How To Make A Simple Geometric Canvas Painting

What is it about painting that makes me feel all frenchified and beret-worthy? Anyway, I finally got around to painting one of the giant (and deeply discounted) 40 x 30″ canvases that we scored for $23 from Michael’s thanks to 50% off with an additional 25% off on top of that (more details about how that happened at the end of this post). Ever since discovering this inspirational poster design from here (thanks to my good friend Pinterest) I knew I wanted to adapt it a bit. You know, go wide instead of vertical and have some fun with a few $2 paint samples from Lowe’s (total spent on paint: $9 for three pots which I then mixed with white craft paint that I had on hand to create a ton of different tints of the same few hues).

First I used a yardstick to space out equal vertical lines (I just used the width of the yardstick itself to keep things even) which I drew with a pencil:

Then I used the corner of a little card that we got in the mail (from an oil-change place) to create those angled peaks to mimic the prism-like shapes from my inspiration.

Then I just filled each shape in with a variety of shades of blue and green (all derived from the three test pots of paint from Lowe’s and some white craft paint to make some of the shapes lighter). As for the specific paint colors, I used testers of Tropical Waters, Embellished Blue, and Thermal Spring by Behr. Here was what I was left with at first:

It was fun and kind of high-energy, but the contrast was a little too much for me. So my foray into painting reminded me why I love painting so much: you can always paint right over it. So I mixed up a much lighter shade of greeny-gray and went over all of the darker green parts for a much more subtle tone-on-tone effect. I ended up here:

I love the imperfect lines and painterly brush strokes and the varied shades of the same few tones. The only thing I don’t like is the location. It just doesn’t feel right in our bedroom since the walls are a similar shade (and we thought the tone on tone look of the art might layer in nicely but it’s feeling a bit too monotone-ish and blah for us). So we’re thinking we might hang it in the dining room once we have a nice big buffet or console to go under it near the front entryway. Or it might end up somewhere else entirely. Just not on a soft blue-green wall. I guess I just like tone on tone art that’s not also on a wall of that tone. Go figure.

I went into this project expecting it to take an evening or two and it actually took a while longer (maybe four or five two-hour sessions) but in the end I almost didn’t want it to end. It’s just fun to paint again. Maybe I’ll tackle something else soon. I hope so. Have you guys painted any canvases recently? It totally took me back to my high school and college days (I took every art class my high school offered and then went off to art school in NYC for college- where I somehow ended up with a BFA in Advertising Design). Although using the paint pots from Lowe’s definitely made me smile since I’m used to paying five million dollars for oil paint (ok, that’s an exaggeration, but it wasn’t always cheap for a broke college kid).

And speaking of art school, that’s where a drawing professor of mine dubbed me “the narrator of life.” Apparently I’d just sketch and jabber on about everything as it happened (ex: “oops, I dropped my charcoal” or “now for the foreground” or “yikes, it’s noon already”). I sound really annoying right? Thankfully most of it was under my breath. My teacher had to lean in and ask what I was saying, which prompted me to realize that I was actually saying things out loud (I was in the zone, I knew not what I did). That “narrator of life” nickname embarrassed me at the time, but now I find it hilarious that my actual profession is essentially to narrate my life. Who would’ve thought. Maybe I should hunt down that professor (on Facebook?) and tell him where I ended up. Just don’t tell him I used house paint instead of oil paint. Scandalous.


  1. Stephanie Phillips says

    PLEASE find that professor for me and tell us what he says! ;)

    Looks great! I actually really like it on that wall.

  2. says

    LOVE it!

    I have a 36″ x 48″ blank canvas I purchased about 3 months ago hanging above my bed waiting to be painted. It’s still in the original packaging (so it doesn’t get dusty/dirty before painting) and I have to admit, I’m a bit intimidated by it but I think your painting may have gotten my creative juices flowing a bit :)

  3. says

    Hurrah for painting again, Sherry! Sometimes I get weirdly nostalgic about art school…

    I feel very lucky that I still get to paint every week! I paint pet portraits on mini canvases for clients, although oddly enough, I’ve yet to paint our own 3 kiddos. Gotta get on that.

    And your painting is fabulous, too!

  4. says

    I spray painted an old canvas recently and was really happy with the results. It’s kind of a textured surface, solid green. Then I took a navy blue sharpie and drew a little squiggly line across the bottom of it. It looks very funky and fun! I love it!

  5. Randi says

    One of my best friends painted a canvas for my birthday a few years ago… she added a decoupaged bird (made from scrapbook paper) and wrote an Emily Dickinson quote with a marker pen. Best present ever! :)

    When she told me how easy it was for her to do, it inspired me to paint a canvas and use it as my “guest book” at my wedding. Everyone signed with Sharpies.

    For anyone who isn’t sure about painting and doesn’t want to waste money or “ruin” something… this is the best way to get started! It is so fun and you’re right, you kinda don’t want to stop! Ha.

  6. says

    I like the painting in your bedroom! I think the blues & greens are dark enough that they don’t melt into the wall, but it’s still bright in contrast to the dark chair. Maybe that’s just how it photographed. But I also think it’ll look nice in the dining room!

    PS – this post makes me want to whip up out my paintbrushes, too! I was an art kid in HS (and ended up studying art history and art in college). The last thing I painted was this on the walls of our apartment.

  7. Jacole says

    We have sooo much in common! I love creating art for practically nothing…$2 paint at Hobby Lobby, foam brushes, on free cardboard from a box/packaging! Ahhhh, I’m a cheap-o for life! Love it!

    P.S. My husband talks to himself CONSTANTLY. Drives me crazy cause I always think he’s talking to me. But now I see your side of it…Narrator of Life fits him perfectly too! :)

  8. says

    I used to paint a lot, but I’ve traded in my brushes for Illustrator, which I LOVE! I’ve been doing little dog drawings (see ’em here )!

  9. Vicki K says

    West Elm Drapes:

    Sherry – I know you have decided to pass on the drapes as the color seems to be not what you are looking for. And I know that you are a total DIYer. But, you know sometime you just need to treat yourself to something that you really love. You and John save so much money on all your projects.Driving 5 hours to a fabric store has got to cost $$$$. You probably could have ordered some drapes for the amount you would have spent on that trip. Just saying…. Treat yourself!!!

    • says

      We’re going to be out near that fabric store visiting friends and family so we’ll swing by while we’re in the area. We’d never drive five hours just to go fabric shopping. Haha. We’re crazy but not that crazy. As for treating myself, someday I will…


    • SG says

      What’s the name of the fabric stores that you’ll be visiting? I’m in the DC area and am wondering if they’re near me.

    • says

      It’s called Mary Jo’s in Charlotte. So much fun! We’ll blog all about it when we go (we actually went there once before and blogged about that trip a while back).


  10. Sarah Mc says

    Personally I like the dark colors better but the lighter one is also nice and works well in that spot. Great idea!
    I think even my non-crafty or creative self could do something like this (though not as well).

    You’ve got me HOOKED on pinterest now too!

  11. says

    I love this post! It’s always fun to read about big house projects, but sometimes it’s actually the little projects like this that inspire me the most. Can’t wait to see what else you paint in the future!

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