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Holiday Decorations, Speedway Style - Part Two

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If you’ve been keeping track of my articles, that makes one of you. For the rest of you, I’ll give a little background. Check out how Part One of Holiday Decorations-Speedway Style.

I hate holiday decorating but my wife likes outside decorations and is sometimes okay with an outside of the box solution. That brought us our, How the Grinch Stole the Christmas Lights I did a few years ago. As any of our devoted husbands out there could tell you, you’re only as good as your last hit.

My loving and understanding wife really deserved the other part of the display I’d promised four-ish years ago. So, I set to work creating it.

Originally Mrs. K thought it would be cute to supplement the Grinch with his well-meaning side-kick, Max the dog, trying to keep the lights up on the house. I loved the idea and set to work on sketching a pose that would capture the character and his hapless efforts. (He’s a character I can really relate with.)

Some ghosts of articles-past in the background

I started with a tried and true base of sanded ½” plywood and sketched out my design. Two things you’ll note in this picture:

  1. It’s in my house because my garage isn’t heated and I’m a pansy.
  2. That plywood is really old because I bought it a long time ago intending to start this project sooner. (Remember this because it becomes important later)

I went over the whole projector method in my last article on painting large images. Still valid info. However, I’d encourage you to at least give drawing it by hand a shot. With pencil you can always erase it and try again. Who knows what talents may lie hidden?

Yeah, our barroom has sort of a 70’s vibe. We just went with it

Once the pencil sketch was satisfactory, I went ahead and inked it all in with a magic marker and a sharpie. I left a half-inch margin around the edge again to allow a heavy black outline to surround the main image.

I cut the shape out with a jigsaw and sanded all the edges with my Dremel tool. Hindsight being what it is, I’d probably do that out in the garage rather than in the house. She got over it.

Here’s the part where old wood and a hurried timeline bit me in the end. The combination of the old, dried out plywood and lack of sanding sealer made this project take a turn for the worse when it was really too late to do anything about it.

You see, what happened next started the failure cascade of having a very rough surface to try and paint lines over. Had I either:

  1. Sealed and lightly sanded (220) the surface prior to painting with one coat white enamel, or
  2. Used brand-new sanded plywood and painted with two coats of white enamel

My result would have been as flawless as the original project was, with line quality that held up to up-close viewing and nicely controlled thick and thin lines to add depth and character.

What I ended up with was a grainy mess that allowed the paint to bleed out when the paint was thin enough to flow nicely from the pinstriping brush.

Melted ice cream. That’s the consistency of good flowing paint.

Some people’s sole purpose is to serve as a bad example. I’m glad I could help. At least I told you about the right way to do it.

Anyhow, One-Shot paint likes to be thinned. A little bit of color goes a long way. You’ll want to keep a small dish of reducer. I use mineral spirits because it smooths brush strokes nicely. It does take a LOOOOOONG time to dry. So plan accordingly.

Then I locate an old catalog (no idea where you might get one of those, wink) I find the semi-slick finish of the paper makes a good palette to load your brushes. Right or wrong, I usually dip my brush in the thinner, then the paint can. I then put that load of paint on the paper and repeat until I have a decent bit of paint there. I add thinner to it with my pinstriping brush in the same way until it’s the consistency of melted ice cream. You’ll get a feel for what is going to work well and what won’t.

That’s the problem I encountered with my project. When the paint flowed nicely, it bled out into the grain of the dried out plywood. Again, be sure to start with a good substrate.

In the end, my color fills all turned out fine. Most of the line work was salvageable too, just fatter than I’d intended. I followed everything up with two nice coats (both sides) of poly varnish to protect it. All in all, still not a bad looking decoration. Should buy me another few years anyway.

Still the only decorations on our house. Win.

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