Tired of the same old reindeer, santa and nativity scene options? Why not presidents? They can also be used for Presidents' Day and the 4th of July...what could be more economical in these trying times?
Since we live in Virginia, we chose some of Virginia's most famous presidents.
Step 1: Planning and Preparation
1. Start with doodling. Come up with a rough concept sketch. The presidents are going to be rendered on plywood and used as exterior house decoration.
2. Measure the area the presidents will displayed.
3. Sketch the presidents. At this point, we scanned in the rough sketches so we could composite the correct sizes and proportions in Photoshop. Then we printed the composites so we could create final drawings using tracing paper.
3A. OPTIONAL - Rescan the drawings and rendered them in Illustrator. This part was only completely necessary for future use in our online Flash Christmas cards - However, this also allowed us to print out color comps with a grid overlay, which made it easier to redraw on the plywood and to use as a guide while painting.
4. Go to Home Depot to get the large plywood sheets and painting supplies. We didn't have a big enough car to transport the 8x4 foot plywood but no worries - Home Depot will rent you a huge truck for an hour at a cost of $20. Enough space to get your crap home and time to return the truck. The plywood sheets cost about $7 apiece. We needed to buy new brushes and paint and a dropcloth, but you don't need a ton of paint for this so you might be able to make do with what you have around. You need more white than anything else. Also get black and the three primary colors for mixing all the colors you need.
Step 2: Transfer Drawings & Cut Out Shapes
1. Draw a grid on the plywood. The large sheets of plywood come with grids drawn on them on one side already, but we redrew the grids on the other side with the surface that was smoother for painting, and we could use a marker easier to cover up with one coat of primer.
2. Sketch the outline of your pieces onto the plywood. The grid on your source sketch should make this easier to do.
3. Cut out your figures with a jigsaw.
Step 3: Paint Your Presidents
(Most people will want to do this in a garage or workshop area but ours is not weatherproof and is unheated, and there's no TV in there. So we used our guestroom.)
1. Cover the front and edges of your Presidents with Primer. It's OK if you can still see the grid lines faintly underneath, it will help with the next step.
2. Using soft pencil or charcoal, draw the interior lines of your sketch onto the Presidents. You need this to know where to paint in the colors and and the final outlines.
3. Mix paint colors required. We mixed ours in some leftover take out containers we had. Since they have fairly snug lids we were able to keep them around for a few days without having the paint dry out. A ton of paint is not necessary. Even for the largest areas, we didn't need more than a cup or so for complete coverage. We mixed a bit more than we thought we needed for each color, to be safe.
4. Fill in the colors. Use the original sketches as a guide. (Supervisory basenji optional.)
5. Paint on the outlines in black.
Step 4: Presidential Installation
1. Screw in some eye hooks on the back of your plywood pieces. Although they lean up against the house nicely (due to your measuring and pre-planning) you can't account for nature/wind. You'll want to secure the presidents to the house somehow to avoid toppling. We used ordinary twine. On our house, George is gently tied to the shutter and Tom is hooked on a nail. The Virginia banner hangs over the door just like a regular hanging sign.
2. Add a spotlight in front of the house on an automatic timer. Unfortunately we ourselves didn't get around to this step this year, but that's OK since George and Tom are used to not having electricity. Next year when we move on to the Roosevelts we'll need to upgrade.