Not long ago, I was falling asleep when birthday inspiration struck. The ideas shot like sparkly-tailed comets behind my eyelids. Camping! TeePees! Birthday cake under the stars! Sleep was slow to come after that so I jotted the images down and waited for the harsh light of morning to dim my ambitions.
The next day, my excitement was only slightly dulled from minimal rest. That seemed like a good sign. By lunch, I was perusing the aisles of Flax Art Supply balancing paint tubes in one hand and frantically searching for paddles online in the other.
My inspiration was a movie I’ve never seen by a director I don’t typically like. An odd muse for sure, but powerful nonetheless: Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom. With his characters as a reference point, I envisioned a preppy-nautical-woodsy shindig under the Golden Gate Bridge. The most whimsical prop for the party would be a set of DIY painted paddles which now hang, post-revelry, in our living home as a fun reminder. This set is a DIY version of Norquay’s Owl paddles.
All I had to do was create them out of thin air…
I started out by sketching designs and researching some beautiful graphic treatments of decorative paddles. Slightly daunted by an exhaustive price comparison, I finally settled on two paddles and starting hatching a color scheme.
I didn’t have to ponder for long. One look around our apartment and it’s clear that warm grays and various shades of cream (all oddly named after food: Vanilla, Eggshell, Meringue) were my go-to colors. Next came the taping.
This project was an interesting chance to observe how my creative process has evolved over the years. Since I began writing and designing for technology products, I’ve gradually shifted towards a more methodical, calculated approach. It’s not as oppressive as it sounds. For a long time, I resisted too much planning on the front end of a project. I felt it hampered creativity and generally didn’t make for very inspired results.
I’ve come to see the opposite is true. While there’s still a need for unfettered conceptualizing, planning in the early stages of a project often leads to tighter, more focused design with a stronger point of view and more effective execution. That investment of time up front, nine times out of ten, has honed my creative instincts and created space for inspiration I never anticipated.
You also blow through far fewer pricey art supplies that way.
With my design concept ready, I started in on the taping. Oh the taping. In years past, taping has been my undoing. Or rather, my corrosive impatience and complete lack of precision when it comes to taping has really painted me into a corner. In virtually every apartment I’ve rented, my excitement over painting stops just short of properly taping the crown molding or sealing off the ceiling edge. The effect is inspired…but sloppy. This time around, I taped twice and painted once.
From there, the process was fairly straightforward and proceeded quickly. I painted with acrylics and layered on two thin coats of color. They took a while to dry but it became a nice mini-ritual: get up, paint some strokes, go to work, return home with a slightly fried brain, paint some more and exercise parts of your mind that haven’t been indulged all day.
Pretty soon, the paddles were done and ready for a camping adventure before finding a home on our wall. In fact, this is one of the first projects where my vision truly matched reality. Must be all that taping.