Tag Archives: Art projects

Tee Pee Curios mural

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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.

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All done; just waiting for the scaffold to come down.
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Detail shot.
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Gar wanted a mural that would catch the eye of passers-by. Even on a cloudy afternoon, I think this pops out nicely.
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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

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

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