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Archive for the ‘Art?’ Category

Calendar Madness – Updated for December 2013

01 Dec

Every year at Christmas, I personalize a monthly calendar for my brother (witness the madness from my 2012 and 2011 calendars). For 2013, I decided to showcase each month’s artwork as it comes up. You’ll find the rest of the monthly pages after the jump below.

12 December Beanstalk

When I drew this, I did not realize that actual Hollywood professionals thought a Jack and the Beanstalk movie was a good idea.

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Silhouettes to turn your windows into Halloween showcases

15 Oct

Bats and headless ladyBlack paper makes a striking impression on a backlit window at night. Here’s how I made the creepy silhouettes that are gracing the front windows of my house

Dark paper works best, such as black construction paper. Laminated paper will last for multiple years, and even newspaper will provide a funny effect for a night or two.

It isn’t hard to sketch out basic shapes on large paper, but feel free to search for easier ways. Searching for Halloween stencils yields many images that would work well on a window (I borrowed several from this article by Jeffrey Rudell on the Make: blog).

Printing a black stencil will use up expensive printer ink quickly, so don’t do it! It’s more efficient to cut a big, dark design out of big, dark paper. To save printer ink, I turned my dark silhouettes into simple outlines using the open-source graphics software GIMP (Edge Detection and Threshold are your friends).

To print on a large scale, you may want to use a program like PosteRazor to enlarge and print out your outline over multiple sheets of paper.

Once I had the outlines, I taped them to my roll of heavy paper and used a razor to slice both the stencil and paper at once. Pizza boxes make excellent backings for slicing paper with a razor blade or X-Acto knife.

Finally, tape the silhouettes onto the window and turn on the lights. The effect is dramatic from inside and outside the house.

Zombie silhouette in windowTools and head

 

A new year and a new “improved” calendar

12 Jan

Gentleman bearJust like last year, I chose a $1 calendar to revamp for my brother’s Christmas present. This is a great personalized gift for anyone who shares your sense of humor.

All you need is a calendar, a few Sharpies, and enough free time to do justice to your concepts. As you’ll see, talent for drawing is truly optional.

For 2012, I chose a “Baby Animals” calendar, which will be hard to top in the future for sickly sappiness and satirical potential. I don’t know the precise target market for “Baby Animals,” but it’s somewhere between childless spinsters and tasteless grandmoms.

I still paid only $1, and yet this year’s calendar was thick enough that my Sharpie marks did not bleed through to the other side, saving me the trouble of resurfacing the monthly pages like last year. Perhaps the Dollar Tree’s $1 calendars are superior to Target’s $1 calendars. Should I do a side-by-side test next year?

Polar-bears-slainRaccoon Rampage

If your calendar does bleed through, double down on your $1 investment and paste over your calendar pages with the duplicates from the new, untouched copy. Read the rest of this entry »

 
 

Dollhouse furniture you might actually want to own

19 Sep

Rings in dollhouse sink

I cannot find it in myself to appreciate the appeal of lifelike dolls. My niece (as of age 4, at least) apparently disagrees, to judge by her fascination with the American Girls dolls and all other doll-based collectibles. Make eye contact and the dull, taxidermied eyes of a doll stare right into your soul. Can anyone back me up on this?

However, I’ve found that some doll-related paraphernalia  can serve amusing practical (or purely decorative) purposes. Even if dolls revolt you, their furniture is available for anyone to use. They may also entertain you if you, like Chandler Bing, enjoy holding small objects and feeling like a giant.

Here are my top-three uses for dollhouse furniture in a full-size house:

  • Sink for jewelry storage in bathroom or kitchen: If you wear expensive or sentimental rings (such as wedding or engagement rings), you might want to take them off before do soapy jobs like washing the dishes. In our house, a miniature sink atop our kitchen sill makes a fine repository for jewelry. Having a designated location helps rein in the fear of losing a valuable ring. The Wife knows I think engagement rings are overpriced bullshit, but I BOUGHT the damn ring, and I don’t want it dropping down the drain. For what it cost, I’m all for keeping it clean and safe. It’s all the better that the little sink-atop-a-sink amuses me, too.

