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1  HOME SWEET HOME / Exterior Decorating / Yard Art / Gardening: Completed Projects / Relighting the darkness on: March 20, 2016 11:42:55 AM

I did this almost a year ago and inexplicably forgot to post it here. Not sure exactly where it should go; it's an exterior project (sort of -- it's in a garage that's open and visible from the road), but it's not exactly yard art or gardening. I'm not sure where it should go, so if a moderator wants to move it, that's cool.

My favorite place in the world is the Blue Swallow Motel on Route 66 in Tucumcari, New Mexico. It's pretty much covered in neon and looks incredible when they light it up at night. There's something about the atmosphere in the high desert that makes neon look even more spectacular than it does anywhere else.

Tucumcari has been known for years as a stopping point for travelers between Amarillo and Albuquerque, and it boasts thousands of motel rooms, many of them advertised with eye-catching neon signs out front. When Route 66 was decommissioned, a lot of the motels either moved out to the area around the interstate off-ramps or closed entirely, and their fabulous neon signs went dark.

The owner of the Blue Swallow and I decided to "relight" some of those signs last spring inside one of the garages at the Swallow. I painted in exchange for being allowed to stay in the motel for free. This worked out very well, as my husband and I saved several hundred dollars on the price of our vacation, and I got to spend an entire week painting pretty pictures in the high desert, which is basically all I want to do in life anyway.

Here are some photos of the work in progress and the finished product, with a quick tutorial on the technique, which is super easy.

Finished product:

Work in progress/tutorial:

Start by outlining your signs in chalk.

Next, lay in the neon "glow" with a brush you really don't care about. A fat barrel brush works especially well for this. Protip: This sounds counterintuitive, but you want your glow to be darker than your "tube." This will make sense if you look at a photograph of a real neon sign -- the light diffuses into the darkness around it, so the farther you get from the source, the dimmer the light appears. I messed that up on my green parts of this project, so they don't look as real as they could. Poop. Sad If I have time the next time I'm in Tucumcari, I'm going to redo those parts.

Come back with black paint and paint the shape of each tube right in the middle of the glow.

When the black dries, paint the tube color directly on top of it, leaving literally a hair's breadth on either side of the color to make a subtle black outline. This will make the color pop and give it a 3-D effect. Don't worry about making the color completely opaque; you want a little of the black showing through. Again, look at closeup photos of real neon signs to see how the light moves through the tube to understand why this part of the technique works.

Finally, come back with either white paint or an extremely light (nearly white) version of whatever color is in your tube and paint a line down the middle of the tube. Don't worry about making it perfectly straight or even; if you look at a neon sign up close, you'll notice the light almost seems to be alive -- arcing and snaking through the tube rather than moving in a perfectly smooth, even manner. Some of these are only partially finished; you should be able to see where the white has gone in and where it hasn't, which gives you an idea of how important this step is. People will get really impressed with the step right before that, but their jaws pretty much drop when you put in that last little bit of white and the whole thing suddenly goes from "nice picture" to "holy crap, that looks real."

And just a quick recap of the steps, in order, on one part of the mural. Call this your tutorial.

Step 1: Chalk.

Step 2: Glow. After you lay this in (as shown below), come back with the brush more or less dry to hit the wet paint and spread this out as much as you want, fading it as you move away from the center (not pictured).

Step 3: Black outline. Paint the width of the tube in black down the middle of the glow.

Step 4: Color the tube. Paint the tube itself in the middle of the black, leaving just a tiny bit of black showing on either side of the color.

Step 5: Light the tube. Paint either pure white or white with just a dash of the tube color down the middle of the tube. If you're working in front of an audience (as you will be if you paint a mural in a public/outdoor space), this will be the point at which everybody gasps and immediately asks to take your picture and/or offers to buy you a beer.

2  OCCASIONS AND HOLIDAYS / Winter Holidays / Merry Christmas. Blink and you're dead. on: December 09, 2014 09:10:30 PM
So the Christmas tree at our office doesn't have a topper, unless you count a large bow tied near the top, with long streamers of ribbon serving as a sort of garland.

We have at least seven Whovians on our staff.

And the dollar store that just opened halfway between my house and the office had treetop angels for $3, with little plastic hands attached to wires to make them poseable. The same store had gray primer for $3.25.

So of course this happened:

Now I just have to sneak in after hours and install it while nobody's around. Can't wait to see our IT guys' reactions.  Shocked Grin
3  HOME SWEET HOME / Exterior Decorating / Yard Art / Gardening: Completed Projects / Doctor Who lawn gnome on: April 05, 2014 11:11:19 PM
This guy started his little concrete life as a biker, complete with chaps, engineer boots, and a skull brooch/bolo tie/whatever, but my interests run more toward Weeping Angels than Hell's Angels, so here we have a lawn gnome cosplaying the Tenth Doctor:

I know we don't meet the Silence until the Matt Smith era, but that skull was just begging, y'know?

