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May, 2003

... OR

"We gotta git to th' cellar, Dawg; storm's a-comin'!"

This miniature roombox sits on the windowsill in our hall bathroom.

My grandparents in Oklahoma had an outhouse much like this one, and although I never remember actually seeing a tornado approaching while I was in it, I surely do remember hurrying to get out of it in some pretty stormy weather.

The making of this seemingly simple scene was rife with difficulties. I originally had planned to use a box that my son made for me when he was about nine or ten years old.

I used it to display cornhusk dolls for years, and occasionally refurbished it with new flowers, a little bird's nest, etc. When I came across it again after a length of time, the shape reminded me of an outhouse. Since I just happened to have a miniature outhouse waiting for a home, I decided to put a back in, paint the background to suggest blue sky and clouds, then set the outhouse in it and landscape what little area might be left. To keep dust out, I planned to put clear plastic across the front and maybe glue strip wood or molding to hold it in place.

However, when I began to really visualize my grandparents' Oklahoma outhouse, instead of blue skies and white clouds, my memory invariably saw it in bad weather, so I knew I had to have an Oklahoma storm coming. The box proved to be too tall for any storm scene pictures I could use for a background. (NOTE: This was before I became more proficient with graphics.)

This was the original picture I had chosen to use as background. However, if I enlarged it enough to fill in the height of the box, it distorted the picture so much that it lost its effectiveness. So, I decided to use instead a small shadow box with a glass front that slides in place. I have put Jeff's box aside for another display one of these days. His precious gift will have new life in some other form, but it won't be in our bathroom.

Unfortunately, when I got this picture glued into place in the roombox, the fence proved to be a distraction. I tried gluing posts over the painting's posts, but the fence still appeared too big next to the outhouse. I thought I could print out another one without the fence, and tried using PaintShopPro to erase it, but I couldn't duplicate the coloration well because of the mottled sky background and it looked strange where I had cut out the fence. (I have learned more about PSP since then; I think I could do it better now.) Anyway, I ripped the whole background out and started over.

Then, when I got ready to work on these pages for the website I discovered that my disk was faulty, so I lost most of my in-progress photos and had to go back and retake what I could. Aaargh!


The original was used to trace a new backing. I used poster board instead of matboard because it was more flexible (which is usually a problem)


I decided I liked this picture even better. The shades of pink in the sky bring out the color in the hollyhock plant that I want to include. (My grandmother just sort of threw plant seeds out to see where they would take root, often in some surprising places.)


Because my base would be brown dirt I painted around the edges so that no white would show inadvertently where side and floor came together. I had also painted all the edges of the box a dark grey when I used the first picture and had glued in a top cut from a second photo. When I changed photos, I just left the top in place and painted it with a mixture of grey and very dark blue paint. You practically have to stand on your head to see it, anyway, but I wanted to be sure nothing would detract from the scene.

You may notice that the background curves on the right. This was intentional, to give the feeling that the quickly abandoned little outhouse is surrounded by the approaching storm. Curving the back wall this way, however, meant that the base of the scene had to be recut taking the curve into account.


Here's the base pattern, with the curve drawn. The base is like most I make for landscaped scenes - cardboard covered with a glue and paint mixture first. You may notice the brown paint all over the redrawn pattern. Unfortunately, the steps involving the making of the base were lost with that faulty disk, so I don't have photos to show the stages of its construction. Anyway, I worked on it outside the box, then just slipped it into place when the background was ready.

Unfortunately, something else that was lost on that faulty disk was what was pinned and written on the left wall of the outhouse. Now no one will ever know because the outhouse is firmly glued in place and the camera can't see it!

That wonderful hollyhock was made by Laura Settles of OKC. I took one of her half-scale workshops in Tucson, but decided she could do that twelfth-scale hollyhock much better than I ever could!

Notice that newspaper? It's so old the newsprint is discolored and brittle, but it still serves as reading matter to help pass the time.

Somebody has scribbled something on the wall beside the ventilation cutout, and the clippings and pictures also help pass the time, as does that crumpled magazine in the corner.

In his hurry to get to the storm cellar, someone forgot a letter he'd been reading, and isn't that something crumpled up next to the seat? Another piece of mail?

Oklahoma can sure get muddy. These stepping stones on the path help a bit, anyway. (They are made from egg cartons; dry-brushed with various greys and browns.)

Well, storm comin' or not, a dog's gotta do what a dog's gotta do.

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