Dollhouse rug as coaster

  • Dollhouse rugs as coasters or doilies: Dollhouse rugs are remarkably intricate, and yet you can get tiny rugs shipped from Turkey for $3 apiece. I have purchased most of mine through eBay and have never been disappointed. They’re excellent for sliding beneath decorative bowls, flower pots, or any household decor that might scratch your furniture. The colors and fine details on the rugs add a little extra to your knickknacks. Miniature rugs make great coasters, too.

Dollhouse bathroom

  • Miniature fixtures for decoration: I have surreptitiously added a miniature bathroom next to the rafters in a family cabin. Like the eyeball pillows, this is my way of injecting some hidden whimsy into my surroundings. Something about miniature bathroom fixtures is hilarious to me. I have seen them used well in flower pots and other garden settings where tiny elves might sneak by once in a while. My primary goal is to convince small children that elves really do live in the house and come out when they are sleeping (a story which sounds funny or terrifying depending on how cruel I feel).

One warning: dollhouse furniture is often impressively overpriced. Don’t worry, fellow cheapskates. Once you know what you’re looking for, you can occasionally find decent deals on eBay. Almost any piece of dollhouse furniture can be found for under $10 if you’re patient, which keeps the cost below the knickknacks at Pier One and the like. Of course, if you know of a good (or cheap) place to get dollhouse furniture, please let me know.

 

Build a tabletop easel in two minutes for $2

23 Jul

Frames on easels With too much framed art for our walls, I wanted to be able to move any frame from the wall to a table and back again as desired. Unfortunately, frames designed to hang on the wall usually don’t come with a hinged stand because the weight of the stand makes the frame hang crooked on the wall. I looked around for small easels and found that even small, simple easels could be surprisingly expensive. I saw no point in spending $14 for an easel when my frames and art are already so cheap.

Enter my good friends at The Dollar Tree. I found laptop stands there that look like broken, two-legged easels. They’re meant to prop up your laptop from below to allow air circulation to keep things cool. The main legs on each stand are adjustable to a variety of lengths. I had a brainstorm and bought all of the black laptop stands I could find at $1 apiece.

With the addition of a few carefully-placed zip ties, a pair of laptop stands becomes an adjustable tabletop easel that can accommodate different sizes of frames and display a frame at any desired angle. That’s quite a bargain for $2 (or perhaps $3 for the first one if you need to buy zip ties). These are great if you have a lot of art and/or don’t want to put holes in your walls. Read the rest of this entry »

 

Eyeball pillows to make your life cushier and creepier

05 Jul

Eyeball pillows on chaiseI have been dying to do justice to the eyeball-pillow concept ever since my list of decorating tricks for Halloween. Judging by the Wife’s obvious discomfort in their presence, my eyeball pillows were having the intended effect, but they weren’t practical for actual use as pillows. I like to prop up my head with a few pillows at a time; the tiny eyeballs would only have worked after some severe head-shrinking on my part. Solution: I needed BIGGER eyeball pillows.

Pillows are easy to make, as you’ll see. I had plenty of white fabric from old t-shirts and gray fabric from hemming some Ikea curtains, so I decided to make reversible pillows: eyes on one side, plain fabric on the other. That way, I could appease the Wife occasionally by flipping them over and thereby keep them in the living room all year long rather than just during October. Read the rest of this entry »

 

Mustache decals can dress up any mirror

31 Mar

Dinosaur in mustache mirrorThe sterling examples set by Mr. Boh, Mr Pringle, and Uncle Pennybags all indicate that a well-groomed mustache is a great mark of authority. At the same time, the time-honored art of drawing a devilish mustache on a someone’s portrait or photograph. What’s not to like?

