Monday, October 28, 2013

Painting for Peanuts: A Harvest Festival Cut-Out Board

Happy Halloween!

Nothing makes a party quite like a character cutout board. Sticking your head through a wooden mural to become someone else is especially advantageous for Halloween - instant costume! My friend Erin had the brilliant idea of making a Peanuts themed one of these for the harvest festival her church was hosting this year, but she needed a little help pulling it off. Hmm, did I hear someone say project? I'm in!

Tabula Rasa

From the very start, our materials for this project came together quite nicely. For instance, our canvas was actually the back of an 8' x 4' wooden board used previously by the church for a sign. For our purposes, we simply flipped it over and got to work sketching out our ideas on the back.

You're a good reference, Charlie Brown.

As for the art, we chose to paint the famed cast of Peanuts by Charles Schulz chilling in a pumpkin patch. Specifically, we had Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Sally and Linus (complete with blanket), as they were all recognizable and big in "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown." We made reference of some Peanuts art so we could mimic the style for our large-scale reproduction.

(The little sweeper was used to dust off all the footprints. Apparently our canvas also doubled as someone's floor mat at some point.)

Out of line!

Once we were confident enough in our pencil sketches, we went over our lines again with felt tip marker so we could better stay within the lines while painting. At this point, we also drew lighter ovals outlining where the cutouts for people's faces would go.

Who knew Linus had plastic surgery? Or wooden surgery, that is.

Time to bust out the big guns, a.k.a. the power tools! Erin's dad, Mark, helped out in a big way when it came to the woodworking aspect of this project. After drilling starter holes in each oval (which looked eerily like alien eyes...), he sawed out space for faces in no time.

Holy cutout board, Charlie Brown!

With the holes done, we took to reinforcing the structural integrity of the board. A few supplementary boards attached as a framework to the backside helped to keep the board from warping in any direction. 


Next up was making the board stand up on its own. Up until now, we'd been either leaning it up against a car or propping it up ourselves. With the addition of these handy dandy feet, we were able to paint freely!

Color me grateful!

Our acquisition of the paint was a wonderful case of serendipity. We already had some basic colors like black and white from Erin's crafty mom, Delinda (thanks, Delinda!), but still needed some more colorful colors. 

Just after we started the project, though, I heard my neighbor discussing how she had a surplus of old paint she wanted to get rid of. How handy, thought I, we need paint! And so it was that my wonderful neighbor donated over a dozen cans to our cause. Thank you, Candi!

Paint by Numbers - Supersized!

To start the painting, we made sure to get the lightest colors down first. In this case it was the white of Snoopy's fur and Charlie Brown, Sally and Linus' skin tones. We also used white as a base coat for the lighter colors to come. No need for the dirt to show through!

Quick Tip: Even though we were painting outdoors, we still lay down some old shower curtains to spare the driveway further abuse. It worked great and was a good show of recycling!

Painting in Progress

The array of paint colors we got from my neighbor could not have been better. With the exception of the navy blue we concocted for the night sky using cerulean and slate, every other shade was spot on right out of the can. Amazing!

The painters are in!

A great thing about having such a big project as this, was that we almost never had to wait for something to dry. Even with two painters going at it, by the time we were done with coat #1 across the board, the paint where we had started was already dry and ready for coat #2. The fact that we were painting outdoors helped with that, and kept the paint fumes to a minimum. Huzzah for ventilation!

Almost there!

It's always exciting when a project starts to come together, and you can see a glimpse of its future glory. This was about the moment for this one. Excitement kept us going strong!

Snoopy says, "Hug me!"

Once all the basic painting was done, it was time to add the black outlines typical of the Peanuts comic strip/cartoons. An added bonus for this style of art is that it's supposed to look hand drawn, so imperfections and all, freehanding it worked great! 

Time to smooth out those fine lines.

Unfortunately, we got so excited to paint that we accidentally skipped a step that would have been helpful earlier on: sanding down the face holes. We didn't want kids and folk to get splinters in their chins or anything, so we figured better late than never. In the spirit of teamwork, Ben even came by to help out as our resident sandman!

