Showing posts with label great smoky mountains. Show all posts
Showing posts with label great smoky mountains. Show all posts

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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Thursday, January 9, 2014

DIY: Hiking and Exploring the Smoky Mountains

Hello there, friends! My fingers have finally thawed out just enough for me to type up a photo-heavy blog post of our post-holidays vacay to the Great Smoky Mountains. Hubs and I left on New Years 
day and drove the fourish hours from Nashville to Gatlinburg. I spent my road trip working on a new embroidery (that you won't see for a while because it's gonna take foreverness) and devouring road-trippy snacks (which included licorice, dark chocolate and some half-eaten mystery cookie I found in my purse). Our first order of business in G'burg was a trip to Smoky Mountain Knife Works because my husband's Top Three Favorite Things in the Whole Wide World are: flashlights, knives and our cat. Sadly, I come in a distant fourth. Whatcha gonna do.
We spent that evening walking the strip in Gatlinburg (which, if you've never been, is nothing like the strip in, say, Vegas. Naw. In G'burg, the strip includes copious amounts of the following: air brush t-shirt joints, old time photo places [where they insist on calling "olde tyme fotos"], homemade fudge -n- taffy joints and moonshine shops. Who needs Cirque du Soleil when you can catch a Lumberjack Feud Dinner Show? [yes, that's a real thing]). 

The following day, hub decided we should walk part of the Appalachian Trail which is where these photos were taken. So we left Gatlinburg behind and drove into the Smoky Mountain National Park.
Now just as we were getting suited up in our layers of clothing and strapping on our ultra chic fanny packs loaded with snacks, water and my hub's idea of "emergency stuff" (which means a fire starter, matches, a compass and a map. My "emergency stuff" includes a chocolate bar, a People magazine, my electric blanket and an ultra long extension cord. Hubs deemed my stuff non-essentials and made me leave it behind. Party pooper), we ran into some park rangers who mentioned that we might wanna take an abbreviated hike as there was some bad weather expected to blow in. In true horror-movie/fore-shadowing fashion, we totally ignored their warning and set upon our adventure.
And about 3 miles of vertical hiking in, that aforementioned winter weather decided to blow in. Which began innocently enough, covering the ground with pure white snowy stuff.
Then suddenly, the snow started blowing completely horizontal taking on an almost blizzard quality (says the person who's lived in practically-snowless Tennessee for far too long. If you live in places where actual blizzards occur, please feel free to scoff at these photos and leave tales of real blizzard woe in the comments).
Evidence of sideways snow and freezing cold as shown in Exhibit A: The Snow-Covered Ginger Beard.
I promise you, I am smiling. It's just that my face was frozen and this was the best I could do. 

When we finally made it back to our car several slippery miles later, the park ranger was waiting in the parking lot next to our lone car. He told us that they were shutting down all the roads in the park due to the weather. Crazily enough, there were dudes strapping on backpacks and getting ready to hike into the park for a snowy overnight. Which makes this camp out of ours seem like a walk in the park (which it was but you know what I mean).
The next day, the temperatures barely made it above 10 degrees. Sadly, this meant that the roads into the national park were still closed. So hubs took me to a Salt and Pepper Museum which was like the most awesome thing ever if you happen to adore all things kitschy and weird. And I do.
For just $3 (which you can later use toward a purchase of your own set of shakers), you can peruse the collection of over 22,000 salt and pepper shakers. There are seriously room after room of every kind of set imaginable. I was totally in love with 'em all and took a humiliating about of photos. Here are just a few of my faves.
Love these wooden ones. One of my favorite things about this place are the memories it brought back. I saw salt shakers that reminded me of sets owned by my mom, grandma and childhood babysitter.
These classy cats were so rad and retro.

Finally, the afternoon brought warmer temps and we were able to drive into the park and hike to Laurel Falls. One of the best parts of this hike were the views of the Smoky Mountains.

