13 November 2013

DIY: hand-painted graphic owl canvas art

Yesterday I left you hanging about what I actually did with the big canvas in the foyer once Mr. P laughed at my first idea. I promised you it’d be bold, and oh, it IS.

But let’s back up. Recently, my mom gave me a box of stuff she’d found that she assumed I’d like. She does this a lot, and often, it’s filled with things that end up stuffed in a cabinet or headed to Goodwill (sorry Mom). But occasionally she lucks out and gives me something I really like, and such was the case with the last box. It contained a trivet in the shape of an owl, probably from the seventies. Mr. P liked it because it reminded him of his alma mater. I liked it because he liked it and HELLO OWLS ARE SUPER TRENDY.

So I decided we needed a bigger version. A MUCH BIGGER version. A GIANT OWL canvas!

And armed with the giant-stencil-making skills I gained trying to make a word-art canvas, I knew just how to do it. Let’s scan this thing!

Pro tip: keep the scanner lid open while scanning to get a perfect white background!

I debated just blowing up the scanned image and cutting it out...

But I worried about those smaller, indented lines – how would I deal with those in a stencil? Plus, I had a few changes in mind to make it more appropriate for a free-standing canvas. Like, say, adding owl feet.

So, I set to tracing it in Illustrator.

I mean, of course I have a couple of hours on a weekend to create a vector image of a trivet.

And spend time googling “owl feet” to create similarly graphic-style but biologically accurate talons. This is why I rarely answer the “What do you do in your spare time?” question honestly.

All right, let’s get make this stencil happen in real life. First, I used the same technique I described yesterday to break the image up into multiple parts. Instead of nine pages, though, I opted for sixteen – four across, four down. Then I printed it out, again economizing on the paper by printing out some parts on the same page (so it really only took eleven sheets).

In the bottom left there, I’ve got a single-page printout of the whole stencil, so I could get an idea of what would be filled in, what would be a single line, etc. Mr. P saw it and thought I was actually going to fill in one eye and not the other, like some cartoon owl on speed. No sir, I just need my visuals to make decisions!

Then I cut out my stencil and taped it together...

And very lightly traced it onto my canvas. I boosted the contrast so you could see it in the photo, but in real life it was barely noticeable.

I wish I had some nifty tips and tricks for centering large stencils before tracing them onto the canvas... but all I can tell you is, make friends with your ruler, and measure twice, twice again, and maybe yet another time just to be sure. Can’t have a crooked owl!

Once I was convinced I’d traced my owl on the canvas properly, I set to painting! I just used the same gold craft paint I used on my knockoff Ballard mirrors.

Painting in my PJ’s with my earbuds in at 10 PM. Welcome to my real life!

I waited until the morning to do the eyes (it required a steadier hand than I had the night before, with the sleepies) and remembered to snap a better photo so you could see how pretty the handpainted gold is.

And once it was all delicately filled in... I can finally present to you... MY GIANT OWL!

Told ya it was bold!

But I think I can get away with the GIANT OWL for a couple of reasons. First, this room is incredibly neutral and “safe” right now. The owl painting is also neutral in classic gold, so it blends in, but the graphic lines punch up the d├ęcor a bit.

Second, it’s a foyer, and it needs something interesting to draw the eye as people enter. The shimmery gold paint helps in that respect, too.

And finally, Mr. P and I like owls. That’s really important. It’s okay to have something a little kooky if it’s meaningful. It’s just a bold statement about who we are!

Say, how about a breakdown?

Time spent:
Making the stencil on the computer definitely took the longest – several hours for just that. Printing the stencil, cutting it out, and piecing it together took maybe another hour. Tracing and painting were relatively quick – just another couple of hours. So not the fastest project ever, but I only spent an afternoon and evening making this. [Update: get your own owl stencil here and save yourself that time!]

Stencil: free, as I made it myself from a trivet gift
Canvas: $20 at Hobby Lobby with a coupon
Gold paint: already owned (~$3 at the store)
Misc. supplies (paper, scissors, tape, paintbrushes): already owned
Total cost: $20

Twenty bucks for a “statement piece” is pretty cheap to me! And as much as I adore my owl now, I know that I could always paint over it in the future when everyone is SO OVER OWLS and turn it into new art. Although I’m not sure that will ever happen, as I quite like my giant owl... which makes its cheap price tag all the better!

So that’s how I finally, finally created some art for our foyer!

And hey, have you noticed all the projects I’ve been working on in the foyer recently? The faux Dwell Studio no-sew curtains, the wall of landing strip, and of course the perfect thrift store art? I’ve been focusing on the foyer as much as I can ever focus on any room, and I still have a couple more projects in mind. Which means, people... [Oprah voice] I’ve got viiiissiiiiiooonns [/Oprah voice] for this room! Looking forward to showing you the rest as I complete it!


Rachel C said...

I admit, I was on Team Mr. P with the "Be cool" art; however, I LOVE this owl. He's the perfect accent for such a large room. He draws you eye to him instantly but doesn't scream for attention. Also, I don't know if it was on purpose, but I love how his gold matches the gold frames on the cheap Goodwill art. It helps bring the room together.

Tina said...

I love it - and Grandma is going to really love it as the owl trivet was from her to you from her huge collection of all things owl. I'd given it to her originally as a gift - and you were right - in the 70's. (I'd also given her that recipe box that was also in the box in which she left some of her hand-written recipes, circa same decade.)
If you decide to Goodwill the trivet or the recipe box, just goodwill them to me, please. ;-)

Tina said...

Oh, and cute feet!

Mary Beth said...

Absolutely LOVE the owl. I would actually pay you for this. How do you find the time? I really admire your creativity and ability to create such awesome things from just ideas in your brain. Love!