Ten doesn't have a hat, unless you count that straw beachcomber he wore in his last regular appearance, so I just gave this guy a TARDIS blue gnome hat and called it a day. (For my next project, I've got my eye on a gnome wearing suspenders. I'm pretty sure if I take a hacksaw to the top of *his* hat, I can turn it into a fez easily enough.)
4  MORE ART, LESS CRAFT / More Art, Less Craft: Completed Works / Across the Universe on: February 09, 2013 02:58:21 PM
A dear friend of mine has been under a lot of stress lately, and he's contemplating the possibility of taking a job that will require him to move halfway around the world for three years. I decided to make him a little painting to cheer him up and remind him that I've got his back no matter what. Here it is:

And an explanation:

I chose a blue color scheme to make sure the painting would look right to my friend, who is red-green colorblind.

The labyrinth at the center symbolizes the path of life -- the idea that we are all exactly where we are supposed to be, and all our choices lead us to the places we need to go. (You can get lost in a maze, but you can't get lost in a labyrinth, because there's only one path in and out, with no dead ends or wrong turns.) For reasons too complicated to go into, labyrinths have kind of become a symbol of our friendship.

The 12-pointed sun is a Choctaw symbol that represents happiness, which is obviously my wish for my friend -- and a nod to his Choctaw heritage.

The stars are constellations. Aquila, the eagle, is in the upper right; a Choctaw symbol of strength and peace and a spiritual messenger, he also represents flight and freedom to many cultures and seemed a fitting symbol for my friend. Equuleus, the "little horse," is in the upper left and represents my friend's wife, an accomplished equestrian, who is the most understanding and supportive woman I know. In the lower left, Canis Major represents their faithful dog, and in the lower right, Ursa Major -- the Great Bear -- represents my infamous "Mama Bear" streak protecting him wherever he goes. In Zuni mythology, the bear also symbolizes strength, healing, and wisdom and peace during times of transition.

Finally, the song lyrics are from "Across the Universe." I chose them because he's a Beatles fan. The Sanskrit refrain, jai guru deva, translates to something like, "Glory to the divine dispeller of darkness," followed by the "OM" that supposedly mimics the vibration of the universe.

I hope he likes it. If he doesn't, maybe he can swap it to some hippie for a bag of weed or a copy of Rubber Soul on vinyl or something. Wink
5  HOME SWEET HOME / Interior Decorating: Completed Projects / Will work for coffee -- RIDICULOUSLY PIC HEAVY on: March 26, 2012 06:59:49 PM

A few months ago, I wandered into a new coffeehouse in a historic building about half a block off Route 66 in Sapulpa, Okla., to catch up on some paperwork I needed to do for school. It was a nice place, with good coffee, soft lighting, comfortable furniture, free Wi-Fi, coffee sacks hanging from the ceiling, and local artists' work on the walls.

The restroom hadnt yet received the same cafe-chic treatment as the rest of the building.

After looking at the water putty smeared on the walls, outsized mirror above the sink, and awkwardly placed shelves next to the door, I asked one of the owners what she had planned for that space.

Im not sure yet, she said.

Thats what I was hoping shed say.

After showing her some samples of my work, including my sort-of-locally-famous car (on Craftster at https://www.craftster.org/forum/index.php?topic=332918.0), I told her I'd be happy to redo her bathroom in exchange for all the coffee I could drink. Given my fondness for cappuccino, that may or may not have been a good trade for her.

Given the building's history and proximity to Route 66, I wanted to use a 66 theme, with lots of local/state history. I chose lots of brown "coffee" tones to give it kind of a quasi-sepia look that would (hopefully) evoke old photo postcards, and all my subjects were people, places, or attractions associated with Route 66 in Oklahoma. Before I started, I stripped off the old wallpaper border and rag-painted the whole room in cream and gold to hide the flaws in the surface of the walls and make them look sort of like scrapbook paper, which I thought suited the postcard theme pretty well.

I started with the iconic Blue Whale in Catoosa, Okla. (The white spot in the picture is Mod Podge that hasn't dried yet. I used acrylics to paint all the pictures, then came back and sealed each one with a coat of Mod Podge to protect it from everyday wear and tear, smudges, scratches, etc.)

