Dear Emily’s Readers,
Do you ever look around at giant paintings, salivating, wishing you could call them your own? That you could take them home from the gallery and love them for the rest of time? But then you look at the $170,000 price tag and you get sad because you spent your last million on that brand new jet? Well you’re in luck, because I recently made a glamorous giant painting with the help of Alexis and a little boy who dared to help me paint. Below is a step by step guide to creating your own masterpiece, whether you’re a teenage cat enthusiast or an elderly professional wrestler.
Before we get started with our Bob Ross-style painting lesson, here is what you’ll need:
Canvas + Stretcher Bars + Staple Gun = Stretched Canvas
You can grab all these items from Blick Art Materials, where Emily and I like to shop. If you’ve never stretched a canvas, watch this video for a quick primer. Or you could just be a normal person and buy a pre-stretched canvas.
In real life, artists use acrylic or oil paint for their paintings, but for the purpose of this project we chose to use house paint. This is because we needed a lot and house paint is less expensive than acrylic. It was also helpful that we didn’t have to mix the colors, because mixing the perfect shade of blue can be as difficult as trying to arrest Reese Witherspoon’s husband for drunk driving. Too soon? Sorry.
Step 1: Choose your paint colors.
Because the colors in the bedroom were so sophisticated and restrained, we decided to go bold with our selections for the painting. We chose Benjamin Moore Coat of Arms, Sun Kissed Yellow, and Black Satin.
2: Stretch your canvas.
Canvas stretching is an art form unto itself. This is kind of difficult to describe so check out that video I mentioned before.
3: Paint your background color.
In Graham’s room, we were working with a color palette of blue, black, yellow, and grey so we decided to keep our painting in the same vein. To give our painting more depth, we mixed black paint into the Coat of Arms color. This had the effect of making it look like the bottom of a pool, rich and aqua and shimmering. Like my eyes.
4: Enlist child labor to ensure handmade look.
Because this was for a kids room, we wanted to involve our clients’ son so that he could take some ownership over his painting. When I was little, I loved making art, and I assume that all children love to paint as much as I did. Which is why I was slightly surprised when Graham was all “OK, I’m done painting now” after like five minutes. I will say that he was seriously into when he was doing it, but that he knew when his interest was dwindling and decided to stop while it was still fun. I think we all could learn a lot from Graham.
4: Maniacally micromanage your child laborer to make sure it doesn’t look “too DIY.”
One of the reasons I will be a terrible parent is that I’m slightly controlling when it comes to things like art projects. One moment I’m all “be yourself!” And the next minute I’m like “No, stop that. You’re doing it wrong.” Just kidding. I would never say that to a kid and I was super good with Graham … otherwise he’d hate me. And I know he likes me. Right? Graham? Are you there? Hello? I’m so alone.
5: Tape off upper section of painting to add in second color.
Once I had bored Graham so much that he fled in terror, I taped off the upper portion of the painting to add our second color (white). A normal person might have just left the canvas white so it wouldn’t be annoying to paint white over a dark color, but I like to complicate things as much as possible so I did it backwards. It did give the painting an added sense of laying and depth though, which I like. Speaking of layering and depth, have you seen Emily’s new bangs? I’m totally into them.
6: Tape off accent stripe, painting it in with black.
We wanted our painting to be very minimalist and simple, so we didn’t want it to get too busy with too many stripes. Thus, we just added a few, including a big black one in the middle. This helped to give the painting some movement. Also, sorry for my outfit. Sometimes, when I’m running around shopping, making paintings, and being a terrible role model for young children, my outfit gets messed up (there was a cute overshirt I was wearing before these pics were taken but it got too hot so I took it off).
7: Tape off and paint in your final accent color (in our case yellow).
In order to make the painting more kid-friendly, to make it more lively, and to bring it back into our color palette, we added our accent color into the mix. The bright yellow really helped the painting come alive.
8: Remove tape and, BAM, your painting is done!
One of the most satisfying things in life is ripping blue tape off of painting jobs, and this was no different. I wish there was a job where all you did all day was rip blue tape off of stuff, because I’d totally apply.
We created a simple frame using pine we had cut to size. This process was slightly involved, so check back for our DIY on how to cheaply frame large paintings. It will literally blow your socks off. (No it won’t).
9: Hang painting behind headboard.
Depending on how big your painting is, this might be harder than it sounds. Because our painting was giant and we were hanging it over the bed of an especially adorable child, we hired someone who specialized in secure art hanging to hang it for us. If you are hanging anything over a bed, make sure to use plenty of anchors or just have the thing built into the wall.
10. Enjoy the painting!
So, there you go. That is how you make a giant painting without really trying. Well, there was quite a bit of trying to be honest, and a little bit of artistic turmoil (“Emily do you like this? What about the yellow do you like that? Do you like me? What about my personality is that okay? Why are you running, come back. I love you.”). Hopefully your painting won’t involve so much drama.
So, now I have shown you the way to make a giant modern painting. What are you waiting for? Get out there and make it! Right now.