Friday, December 7, 2012

The Doors of Durin, Lord of Moria

The completion of this project marks the end of one of my most long-standing UFOs* -- it languished for eight whole years.



Peter Jackson's LOTR trilogy of movies came out when I was in college, and for the three years that Elaine and I shared a dorm room, our walls were wallpapered with LOTR articles, magazine covers, calendar pictures, and other paraphernalia. I wish I had thought to take pictures, but alas, there is no evidence that we ever reached such a level of geekery. At the height of this obsession, I began working on painting the Hollin Gate on a huge piece of canvas. Unfortunately, life and and schoolwork got in the way, and at the end of my junior year I sadly took down my uncompleted project. I had only finished the white outlines and a fraction of the gray background, but I folded up the canvas and stuffed it into a storage bin, and somehow managed not to lose it despite moving eight times in eight years. I always thought I'd finish it someday, but after ROTK came out I lost some of the fervor and consequent motivation. Well, apparently a birthday party is sufficient motivation, because I finally finished it!

All Christmas-ed up and ready for picture-taking on Saturday! 

The arch is actually blank, but I cut out runes to say "happy birthday" so that I can change out the greeting depending on the occasion!
The real inscription on Durin's door doesn't actually say happy birthday, of course. Besides stating the riddle one has to solve to open it ("speak friend and enter"), it also proclaims that Narvi made it and Celebrimbor made the symbols, but that's silly and non-applicable in this case, so I opted to leave the arch blank. 

I actually have no idea how I managed to sketch out the design for this on such a large scale; I didn't have a projector or transparency machine to help me out, and the only reference picture I had was the tiny one in my copy of FOTR, but somehow I managed to capture the very recognizable look of the West-gate of Moria. It's a good thing I did such a thorough job those many years ago, because it was quite easy to finish up the painting of this. Probably the most difficult part was pacifying Mr. Cation while this giant canvas took up all of our dining area, as that's the biggest non-carpeted space in our apartment.

It reaches almost from the floor to the ceiling!

It's a good thing I covered surfaces with garbage bags, because the paint definitely seeped through. I learned this lesson the hard way junior year: when I took down the canvas from the wall a day before I had to move out, there were all of these dark gray blotches all over the wall! I panicked for a little bit before realizing I could whip out my paints again and paint over all the blotches. Good thing I was able to match the whites and get my deposit back!

Summary: 
Materials: Three yards of 54" wide heavy duty cream-colored canvas from the UCSD Bookstore, two 16 fl. oz. bottles of white tempera paint, one 8 fl. oz. bottle of black tempera paint, several different sizes of paintbrush
Time required: I don't remember how much time I put into this in junior year, but it took me about ten more hours to finish painting this. Even though it was just mindless filling in of space, it was tricky mixing the same shade of gray every time, and the canvas was also extremely hard to paint, with all its divots and ability to suck up huge amounts of paint. I managed to watch The King's Speech and listen to several episodes of Radiolab and EscapePod while working on it.
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Will you do this again? Is it crazy to want to do my whole (imaginary) house in LOTR decor? Mr. Cation got me the Hobbit art book that has all of Tolkien's original artwork for my birthday, and I'm thinking that the Elvenking's gate would make a fantastic living room mural. I don't think I'll ever paint such a large canvas again, though.
Total cost: A little less than $50, but most of it was so long ago it feels much cheaper than that. $6 in paint, $30 for the canvas, and another $10 in paintbrushes. If I were doing it again now, I would know that canvas can be gotten for much cheaper with coupons at Joann's.
Final thoughts: Last year's Christmas decoration was just a cardboard fireplace...I'm thinking that this is taking the DIY holiday focus piece to a whole 'nother level! Also, unlike the fireplace, which we ended up recycling, this is something I can fold up and keep and bring out at appropriate occasions. When we move to somewhere more permanent, I'd love to actually stretch it out onto a frame so that the edges don't look so grodilated. I thought about binding the edges with some extra-wide bias tape, but I don't much fancy trying to sew through canvas covered with a thick layer of paint.

Walnut looking especially fuzzy in front of the door. 


Mr. Cation also got me the first Hobbit Lego set: Riddles for the Ring. It's just a tiny set, but I appreciate that Gollum's arms are articulated, as well as the ring's hiding place behind a couple of "rocks." It's also nice that they included an extra ring, because a piece that size is just asking to be lost... LOSSSTTT, my precious! Curse us and crush us, the precious is lost!!!