Done... for now!

This project couldn't have been a success without all the wonderful teamwork that went into it. Thank you, Candi and Delinda, for your (paint) coats of many colors! Thank you, Ben and Mark, for your painting skills and craftsmanship! And of course a huge thanks to Erin for the brilliant idea, instigation, supplies, sustenance, painting, woodworking, and pretty much everything else! 

Now I wonder what we can paint on the other side...!

For more festive autumnal time blogs, check out the Foxy Jack-o-Lantern & Sweet Roasted Pumpkin Seeds, the recipe for Pumpkindoodles, more than a decade's worth of Halloween Costume Art and the latest installment, Halloween 2016: Costume pARTy!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Sweet Roasted Pumpkin Seeds & One Foxy Pumpkin

Ring ding ding ding ding ding ding!

October is a special time of year for many reasons - autumn colors, pumpkin-flavored everything and, of course, jack-o-lanterns! Carving your very own pumpkin is a fun and creative task in and of itself, but it doesn't have to end there. Indeed, what about the pumpkin's insides? No need to throw those delicious seeds out, try roasting them for a tasty and healthy snack! Or even better... try making a tasty and slightly less healthy twist on the classic - kettle seeds! 

The Great Pumpkin

First things first, to make an epic jack-o-lantern and your delicious roasted pumpkin seeds, you need a pumpkin. I chose this 18 pound beauty seen above. After selecting your prize pumpkin, it's time to gather your tools and prepare for battle. I like a classic bluntly serrated pumpkin knife for general carving, a sharper knife for detail work and a pencil for sketching my design. The toothpicks are for later.

The pumpkin's maw.

A neat and useful trick at this point, is to carve the initial hole out of the back of the pumpkin instead of the top. While you don't have that stem as a handle, you also don't have to worry about burning your hand when it comes time to put the candle in the jack-o-lantern. Surprisingly, the lack of handle makes almost no difference. Once you have the piece carved it slides in and out of place easily.

A pumpkin fit for a princess.

Now it's time for the gutting. That may sound a bit gross, but if ever there's a time for it, it's Halloween. I won't lie to you, this part is messy, but it smells so fresh and good that the slime is rather fun once you get used to it! 


For my jack-o-lantern design, I was inspired by the recent internet craze, involving forest raves and a mysterious red-furred woodland creature. I know, I couldn't help myself. 

Mysterious as the dark side of the pumpkin.

Since I chopped the back out of the pumpkin already, I was able to use this piece to cut out ears, a snout and a tail for my pumpkin fox, all of which I applied by toothpick. I carved some eyes and whiskers for the candlelight to show through and scraped off some pumpkin skin to show the white rind beneath for the fox's front whiskers and eyebrows. All that's missing is a soundtrack... 

As for those pumpkin seeds!

Seems a bit seedy to me...

It's easiest to separate most of the innards from the seeds while you're in the process of pulling them out. I had one bag just for pumpkin guts, while another bowl was just for the seeds and whatever little bits of orange goop stuck to them. After most of it's been removed, rinse the remaining dregs of goop off in a colander. Clean seeds are the best! 

Fun fact: the seeds float until they're saturated!

After the seeds are clean, set them in a pot to simmer for about 20 minutes in salted water. This helps in the cleaning process and imbues them with some tasty flavor. Once they're done with their salt water bath, set the seeds on paper towels to dry. Some people let this stage take all night, but I'm not one to wait for roasted pumpkin seeds. 

Sweet deal!

Once the seeds are reasonably dry, toss in a tablespoon or so of vegetable or olive oil and around a teaspoon of salt. (Amounts will vary depending on how many seeds your pumpkin yields. Feel free to eyeball it and taste-test until you find the ratio you like best.) To make the elusive KETTLE SEEDS, add about a tablespoon of sugar in the mix!

I admit that name Kettle Seeds is quite misleading because the pumpkin seeds never went near a kettle, but it's more in reference to their sweet snack cousin, kettle corn, so whatever.


