

fridgeweb

shrineweb

jackrabbitweb

signsweb

casadejesusweb

Watch this space. I’ll keep you posted on the process and all the stuff I learn as I go.

 

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

I don’t even know.

When my sister bought me a set of KISS Lego figures for Christmas last year, I assumed that was as weird as it got. Clearly, I was mistaken, as evidenced by the Lego Jules Winnfield and Vincent Vega figures you see pictured above. My friend Jeffrey found them at Hastings on Monday and promptly bought them for me to glue on my dashboard. I have no idea who thought the world needed Pulp Fiction Lego figurines — or why — but that person is obviously a genius and deserves a Royale with cheese and whatever is in the suitcase for coming up with something this brilliant.

I had yesterday off in exchange for working New Year’s Day, so I seized the opportunity to install Jules, Vincent and some other characters I’ve acquired in the past few months:

The Silent, Cyberman and second Roman-soldier Auton have been sitting on my piano for months, waiting to join their brethren on the dashboard.
The Silent, Cyberman and second Roman-soldier Auton have been sitting on my piano for months, waiting to join their brethren on the dashboard.
Doctor Who Titan figures are sold in blind boxes. Someone had opened this one and then -- inexplicably -- left it on the shelf at Hastings, where I happily snapped it up.
Doctor Who Titan figures are sold in blind boxes. Someone opened this one and then inexplicably left it on the shelf at Hastings, where I happily snapped it up. I thought David Tennant would look good next to Ryne Sandberg, whose hand is visible to the right of the TARDIS.
We found St. Francis of Assissi in a little Catholic bookstore in Las Vegas, N.M., on our vacation this summer. I had to have him, of course.
We found St. Francis of Assissi in a little Catholic bookstore in Las Vegas, N.M., on our vacation this summer. I had to have him, of course.
I found Jesus in Las Vegas, N.M. And glued him on my dashboard, of course.
I found Jesus at the same bookstore. And glued him on my dashboard, of course.
I think I got this dragon at a bead shop in Flagstaff.
I think I got this dragon at a bead shop in Flagstaff.
No idea who this kachina is, but that side-eye was too epic to pass up. I think I found him at the Continental Divide Trading Post.
No idea who this kachina is, but that side-eye was too epic to pass up. IIRC, I found him at the Continental Divide Trading Post. Apparently he’s not a KISS fan.

Hope your day was filled with fun stuff worthy of gluing onto your dashboard.

Emily

Projects on the horizon

So I now officially have two mural-painting projects lined up for this spring on Route 66.

For the first, I’ll be spending about a week painting a mural in one of the garages at the Blue Swallow Motel in Tucumcari, N.M. The owners and I haven’t settled on a design yet, but they’re getting me some measurements and looking for some historic photographs I can use as the basis for a rough sketch.

For the second project, I’m spending a couple of weekends painting a mural on the side of a privately owned tourism center in Staunton, Illinois. Depending on the weather this spring, I may do that one first. We’ll see.

I’m pretty amped about both projects. The one in Staunton will have kind of a rainbow theme, which means I’ll be carrying on a tradition of sorts: I was obsessed with rainbows when I was 9, so in addition to icing a rainbow on my birthday cake, Mom painted a rainbow and clouds on my bedroom wall.

Where my DIY streak started.
In case you were wondering where I got my DIY streak: Mom painted the rainbow mural and made the quilt on the bed, which my dad refinished, and for which he also built a canopy (not pictured, obviously). I believe Dad refinished that nightstand, too.

It’s been a couple of years since I worked on a mural, and this one in Staunton will be my biggest yet — 60 feet long and 10 feet high, which is at least twice the size of anything I’ve done up to this point. We’ll see how it goes.

We went up to Staunton this afternoon so I could take some detailed measurements and put my hands on the surface I’ll be painting. After doing murals on smooth interior walls, waferboard, textured Masonite, two kinds of siding, and a late-model car with its factory finish intact, I’ve come to appreciate the value of handling the surface and looking for potential obstacles before I start the mural instead of jumping right in and then realizing — after I’ve already invested several hours in the project — that the wall is resisting (or worse yet, drinking) the paint, or there’s an electrical outlet right smack in the middle of my design, or something else that would have been good to know in advance.

On the way back, we stopped at the Michael’s store in Edwardsville, where I picked up some materials for staging nicer food photos. While we were there, I caught a sale on canvas and stocked up. Stay tuned for whatever creative outburst that inspires.

Emily

‘Shopping trip

I’ve been dinking around with filters and layers for a design project I’m doing at work, and while I was figuring out a shortcut today, I ‘Shopped up a photo Ron shot of me yesterday at Daily Star Comics in Metropolis:

tardismeweb
Eat your heart out, Billie Piper.

Don’t look too closely, or you’ll see where my lines got a little wobbly on a couple of spots I was trying to enhance by hand, but I think it’s still a fun photo. Way better than Bitstrips.

Too bad I didn’t figure out the shortcut before I spent 10 hours tracing posterized edges by hand to convert photos to cartoons. -_-

Emily

Projects and more projects

Here is what I have accomplished in the past two days:

1. Replaced my guitar strings.

2. Did a boatload of grocery shopping.

3. Ran five miles.

4. Put up apples:

apple1

apple4

(Pictured above: Five pints of spiced, unfiltered apple juice and a few jelly jars of apple butter, which was basically the byproduct after I used the Crock-Pot to render the juice.)

5. Raked up half the leaves in the backyard and used them as compost starter so I’d have a place to bury the apple cores. The pile is too carbon-heavy to heat up right now, but I have a lead on a good source of barn litter, so I should be able to balance it out and get those thermophilic bacteria going soon.

sprouts

6. Started four trays of sprouts — two of alfalfa and two of a clover/fenugreek/radish mix I picked up at the health-food store last week.

shelf

7. Bought and assembled this shelf to store my sheet music a little more neatly.

8. Finished all the drawings for the coupon books I am making for my niece, nephews and goddaughter for Christmas. Here are a few samples of the projects I’m plotting:

webdalek

Several of the kids on my Christmas list are Whovians, so we’re going to use Lite-Brite pegs and a styrofoam cup to make a Dalek, which will be illuminated from within by one of those LED tealights.

webinvisibleink

Lemon juice and an incandescent bulb. Simple but cool.

webivorynuke

If you don’t know why this is awesome, Google it.

webpopcorn

Sweet or savory. Or both. I’ll let the kids decide.

webslime

Pretty sure letting them make fake snot qualifies me for Aunt of the Century.

I came up with about 15 or 20 other coupons, which I’ll mix and match to suit the interests of the kids involved, but you get the idea. I’ve scanned all the drawings and Photoshopped them, but I still have to lay out the books, print them and assemble them.

I think I’ll tackle that later. I’m tired, and I hear the piano calling me….

Emily