Hey Gen-X!

So I recently ran out of shampoo and had to grab what was available in the grocery store beauty isle- where I found this.

Now I haven’t used this stuff since the 90s, but I remember it well, it was new in the late 80s, early 90’s, was very popular and looked like this then.  Also it did not have that hideous M-word on the bottle ( no, I’m not referring to ‘Miracle’ or ‘Mega’)

My then roommate argued that it smelled like grape. I said no, it smells like strawberry. So 30+ years have now passed and I finally found out what this really smells like! (Thank you Google). I was at least 1/3 right; it does have strawberry scent in it. But it’s also pomegranate and musk.

So that’s why we could both tell it smelled fruity, but not exactly what sort of fruit. (BTW, roommate was 100% wrong. There is no grape.)

All this scent memory lane also got me thinking about these:

If you were a teenager in the late 80’s/90’s,  chances are you smelled like one of the above.  If you were a preppy guy who went to Camdenton in the classes of 89-92, you freaking bathed in Drakkar. The smell of that stuff is still strangling to me to this day.  I was relieved when Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin’s Obsession replaced Drakkar in popularity.

Anyway… I know all of this has absolutely nothing at all to do with crafts, painting, gardening,  etc. But sometimes you find yourself tripping down memory lane and have to share.

Speaking of memory lane- we all signed up to play World of Warcraft again last night. It was odd to log into Arygos after years and see old friends online. So Jora’s back! Or at least wandering aimlessly trying to get her bearings. Lol

Thank you for indulging my random nostalgia.

-B

Macrame

I haven’t done much since Halloween that I’ve deemed post-worthy- a bit of sewing and learned some really basic macrame knots.

I’m not writing a tutorial on this, there are some very good ones on both YouTube and TikTok if you’re looking. For these I learned to do a spiral square knot and a four strand braid.

The horse shoe was a gift from my daughter’s riding instructor. I picked up the cotton cord and wood rings on Amazon. The beads I had leftover from 4-H crafts.

Two rolls of cord got me 5 plant hangers, I used the trimmings and leftovers to make the horse shoe.

Not selling these right now, just wanted to share. I’m probably starting a new painting soon.

-B

Grim build

In my previous post, I talked about the paper maché pumpkins that will be a part of this build. Let me start by saying that the idea for this build came from Pinterest. The site the pin linked to is Grim Hollow Haunt

I’m following most of his instructions with a few exceptions. I didn’t use pre-made pumpkins for my build, I’m did mine entirely from paper maché. I feel like I covered those pretty well in the previous post, so I’ll skip to the steps that make the grim different from the little guys and what’s different from my inspiration.

HEAD:

Done entirely of paper maché, homemade paper maché clay and acrylic paint. I built this by wrapping an actual pumpkin from the grocery store. The reinforced eyes and mouth were done with strips of cardboard glued in place and a few toothpicks.

I used paper mache clay to amp up the lines and create the eyebrows/forehead scowl. The waxy drips were just hotglue that I painted over.

I coated the entire head in gloss black, let that dry (mostly) and then went over it in a couple shades of orange. I wanted the black underpaint to show through, so I used a fairly dry brush and went over the steaks with a completely dry brush. (You can see this in the video below.) After the orange dried, I detailed the stem and drips around the eyes.

Painting Grim’s head

We’ll be working on the framework for the body this weekend. I’ll add to this post when that part is finished.

-B

HAPPY HALLOWEEN friends!

We had our party this weekend and the kids seemed to love the Grim. Not sure they loved him more than the fog machine I had set up in our fake graveyard, but ah well…

I promised to finish telling you how I did all this, so here it is.
My husband Tom helped me with building the frame of the Grim because I have arthritis AND I’m only 5’5. He’s 6’0 and if you look at the pictures of him standing next to it, it’s somewhere around 7′ or so, which means I need a stepladder to reach past it’s hips.

Most of the frame is built from 1×2’s and 1×3’s which means it’s very light for lumber, but also fragile and not especially stable. We changed up the build a bit from the Pin I was working off of, which helped some, but he still lost an arm during a storm the following evening that had to be put back on once he was moved to the barn. I managed to knock the other off as well while moving him.

Betty Cat decided she wanted to help with the build. 🙂

I can’t tell ya’ll how glad I am to be on here right now instead of TikTok. I had NO freaking idea how incredibly awful it would be to listen to myself talk for 6 minutes about this stuff. I’m so bad at it. Give me the keyboard any day. I can’t freaking backspace when I’m talking and it’s incredibly annoying.