Being a Florida boy, my hubs loves the snow since he didn't grow up with it. To me, this snow looked so light and airy, almost like bubbles of dish washing soap.
Laurel Falls proved to be pretty dangerous. The water spray and frozen all over the bridge that is used to cross over the falls. It was a frightening and slippery little bridge to cross.
But worth it as we had the endless trail of snow to ourselves.
The following day, we headed home...but not without first driving in to Pigeon Forge so we could say hello to Dolly Parton who just so happened to be chillin' barefoot on a rock in the middle of winter. She so crazy. And there you have it, adventuring in the Smokies! We were sad we didn't get the chance to try out the new Alpine Slide in Pigeon Forge or hike more trails in the mountains. What are your fave things to do in the Smoky Mountains? 

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Thursday, June 27, 2013

DIY: Southern Lovin'

You know, for the amount of verbal abuse this painting had to endure, it looks pretty good. If I might say so. Which, in saying so, makes me sound like a total egomaniac. Yeah, well, it's time you knew the truth. By the way, you can find diy-details on those painted flower pots here.
Ya'll might find this hard to believe but I'm not actually from The South. That's right and I have the majority of my teeth to prove it (aw, now, you Southern folk, don't get yourself all worked up. After all, ya'll are the ones that dedicate an entire festival to a lil somethun called MoonPies and RC Cola. For those of you unfortunate enough never to have sampled the delicacy that is a MoonPie, lemme break it down for you: ya got a flattened marshmallow sandwiched between two round graham crackers dipped in chocolate, or as the box calls it, "flavored coating". Which is heaven so stop wrinkling your nose. AND in case that's not enough, at the festival they deep-fry the suckers for you. My taste buds were all "What?! Have I died and gone to Taste Bud Heaven?!" meanwhile, three teeth fell out screaming, "Abandon ship! This here's a mouth gone South!") 

Wow. That was the longest parenthesis ever. What was I even talking about?
I have a cousin and an aunt that are the same age as me. Do you need a second to unravel that mystery? If you guessed that my grannie, my mom and her sis were all preggers at the same time, congratulations! My grandparents loved to take just the three of us on mini-vacations. One trip was to Gatlinburg, Tennessee, which is this tourist town completely overrun with Old Time Photo places (where you can dress your daughter up as a lady-of-the-night and your son as a gun-totin' outlaw. You know, family values kinda stuff) and air-brushed t-shirt joints. Our hotel just happened to be across the street from Hillbilly Golf where we went adult-less every single day. What we loved about that place, aside from the fact that we were sans grownups, was that you took this incline to the top of the hill and played your way to the bottom. After a couple-twenty times to the top, we started to get bored and just took to throwing the golf balls down the hill. Which is super fun unless you get busted. So, kids, listen to your elders: Don't. Get. Busted. (Did I just go from Super Long Parenthesis to Super Long Caption? Oops, my bad).
 I'm actually an Indiana Gurl (or a Hoosier even though I have no idea what that means and I hesitate to refer to myself as such. I mean, what if it implies I have a deep love for pickles? I don't even like pickles! Therefore, I cannot comfortably refer to myself as a Hoosier, er, pickle-lover). Indiana is actually a cultural mecca, in case you didn't know. I lived in a town called Peru (pronounced Pee-roo by the locals. Seriously. But it's actually more famous for being Circus City, U.S.A. I can't even make this stuff up) which is near both Chile (pronounced Chai[like the tea]-lie) and Mexico. See? Total cultural explosion.
I promise I'll get to the DIY portion of this here post! Bear with me, I'm on an entirely-too-much-ice-cream high. Because after 15 years of livin' in Tennessee, I've become completely Sugar-Coated Southern.
 Just how did I end up in Tennessee, you ask? (What I know you're really asking: "Is this going to lead to another story?! Because I have a life I wanna lead." Oh, whatever. You do not.) Well, I did my student teaching in Ireland (any Irish in the house?! Dude, your country is so rad. Love the Guinness. And how you say words like "thirty-three" [turty-tree]), my dad was all (rightfully) worried I was going to come home, not get a job and just mooch off of them (totally the plan). So he sent out, get this, 50 copies of my resume to schools all over the U.S. Including A-freakin'-LASKA. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Other than Alaska is as cold as something-super-cold and dark, like, half the year. When Nashville, Tennessee called for an interview, I loaded up my teacher-interview clothes and my grandma, who'd never been to Nashville, and got the gig. And the rest is history. Or, as the locals call it, a Tennessee Tragedy. Seriously. It's in their history books.
I love it here. So much so that I've dedicated several DIY projects to Tennessee. Last summer I made this giant collage painting using a map of Nashville and a vintage postcard as my inspiration. I also created this Tennessee-themed calendar, which took me forever. And I loved it. But, being that it's currently the end of June, I couldn't continue to allow this 2012 calendar to hang another day (oh okay, another six months, sigh). So I decided to create a brand new painting to replace it. I began by mixing up my favorite tint of blue (yes, on a dinner plate. Word to the wise: if I invite you over for dinner, BYOP [Bring Your Own Plate] unless you savor lead poisoning) and cutting up an old hotel key card as a texture scraper. 

