I was approached to paint a custom-designed Little Free Library for the village of Ashwaubenon. It would be placed at the entrance of the village’s community garden.
The Little Free Library is a nonprofit organization that promotes neighborhood book exchanges. There are more than 90,000 public book exchanges that are registered with the organization and branded as Little Free Libraries. A Little Free Library is a mounted, wooden container designed to look like a one-room school house on a post, filled with books. The concept is very simple. A passerby can either take a book or leave a book for someone to take or borrow. The goal is to make it easier for communities to have access to books and so readers of all ages and backgrounds can enjoy reading.
Sketches and Process
In my initial discussions regarding the Little Free Library, my client asked that since the library would be situated next to a community garden, that it resemble a garden shed. Some of the ideas she brought to our meeting regarding the three exterior sides included a bike leaning against the side of the shed with a basket filled with flowers, a window on both sides of the shed, each having a window box filled with zinnias, playful animal characters, an apple tree, and a vegetable garden with a scarecrow on the back panel. My client suggested I paint the plants’ roots growing in the soil of the garden. All of these ideas were incorporated into the final design and painting.
One of the things that my client wanted me to keep in mind when designing the Garden Shed Little Library was to promote a sense of “whimsy” throughout. Thus, I sketched many different concepts regarding the playful animal characters. I initially had the concept of including funny little scenes featuring the animal characters that would tell a different story on each side. However, I had to remind myself that the purpose of this project was to promote reading. I then focused on creating scenes featuring the animal characters reading/being read to on each of the three outside portions of the Little Library.
The interiors of most Little Free Libraries are not painted, nor have any sort of designs. My client presented the unique, and ultimately rewarding, challenge of designing and painting this Little Library’s interior to resemble the inside of an actual garden shed. I researched items typically found in a shed which would help a gardener care for plants and maintain the space in and around a garden.
After sketching out the concepts for the three exterior panels of the Garden Shed Little Library, I had to get them approved by the Ashwaubenon Parks & Rec Department. I digitally painted the concepts using Photoshop to make it as easy as possible for my clients to see how the exterior would look.
Final Garden Shed Little Library Exterior
After getting the mock-ups approved, it was time to sketch out and paint the designs on the wooden pieces that made up the unfinished Little Free Library kit that my client supplied. Below you can see the many exterior designs before they were pieced together to assemble the Garden Shed Little Library.
Final Garden Shed Little Library Interior
Here are the painted interior pieces. You can see the intricate detail that went into creating a complete garden shed appearance which works well with the exterior. I knew from the start that including this amount of detail would be a daunting task. I believe I was able to achieve a complete theme of the design for the Garden Shed Little Library.
Final Completed Garden Shed Little Library
Below are images of the completed Garden Shed Little Library. It is now mounted on a wooden post at the entrance of the Ashwaubenon Community Garden.