I found this wad of green bailing twine lying on the floor of the tractor barn and decided it might be just the thing for tying up the joints of the Grim. It also looked kind of cool hanging down, like he’d ripped himself loose from the garden or something. This firmed up the joints enough I was confident that the arms would stay on well enough to let me do the next part.

I used two kinds of Saran Wrap on this build. The regular see-through kind and the opaque kind that will stick to damn near anything it comes into contact with. Normal Saran Wrap doesn’t hold in cold very well either, but the Press and Seal stuff is crazy sticky and will hold to itself even if it freezes. I used the expandable foam that you get at the hardware store for sealing up gaps and cracks in your house. It also sticks to raw wood pretty well unless you pick it off. The foam was used to make “vines” all over his body, to form the feet, fill the gaps between boards and create knobby joints. It expands as it dries, so it gets into all the tiny splits in the wood that we made while screwing it together. (Even pre-drilling, 1x lumber is delicate)

The ribs are garden stakes that I jammed through the foam in his spine, then bent to curl in like a ribcage. I wrapped them in Saran Wrap and a bit of twisted foil to give them a bit more girth. I then wrapped the entire Grim in clear Saran Wrap, from his neck to his ankles.

Using the heat gun on the clear Saran Wrap shrinks it down against the foam and wood, puts a few holes in in it here and there and wrinkles it up so it looks like aged, desiccated skin. I thought this was a really cool effect. The opaque sealing wrap does not behave this way though, it only shrinks up and contorts or melts. I used a combination of both on the Grim’s hands since I wanted some of it to shrink and form to the fingers and some of it just to add bulk.

I made fingers from twisted foil first, then used the sticky opaque wrap to go between and down each finger, wrapping the remainder above them to form a palm for the hand. After I had the sticky wrap on, the fingers were stiff enough to be posable. I left what looked like a creepy hot mess overnight and came back to paint it the next day.

I used a combination of black, brown and green over the entire body, keeping the green mostly over the places where the foam stood out so that it would look like winding vines on the skin. Covering all the foam and wrap really made him look like something more realistic.

Here’s the final build, with the head on, his little Jack O’ Lantern captives over his arm and a few dead vines from our garden to drape over the rib cage.

My daughter added some red glow sticks to his head before the party and a white tea light in each Jack O’ Lantern so he’d glow after dark.

And that’s it! My first monster build. We’re already talking about what we may create next year.
Have a safe and happy Halloween everyone!

B

Paper Maché Pumpkins

I’m working on a few paper maché projects for a 4-H Halloween party we’re having. I’ve also started a Tik Tok account to share my art with a new audience. 

Holy hell ya’ll. I never imagined speaking for 2 minutes coherently would be such a struggle. I write MUCH better than I speak. On video I sound like a complete freaking Goober. I’m going to do them anyway,  but fair warning,  do NOT expect miracles. LOL

I spent several hours driving in circles in Downtown St Louis last week (by choice, I wasn’t lost) while Tom and the kiddo went to see the Cardinals. They won 2 tickets, mom played chauffer, which meant I had lots of time to cruise around, people watch and think.

I’ve decided I need to step up my art game. I need to share more stuff, try more things,  look for places to get new ideas. I also need to ride that monster Ferris Wheel at Union Station sometime,  but that’s beside the point. Now that they’re relaxing some of the Covid restrictions, we might be able to go up there and see things again.

This week, I’m doing a bit of writing and building paper maché things for our party. I just completed 3 small Jack o’ lanterns that I’ll share with you- they are part of a larger build I’ll post later.

This video, I didn’t talk in, so no sounding like Pennywise doing a bad impression of Stuttering Bill.

Here’s how I made those paper maché pumpkins:

STUFF I USED– Glad Press N Seal Wrap, painter’s tape (masking tape works too), string or yarn, small bowl for holding watery glue, newspaper, magazines, etc to tear into strips, white glue (like Elmer’s school glue). Acrylic paint.
If doing texture, you will also need cheap toilet paper (maybe use some of the 2020 stash you tossed in the back of the cabinet when Charmin came back in stock), Premixed joint compound (not DAP brand), more white glue and flour to make the paper maché clay.

1) Wrap a halfway solid object.