A restored 1930 Phillips 66 station in Chandler; the late, great Shady Rest Court in Red Fork; the Desert Hills Motel in Tulsa; the Round Barn in Arcadia; the long-closed Cotton Boll Motel in Canute; and Sapulpa's own "Guardian of the Plains" sculpture filled the rest of the space to the left of the door. Each "postcard" is roughly the size of a placemat.

The World's Largest Totem Pole, four miles off 66 in Foyil, and Lucille's Historic 66 gas station near Hydro cover the space above the door.

The space to the right of the door was a little narrower, so I covered it with vertical images: Sapulpa's own flying roller skate sign; Oklahoma City's Milk Bottle Buildling; the Glancy Motel in Clinton; "Myrtle," the giant oil-drum kachina doll that stands outside the National Route 66 Museum in Elk City; the Mickey Mantle statue from Mantle's hometown of Commerce; and the historic Rock Creek Bridge on the old Ozark Trail alignment of Route 66 at the west end of Sapulpa.

At the owner's request, I painted a picture of the Victorian Theater, which was in the building that now houses the coffeehouse. This painting and the one below it were much larger -- about 30 inches wide, IIRC. The only thing in the room that doesn't have anything to do with 66 is the back of the postcard. If you don't recognize the names or the address, Google them. They're a long way from Route 66, but the quote and its source seemed nonetheless fitting for a coffeehouse near an old highway widely regarded as the ultimate road trip. (The picture of the theater has some wonky angles, partly because the wall was too narrow for me to set up vanishing points, and partly because I was working from a photograph of a photograph, which made my source itself a bit wonky.)

This was another request from the owner. I'm not completely satisfied with the likeness, but it's about as good as I'm likely to get on a rough surface. Will's portrait is directly above the toilet, occupying a space about the width of the tank, so I thought it would be funny to paint him in his famous pose, scratching his head and grinning as if he's amused by what he sees.

I even replaced that ghastly mirror. You can get a little better idea of the layout and scale of the pictures from the reflection.

I thought I had a photo of the Roman shade I made out of coffee-print fabric to cover the window, but I can't find it. I was actually more excited about the shade than the paintings, as I'd never made one before and was pleasantly surprised when it worked. Also not pictured: the door, which is covered with chalkboard paint so patrons can leave messages or add their own artwork if they're so inspired.

The project took several months to complete, mainly because the coffeehouse has limited evening hours and is closed on Sundays, which made it hard for me to get in there and work. I've got about 40 hours of actual labor invested in the project.

Oh, and if you're interested, the coffeehouse itself is online at http://www.brewsandbytes.com/.
6  TOYS, DOLLS AND PLAYTHINGS / Toys, Dolls and Playthings: Completed Projects / Sock bunny on: January 18, 2012 01:01:14 AM
I'm starting a new intiative in my classroom whereby good behavior earns a kid an entry in a drawing for whatever bizarre prize I can think up. To that end, I was finishing up a tie-dyed sock monkey this evening when it occurred to me that sock monkeys are a bit time-consuming, and I suddenly remembered a bunny pattern involving socks in a book my mom gave me.

I got out the book -- The Woman's Day Book of Soft Toys and Dolls by Joan Russell -- and found the pattern. I made slight modifications by using oversized plastic eyes, gecko-print ladies' socks, and a prefabbed acrylic pompom in place of the button eyes, gray children's socks, and handmade pompom tail and overstuffing the bunny slightly to give him a kind of alien look.

Here he is:

I think he looks sort of like a cross between an Uglydoll and the goofy one-eared rabbit from the Life in Hell cartoons.

In an odd coincidence, as I was getting on Craftster to post this, I noticed a familiar face and discovered that AlwaysInspired had used the very same book to create one of the beautiful Indian dolls I used to pore over as a child:

I'm not sure what the odds were on that, but I'm guessing you could probably use them to fuel the Heart of Gold from Betelgeuse to Milliway's. Wink
7  HOME SWEET HOME / Interior Decorating: Completed Projects / Hippie toddler on: June 15, 2011 12:31:31 PM
When I was little, I always wanted stuff with my name on it, and I always had trouble finding it, because my name wasn't very popular at the time.

My 2-year-old niece, Hazel, is likely to have the same problem, so when I saw some Fillmore-poster-style wooden letters at the craft store, I had to buy a set so she could have her name spelled out on her bedroom wall in hippie letters hand-painted by her hippie aunt. Nothing fancy, but for a quick project, I thought they turned out pretty cute:

I still have to seal them with Mod Podge, and then they'll be ready to go.
8  HOME SWEET HOME / Exterior Decorating / Yard Art / Gardening: Completed Projects / Where the grickle-grass grows ... on: June 14, 2011 09:29:09 PM
I started this mural several years ago but never got around to finishing it. I ignored it for so long that the paint faded, so I couldn't complete it without repainting the old parts first. I finally had time to work on it this week. Aside from a few minor details and a couple of spots I can't reach until my husband gets a hand free to hold a ladder for me, I'm finally done with it:

I still have to do a little detail work on the far right, finish the sky and the Truffula tuft on the upper left, and complete the shading on the Once-ler's shop and the upper parts of the clouds and Truffula tufts, but I doubt it will take more than an hour to finish up.

