So, I’ve kinda been working on another project. It’s one that I’ve had in my head for several months. Originally, I wanted to somehow put a photo of me and Dom on a canvas and then script out the words to a love poem in a diagonal around the photo. I haven’t worked it all out yet, but it’s still something I plan on doing. Just… later. Because, really, this other thing morphed out of thin air and sort of took over the photo I was gonna use.
From the steps of the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, DC, November 2009.
Original problem: I need coordinating art to hang on either side of my dresser mirror, which stands pathetically bare at the moment. (And, please ignore the fact that the bed is not made. Thank you.)
Original idea: Why don’t I paint two canvases to hang on either side?
Secondary problem: What color to make the canvases? Match the room’s moulding? I have that paint. But I want it to look like art. “Hey, Aaron, do you know how to blend paint colors to make them look good on canvas, like watercolor blends or something?”
“Nope. I haven’t been to art camp in like, three years, Mom.”
“Crap. Thanks anyway, sweetie.”
When what to my wondering eyes should appear? My sister-in-law gave me this personally hand-painted wood-art for Christmas. When I asked my mom where in my home she thought I should hang it, she replied without missing a beat, “In your bedroom. You have all black-and-whites in there.”
She’s right. The bedroom would be the perfect place for it. And then it hit me. Black canvas. White paint. Suddenly, I had my outline. I just needed two perfect quotes. And two perfect pictures. Egad. Whatever “perfect” pictures might include me are so few that they have been excessively overused in everything that represents me. My favorite photo that includes me is from 2007. My second-favorite photo is from 2009…and it’s taken from behind me (see above). You get my drift, right? Finding two pics of me that are self-proclaimed-“worthy” and not already over-used is going to be next to impossible.
And then my heart spoke up. I have been sorting photos of Mason lately because I want one of them on a mousepad for my office. I found some adorable pics. (The World’s Best Dog…14 years…we’re gonna have more than a handful of good pictures!) By the way, this is his “Did someone say, ‘treat'”? face. Lord, I miss this dog!
I was also saving a list of quotes that I pondered when we were planning Mason’s headstone. And so I went there. I cried. And cried. (And cried some more). But eventually I settled on one that worked with another quote I had been wanting to place in our home. As Billy Joel sang, it’s all about soul.
“For the soul of every living thing is in the hand of God.” Job 12:10
“Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.” Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights
And there I had it. One canvas for Mason, one canvas for me and Dom. Two photos, printed in black-and-white to complement the others in the room. I had the photos printed through MPIX.com because I love how they print B&W photos. They just look awesome. (Get the True Black and White matte paper. It’s worth the extra pennies!) And I figured that under a slew of Mod-Podge, maybe MPIX’s photo paper could hold up like I wanted it to. My own printer paper? Maybe not.
So here is the finished product. What follows after this are directions for those fellow DIY-ers who just like the satisfaction of making something yourself.
Materials you will need: Canvas, word processor, internet access (if you don’t already have the fonts you want to use), acrylic paint, mixing palate or plate, brushes, photo, Mod Podge glue (matte finish), pencil, graphite paper, tape, paper towels and a jar/bowl of water. This project takes approximately three days to complete, in order allow proper drying time between steps.
First, determine what size canvas you need. I knew I wanted tall-skinny canvases, so I went with 12×24. I found a 2-pack at Michael’s for relatively little cost (with a coupon). This size works great for word processing design, too, because you can base it off of a standard 8½x11 piece of paper.
Second, decide what photo you want to use and what size. Cut a piece of paper to the size of your photo. An 8×10 worked perfectly with the 12×24 canvas, but so would a 5×7. You be the judge here. It’s your art.
Third, design your word art. I used Microsoft Word to space and position my lettering. Set your page properties at 0.5” margins all the way around, and then select “Landscape” orientation. This lets you size your letters to fit your canvas, based on text being 10” wide (size the text on each line specifically). You can set your page size to your actual canvas size and see what prints on letter-sized paper, then literally cut and paste once printed to make it all match up.
My favorite fonts are Cambria (standard font in MS Word) for the block print, and Allura for the script. Scriptina Pro is also a great font for a flurry-ish script. I use dafont.com for downloading all my script and special fonts (Search these font names on their site to download). Size ‘em up, making sure your sidelines are all even with each other, if that’s the look you want. Print on regular paper and then cut off the extra margins so that you can line up your text and tape in place.
Size up your text with your photo size – place it all on the canvas to be sure that you’re lining it up right. Remember to use a blank piece of paper cut the size of your photo (or the actual photo if you have it already.)