Walnut makes a reluctant showroom model. 
Gollum comes with a nice fish. "Give it to us raw and wriggling! You keep nasty chips!"

Lego made minifigs for each of the characters! I love that there's a warg!

29 comments:

  1. DUDE. This is so awesome. I want one. Also the second one, too. This reminds me of some awesome painted hangings my old roommate had years ago... Painted in white on black fabric. They made the living room AWESOME. Raw canvas does eat up a ton of paint---that's what gesso is for, but of course that's not very helpful at this stage. /sigh. Major want. Great job. :)

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    1. If it were up to me, I would have a whole collection of these (but with say, the Rohan banner or something different) to decorate my living room with. Alas, Mr. Cation does not seem to be for this ;)

      Thanks for the gesso tip -- I actually have never heard of that before, so it's good to file away for future reference!

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  2. Amazing photo backdrop for your party! You did an impressive job with the proportions without being able to enlarge it with a projector! And I love that you made the "message" changeable, hehe.

    As Tanit-Isis said, gesso helps seal the canvas for painting. But in case you want an even cheaper alternative in the future, you can use watered-down Elmer's glue. That's what they use on flats (aka fake walls) in theatre. The flats are usually just muslin attached to some wood frames. The glue-water mixture is painted on to seal the fabric and tighten it on the frame, which makes it ready for painting.

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    1. Changeable message = greater chances of convincing people that this is appropriate year-round decor! Thanks for the Elmer's glue secret, too! When I was in high school, I always wanted to work on theater sets because it just sounded so cool, so I guess this is the closest I'll ever get!

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  3. That is amazing!! If only I could convince my roommate to let me put one on our walls! Maybe on a dark t-shirt instead?
    I'm listening to the Hobbit audiobook right now to prepare for the movie-can't wait!

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    1. Ooh, this would be much easier to do on a dark t-shirt if you had a bleach pen! The larger the scale, the trickier. I can't wait for the movie either!

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  4. That is incredible. And I really want some LOTR legos now; I didn't know they existed ;)

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    1. Yes! They were just released this August, and there's a whole bunch of Hobbit ones coming out soon too!

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  5. Wow! I love it! As I was admiring your art on my iPad, my DD walked by and said "Hey, that's the gate from LOTR's!" She loved your work of art also.

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  6. amazing beyond belief! i vote more middle earth inspired posts ;)

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    1. Heh, you're getting your wish -- there's more because of my party!

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  7. Haha! You are such an adorable geek! The gate is amazing, I would have recognised it right away (despite not being a LotR geek at all). Have the most fantastic party tomorrow, and happy, happy birthday!

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    1. Thanks Leimomi! Glad it's iconic enough even for non-fans to recognize!

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  8. Enjoy your party and especially enjoy being the unique and wonderful being you are!
    Monique

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    1. Thank you! The party was indeed lots of fun!

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  9. My goodness, you are multi-talented! This is fantastic! Enjoy your party and many more birthdays. Give Master Walnut a pat. Regena in TN.

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    1. Walnut accepts the pats that are his due, and I accept your well-wishes for the party :) It was lots of fun and the backdrop was a hit!

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  10. Wonderful work! Happy Birthday!

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  11. I love how you completely admit to your geekdom! I'm not as hard core but i put up a gandalf poster in my room the other day! Counting down the days, wish I lived in California and could go to your birthday party!

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    1. I'm learning to wholeheartedly embrace my geekdom, and boy is it fun! Gandalf is pretty dang awesome, isn't he?

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  12. Oooooh--I LOVE this! The whole Moria adventure was my favorite part of the movie--it was just so deliciously creepy :)

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    1. Wasn't it?? When they start reading the end of the record book and the drums start, I got the most amazing shivers up my spine!

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  13. Nerd crushing on this so hard! Well done with perseverance on this one- it has come up a treat! We're about to repaint the bedroom walls... I wonder if I can sneak one in... ;)

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    1. Yes!!! Sneak in a giant mural :) I'm sure it would go well with your decor!

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  14. EPIC CRUSH. I love this so much, and I'm so glad you finished it! It's spectacular in its scale and detail. I also really love that you put Happy Birthday in runes on it :)

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    1. Thanks Meg! Hmm, now I'm going to have to look up all manner of greetings in Elvish...like "Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day!"

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  15. This is an awesome wall hanging, and your hobbit maiden costume is lovely. And how fun to meet up with other becostumed LOTR fanatics. I sent my kids to the movie yesterday (with Dad) and they were the only ones wearing costumes.

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