Home is Where the Camper Is

In The Home
Scooter Duke the art of camping

Photos courtesy of Scooter Duke

With TLC and imagination, a local artist turns her campers into personal resorts to go.

There’s nothing Scooter Duke loves more than having a paintbrush in her hand. Unless it’s camping – correction, glamping – or, better yet, a combination of the two.

“I glamp,” Scooter says. “I don’t camp. I have Netflix, TV and air conditioning inside.”

Some of her favorite spots include Plumb Branch Yacht Club, Ridge Road and Wildwood Park at Clarks Hill as well as campgrounds in Helen, Savannah, Jekyll Island and Hilton Head. Regardless of where she parks her vacation home, however, it’s easy to find her campsite.

She usually sets up camp in her vintage 1981 Holiday Rambler with the pink flamingos that she painted on the exterior. Actually, Scooter has four campers – each one with its own theme – but the pink flamingo one is her favorite.

“My campers are fun and artsy,” she says. “I enjoy them. They’re glorified tents.”

Home Away From Home

Scooter Duke Camping FlamingoesScooter started camping 25 years ago, and she has had a number of campers through the years. She loves vintage campers, but she always makes them stand out with her artistic talents.

Currently, her other campers include a 1963 Serro Scotty Sportsman, featuring the aqua flower she painted on the side and a matching awning; a 1977 Yellowstone, a rustic farmhouse camper with a western theme, and a 2003 slide out with extending sides to create extra living space.

She paints the exteriors of her campers with oil-based 1-shot lettering enamel, which also contains UV protection from the sun, so they can withstand the elements.

Scooter says it takes her two weekends, or about four long days, to paint a camper. She also sands and primes the campers before she paints them.

“Some people have she sheds, but I have my campers,” says Scooter. “They’re my home away from home – around water.”

Photos courtesy of Scooter DukeEvery January she sits down with a calendar to make her camping schedule, and she plans the rest of her year around it. She tries to go camping at least once a month, or every three weeks if she can.

“I just like the peace and quiet and being outdoors. My brain just relaxes, and I’m not worried about anything. I’m in a whole different world,” says Scooter. “Camping clears my mind and gives me peace. It’s my escape from reality.”

When she camps, she likes to grill out, cook over campfires and take her 8- and 15-year-old nephews fishing. “I really want to make memories with them,” says Scooter.

Her husband of 23 years isn’t a fan of camping, so she loads up her two chihuahuas and invites friends to join them.

“My friends say, ‘Call me when you get everything set up and I’ll come,’” says Scooter.

Scooter Duke the art of campingThe setup is a sight to behold. After all, Scooter doesn’t just pull into a camping spot and call it good. She dresses up her campsites with all the creature comforts of home.

She puts up a colorful awning and creates outdoor sitting areas with chairs, ottomans, tables, a rug, string lights or tiki torches and maybe a straw hat-wearing blowup pink flamingo or two. She has been known to station a hot pink garden flag that says, “Let’s Flamingle” outside her flamingo camper.

“I touch it up every year. I add a little bit more flair,” Scooter says. “It’s really frou-frou. I have pink flamingos and a chandelier inside. I love flamingos because they remind me of summertime and water.”

As for the awnings, they are more for looks than function.

“They don’t stop the rain,” Scooter says. “They just add a little character.”

Scooter Duke-glamping fun and artsyShow Ready

She pays just as much attention to the interior décor of her campers, painting the walls and decorating them in themes that match the exteriors. For instance, the flamingo camper has a pearl faux finish on the walls, and it is filled with aqua and coral throw pillows, stuffed flamingos, flamingo lamps, flamingo bedspreads, handmade curtains, a banner that says “Summer” and aqua appliances.

The Scotty features an aqua, silver and chrome color scheme with a metallic look on the walls.

“The outside of the campers attract attention, but I personally like the interiors because of the coziness,” says Scooter. “It’s also easier to paint the inside because the exterior requires more prep work.”

She says teal, aqua and coral are her favorite colors because they look vintage.

“When I go shopping, my eyeballs go straight for aquas and corals. I look for something that pops,” says Scooter. “I put everything together. It’s just fun to sit around and look at it.”

Scooter Camping clears my mind and gives me peace." She’s not the only one who enjoys her handiwork, however, so she insists on keeping her campers show ready.

“People want to see the inside of the camper and take pictures of it. I tell my friends they can’t leave their suitcases out,” says Scooter.

She also paints campers for other people. When one of her friends was dating a beekeeper, she asked Scooter to paint a honeybee-themed camper for him. She painted honeybees and bright yellow flowers on the exterior of the Citation. The interior featured bright yellow curtains and throw pillows with bees or black and white honeycomb patterns on them.

Calming and Therapeutic

Scooter, who started painting murals on her bedroom walls when she was 13 or 14 years old, not only embellishes campers with her artistic talents.

She’ll paint on just about any surface including trees cut into slabs, concrete, wooden floors, furniture, canvases and tennis shoes. She paints designs on business windows or murals on the sides of buildings. She still paints murals, particularly baby murals, in people’s homes as well.

Photos courtesy of Scooter DukeShe also helped her stepdaughter, Laura Duke, paint an octopus mural on the wall at Trattoria Polipo, an Italian restaurant on Walton Way Extension.

Most people find out about her artwork through word-of-mouth, and other than the art classes she took in high school, she never had any formal training.

Oftentimes, when she works, she just picks up a brush and starts painting.

“I usually have an idea in my head, or I’ll do a sketch on the computer so I’ll have a draft,” says Scooter. “If somebody tells me what they want, I can see it in my head and put it on paper for them.”

Scooter Duke GlamperWhen she was 16 years old, Scooter started doing hand lettering as a sign painter after the father of one of her friends hired her to work at his sign company. She received on-the-job training and stayed at the shop for 10 years.

She also worked in the sign shop to create signs for projects at Plant Vogtle for 13 years and has been doing the same type of work at SRS since July.

Scooter, who rarely slows down and got her nickname from her father when he called her his “little motor scooter,” says painting is calming and therapeutic for her.

“It’s like fishing,” she says. “You just get away from reality and you’re in your own thoughts.”

By Betsy Gilliland