A closer look. I was especially pleased with the way the thneed turned out.

I spent a lot of time collecting snail shells and begging my parents to take me for walks near the edge of town. I had it in my head that there might actually be a Street of the Lifted Lorax, and I was determined to find it, hear the Once-ler's story, and get the Last Truffula Seed of Them All so I could grow those crazy trees and get the Lorax and his friends to come back.

I thought the Lorax was an appropriate subject for a mural in the backyard of a house that has solar panels on the roof and a Honda Insight in the driveway. Smiley

9  MISCELLANEOUS TOPICS / Completed Projects / Honeybee umbrella on: April 17, 2011 06:24:25 PM
So a few years ago, I got online and found an absolutely adorable pair of yellow rainboots with honeybees all over them. Being an amateur beekeeper, I obviously couldn't live another minute without owning them.

I've spent the past three years or so trying to find a suitable umbrella to match, to no avail.

Tromping around in my bee boots during a Wal-Mart run one dark and stormy night last week, I spotted a plain clear Totes bubble umbrella and decided to do what any sensible Craftster girl would do:

Of course it hasn't rained a drop since then, but I'll be ready next time it does. Smiley
10  HOME SWEET HOME / Interior Decorating: Completed Projects / Kitchen cabinets (IMG HEAVY) on: January 22, 2011 07:49:39 PM
I finally finished repainting my kitchen cabinets the other day. The finish was in terrible shape, but these have to be the most poorly constructed cabinets ever, so they really weren't worth stripping and refinishing. My standard operating procedure, in such instances, is to break out the craft paint and cover the cabinet doors with busy enough designs to distract casual visitors from the fact that the cabinets righteously suck. Hopefully the ruse will work:

I chose a garden theme for my project. All of the designs are based on greenspaces I know and love. These first two are based on Dave Dardis' Secret Garden in Makanda, Ill. In real life, the mermaid is more rust-colored, but there's a place on Route 66 here in Oklahoma that sells a silver variation, so I kind of morphed the two together. I always thought the guy on the bottom was a Green Man, but upon closer examination, I think he's actually a Dionysus figure; the ivy growing on the wall around him just gives him a Green Man aura.

An idealized image of our bee yard.

Loosely based on my mother-in-law's back flowerbed.

Two of our favorite haunts in St. Louis. (We used to live in Belleville, Ill., about 20 minutes from the city.) The top one is part of the wall around the parking lot at the City Museum; the bottom is the entrance to the Venice Cafe, which has the coolest patio on the planet.

These two doors are a tribute to the late Larry Baggett, whose Trail of Tears monument still stands along Route 66 near Jerome, Mo. The top image is not an extremely pale man. It's a painting of Larry's self-portrait sculpture, which is made of plaster or something and sits next to the entrance to his property. The wishing well is next to his long, winding driveway, which goes up the side of a bluff.

This is a painting of the liriope-and-ivy-covered earthen sculpture I am planning to construct in my garden this spring. Yes, I am the only person I know who would use one insane project to plan another.

View of my backyard, decluttered just a bit for artistic reasons. The wisteria really had that many blooms this spring, though. It was crazy.

This started out to be a picture of light filtering through the trees in the Shawnee National Forest, but it didn't look right when I finished, so I just stuck a lawn gnome in there. Lawn gnomes are awesome.

This weird little door, which is above my stove, was too small for anything very elaborate, so I just mimicked my china pattern on there.

Having gotten good results with the chalkboard paint I put on the back of my car, I swiped an idea from a magazine article I'd read years ago and put some chalkboard paint on a couple of the cabinets next to the stove so I could write grocery lists, to-do lists, menus, etc. as things came to mind.

The bottom cabinets on that side got chalkboard paint, too, because I know my young friends-and-relations will want to add their own artwork, and I don't really want them standing on the counters to do it.  Undecided

And a couple of overall views. I brushed a coat of glossy Mod Podge over each door when I finished to protect the paint from spills and spatters.

The lantern hanging from the light fixture is going to disappear as soon as I get a hand free to install a new light, but the hardware store ran out of the fixture I wanted, and I wasn't really in the mood to do any wiring this week, so that project will have to wait.
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