I have a weighted handball that I use for therapy. It’s bigger than a softball, but not as big as a grapefruit. I covered this entirely in wax paper and tape, then wrapped that with Glad Press and Seal saran wrap. After I had several layers,  I cut a split and removed the ball. I forgot to take pictures of this part. Sorry!

2) Stuff it.
I restuffed the Saran Wrap ball with plastic grocery bags and taped up my cut. I then used yarn to tie around the ball. I left the tops of the yarn until the end. Tie your yarn like you would secure a package. Slip under the ball, bring the ends over the top,  tighten down. The more you tighten the yarn, the deeper the lines on your pumpkin will be.

Turn the ball and tie again at least twice more, then twist the top leftover string and trim off to about a 1/2 inch.  This will be your stem.  I wrapped tape around the string ends to secure them to each other and thicken the stem up a bit.

3) Paper maché

For the paper strips,  I use what I have.  I get a ridiculous amount of plant and clothing catalogs,  so I used a lot of those.  Tear or cut your strips (if you have issues with jagged edges)  into manageable pieces.

I use plain white Dick Blick school glue (like the white Elmer’s) thinned with water for paste.  I don’t like the idea of the old fashioned flour paste,  since it can mould. How thick or thin you want it is kind of personal preference, my solution was about 2 parts glue 1 part water.

Drag your strips through the glue,  then gently through your fingers.  You don’t want it dripping,  but coated enough to stick to itself. Use a very light touch or you’ll tear the paper.

I alternate the direction of my strips to prevent gaps and help with strength. I went all the way around vertical, then horizontal, the next layer vertical angled right and so on. I found it easier to do a couple layers, let that dry overnight and add 2-3 more. You want to let it dry completely before moving on to the next step. 

4) Let it dry and cut faces.

You want your paper very stiff with no give before cutting. If it gives or you have weak spots, repeat layers and let dry again until it feels strong. It can pull apart or collapse if you skimp on layers or dry time.

I cut the faces of my Jack O Lanterns with an exacto knife, then I cut the bottom out of each pumpkin and removed all the stuffing, wax paper, Saran Wrap, tape and string. The Press N Seal took a little effort to remove, as it wants to stick to EVERYTHING including itself.

At this point, you should be left with pumpkins that are nothing but paper and look like this:

That larger pumpkin in the back is the head for the other part of the project I’m working on.

5) Texture. (This step is optional)

At this point, you can start painting if you like. I added another layer of detail here to give my finished pumpkins a bumpy appearance and beef up the vertical lines on them. If you’re going to do the texture step, I would paint the entire pumpkin with a primer coat first and let it dry, so that the texture doesn’t make your paper shell wet and heavy, causing it to lose shape. Also, the texture will require a minimum of 24 hours dry time, depending on how thick you put it on, but in my opinion was absolutely worth it- it added a lot of character they would have been missing otherwise.

So for texture, here’s your recipe:

They call this paper maché clay, but I found the texture of it be less like clay and more like slightly congealed oatmeal… which is is as gross at it sounds to stick your hands in. I wore medical gloves. Google paper maché clay if you’d like to experiment with other recipes. I modified this lady’s recipe, she makes some really cool masks with it.

PAPER MACHE CLAY-

-1 1/4 cups wet toilet paper (They recommended putting it through a food processor. I just used a kitchen wisk to break it up into tiny mush in water.)

-1 cup premixed drywall joint compound (Don’t use DAP brand, it has something in it that will prevent the clay from setting properly)

-3/4 cup Elmer’s Glue

Her recipe calls for 1/2 to 1 cup of white flour and 2 Tablespoons of mineral oil. I skipped both of these, which may be why my consistency wasn’t as smooth and was more like oatmeal that clay. For these pumpkins though, my version worked great and I don’t have to worry about the flour/mildew/mold issue. I’m allergic to mold, so the flour formulas are a big deal breaker for me.

I will also confess that I didn’t actually measure my ingredients, I just dumped the stuff in a bowl- pretty much the way I cook too (this drives my husband nuts. he likes precise, linear steps to follow)

I didn’t get a great picture of this on the little pumpkins, but I took some of the larger one, so you can see the detail.

Like I said, play with your recipe. If you want these texture details smooth, I think adding more joint compound might do the trick- even make it so you can sand it with a drywall sanding block.

If you’re going to add much detail around the facial feature openings, you might reinforce them first with cardboard and hot glue to keep them from becoming mis-shapen.