Once all the seeds are coated (either in oil and salt or with additional sugar) dump them onto a foil coated cookie sheet (thus avoiding future dish washing) and spread them out to avoid overlap wherever possible. I separated my pan in two parts with a strip of foil as I was making roasted seeds and kettle seeds in the same batch.

Roasted pumpkin seeds and their caramelized kin, kettle seeds.

Bake the pumpkin seeds at 325° for about 10 minutes, stir the seeds around and return to the oven for about 10 more minutes. Once the seeds are just barely showing a hint of golden brownness, they should be done and ready for you and your Fox-o-lantern to enjoy! 

What does the fox say?
Yum yum yum yum yum yum yum yum yum yum yum!

For more festive autumnal time blogs, check out the recipe for Pumpkindoodles, the Peanuts themed Harvest Festival Cut-Out Board, more than a decade's worth of Halloween Costume Art and the latest installment, Halloween 2016: Costume pARTy!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Wedding Cake Toppers - Personalized with Love!

Mawwage is what bwings us togevver today...
There are few occasions more exciting than a wedding. Not only do two people in love pledge to keep loving and caring for each other forever, but it's also a great time for family and friends to gather, meet and eventually return home with even more family and friends than before.

The source of this ponderance? This very weekend, my brother Joey married my beautiful, wonderful new sister-in-law Melinda! YAY! :D

Wood you marry me?

To help personalize the celebration, Melinda asked me to paint some crafty wooden cake toppers for the wedding. Apparently the concept is not new, as she got the idea and the wooden bride and groom dolls from Etsy. You can get them personalized and pre-painted, too, but this way they were extra meaningful.

Dress up time

The general plan for these wedding cake toppers was to make simplistic representations of both the bride and groom. You can see from my sketch in the background, they're more cute than realistic, which works well for the little wooden dolls. 

As for the painting, I got started with white on both, since lighter colors are the easiest to paint over and the hardest to get to show up over darker ones. Even just on the wood, the white took about three coats for total coverage. Luckily, I never had to wait on drying time since I could switch between cake toppers. Two dowels are better than one!

Color me in love!

Next up, black and tan! Well, black and flesh-toned that is. To get this basic Caucasian skin color I mixed some red, a little yellow and a whole lot of white. Even though I tried to make enough to last the whole project, I ended up running short and having to remix more later. With a bit of artistic savvy and serendipitous paint mixology, the hues ended up matching perfectly. Phew! 

Hair we are!

Next up, coiffures! Since the bride and groom have similar hair colors, I mixed up the groom's, then added some extra tints for the bride's when I was done. Since my brown paint was hardly being helpful, I found the right hues by mixing yellow, orange, red and just a bit of black.

Armed and dangerous!

Now we're getting some detail. Based on cues from the couple about their wardrobe choices, I added arms and cap sleeves for the bride, and hands and a white tie for the groom (don't worry, the tie gets better on the second pass). Since the plain black tux was just so plain, I also added some dark gray outlines for sleeves, hems and the collar. Thanks to the magic of acrylic paint, it was easy enough to refine these lines with a second pass of the appropriate color. 

A wedding! A wedding! We're going to have a wedding!

For the faces of the cake toppers, the bride and groom requested cute, simple eyes like I made for the Rice Children: Bean Bags with Character blog. I went ahead and added the personalized bridal bouquet of bright Gerbera daisies and tiny white gold rings for both for some extra special touches.

We're going to the chapel, and we're going to get married!

And with the final details - a little shine in the eyes, centers for the flowers and an extra sparkle on the bride's diamond ring (courtesy of crystal puff paint!) - at last the bride and groom wedding cake toppers are ready for their cake debut. But wait, there's more!

Family Portrait!

Also joining this wonderful new family is my super awesome nephew James! Since I didn't want him to feel left out, I made him a tuxedo Rice Child version of himself to play with at the wedding, and he totally did. The thing was such a hit, I may have to make the bride and groom rice children too, so they can juggle! 

In conclusion, CONGRATULATIONS JOEY AND MELINDA! Enjoy the cake toppers! :D

Time to ride off into the sunset!