This custom painted headboard is featured in the John Kalama room at McMenamins Kalama Harbor Lodge.
John Kalama Headboard
When McMenamins offered me the chance to paint a custom headboard to accompany the painting of John Kalama that I did for the John Kalama room, I was thrilled and SO ready to get to work.
Take a moment to learn more about the John Kalama Room at McMenamins new Kalama Harbor Lodge!
The headboards in each room are designed to pick up the major themes or symbols in the main painting, but not be as elaborate or detailed as the main painting. There was also the small matter of logistics. This headboard had to be painted in two days, on location in the still under construction facility–meaning no heat, no electricity and no water. Plus, I didn’t know the exact dimensions so I couldn’t prepare a transfer sketch. No pressure there!
I do my best work in my own studio with my preferred lighting, heat on, cup of coffee (or wine) by my side and Pandora radio tuned to my fav station. There’s even a comfy studio chair to support my backside. Ah, the creature comforts of an artist’s life!
But this project had none of that! Two, five-gallon buckets made ideal suitcases for all my paint tubes, brushes, charcoal, tracing paper, water buckets, spray bottles, rulers, rags, snacks, electronics, extension cords, gloves and more. Two empty gallon milk jugs were filled with water. Grungy sweatshirt, jeans, shoes and even a hat that could withstand paint smears were my fashion choices. Maximizing the light was my main priority.
Headboard with my ‘idea sketch’ taped to the top and a few measuring lines in place.
This is the headboard as it looked when I arrived. Note the ‘M’ shape. I’ve never painted an ‘M’ shaped canvas! So I added some measuring lines to help me get my elements aligned correctly. My light was coming from windows on the left and behind.
Headboard with two-thirds of the background composition in place (water and distant hills).
It’s really hard to paint ‘around’ things (like fish and trees). So I opted to paint in layers. First, the background water and hills, all designed to draw the viewer into the distance. You can see how it matches my ‘idea sketch’.
Headboard with sunset sky and water reflections in place.
My ‘idea sketch’ hadn’t really quantified how much sky I’d need to fill, and originally I thought I’d just put a blue sky there. But being in the actual room looking out at the actual water and seeing the actual sunset gave me the idea to put it there. Which was a great idea in theory and quite a bit harder in application. It took me all all the rest of the first day. I was exhausted, and the light was pretty much gone.
Draw and transfer fishies and add canoe shapes.
Day two. Time for fishies and canoes. I taped up tracing paper and drew the first fish, then flipped it over for the second fish in reverse. Then I traced both on with white chalk and hand sketched in the canoes. This took a bit, like most of the morning. But I had to get the the fishies correct or all would be for naught! I also did some more sunset work.
Paint the fish like a madwoman.
Time was of the essence and the afternoon was waning. The fish took me the most time because I had to get them correct. Canoes took more paint but weren’t that detailed. I was mixing, spraying and painting like crazy! You can also see a mini transfer of the fish at the top left of the ‘M’. That is a tracing of one of the fish from the main painting – the one these two are modeled after. I also added stars on the deep blue sky at the top.
Sign it, clean up the mess, remove my sketches and take a final photo. I also widened the arc of the sunset reflections in the water so they were touching the boat. Time was up, the sun was setting, and Allan helped me move it into the bathroom like McMenamins instructed me to do so the floorers could install flooring the next week. I had to say goodbye!
Goodnight John Kalama Room! I hope the people who stay here enjoy my headboard as much as I did painting it. –Marie Wise, Artist.