Every year I spend time in the summer in Amarillo, TX appreciating the Panhandle in a way that I’m fairly certain most people don’t. Amarillo has enough artsy quirks to inspire me for years and there is no trip I anticipate more, knowing the entire time will be spent worry free and creating.
Rewind time back to 1995 when my best friend Meredith and I decided to take our Amarillo trip a step further than usual. We packed ourselves into our brown Cheverolet, known as Brown Car thanks to the thick twang of a voice on the intercom at Love’s Truck Stop that announced, “Welcome To Love’s Brown Car.” (By the way, if you happen to borrow someone’s Brown Car and can’t find the gas tank, check under the license plate. It took us and many other people at the gas station way too long to figure that out. You’re welcome for the tip.)……Our destination: The Town Without A Frown. HAPPY, TX.
I had no idea that when drove down the streets laughing at Betty’s Beauty Box and the dilapidated Happy Cowboys and Cowgirls painted on the side of the school that Happy would one day become the setting for the story I would write that would change my life forever.
To put it nicely, Happy did NOT look Happy and we couldn’t figure out why. Why was it so run down? Yet, why was it still there….with actual people living in it?? We were very confused. Happy’s weirdness seemed to follow us out of the town and back to Amarillo where a series of odd occurrences either actually happened to us or we made ourselves believe they did….either way, Happy got to me and stayed with me and because of that, it became the home for Bunny Danger Awesome Slash Trouble.
But I needed a reason that Happy wasn’t happy anymore.
As it turns out, a deadly-ish tornado hit The Town Without A Frown many years ago and rather than killing the people, it simply killed their joy. It sucked the life and creativity out of every living creature and made them all hide in their homes reading the same books over and over again and stare at empty walls.
If you’ve been following the story so far you’ll know our hero, Bunny Danger Awesome Slash Trouble found himself in Happy also searching for the answers to the mystery of the lack of happy. When he stumbled upon Chicken, the one splash of color and hope residing in the forgotten wasteland, she let him in on Happy’s secret to its sadness.
This image is where Bunny is learning about the tragic storm.
Creating The Image
It wasn’t hard to find the rubble I needed in Happy but it wasn’t so obvious to me how I would find my tornado. I don’t like the idea of using stock photos in my Bunny Danger series because this series is so personal to me. I don’t have a problem with stock photos in general, but for this series, I want everything to come from my heart…or at the very least, from a heart of someone I know and to know it came from their heart.
Houston has a pretty kick ass music scene. In it, lies a pretty kick ass band. The Southern Backtones. But what I didn’t know was that the singer, Hank Schyma, is also a pretty kick ass ninja warrior storm chaser. After Gabe and I were invited by Hank to the most epic party/art show Houston has ever seen I realized I had found my tornado.
“That tornado was extremely special to me. It deviated backwards / the wrong way. paused just in front of me, blew me a kiss then went back on it’s way.”
Watch his crazy encounter here!
It was extremely special to me to have a tornado look exactly how I needed it to look and to come from a place where I could learn first hand how it impacted the person crazy enough to get close to it. You absolutely HAVE to check out the brilliant work of Pecos Hank. ANYONE NEEDING STORMS OR KILLER ANIMALS CHECK OUT PECOS HANK. He has a terrific store on his site!
While I was working on this image and wondering how I was going to pull off making the tornado look like it was sucking the color out I was invited by Topaz Labs to do a Beta test for their new painting software, Topaz Impression. As soon as I started playing with it, I KNEW Impression was what I had been missing all along. The selection of painting and drawing options is brilliant. Each setting is highly customizable and provided the painterly yet chaotic look I needed in the tornado.
When I use anything like that as an overlay, I always, always tone it way down with my layer opacity. I don’t want anything that I create to be a push button solution unless I’m just messing around with an image. But Impression was definitely my solution. I was able to apply different textures from Impression to different parts of the image to create the exact richness I was going for. Bunny’s world is a place somewhere between realistic and fantasy and being able to blend the two means I need something like Impression to make that vision come to life. You can try out Topaz Impression for free for 30 days so I can’t recommend enough that you try it out and play!
The evolution of the image as a gif:
I hope you’ll keep following the journey of Bunny as it unfolds! Stay tuned for the next image where we find out what the hell happened to Happy in the first place. It’s one of my favorite images in the series!
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