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Cheltenham artist takes pride in vibrant lawn art creations

November 24, 2022   ·   0 Comments

Rod Smith started making lawn art when pandemic slowed down his other work

By Zachary Roman

It’s hard to miss Rod Smith’s house.

When driving north down Creditview Road, just before the big hill into Cheltenham’s village core, people are greeted by an eight-foot tall “Bumble” from the classic Christmas movie Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.

It’s one of the many classic characters local artist Smith has fashioned into high-quality lawn art through a meticulous process he perfected throughout the pandemic.

Smith had a successful career painting huge murals at shopping malls and on the side of buildings. After that, he switched careers; but when work slowed down due to the pandemic, Smith knew it was time to pivot. He made his first few pieces of lawn art and posted them for sale on Facebook, and news of his work spread online and by word of mouth.

Soon, people were calling Smith to place orders, and he turned his lawn art side hustle into a full-fledged business: Krafty Moose Workshop. 

When Smith began creating his lawn art, he used plywood as the base. He explained there’s a lot of work involved, such as cutting, sanding, and, of course, many coats of primer and paint.

When the pandemic caused lumber prices to skyrocket, Smith had to pivot once again and he began using Medium Density Fiberboard (MBF) as a base. While it’s more expensive, Smith said it’s higher quality and better suited for outdoor use.

“I’ve done some tests, I left some plain stuff outside in the rain and all that, and it holds up wonderfully,” said Smith, adding he uses top of the line paints and lettering enamel to help the art last for years and years. “The colours are solid. Some colours are a bit more difficult, like reds and greens need at least four coats of paint to get them solid.”

Smith said because he has a lot of experience as an artist, he wanted his lawn art work to be at a different level of quality, where you can’t even see any brushstrokes.

While Smith gets lots of business from homeowners, he gets business from businesses too. He recalled a time when a business in Collingwood bought a whole bunch of art at one time to use to decorate their float for the local Christmas parade. The company ended up winning first prize for their float, something that Smith was very proud to be a part of.

Smith will sell smaller lawn art in the four feet tall range for around $275. In the six-foot range, prices are around $500 to $600, and in the eight-foot jumbo range, prices are around $750. Smith said he understands his work might not be in everyone’s budget and that he’s just trying to occupy the high-end range of the market.

“There’s a lot of prep work involved and it’s not easy work. I get sore at the end of the day, I tend to make 10 or 15 of one character at a time,” said Smith. “I’m using the higher-end materials… with my years of experience, I’m trying to get everything perfect, colours and all.”

Smith has a workshop behind his house, and that’s where he makes each and every one of his lawn art characters. There’s famous ones like The Grinch, Santa and Ms. Claus, Darth Vader, Baby Yoda, Homer Simpson and Peter Griffin.

Smith does lawn art for both Halloween and Christmas, and he also takes on custom orders — he recently completed some work for a tattoo parlour, for example.

“One day, I will do a bunch of drawing to get all the designs drawn out. The next day, I will head out here to the front of my shop with my jigsaw, I’ll cut by hand and sand by hand,” said Smith. “After that, they’re all laid out on tables. All of the backs get two coats of water-based paint to seal the wood, and then two coats of oil to seal the wood, so you have a nice black background.”

Once that phase is complete, Smith will flip the wood over and apply three coats of white paint to the front so he has a bright and fresh surface to work on. Only then does he begin painting the characters.

“It’s going to look exactly how you’d see on TV or in comics,” said Smith, adding that he jokes with people he doesn’t cut corners unless it’s with his jigsaw. “People really do prefer something that’s handmade, as opposed to buying something on Amazon or at a big box store.”

Smith said he believes in supporting local businesses and that it’s a great feeling when he sees a piece of his art in the community.

He’s been in Cheltenham for about 15 years and said he loves how close-knit it is.

Krafty Moose Workshop is online on Facebook and Instagram for those looking to learn more or reach out to Smith. 

“I love doing it. I put my earbuds on and listen to some great tunes while I work,” said Smith. “When you’re surrounded by all these characters, how can you not smile?”



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