I have a wall in my house that is empty, despite the fact that I’ve lived in my house for 7 years (!) and everywhere else is decorated. This particular wall has remained empty, a flashing beacon of the last of the decorating that remains. It’s not even in a hidden back area – this wall I see everyday as I walk downstairs from my bedroom or that guests see when they walk in the front door… But it alas it remains bare, screaming “insert art here“.
Now, it’s not like I’ve not tried to find art to go in this space. But I don’t want generic cheap Ikea-esque art, and real art – especially on the huge scale that this wall requires – costs a fortune. So we decided we would wait until we found the perfect piece, very much living up to the tenet of #LaVieEnLuxe and buying quality over quantity and preferring to hold out for something you love. But perfect never came. Yet after 7 years, it was time to get this show on the road. We called in an expert, my brilliant artist Great Aunt, and discussed some options and she generously offered to help me paint a painting for the area. This made me super excited as now I was creating something with my Great Aunt (making it a guaranteed family heirloom, no?) as well as getting exactly what I wanted on the wall in question. This led to step one. Figuring out exactly – and I mean exactly – what I wanted.
Make Your Own Abstract Art Step 1 : Figure Out What You Want
I started with a Pinterest board and pinned images of paintings that I was inspired by. I went with paintings that had any element that I found inspirational – be it a blue textured swirl (made with a squeegee, in case you are curious!), dark greys with splashes of red or just shades of grey. Even more than 50 shades, I’d wager.
This doesn’t mean I wanted exact replicas of any of these paintings – I loved certain elements but hated others – but they were all good reference points to start from to get a sense of what I liked (definitely grey and white tones, with more darks than I had thought), what I didn’t (the circles and geometry of some of them) and where we should start from. I narrowed it down to wanting something abstract, modern and relatively monochromatic.
Make Your Own Abstract Art Step 2 : Get Some Supplies
After figuring out the hard way – also known as having the man at the art store tell me and then not believe him – that the largest size canvas that could fit in my car was 5 feet by 40 inches, the canvas size wound up being determined by the size of the back of the Volvo. I’d have perhaps wanted something a little bit larger, but buying this size meant we could actually transport the canvas, and therefore it was the winner. The full size, professional quality canvas from a local art store came it at just under $150.
As for the rest of the supplies, I’m lucky that I have an artist in the family so I didn’t need to necessarily go and buy all the stuff below, but here is what we used.
Full list of supplies:
- One full size Gallery quality canvas (I used 60 inches by 40 inches)
- Several small economical canvases from art or craft store (I used 8 inch by 10 inch size)
- Old texturizing materials (We used an old broom, used cloths, an old squeegee and a sparkling knife, just as a general idea that anything goes!)
- Variety of size and type of paint brushes
- Bucket of water
- Big bottle of Jesso
- Black Paint
- White Paint
Make Your Own Abstract Art Step 3 : Test On Small Canvases
If I learned during this process was that there is no way an artist just sits down and throws some things on a canvas and poof! Masterpiece! There are drafts made, attempts done and a lengthy consultative process to determine the exact look of the final product you are looking for. It started with a lot of fun for non-artist me to just be handed a brush and told to go wild.
You can definitely see here why I am lucky that I am creative in other ways than with a paint brush, but you can get a sense of playing with colors, spatter, dripping and spatulas on this “first draft” of a canvas I was trying. In the end, we both made two small canvases that we then allowed to dry. The actual artist made the canvases on the left, I made the two pitiful ones on the right. The key was just playing around with the materials, getting a sense of what the tools could do for you and the look you were going for and experimenting.
Next, we layered on another layer of depth to them by texturizing (aka dripping water down the canvas, using a cloth to dab away or rub paint in areas, etc.) as well as adding some more light or dark to make the picture more in line with what I was looking for. A clear favourite emerged, I was captivated by how it seems to have blues and umber tones to it even though the entire painting was made with black and white paint only. Can you see how it’s the same image from the group of four above, bottom left, but made softer?
Next, we decided we’d like to try adding a little color, and since my husband thought red would be a nice accent to the current neutral palette of our house, so we decided to (quite literally) throw some red paint across the canvases. I thought it looked a little “Dexter-esque” and that it maybe deflected from the gorgeous tones of the original draft.
We decided to try another technique of adding some texture to a painting before adding the paint. It resulted in an image that we both loved, but didn’t feel as strongly about as the first test painting, just if we just subtracted some of the red streaks when painting the huge final product. That’s what tests are for!
Make Your Own Abstract Art Step 4 : Walk Away
Step 3, above, only took us about 2 hours. There was lots of time left in the day where we could have gotten out the big canvas and gotten going, but my Great Aunt wisely counselled we stop for the day and reconvene later when we’d both had time to think about the canvases and the overall look now that we knew more or less what we were going for. A hard step as you’ll likely just want to go for it, but a step I think only solidified my feelings towards the favourite, minus some of the red streaks.