Tuesday, March 31, 2015

HOW TO: Make an Abstract Painting for Home Decor

I have a love-hate relationship with this kind of project.  Artists train for years and years to make quality, meaningful art, so I always hated those HGTV projects where they would make fake "art" with the homeowners to complement the decor.  That being said, I think as with everything that balance is key.  Invest in good art and buy vintage when you can, but sometimes you just don't have enough money for that and if you know what kind of art your space needs, sometimes you gotta go ahead and make it yourself!

You'll need:
a canvas- See Step 1 below.

paints- I'd recommend acrylic craft paint, they dry quickly and come in a wide range of colors, which is helpful if you're not a color mixing expert.  If you're a little more experienced with painting, oil paints are also an option.

brushes- Any kind of artist or craft brushes will do, but make sure you have a wide range of sizes, to cover both large areas and do smaller detail work.

a cup of water

Step 1: Get a canvas.
First you'll need a canvas.  You can build and stretch them yourself, but the easiest option is to buy one at a craft or art store or you can use an old painting.  Please please pretty please, don't paint over original art, but there's plenty of mass-produced crap out there just begging to be repurposed.  It's often much cheaper than buying a canvas.

Mine was a mass-produced 90s sunset "painting" in its first life.  I had already repurposed it once (in 2007 from the look of it).

For mine, I knew I wanted art to fill a large wall in my living room.  I had spent a lot of time trying to find a good light griege paint that would work with the weird light in my living room, so I didn't necessarily want to just cover it all up.  Because of this, I actually used the wall color of my living room as the base for the painting.  This is personal preference, but whatever color you decide, you'll want to start with a base coat.

Step 2: Paint your base coat
When you're painting the base coat, you don't have to be too precious with it.  Streak a few different shades of paint together, let the brush marks show, let a little of the painting below show through... whatever you like to create interest.

Step 3: Let your base coat dry
If you're using acrylic paints, they'll dry within a few minutes.  If you're using oil paints, you might want to wait up to a day for the paint to dry.

Step 4: Add some details to your painting!
Abstract painting is all about paying attention to color, form, contrast, things like that.

Choose colors that you really like and work with your home's decor.  Pay attention to how the colors are working together as you go.  Do you need a little more of one color in an area?  I did kind of broken up rainbow spectrum for my painting: I did blues, purples, and pinks in the upper left corner, yellow in the center, and the greens, blues, and purples in the lower right.

Try different techniques of applying the paint: stipple it on, brush it on in large strokes, water it down and wash it on, splatter it!

If you do something you don't like, wait a few minutes for it to dry (if you're using acrylics) and just paint right over it!

Keep layering and adding to it until you're happy with the result.

Step 5: Let it dry completely and then hang it up!
If you used acrylic, I'd recommend letting it dry a full day before you hang it up, just to be safe.

If you used oils, it will never(!) fully dry, but let it cure for a few days before hanging it on your wall!


I was a visual arts student and college major for years and years.  (So I do actually kind of know what I'm talking about!)  Even though I don't paint in my day to day life that much anymore, I really love doing projects like this every once in awhile to remind myself why I love to paint so much!

Have a great week!


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