Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Original Paintings in Seven Easy Steps

After moving to new-to-you living quarters, blank walls often cry out for decoration. Oil paintings would be cost-prohibitive, but not if the paintings are your own originals!
You demure, "I couldn't...I've never taken any painting lessons...I don't have a summer to devote to sketching and painting...I don't have enough money, nor do I have supplies...I wouldn't know where to begin."

Excuses be gone.

Without lessons, in less than two days, for about one hundred dollars, my daughters and I created three very large canvases to add visual interest to a very large, blank wall.

Obviously, these are not Guggenheim-quality creations.

However, the three paintings are pleasing, very basic, geometric abstracts in my daughter's bedroom colorway.

Remember elementary school art classes and finger-painting? It's time to revive the child within, put away defeatism, and join "Art for Amateurs". You can do this!

Here is a step-by-step recipe for painting three contemporary, original canvases.

STEP ONE: Gather supplies. Look in your cupboards for paper towels, masking tape, and tupperware-like containers. Add whatever you don't have to your "to-purchase list".

At a craft store like Michael's or A. C. Moore or an art supply store buy:
1. pre-stretched canvases (Choose sizes that will fill your space, taking advantage of the frequent fifty-percent-off-specials on stretched canvases.) and
2. a couple of large, natural-hair flat or round brushes. (We used two-inch wide flat brushes previously used to paint walls.)
Next, visit your favorite paint store--Benjamin Moore, Sherman Williams, Ace Hardware, or Home Depot--wherever you purchased your wall paint. Ask for four water-based colors:
1. their smallest can of your wall color,
2. their smallest can of the shade or two lighter than your wall color,
3. their smallest can of the shade or two darker than your wall color,
4. their smallest can of white paint, and
5. a plastic drop cloth.

STEP TWO:Find a bright place to paint, large enough to spread out the drop cloth. Pick a place safe for splashing, and check the weather to be sure the sun will be shining while you work.

STEP THREE:Wearing old clothes, pour the darkest color into a plastic container. You may want to dilute it a bit with water--not so thin as to be runny. Paint each canvas entirely in the darkest color, include the side edges. (Remember the dark-under-light principle.)

Water-based paint dries quickly, so you should work holistically and quickly--follow the fifteen minute rule. Now is not the time for perfectionism. Use broad strokes, letting them show. Have fun like you did in kindergarten with finger paints.

When the canvases are covered, STOP. Clean out your brush with soap and water, while letting the paintings dry thoroughly. Depending on the humidity, this should take no more than an hour.

STEP FOUR: When the canvases are dry, use masking tape to divide each into sections--using the "golden third" principle you learned in elementary school art class.

STEP FIVE: Next, dilute with water the same-shade-as-your-walls paint; again, aim for a consistency not so thick as to be dark, nor so thin as to run. Layer this wall-shade lightly over the top two-thirds of canvas number one, top one-third of canvas number two, and bottom one-third of canvas number three. (See illustration below.)

Don't cover the dark under-color completely, but let it peak through, allowing brush strokes to show. STOP. Clean your brush thoroughly. Let the canvases dry thoroughly--again about an hour should be sufficient.

STEP SIX: Now it's time to remove the masking tape and dilute the lightest tone in your wall-paint color family. Again with broad happy strokes, layer over the bottom third of canvas number one, the bottom two-thirds of canvas number two, and the top two-thirds of canvas number three. (In other words, cover lightly with the palest tone what has not been painted in the medium shade.)

Smudge with paper towel the break lines between thirds. Remember to paint the border edges of the canvases. STOP. Clean brushes thoroughly. Let dry.

STEP SEVEN: Finally, for the last step of the process, take your white paint and dilute it until it is a very thin, runny whitewash. Lightly brush the whitewash over all canvases to provide a gentle haze over each entire painting. STOP. Wash out brushes. Let dry.

Voila. Original art, ready to hang!

I hope this tutorial, written in response to a question on a former post(http://graciousinteriors.blogspot.com/2010/04/sneak-peek.html,) has encouraged you to bury your insecurities and resurrect your God-mirrored creativity.


  1. What a grand idea! Original art, however basic, is still ART. These canvases look beautiful!

    I was just admiring your blog header. "Winsome" is one of my favorite words in the language. What a great goal!

    Welcome to blogging. May you find many friends here!

  2. You have such a lovely blog! I would also love to live in Lancaster County...I have another blog friend who lives in Lancaster County..,I'll have to figure out which one she is (I think it is my friend Becky...) and let you know! (I've been reading a lot of my blog friend's writings and now I can't remember who I just saw that says she lives in Lancaster County!)
    I love the Amish areas. We live in Indiana and have several settlements but of course, the largest one in in the Northern Indiana area. We live near Indianapolis...
    Nice to meet you!

  3. By the way, the bedroom you have on your blog is similar to my master bedroom that I posted on my blog a week or so ago. It is light blue with navy on one wall but the color scheme and the bed and linens are similar! We both must have good taste!! Hehe!!

  4. Ok...so here it is. Becky at Hospitality Lane lives in Lancaster and so do others that I read! They are having a blogger's get together at a beautiful garden near or in Lancaster...I don't know how to link from her site to here but if you go on my blog, she has two blogs, Homeschooling at Hospitality Lane and Hospitality Lane! I just thought you might be interested!

  5. Wow! Beth could be in networking! ((Smile)).
    I am so glad she sent you my way. I do hope you will visit my main blog at www.hospitalitylane.blogspot.com.

    We are arranging a Blogger Meet for June at Longwood Gardens. It would be very special if you could join us.

    Becky K.

  6. Fun post, Maurie, I do alot of original art, and abstractions are my favorite to do...maybe because I get to be a little "random" lol (or maybe a lot!) Your daughters paintings turned out really well, and they look wonderful in the room. Thanks for sharing the technique.

  7. Hi, Maurie, thank you for stopping by, so nice to meet you. And welcome to blogging! It's been such a joy for me to meet so many wonderful women in blogland. Thanks for the sweet note & for adding me to your blogroll, I look forward to seeing you around too.

    How fun to create art with your daughters. I've never attempted anything like that, yet I will rip carpet off my steps. Go figure! :)