Now that you’ve got your wording and photo size all worked out, go ahead and paint your canvas. (I had already painted mine.) If you’re looking to do a solid color like me this will be a breeze. If you want a mottled, blended-color look, you need to know what you’re doing on your own because I am absolutely no help here. 😉 I painted mine solid black, remember?
Once your canvas is dry, you will need to use graphite paper (either black or white, depending on your canvas color) to transfer the font image onto the canvas in the desired place. I taped my wording to the canvas and then slipped a piece of graphite paper (or, transfer paper) underneath it.
Use a pencil to trace around the letters, making sure to move your graphite paper as you go. (You will notice that in my example, the word “soul” is off-center. I had to go back and trace that word last so as to center it with the rest of the text. I could have done that earlier in the paper-taping process, but I didn’t.
When you are finished tracing, you will have this very erasable outline. (Be careful where you lay your arm to paint, as you could wipe away the markings you’ve so carefully made. You also want to be sure not to apply too much pressure on top of the canvas so that you don’t inadvertently stretch it out.
Ok, here’s where we have to talk about brushes. First, I know NOTHING about brushes that I haven’t learned the hard way, and even that is pitifully little. What I do know is that you need the teeniest, tiniest brush to paint the words in your selected font. I didn’t know this on the first painting, and my letters lacked definition. See? Yuck.
That was done using a small angled brush, which I thought was appropriately small enough. But alas, I was wrong. In any brush, your paint is going to eventually glob up and if your brush is too big, then the glob just gets really messy. Like I said, I thought my brush was small enough. No, the next picture shows you the brush I used on the second painting. See, my mother-in-law is a retired certified ceramics teacher. The brush is hers. This is the brush she uses for eyelashes and pupils on the faces of her small creations. This is the brush she insisted I take with me when I raided her stash of supplies for my project. This is the brush that I thought would be too small for any grand thing I was going to do, but this is also the brush that made my words come to life on the canvas. It doesn’t look like much, but trust me, it is mighty.
So once you have traced your words onto the canvas, and you have your handy-dandy teeny-tiny brush poised in the air, you are ready to paint, my friend. Squeeze out just A LITTLE of the paint from your tube onto your palate or mixing tray (a paper plate works just fine). I squeezed out a quarter-sized dollop of white paint for the first canvas. I used only a twelfth of it and the rest went to waste. Go easy on the squeezing, is my point.
Now, be a good little student and color in the lines. You’ll be so pleased when you do!
The good thing about using a solid, dark background, is that if you need to touch up any goofs, it’s super-easy! (See period after the word “God.” I messed up and brought the tail of the “d” up too far. Once the ModPodge is applied, you won’t see any of the touch-up areas.
Now, where the Mod Podge is concerned, I purchased a small bottle of the Matte finish. I wasn’t sure how it would turn out, but my bottle of glossy Mod Podge looked every bit of its twelve-year age. I thought the matte version might be a nice touch. As it turned out, it is not a flat finish, but is not a super-shiny finish either. I like the minor sheen that the matte option imparts.
Once the text has dried, you are ready to adhere your photo. Take a generous size brush (mine is 2″ wide) and dip into a bowl full of the Mod Podge glue. Brush onto the entire back of the photo before gently placing the photo in the desired place on the canvas. Get the glue as close to the edges as you possibly can.
Smooth the photo onto the canvas with your hand. Once the photo was smoothed (remember not to press too hard) I flipped the canvas over onto a towel on my countertop and pressed harder with my hand to make sure the canvas was well-pressed to the photo.
Allow to dry (1-2 hours). Clean your brush in the meantime and allow it to dry also. Cover the glue so it doesn’t dry out.
Once the photo and your brush are dry, using the same 2″ brush, gently sweep Mod Podge back and forth in smooth, easy strokes running the width of your canvas. Be sure not to stop in the middle. Once the entire canvas is coated in Mod Podge and you are satisfied with the brush strokes, allow to dry (2-3 hours).
A few notes about this last step: Be sure to go all the way down the side edges with your glue so you get a uniform look all the way around the canvas. I worried that the parts of the rounded edge where my glue seemed to pile would be a problem, but they turned out just fine. I cannot see brush strokes on the canvas, but I can see them on the photos. It’s not obtrusive at all, but I might investigate a smoother brush for future projects. Also, the Mod Podge dries so clear that you won’t see any of the glue that might accumulate at the edges of your photo. Just make sure it’s not a big glob and you’ll be fine. The glue dries incredibly fast. I believe within 20 minutes I could not see any glue on the canvas or photo. It is at this point that you could put on a second coat, but I chose not to. I hung mine on the wall 2 hours after finishing the last canvas.
And now, my friend, your work is done. Hang your art on the wall with pride. (P.S. You may want to affix a picture hanger of some type to your canvas prior to hanging. I skipped that step also, but I may go back and add it later.)