Give yourself a smile every day with this assortment of mustache decals, suitable for not only windows and the like but especially for mirrors (in person, the illusion is most effective when you close one eye). People of all ages are amused by looking in a mustache mirror, almost as much as they are by funhouse mirrors that make you look fat or tall. Try on a new face! See if you like it.

I bought this pack from Archie McPhee, a great resource for ridiculous, useless amusements. Since it contains 11 different mustaches, there were more than enough for every mirror in the house (or a truly obscene number on just one mirror, I suppose). I decided to accommodate the very tall and very small people of the world by putting mustaches at various heights on one fairly large mirror. Even after that, I was left with so many that I’ve been giving them away. I’m told they also make fantastic eyebrows.

Mustache decals packageMustache mirror

 
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Must-Have: Industrial Sharpies and Metallic Sharpies

11 Mar

Sharpie selectionI have a long-held faith in the classic, black-capped Sharpie permanent marker. When I was a child, they were the darkest, heaviest, and more reliable pens in the house and were therefore much coveted for labeling toys and clothes as well as making semi-permanent tattoos when you’re bored. Sharpie has become synonymous with “”permanent marker” in my mind, making it a name brand I actually believe in for once. I make many compromises and buy many generic brands in pursuit of thriftiness, but I do not skimp on my Sharpies. Accept no substitute.

In my pursuit of Sharpie perfection, I have found two specialty Sharpies that are extremely worthwhile. Between these two markers, you can write on almost any object of any color and leave an unmistakable impression. These are unusual enough that you won’t always find them at all-purpose retailers like Target, but you can find them at Staples or any other major office supply store.

Sharpie comparison on white paper♦ Industrial Sharpies: Easily spotted by the beefy red letters on the barrel, the Industrial Sharpie boasts “super permanent ink” and the ability to withstand steam and chemical exposure. I don’t get to test all of those properties very often, but I will say that it is the blackest marker I have ever used. Compare the blackness and consistency of the lines from the Industrial Sharpie to those made by the standard model. Industrial Sharpie ink also remains darker for a longer period than normal Sharpie ink, which slowly bleaches to a a dark gray.

Sharpie comparison on navy blue paperMetallic Sharpies: In an off-putting start, the Metallic Sharpie includes the warning to “Store Tip Down” (presumably the lack of a clip on the cap is meant to remind us of this requirement). That makes it hard to find the marker if you store it in a mug or pencil cup. Regardless, this marker shows up bright and clear on all colors, making it invaluable for labeling dark or transparent surfaces like glass or the black plastic found on so many consumer electronic devices. The shiny silver ink is highly reflective, making it easy to locate with a flashlight or lamp. The ability to write over any color lets you turn any piece of scrap paper into an extremely visible note.

 

Chalkboard drawing: “No More Eggs!”

05 Mar

No More EggsEven simple messages get misunderstood. Tragically, I misinterpreted my wife’s statement that we had too many eggs as a frantic plea to get more eggs.

 
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“Improve” and personalize your new calendar

18 Jan

Improving a Calendar - cover

It’s the start of a new year, so chances are you have put up a new calendar somewhere in your home that has a different picture for each month. Cheapskates like me may have noticed that classy-looking calendars often cost $12 or more, which can translate to $1 or more per page. Sure, there are calendars at Dollar Tree or Target that are as cheap as a buck, but let’s be fair: these are awful, ugly, and cheaply-made. Inexpensive calendars usually aim for the lamentably narrow range between “landscapes” and “cute animals” (leading also to the obvious combination of “animals in landscapes”). They tell you the days of the month, of course, but they don’t make any statement or add much to the room.

Here’s my suggestion: Buy a cheap calendar and a pack of markers and doodle your way through the pages until you’ve produced something entertaining (no art skills required).  I’ve “improved” a calendar as a Christmas gift for my brother two years running now. These make hilarious gifts for anyone who shares your sense of humor. I’ve included a few months from this year’s evil calendar below. Read the rest of this entry »