12 November 2013

Almost-DIY: handwritten "be cool" canvas

In the last year, I’ve started to repeat two new mantras. I’ve never really been one for mantras (unless you count “high and wide”, but that’s really only for curtains). So it’s a little unusual that I’ve recently adopted two mantras. But boy, am I living them. The first, which applies more to my job and career really, is “Don’t ask, don’t get.” And the second, which seems to apply to everything including work: BE COOL.

“Be cool” works for everything. It works when I need to take deep breaths and when I need to impress and when I need to just let that creative streak happen.

Freaking out because I don’t have enough hours in the day to accomplish everything I need to do? Just be cool and make a list of priorities.

Made a fool of myself in front of my boss and have to face her again? Just be cool and impress her with your initiative.

Feel like I’m becoming way less interesting as a thirty-something in St. Louis than I was as a twenty-something in Nashville? Just be cool and wear those boots with shorts without shame.

I end up telling myself to be cool so often that I thought it might be nice to turn it into some art. You know, word art on canvases is all over Pinterest nowadays, so why not jump on the trend with my own adopted mantra? Surprisingly, I couldn’t find an example of what I wanted exactly (ten points for originality!) but I wanted it handwritten, in gold paint on a white canvas. And I wanted to hang it there in that troublesome spot over the console in the foyer:

I so, so wish I could put a mirror right there – the light from the single window on the adjacent wall needs all the help it can get! – but that wall is directly across from the door to the bathroom. Since I don’t want our foyer to say, “Welcome to our home, here’s what the toilet looks like!”, I have to fill that space with some art. And that art would instead say “BE COOL.”

So, I purchased a large canvas (30x40”) from Hobby Lobby with a coupon for $20 on which I could paint my mantra. And since I didn’t think I could free-hand the letters to my liking, I instead made a smaller-scale version on the back of a notecard that I scanned to my computer:

I made sure to scan it in at high enough resolution that I could blow it up and use it as a stencil. I figured that for my 30x40” canvas, I’d need a stencil that spanned nine 8.5x11” pages. To create that I used Adobe Illustrator to define nine 8.5x11” boxes, and re-sized my image beneath it.

No worries if you don’t have Illustrator – you can mock up a similar pattern using just PowerPoint!

I saved the file with the boxes over it and re-opened it in Photoshop, then zoomed in to select each box, crop it, and print it out full-size on a single piece of paper.

There may be an easier way to do all that to make a giant stencil, but it worked well enough for me! At the end I was left with nine sheets of paper of “stencil” (actually six, as I condensed a few stencils onto a single page). It looked a little weird to print out pages that looked basically like this:

But I was still able to cut out my lettering and tape it together. In the end, I was able to tape my stencil to the canvas (still shrink-wrapped) to get a sense of scale:

I... thought I liked it? Possibly enough to tape the stencil on the canvas and go to the trouble of tracing it and filling it in with gold paint?

But it was when I moved it into the foyer to “test” it there...

... that Mr. P straight up laughed at it. I mean, I had told him that I was thinking of making art that said “be cool”, and he thought it was a little weird but whatever, I do a lot of weird stuff. When he realized just how GIANT it was going to be, well, he couldn’t help but let a snort come out.

Annnnd that helped me make up my mind. I decided that while I was going to be cool, I was, perhaps, not cool enough to proclaim it in giant letters on a canvas. Or too cool? Either way, I instead went to the trash, dug out the notecard with my original “be cool” doodle, and stuck it in a far more modestly-sized frame.

It’s just as well. Actual cool people don’t need a three-foot-tall reminder, do they? Hmmm. Irony.

But! This incomplete project wasn’t all for naught! First, if you too are wanting a little inspiration to be cool, you can print it out here. And if you’re wanting to blow up a large piece of handwriting to use as a stencil, now you know how!

And best of all? I found something else to paint on my canvas. It too, like my commandment to be cool, is bold... but I like it, and it didn’t make Mr. P laugh. I’ll show you that tomorrow!