I just stuck a bit of the ‘clay’ (oatmeal) where I wanted it, then smoothed it into lines or shapes with my fingers, a scrap of cardboard, Q-Tips, whatever worked. When it’s completely hardened, it will be bonded with the maché strips and will feel stiff and solid. At this point, it’s ready for paint.

6) Make it pretty.

I kept my painting pretty simple, since these are going to be outside, in the dark and you won’t be seeing a lot of detail on them. I used a white acrylic primer coat inside and out, followed by 3 different shades of orange on the outside, then painted the stems a grey with a touch of brown mixed in.

I cut some some small circles for the bottom, painted white on one side, and curved the edges slightly to get them inside the bottoms of the pumpkins, then hot glued them to cover the hole in the bottom and painted the outside of that orange as well. You could leave the bottom open if it’s going to be displayed sitting on a surface. It would certainly make it easier to get the lights in them, as I had to shove mine through the mouth, taking care not to damage their faces.

7) Light it up

I used electronic tea lights inside mine to make them flicker and look like a candle. Any small LED light or even a glow stick would work. Obviously you don’t want to stick a real candle in these with a flame, unless for some reason you want them to burn.

Here are my little guys all finished.

I’ll try and get another post on here of the Grim (and how these look added to that build) so you can see the whole thing once it’s put together. The Grim is hopefully going to be about 8 ft. tall and carrying these small pumpkins in one hand. They will be lit as will the Grim’s head.

Don’t ask me where I’m going to store all this stuff after the party. LOL

If you want to hear me be awkward on video, you can check out my Instagram or TikTok accounts. 🙂
Or if you’re an ‘old person’ (as my daughter calls us) and still use Facebook, I’m there too.

-B

Bridges

I just finished a new painting, which is going to be another in a series- kind of like I did with the native wildflowers on the gourds. These are actually on canvas, instead of a strangely shaped object, so I can make prints available as they are finished. I’m not yet ready to sell the originals yet, but maybe later.
I have to be careful how I present these, so as not to get sued for copyright stuff. So I can’t share with you any lyrics or song titles. So… I’ll just let the art speak for itself.

If you’re a southern rock fan, you should be able to hear the lyrics just looking at this painting. 🙂

This was one of my favorite things to do as a teenager, go out and drive all night (buying gas didn’t require taking out a second mortgage then), listening to music and look for a road with a particular number of bridges on it. I found one that almost fit the bill, down in Devil’s Elbow once. It lacked the Spanish moss in the trees, but it did have a fair amount of Virginia Creeper growing over everything, so almost the same ethereal feel. It also didn’t have the right number of bridges.

I looked up the actual inspiration behind this and there are claims that it is Woodley Road in Montgomery Alabama, although some debate the validity. Wherever it is, it’s always reminded me of warm summer nights, driving with the windows down, the scent of honeysuckle, water and deep green everywhere. Moonlight, stars and Spanish moss in trees. Fireflies and whippoorwills. It always made me yearn to break away, get out on the open road, explore and be in touch with earth and nature. I wanted to put that road on repeat and just drive it forever. I’m in Missouri, but I believe I’m a southern girl at heart. If I ever leave this farm, I swear it will be for a cabin on stilts out in the bayou somewhere. Maybe I’d sell my truck and buy a fan boat.

Anyway, here’s the painting. I have prints available on Fine Art America. They put it on everything from posters and blankets to t-shirts and bags. The next one I’m working on has a bullfrog in it. And maybe some grapes… 🙂

Still singing cardboard’s praises

Landscape fabric
Cardboard

This is two months growth. The weed fabric is the thick, expensive stuff you get at the nursery. It seems to stop small stuff like grasses, but thistles, polk, the blackberry canes all push right through it.

The cardboard is so far blocking everything. The grass that came through is only there because the cardboard there isn’t overlapping in that spot.

I think it’s boxes for me from now on.

-B

Quick Cardboard Tip

Kitties even love flat boxes

I’ve had some health stuff going on (yay arthritis) and now garden season is here so haven’t had a chance to post much but I wanted to share a quick tip.

Save your cardboard boxes for the yard and garden! I’ve been weeding and weed-eating around trees for years.

While laying down cardboard to create grass-free areas in my garden for walkways, I realized I should have been using this stuff around all my trees too.

Cardboard is great garden material and if you do a lot of online shopping like I do, there’s an endless free supply. In the garden, it holds in moisture, it keeps weeds at bay, worms absolutely LOVE the stuff and it biodegrades slowly over several years. It’s also soft enough it won’t girdle trees, which could be a danger with the plastic ‘mulch’ discs.

