Tuesday, March 17, 2015

DIY: WPA-Inspired Smoky Mountain Paintings

When I first moved down to Tennessee from Indiana, I didn't have any intentions of staying. I mean, I was fresh outta college and was looking for a job and an adventure. When I got a job offer in Tennessee I was all, "huh, why not?" with plans to move away in a coupla years (as a kid, I had this crazy notion that I'd live in each state, one year at a time). After settling into Tennessee and meeting my hubs, we realized we just love this place too much to move. And now it's home.

Over the last coupla years, I've been Tennessee-izing our house. You can see my first attempts at TN decor here and a painting dedicated to Nashville made from maps of TN here. Recently, I decided I needed a coupla new paintings for a sad little area at the top of our stairs and was inspired by some WPA paintings of the Smoky Mountains. 
So the WPA program (aka the Works Progress [or Projects] Administration) was established during the Great Depression to give jobs to millions of unemployed Americans. Their job was to work on public works projects like public roads and buildings. Many schools, libraries and government buildings were constructed during this time. An offshoot of this program also employed artists, musicians and actors to do works for the public.
Incredibly talented artists were employed such as Romare Bearden, Thomas Hart Benton (one of my personal faves), The Soyer Brothers (also a fave of mine), Stuart Davis, Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning, just to name a few. Without this program, millions of people and their families would have been left destitute during this difficult time in our history.

Some of my favorite work created by WPA artists are the national parks posters. I love the almost paint-by-numbers/propaganda style of these works. They are ab fab. In fact, these paintings here are my SECOND time to copy a WPA painting; you can see my first one here. Now, on to the latest ones...
 I started by adding that yellow ochre color to the top and creating texture by scrapping the wet paint with a chopped up plastic card (I have a mountain of hotel key cards just for this reason). Then I began sketching out my plan in chalk.
And then I really went at it paint-by-numbers style. I love painting this way! Y'all, it's so easy and I personally dig the flat look to the painting. Side note: I use our glass dinner plates as palettes. If you ever dine at mi casa, kindly check your plates for paint before eating.
This painting was pretty basic so it came together quickly. I work with acrylic which dries super fast. I like that because I could move on to the next portions of the painting without waiting forever (ahem, oil paint).
 I added a lil bit of texture to the ground by using a super crappy, paint-dried-on-the-bristles brush. Sometimes those brushes have their purpose too.
And last came the trees. Since this painting was super basic (and is going to hang next to one that is uber busy), I decided to add the lettering to the top and bottom. 
Y'all. I hate lettering. It involves measuring and math and both make my abnormally small sized brain hurt. But what's the worst is painting lettering as I always screw up with letters that gradually get bigger and bigger as the painting goes on. So! My solution are Sharpie brand paint pens. I loves them! They work great and create a clean even line. 
The neighbor to my first painting started much the same. Chalk outline (ahem) and color blocking. Cake.
 Howevertown, this painting has a whole lot more details. Which were super fun to paint but did take me a while. So I power watched old episodes of Project Runway and just blasted through.
 (One of these days, my dining room table will be used for...dining.)
 Although it's super busy, I do love how this painting turned out. The colors are my fave part. But I also love how it does remind me of the Smokies. 
Now to get 'em up on the wall! I'll have to share that snap with you when I get to it. Later, kids!

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9 comments:

  1. Great work! You did Fantastic with the lettering as well. It gave me flash backs from Typography in college. Ugh! I love the vertical texture you created with chopped hotel key cards. How very MacGyver of you! ;)

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    1. Haha, MacGyver, that's me ;) Thank you!

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  2. I love these, Cassie! You are amazing. Just love the colors. I bought a few national park posters at the beginning of the school year so my 6th graders could re-create their own americana posters. Love the look.

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    1. Hey Lady! First of all, I'm so sad I won't be seeing you at NAEA...but thank you much for dropping by with your kind words! Do you have your 6th grader's work on your blog? I'd love to see!

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  3. These are just gorgeous! You've captured the feel of the WPA perfectly, and I had no idea that all of those famous names had been part of that scheme. Thanks for the history lesson.

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    1. Hey buddy! I know, there are a TON of artists that were apart of the WPA, pretty crazy stuff. Thank you for dropping by :)

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  4. Really cool paintings, I thought these were posters until I read further. The lettering was spot on.

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    1. Thank you! The lettering is my least fave...so I'm glad it looks okay :)

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  5. Wow, I love these so much! I'm starting student teaching this Fall and just stumbled on your blog while researching for a curriculum I'm working on. You are incredible! Thank you for sharing your passion and talent!

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Thank you so much for your comments. I appreciate each and every one :)