Monday, July 22, 2013

The Playroom Mural

As you can see with the new header, I'm finally starting to make this blog look a little nicer. It took awhile to implement the functionalityGetting the sidenotes to work in blogger was not fun. and I have been hesitant to mess with the look for fear of messing up the formatting. The new header is a panoramic shot of our kids' playroom! When my wife and I first purchased our home I don't think we quite knew what to do with this extra room without a closet.

But once James arrived and began acquiring toys at an alarming rate it was fairly obvious that this little room would be the perfect playroom. I've always loved the cartoon murals I've seen at day care centers so I thought it would be neat to make a storybook mural for their playroom, with some of the characters from their Mine! favorite children's books.

My wife did a bunch of the legwork for finding an artist capable of bringing what was in my head to life. She contacted a company called Lettuce Paint and we had an initial meeting where I conveyed to them what I was looking for. My initial guidance was vague (Castles! Dragons! Enchanted Forest!) but things really took off once I saw Lettuce Paint's initial sketch.

After taking a look at the initial sketch I knew I liked the overall themes and ideas. However, I wanted a more detailed scene. In my head, in addition to having a castle and sea on one side leading to a forest scene on the other (like the sketch has) it would also have a bunch of "easter egg" type details within. I also decided that the castle was obviously Narnia's Cair Paravel, and the ship must be The Dawn Treader.

Then I imagined there could be a transition to the woods (similar to the book We're Going on a Bear Hunt) with a field of grass, then some mud, then a river and then the forest. Within the forest there would be details like the below sign post (with James' Room added).

Then I suggested a bunch of other ideas: a cave and a bear (Bear Hunt), a lamp post (Narnia), the big bad wolf and little red riding hood, a beanstalk reaching into the sky. Maybe a hot air balloon with the Wizard of Oz floating by? Dorothy's house? Aladdin on a flying carpet? Harry Potter on a broom chasing a golden snitch?

Lettuce Paint took these ideas and ran with them. They made some really cool mockups to show me and I was blown away! Now I could really see where touches could be added to really make the mural a mash-up of James'Mine! favorite children's books! The cave had to have a bear in it. The tree in the foreground could be used to incorporate The Very Hungry Caterpillar. The path leading into the woods? Well it had to be made of yellow bricks right? And the dragon had to be EustaceNarnia again. But you knew that right? didn't he?

After this final round of feedback, Lettuce Paint went to work:

They had some great ideas, like using chalkboard paint on the signpost so we could change the names:

and decoupaging the fruit from The Very Hungry Caterpillar into the scene:

We couldn't be happier with how it turned out, and James loved it!

Here are a few more shots so you can really see the detail:

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Three Little Pigs

My son loves tractors. It began the first time he saw me mowing and only grew once I started taking him on tractor rides. This information spread through our extended family and before you know it James had four different toy tractors. Of course, you can’t just stop with the farm equipment. Toy barns and toy animals soon followed and James' small toy farm quickly grew into a giant toy agribusiness.

One day while looking at his four toy pigs and the nearby pile of megablocks I thought, “Man if I had a toy wolf I could act out The Three Little Pigs.” I scurried over to Amazon and typed in Toy Wolf Toddler and the first thing that popped up was this cool looking playset from Melissa and Doug:

Wow! A toy wolf, three little pigs, and the houses? Sign me up! After a quick search through the reviews I knew I also needed to get a Three Little Pigs board book. After viewing several options I decided to go with Three Little Pigs illustrated by Thea Kliros.Which is mostly great except there is only a Mother Pig. Perhaps Lazy Pig #1 and Playful Pig #2 would have made better housing choices if they had a father figure in their lives. When James and I read it, I replace “Mother” with “The little piggy’s parents”. We started reading the book to James a few nights before Easter and on Easter Morning the Easter Bunny left the playset in his basket. James absolutely loves the book; he’ll bring you the book and then go and gather up every piece of the playset. To be honest, I absolutely love it too. I get to howl like a wolf, add “And your little dog too” when the wolf says “I’ll get you little piggies”Which totally makes sense because the Piggy family seems to own a dog in this version., start the book in my best Stephen Sondheim impression, tickle James’ chiny chin chin while doing a horrible impression of this song,

and act out the entire story with an awesome playset.

Also, with this story the foundation has been set for me to get all postmodern with James once he gets older. “James… did you ever think about the wolf’s side of the story? According to the wolf, he just had a bad cold!”

Or “Hey James! Let me tell you about breaking the 4th wall!”

Or "Did you ever wonder what would happen if the Three Little Pigs met Snow White?"

The possibilities are endless!