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. says

    Looks great!

    So glad you did this post. I’ve been toying with the idea of doing my own art for awhile now, mostly because the budget is GONE and the walls are bare. But unlike you, I’m no artist. I can copy pretty good though. But my question is how do I start? So I go to Michael’s and get a canvas and then what? Do I have to prime it? What about this Gesso or Geeso or something like that stuff that I’ve heard about? Do I just start painting? Help!

    • says

      Nope, I didn’t prime it at all. Just got my blank canvas and started penciling in my lines and using craft paint and wall paint for the colored prism shapes. It’s definitely “unorthodox” but I’m a girl who went to art school in NYC and I boldly scream whisper “whatever works!” Haha.


  2. Melanie says

    My neighbor actually goes to FIT in NYC, I asked her on facebook if he is still there, but I haven’t heard anything back yet!

    • says

      Ooh do tell! From the looks of his site (which two sneaky readers found) he’s no longer teaching there. Which is a shame. He was awesome. He’s one of the only teachers I remember actually.


  3. Kate says

    I learned that i talk to myself when am painting or drawing when i was in high school. Once, some girls in my class ‘caught’ me in the act and i had no idea i was doing it, i looked at them like they were crazy. Then 5 minutes later, i was talking to myself about how I’m totally not someone who talks to themselves and they caught me again. and i still didn’t believe them, it was hilarious. now i know it and accept it.. it keeps the brain moving.

  4. jaime says

    Sherry, this painting is so cool and graphic. I LOVE it! Perfect to use for those sample paint pots, too! I’m always ripping out magazine pages for some recreated art of my own…you’ve inspired me to get started!! :)

  5. says

    I am officially inspired! We have a big blank space behind the couch that I’ve been saving for something special. And what’s more special than something I make myself, right?
    Those colors are actually perfect for our space too ;)

  6. Bobby says

    lookin good :). I don’t know if I’d have the patience to paint that! Also, I have some problem where I like everything framed. this would look nice framed. But i am also aware that is a problem of mine and is unnecessary – it looks great as is :)

  7. Christie says

    I love it! Totally works in your space. Great call on lightening the darker green lines. You should definiely do another painting soon. Kudos!

  8. says

    Love it! I was so excited when I saw “painting” and “canvas” upon opening the page. I’ve been waiting with great anticipation to see what you do with those, and you certainly didn’t disappoint! I wish I could paint, but my creativity lies in the sewing and knitting realm of crafting.

  9. says

    Ok, you finished inspiring me for the day! I am sitting here at my desk trying to work but cannot stop scribbling dress patterns on a blank sheet of paper. Unrelated to this post but seeing your work of art and reading your quilt post from the other day, I am gaining enough confidence to foray into the DIY camp. Thanks more than you know!

  10. Elaine says

    To help us non-painter, can you fill in what kind of brushes you used and any other materials information that would cause me to fail at this cool project?? Thanks!!

    • says

      Oh gosh, I just used tiny craft brushes. The cheap ones from Michael’s for around $3 that come in a three pack with quarter-inch widths (so I could get into those tiny points). Other than that all I needed was a $1 bottle of white craft paint that I already had and the three pots of paint from Lowe’s that I mentioned by name in the post. You can do it!


    • says

      From Lowe’s I got three little test post of Olympic No-VOC paint color matched to the paint swatches I mentioned in the post. It comes in a satin finish but it’s interior house paint (not acrylic paint). As for the white craft paint that I mixed, that was just a big tube of white craft paint from Michael’s for 99 cents a while back.


  11. Christie says

    Also, where did the floor lamp in your bedroom come from? I need something like that in my guest room.

    • says

      That moves around the house (it used to be in the living room before we added the table lamps on the new console) but it was originally from Home Depot a few years back. I think it was $45 which is really good for a floor lamp with a big drum shade. Hope they still have it!


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