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. Riane says

    When I was updating the master bath, I found the perfect art on The problem was that all together, the pieces were WAY out of budget. So, I marched over to Michael’s, picked up some canvases, paints and brushes, and recreated the pieces myself. People always notice them and complement them. I’ve wanted to do more ever since.

    Your piece looks AH-mazing! I love the layering of colors. So pretty!

  2. Natalie says

    Hey Guys!! Do you have a floor plan of your first house with dimensions for the rooms? Thanks!!

  3. Ashley says

    Thank you for posting this as it’s inspiration for an idea I’ve had percolating for some time. We want to take a big canvas and actually use flowers (the same ones that you created into magnets in your old house) and use them as part of the design. So it’s almost like an “installation” rather than just a painting!

    Just seeing you make this idea come to life makes me want to run home (or the art store to get the canvas!) and get started!

    Keep up all the hard work. It’s all looking so beautiful!

  4. Leah says

    I look at photos first when reading blogs and then if I see something interesting I read the post. So, when I first looked at the photos before I read that you weren’t thrilled with the tone on tone effect I thought the same thing. I also thought the painting needed some type of frame to set it off from the wall and soften the lines of the painting. Did you consider framing it? I love the painting by the way!

    • says

      I never thought about framing it actually (I usually like the raw chunky look of canvas since the house is full of frames on a lot of other walls) but it could work if I build out a frame around it whenever we find the right spot for it down the road! Who knows where we’ll end up.


    • says

      It’s just not the standard medium for painting on a canvas in the art world (although house paint and acrylic paint aren’t that far off). Apparently, I’ll do anything to save a buck. Haha.


    • Bob says


      House paint is far from archival. If you want your art to last a lifetime, it’s best to go with something more archival like 100% acrylic or oil paint. That said, many artists have used house paint regardless. It’s just generally frowned upon by the art establishment and conservators will hate you if your work makes it into a museum.

      Note that there are some house paints that are 100% acrylic. Savvy artists use it to save money and keep their work archival.

      Hope it helps.

  5. says

    I am in the “I like the painting…and in that spot” camp. I love seeing other people paint as it is my kryptonite. Paper is my medium. :) Tell your professor…the older we get, the more we like to hear that we mattered in someone’s life that isn’t in the immediate family. I’m 48, and have crossed paths with thousands of people. To have just one of them contact me to tell me that something I did or said made a difference to them would make my year. :) Keep up the good work as a “narrator of life.” You guys totally rock. :)

  6. Carrie says

    I liked Version 1.0 better because I am so into bold right now but I totally agree, it didn’t feel right on your wall. And made the wall color pull more gray… in the pictures at least.
    This is so creative! But I can’t draw a straight line to save my life, much less paint one! I have been in a super creative mood lately so I need to just bite the bullet and do something!

  7. Bob says

    I’m glad you posted this. People need to be reminded that art isn’t nearly as easy as they think. Professionals simply make it look easy.

    I look forward to seeing your next attempt.

    • says

      I have to disagree with you, Bob. As long as you are inspired, art does come easily. Maybe it is not ‘art’ by your definition but it is still art to someone. I’ve seen things painted/created by non-professionals that looks 1000x better than art I’ve seen in museums.

      Again, great job, Sherry.

    • Bob says

      Fair point, Heather. I should have said that good art is not easy.

      I’ll avoid the art definition debate this time around. That will go nowhere quick here.

  8. Cheryl says

    Holy crap I’m inspired! I need something big to go over my bed but I’m too cheap to shell out the cash. This would be perfect!

    Did you have a method to the madness (for which colors went where) or did you just do it at random? Also, would you be offended if I copied this project line by line? Lol!

    I know you read it all the time, but you two are amazing.

    • says

      I did it totally randomly. My computer battery was dead for most of the painting process (I’m terrible about plugging in my laptop) so I didn’t even have my inspiration pic up after I sketched out the lines and points. So I just went wild and random. Hope it helps!


  9. says

    GORGEOUS!!!!!! Just a helpful hint, Kristen from KFD Designs mention last week that she uses watercolor pencils (as opposed to a regular graphite pencil) to sketch out a design first. The watercolor pencil lines just blend right into the paint.

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