If you’re concerned about the look of cardboard, throw a little mulch on top. I put the discs down and jammed my tree cages through the cardboard to hold it in place. I use the heavy, thick stuff for tree rings. The thin stuff can be used to line pots, or I give it to our rabbits to shred (which eventually winds up in the garden) or tear up and throw in compost.

Back to the yard!

-B

Now Blooming In a Yard Near You

Some of you may remember me talking about growing birdhouse gourds in the garden and drying them a couple years ago. They’ve been hanging out on a wire in our utility room since. I had painted three or four- one and gave to our neighbor with a barn scene for his birthday, I drilled holes in a couple and played with the idea of making lamps.

I was looking at a social media thread discussing Missouri Native trees and wildflowers when I decided I knew what I wanted to put on these gourds. I’ve been paying more attention to what I plant here at the farm than I did at our previous place at the Lake. When we bought that property, the topsoil had all been scraped off, there was a barren red clay mess of a yard that not even weeds wanted to grow in. I planted and encouraged the growth of what would take, which was often aggressive and even invasive plants like Chinese Wisteria, Floribunda rose and Mimosa trees (Chinese silk tree). Not that they weren’t all beautiful and they grew like wildfire, but at least one of those is on the no no list of Missouri invasive plants and the other two clearly aren’t native to our state.

You hear people stressing “Grow Native!” all the time now, but I feel like a lot of folks still don’t understand why it’s important. Native plants are already adapted to local conditions. From a gardener’s perspective, they save time, money and water. If you’re from any of the states running out of water right now, you know what a precious resource it is. Native plants and flowers provide vital habitat for birds, wildlife and pollinators. Some species of butterfly only exist if their host plant is available. Most of the public knows about monarchs and milkweed, but did you know that the fritillary butterflies need violets as their host plant to survive? Many consider violets a weed, but no violets, no fritillaries.

Another plant that gets hate is the dandelion, though it is a very important early flower for emerging bee populations, it’s edible, has medicinal properties and if you have kids, they love the fluffy seed heads.

Ok, I know, I ran off on a tangent about natives and this post is supposed to be about painted gourds, but the paintings on each of these isn’t just a pretty flower to look at. I chose each one because it has value as a Missouri Native Wildflower.

Here are my gourds, they go up for sale this week on Etsy.

Wild Violets (Missouri Wild Violet. Viola missouriensis)

The one below is already sold. We had friends over for dinner last night and they wanted it before it went on the store. 🙂

Black-eyed Susan (Missouri Coneflower. Rudbeckia missouriensis)

I had some Prickly Pear at the Lake that I had gotten a start of out of my Mom’s yard. I had no idea at the time that it grows wild in Missouri. I’ve since seen some in the ditches alongside roads and found some near the edge of a pasture here at the farm. I bought some from the Missouri Wildflower Nursery last year.

Prickly pear cactus (Opuntia humifusa)
Butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa) with Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly
Eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis)
Flowering dogwood (Cornus florida)

I love my little lions, I think the one below is my personal favorite.

Common dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)

I hope if you choose to buy one of these, that you’ll look up the native flower painted on it. Do a little reading on your plant and share with your friends why native plants and trees are so important and what it does for our state’s ecosystem. Even if you aren’t from Missouri, it’s something you can talk to folks about besides doom/gloom and politics. We could all use a little light and nature in our lives right now.

-B

Gourd Series

I’m currently painting a series of birdhouse gourds featuring Missouri wildflowers.

I grew these bottle gourds in our garden year before last. I made a post here about making birdhouses from these, in which I said, “Remember all those birdhouse gourds?” And I just realized that I never actually posted them on Dirt, only on Dirt’s Facebook page, so unless you followed that, no, you don’t remember. I just knew I’d posted them somewhere.

Yay! Many gourds!

These have been hanging in the utility room now for a year and I’m finally getting around to painting on them. I started out with violets- just because- and decided to make it a thing- a whole series of paintings featuring different wildflowers from Missouri.

Violet! You’re turning violet, Violet.

I’ve got several more ideas in the works. My daughter suggested black eyed susans. I’m starting one of redbud, prickly pear cactus and butterfly weed. I’ve got 3 more to come up with an idea for and probably eight more to prep.

That’s just dandy, lion

Dogwood no clever title

What’s your favorite wildflower?

-B