September 29, 2011

An Adventure in Abstract Art (aka: An Alliterative Advice Article)

Go ahead and say that five times fast! You know you want to...

Way back when, practically in the Dark Ages, I found this photo at Of course, as you all know by now, it was the driving inspiration behind the little remodel that we did for Amanda’s living room last weekend. Everything about it (except for maybe that picture of those somewhat suggestive peaches) screamed, “I belong to Amanda!” And who am I to deny screaming inspiration when it whacks me in the face?
So, I right away began analyzing what particular elements I could take from this room and replicate in Amanda’s. One of the pieces that was an obvious cornerstone around which the whole room was built was, of course, that deer over the mantle. However, I knew that we were probably going to have to settle for something somewhat less ceramic (because ceramic animal heads = EXPENSIVE, in DesignLand) and I also knew that the odds of us being able to paint the top half of Amanda’s mantle orange were also slim-to-none. I began searching for alternatives.
Right away, the idea of going to Cardboard Safari for a deer head occurred to me. That part didn’t take much thought—I’d long been admiring their unique cardboard version of taxidermy (odd, but true). Although, how to create a lovely, orange, textured background for said deer…well, that took a bit more mulling over. First, it had to be removable. Stretched canvas? Hmm…probably not. Giant orange tapestry? Uh, NO. A large picture frame? Alright, that’ll work. My next thought was of what to frame. I played around with the idea of finding some interesting fabric to use as a backdrop but, let me tell you, finding a good orange fabric that’s not covered in pumpkins or lurid Hawaiian flowers is quite the challenge.
In the end, I decided to try my hand at painting a backdrop. I went hunting through my art supplies and ended up on the floor in front of the TV (old habits die hard) with some textured white cardboard, a collection of old orange and yellow acrylic paints, some paper plates, and a single 1” wide paintbrush.

I used the paper plates for mixing the colors to create different hues and shades (thus expanding my selection from 6 to about 20) then began randomly applying paint with varying lengths of strokes.

I knew the dimensions that my final work needed to be, so I just kept them in mind as I went along, making sure to extend the paint about two inches beyond those marks. My reasoning behind this was that I didn’t want to have any obvious “starts” and “stops” in my painting; I wanted it to feel very organic and not too contrived.
It’s also worth noting that I used a dry brush and didn’t stop to rinse it between colors. This resulted in lines that faded into each other better—much less crisp, more ragged. After mixing and brushing for about twenty minutes (just long enough to cover every speck of white and for me to be satisfied that everything blended well), I ended up with this:

At this point, I was still a little unsure, but once I got out my utility knife and trimmed the edges to the desired size, I began feeling much better about my decision to make something of my own instead of buying.

It turns out that they ended up being just what Frank (Amanda’s name for her new deer friend) needed. Just the right amount of pop, without being too busy and competing for attention.
So, what’s the moral of this story? “Don’t be afraid to make your own art!” I was pleasantly surprised by this experience and I’ll definitely feel less hesitant to try making something of my own next time instead of constantly buying things to fill that empty space on the wall. The other moral of the story was “Even when Ashley has a dedicated art room she still paints on the floor in the living room”—but I guess you had probably already picked up on that somewhat-ridiculous message. ;)


  1. Frank looks so handsome with his beautifully hand crafted background. You do good work.

  2. @Amanda - I'm glad you like him! I want to steal him for myself. And the name Frank? It's totally stuck for me. I can't think of him as anything else. :)