Saturday, November 28, 2009

"so that's you how you do it" saturday

I wish I could do a "Work in Progress Wednesday" or "Half Naked Thursday" or whatever the cool artists do, but right now, my main art is writing a new book.

I think you guys would be really bored to hear about how I burrow into my bed with a laptop every night and nag Dr. Krog to turn down the XBOX so I can write 3 pages before he forces me to play drums to "Carry On, My Wayward Son" on Rock Band 2 until I collapse in exhaustion.

And that's why I'm so excited about today, when I did a huge painting on the windows at a local recreation center. I've painted these windows for over ten years. I've done snowmen playing soccer, moose playing basketball, opossums ice skating, and elves playing baseball.

This year, I went with an easy design, because my mom could only watch t.rex for so long before her back snapped in two.

Here's the blank canvas-- the freshly cleaned windows.

Here's the first step-- drawing out the scene in black tempera paint. Keep in mind that it has to be done backwards, since the important view is from outside of the building. There is no plan, no projector, and no eraser. Totally freehand every year.

This park is big on sports, so I did a different snowman in each window bay. Their heads are various sports balls-- baseball, football, tennis, soccer, softball, basketball. I still feel kinda weird that the soccer one doesn't have eyes.

There they are, all 6 outlines.

Then I did the words underneath, which is always hard, because they have to be attractively divided by 6. I've tried everything over the years-- "Happy Holidays", "Peace on Earth", "Merry Christmas", but they all end up with 15 or 16 letters and spaces. So annoying.

This year, I went with "Joy to the World", and I messed up. See it up there? That J is frontwards, which is actually backwards. Three wet paper towels later, and it was all fixed up.

There it is with all the snow filled in. White is the thickest color and blocks the most sun, so you can see that I haven't applied it thickly. To keep it from being a huge bank of white, I added a purplish-blue to the snow bank beneath the snowmen.

There he is from the inside. Mr. Baskethead.

I start with the basic colors-- red, yellow, blue, white, black-- and mix the intermediary colors to make the scene more unified. I also add a little bit of white to every color except for black, because otherwise the colors are a little too translucent and stained-glass looking. Then I fill in the spaces like a coloring book. Instead of painting in the sky, I just did dozens of little snowflakes in white with a small brush.

Here's the entire bank of windows, finished, from the inside. The inside is always messier and uglier, because you can see every brush stroke and overlap.

Plus, it's difficult to photograph, thanks to all the weird lighting and glare.

Here it is from the outside, finished:

The photos are much better at night, so we'll make a family trek over there this week for a good image. With the lights out inside and the sky dark, it's just beautiful. That's the cruelly ironic nature of window painting-- it always looks better if no one is around to see it or touch it.

Four hours and $30 worth of paint yields a merry view.

If you're interested in painting your own windows, here are my tips, gleaned from years and years of practice:

0. Obviously, paint on the inside. It's prettier from the outside. And the paint is water soluble, so rain/water basically melts it.

1. Use good quality tempera paint. My favorite is from Blick Studio.

2. Use cheap, brand new brushes. I like to buy a brush roll from Blick for $12.99 that includes 6 sizes of flats and six sizes of rounds. The bristles need to be new and soft, as old or hard bristles will streak the paint.

3. Start with black and make outlines, then wait until they dry and fill them in.

4. Always add a little white to the other colors to make them more opaque and flowy.

5. If you're not accustomed to writing backwards, write your message on white paper with a black marker, then hold it up to the light backwards and copy it onto the glass.

6. If you make a mistake, or when you're ready to clean it off, all you need is water. Use wet paper towels, wet cloth towels, a spray bottle, whatever. Tempera supposedly doesn't stain, but it still pays to be careful. You can use garbage bags to protect floors or furniture.

So that's how you do it!

Or how I do it.

Or how I did it, really. So go forth and... paint snowmen... or something.


Virginia Valerie said...

Wow! That's so awesome! I had no idea you were a window painter. And I think the sweater on the middle snowman is so cute!

Erin said...

FABULOUS job! It looks phenomenal! I could never do anything remotely like that. I'm also impressed you only got one letter backwards. I would've screwed up more than half. I think the different heads are very creative, too.


Miss Dot said...

Wow! Mad artist skillz, lady!! I have always wondered how people did that. Very cool!!

stinestrain said...

that is so awesome, and of course you make it look easy. the step you skipped was the part where you have awesome artistic ability and we don't!

Caroline D. said...

I'm impressed. Looks like fun!

Janet said...

This is really beautiful! Thanks for sharing. You're right though, the soccer one with no face is a little creepy. :-)

Amanda {My Life Badly Written} said...

Very Very Cool - I am in Awe!!

Alissa said...

It looks great! Nice work!

miss. chief said...

Nice! Except yeah, the soccer ball guy will haunt my nightmares.

Anonymous said...

You are a rockstar. I could never do that. Seriously. Never.

Trenches of Mommyhood said...

I'm totally impressed!