Erica was preparing gifts for a couple if special women in her life. I wanted to pump up the volume in the artwork for my downstairs blue bathroom. We settled on canvases. I already had one ginormous canvas, and by ginormous I mean this beast is about four feet wide and three feet tall, painted in several broad, bold colorful stripes. Some time ago I had started hand painting random song lyrics to it and was ready to do more. For Erica's project we found inspiration on Pinterest. And we learned a few valuable lessons worth sharing.
Just for fun how many of my song lyrics do you recognize?
My project is so random it barely warrants discussion, but I have enjoyed cramming song lyrics into the colorful bands. It hangs where you cannot miss it, so I always leave the powder room singing one fun thing or another. How many do you recognize? Are you singing anything yet? Bonus points to you if you know any of the artists.
Erica's project is what I want to talk about. The idea is more than stenciling letters on canvas. The idea is first covering the canvas with newspaper then stenciling letters on and painting a solid color. All in an upstairs Apartment that is very likely haunted.
It was slightly less easy than we expected.
1. Okay. First, I suggest you dive right in by adhering newspaper smoothly and fastidiously to the canvas. Do this before you even spend time deciding on your words or paint colors. Getting the newspaper flat and dry will take a bit of time, and you can think about the other fun stuff while your first stage dries. We used mod-podge; I am pretty sure plain white glue would also work.
This stage is important, because if it bubbles up too much then you are destined to cry and use swear words and kick empty boxes across the room when your letters have weird edges later. A blistered newspaper base makes the letters extra weird later. One more tip here: Do take care to not display sad things on your canvas, just in case the paint later seems transparent. Example? Erica and I accidentally drew sheets from a section of obituaries. Sad. Terrible mojo for a birthday gift for her sweet sister. Erica caught it in plenty of time, by the way, just a head's up for you.
You can probably see some blisters in the newspaper here.
By this stage in our project, it was too late to repair.
It turned out pretty cool, but you can be better than us!
2. Once you are satisfied that your layer of torn and cleverly oriented newspaper is dry, it's time to lay down your message. We used a set of reusable vinyl letter stencils I've had for a while. They are plain block shapes and not expensive. But I want to say that while they are technically reusable, they do gradually lose a bit of stick over time This is another good reason to make sure you papered canvas is really truly bone dry before you lay down stickers; they are more likely to stick to a flat, dry surface than a damp, bumpy one. In fact, as it dries, you might scrape a flat edge against the paper layer. I think it would help.
Erica and I discovered that the longer the quote, the higher the chance you'll have to reuse some letters. We know this because we are smart like scientists. It made for a funny rotation of arms and hands, a comical sticker-paint-sticker-again process. Not a big problem, but something to consider if you're going to the craft store anyway and can afford to buy two sets of letters.
So your canvas has been papered with cool looking black and white newspaper and it is dry like a desert and flat like farmland.
You have placed your vinyl letters in such a smart and witty way that you almost want to leave it just like that. You love your quote You love it so much. Time to paint.
3. Now just choose a gorgeous solid color and paint it. But don't go all crazy on it! Paint it evenly, gingerly, with extra attention paid to the edges and corners of those fussy little vinyl letter stickers. They have a maddening way of peeling up invisibly and allowing paint to seep into exactly where it does not belong. It may not seem like a big deal at first; but as your finished product is unveiled you will chagrin so many blurry edges that cannot be fixed.
So paint. Paint slowly. Use a straight-edged foam brush if you have one. Paint with Zen and peace in your heart. Paint while breathing in through your nose and out through your gently pursed lips. Engage your core and focus. Breathe. Paint. Breathe some more.
Depending on the color you choose and your personal taste, you might want to allow time for a second coat. The canvas we painted with turquoise turned out really rich with just one coat because that paint had a base included and is meant for furniture. This red is simply red craft paint, I guess acrylic. It showed a bit more newspaper through its veil of color, which you may or may not groove. Your call.
Bonus points to you again if you can name the movie and character for this quote!
Taking your time with each step of your project will pay off.
4. What should happen is that once every speck of your solid paint color is about 97% dry, you then gently peel away every letter sticker. What remains visible is the newspaper, with crisp colorful edges. Perhaps you can see here that we had so many blurry edges we decided to give them some muscle by hand-tracing the letters with a black Sharpie. Not Erica's first choice, not exactly her artistic vision, but she's a trooper.
Sometimes with new projects, as with life, you just have to find ways to make it work. And as far as I know the gifts were delivered with love and joy! That counts for much more than perfect edges.
For us, from top to bottom, I bet we spent a couple of hours doing two such canvases plus my lyrics board. But that was rushed, and I know for sure each step could have dried longer before we moved on. So I really suggest allowing yourself lots of time for one canvas. Maybe even complete one stage each day until it's done. Be relaxed about this and enjoy the process. It's not difficult; it's just fussy.
Our evening may or may not have ended with Erica seeing one of our farm ghosts. She kinda left in a hurry, quite pale even with her gorgeous Creole complexion, and rumor has it she prayed the whole way home.
Thanks for a lovely evening, sweet woman!
I hope you had as much fun as I did, despite the ghost,
and I hope your sister and Mom enjoyed their gifts!
Go forth and create!
"Every child is an artist.
The problem is how to remain an artist
once we grow up."