Thursday, April 13, 2017

Creating A Birdhouse Saloon

Last Chance Saloon, Palm Springs
When I was a kid, you know when dinosaurs roamed the earth, the Western ruled entertainment. I remember listening to GUNSMOKE, HOP ALONG CASSIDY, ROY ROGERS, THE LONE RANGER and such on the radio! Then came TV and they had all my expected cowboy kings there too! Like Sheriff Woody in "Toy Story" we all wore western duds, carried cap guns and were rooting' tootin' cowboys! The western ran in my blood from a long heritage of immigrants I can trace back to the Mayflower.
   I have stressed in many of my blogs the importance of creating an individualized birdhouse, one that you feel comfortable creating but forces you to think outside the box. That time, of course, is when you start either making or buying a birdhouse to decorate.          
Here is the new blank birdhouse
all ready to be decorated. I had
already decided to add an old
tire along with the cow skull!
   Living in Southern California with it's rich history of make believe Western roots (Hollywood), its long tradition of being both part of the wild west and its Spanish heritage, its not hard to see its results all around you. Here in Palm Springs, home of probably the largest collection of mid-century architecture and furniture (you can't drive anywhere without seeing a 50's house these days) yet at the same time Indian-American, Spanish and Wild West architecture sprouts up everywhere alongside. Heck, I live in a condo that attempts to mimic New Mexican pueblos. With a name like "Pueblo Sands" what else? Oddly, it is a counterpoint  that gives Palm Springs, in particular, a kind of old West charm.
As you can see, it didn't take much to 
quickly convert this to a saloon.
     When I first started painting birdhouses, one of my first was converting this birdhouse (left) into a saloon. It resembled an old store front but when I looked at it I immediately thought of a saloon. Maybe I had just seen a western movie, time for a beer, but well, it just looked like a saloon. I had purchased four resin cow skulls and came up with this moniker ... LAST CHANCE. I thought that resin cow skull said it all! It surely was the last chance for that cow.
    My first attempt  was snapped up by a lady from Texas who was creating a man cave, with a Western theme, for her husband. She wrote back after getting it saying that it was perfect for the man cave and even her husband commented on it. It was fun to do but then I couldn't find any more until recently. I had used my cow skulls up but found more and finally with the condo ready and the studio begging me to visit, I grabbed this birdhouse buried in my storeroom where it had been left moving and saw what more I could do, see if my skills had improved.
     I actually started this while babysitting a gallery show I was in but once that duty was done I got deeply involved with remodeling then moving and being creative was cast aside. Moving was exhausting and finishing up the remodeling of the condo was about all I could do. This project sat on my work bench then got put away. I did several other projects as I am sure many of you understand, I wasn't really ready to tackle it just yet. So, there it sat trying to make me feel guilty.
     Looking for paintings to take to Spectrum, I found this sitting on a metal storage shelf and brought it back to the studio. I had wooden tires and thought besides the cow skull, that would make a good addition. I started doing the whitewash to give the drawn boards a rustic feel. I thought a tile roof was perfect to cover the porch. Back in the day it was considered a right of duty to be patriotic so the red, white and blue for the roof seemed perfect as well.
The front may look normal and rustic but I wanted

a desert scene on the back. It takes many coats of
wash to get just the right effect!
   Next came the back and sides that I would again paint as a desert scene with an arroyo, saguaro cactus' fading into the distance that took time to layer and build up. While doing this we had a terrible windstorm in Palm Springs that felled trees, knocked power out and literally stripped the leaves from the bougainvilleas that were all over the complex. Walking my insisting dog to pee, even I was startled to find that half of the tree into the entry of our pod had fallen as well. While the dog didn't care, I did as stuff was blown and falling everywhere. I didn't work that night instead huddled in my chair in the living room expecting the power to go out at any minute as the windows rattled and things blew all around my patio. After recovering the lid to her dog food twice, I dragged it to the dining room door.
Back and both sides carry the desert 
theme so that it can be viewed on 
any side/
   Walking her the very next morning, surveying all the damage everywhere I noticed lots of branches and twigs. Hum, I thought. I wonder if that would add a hint of authenticity to my saloon. Picking up pieces that were about the right size, I came home and tried them out. It really did add a lot to the feeling of this birdhouse. I knew it was never meant to go outside anyway but would be a fun display piece that could be viewed from all sides.

  Only after the entire birdhouse was painted, only then could I begin to put the "additions in place. It was tempting because I wanted to get it finished but the idea of working around the "trees" and skull before all the antiquing was in place made me settle in for the long haul. The back and sides took the longest time to build upbecause of the layers of colors. 
You can see the bead used to support the skull at the top
and the pot is in place under a window. The skull is off
to the side awaiting gluing.
   Finally, I could add the tire, branches and skull. I ended using a small bead of wood behind the skull to keep the skull flat when resting against the top overhang. The bead was about the same depth and worked perfectly.
Ready for sale!
            This is a fun project and for now decorates my living room with other desert and western themed birdhouses. I plan on putting this up for sale on my ETSY store though and hope that it will have a wonderful home that enjoys its one-of-a-kind status.
    The next time you visit Michael's, Hobby Lobby or A.C Moore, take a long look at what's available then stretch your imagination on what the possibilities could be. I know that I sure do. I guess us artistic types see in mind's eye the possibilities before even that first drop of paint hits the surface! Be sure though to let your idea take flight on its own. Never be afraid to change in midstream. I think some of the best ideas I've ever had were when I asked myself ... what if?
   All of the paints are acrylic, mostly Americana from DecoArt. I use superglue because it dries quickly but be careful ... fingers get glued too. The matte finish was also DecoArt Matte that keeps the flat dry look of an old building with a slight shine bringing out the colors. Many of the details were done with a liner brush or a black Sharpie ultra-fine point.

Thank you for reading my blog. I invite you to take the time to read earlier blogs where the emphasis here is to explore the ways art and design affects our daily lives ... and always has. I share with you what inspires me with the hope that it will inspire you as well. Comments are always welcomed! Be sure to check my re-opened ETSY store ...

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