 After painting the entire canvas blue and scraping the texture, I began to draw in the design. Now, I gotta tell you, this is not an original design. Because I, my friends, will be the first to admit, I don't have a single original thought in my head. Just ask pinterest. Which, after doing some research on vintage travel posters, I found there (this is actually the next one I wanna attempt. I can't seem to find the one I was working from). Turns out you can buy these reproduction posters but I got all big-headed and decided I could do it myself. So I started by penciling in the landscape and painting it in, paint-by-numbers style.
 Do you have a wedge paint brush (not to be confused with a wedgie-paint brush which are very uncomfortable...or so I've heard)? I never really used 'em before because they seemed too Bob-Ross-y to me. But now I know why ole Bob used 'em -- they're amazing! You can create these awesome hard edges with them that would have required a lot of painting and repainting with any other brush. That Bob. He knew what he was doing.

 Dude. This was seriously as easy as it looks. Not confident in your drawing skills? Enlarge your image and trace it. Or, better yet, if you have a projector (which would probably require a time machine, but you got one of those, I'm sure) that'd be even better.
 Yay, landscape complete! I was so happy with how easy this was. Little did I know that hard part was yet to come (cue dum-dum-duuuuuum music. DUMB being the key theme of the song.)
 The. Freakin'. Lettering. UGH.

Sigh. So first there was the measuring out to make sure all my letters fit. Blah. And then there was the actual drawing of the letters. Double Blah. But the worst of it was painting each letter. Since I was using thick acrylic paint, this required a lot of painting, touching up and repainting. Good times. If I were to do this again, I woulda used one of those paint brush pins, as I used on this calendar.
I promise my lettering isn't this crooked. It's my crooked photography skillz that make it appear as such.
And there you have it, some Southern Lovin'.

I just hope that one day the South'll love me as much as I do it. We've had our rough patches, that's for sure. Like the last time I was in the Smoky Mountains enjoying the seriously amazing amusement park Dollywood. I was getting on the wooden roller coaster Thunderhead when this happened:

Roller Coaster Announcer Dude: As you enter the ride, please scoot all the why over.

Me to hubs: What did he say? 

RCAD (with obviously amazing hearing): I say-ed, scoot all the WHY over!

Me to hubs: Is he asking a question? I don't understand.

Hubs: He's saying "way". Scoot over!

Not-So-Friendly-Southern Lady in the Seat Behind Me: What the hail?! Scoot over!

Me to hubs: Did she just say hail?! Is it going to hail while we are on the ride?! Get me off of here!

Yeah. So. Me and The South. We got some more gettin-to-know-each-other to do. But that's okay. I'm not going anywhere (sorry, Tennessee!).

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