My bedroom at school is so plain. I’m only going to be here for a year so I haven’t put very much effort into decorating, but I’m getting really bored with the space. Since my art, posters, and other decor items are still at home with my husband, I also have limited resources for decorating. Plus the hubs and I are both grad students, so there isn’t enough extra money for a mad HomeGoods shopping spree. I love my silhouette wall art, but I didn’t want to do the same project again. After some Pinteresting (because isn’t that where all great projects start?) I got some ideas for abstract art I could easily recreate with a DIY project. Since I love painting and wanted to snazz mine up a bit, I also added some extra (doable, but optional) steps to add texture and a fun, gradient background. It’s still a very straightforward project, so don’t worry if you’re not a painter! If you can paint a circle, you can make this flower painting!
Like all of our Hump Day How-To projects, I’ve tried to keep this as cheap as possible. I know I’m not the only poor student/budget decorator out there! All of my items were purchased on sale. My canvases were 2/$8, I used a 40% off coupon for the brushes, and the cheapy acrylic paints often go on sale 2/$1. Some people may have some of these items at home already, which makes this project even cheaper!
Blank canvas (Mine was 24×36, but any size will work – I picked up a two-pack on sale at A.C. Moore)
Paint brushes (More will make your life easier, but you need at least three: a large brush for the background, a 3/4 inch brush for the flowers, and a small brush for the stems)
Acrylic paints (I used three yellows, four blues, white, and brown for the stems, but you can use any colors you want!)
Sponge or rag (for blending the background)
Paper plates (to use as a paint palette)
1/2 c. baking soda
3 tbsp. Elmer’s Glue-All
2 tbsp. white acrylic paint
Something to stir the texture medium with (plastic spoon or popsicle stick)
Cup of water (don’t use a cup you care about!)
Paper towels or rags to dry brushes on
Newspapers, cardboard, or plastic tablecloth to protect your table
Lay out your newspaper or plastic tablecloth and place your canvas on top. You can totally use an easel if you’re fancy, but I don’t own one. We don’t get newspapers, so I had to stick with the grocery fliers that come in the mail and the box from a 12 pack of Sierra Nevada IPAs. Just make sure you’re not using anything you care about, acrylic paints will stain!
On your paper plate, set up the colors you’ll be using for your background. I used three different shades of yellow that went from a dark goldenrod color down to ivory. I ended up adding it later, but you might want some white too.
Wet your big brush a little bit and quickly brush the darkest color around the edges of the canvas. The background needs to be quickly painted because we’ll be blending colors with our sponge and it works best when the paint is still wet.
Paint the middle color around the center of the darker color. I wanted my lightest area to be toward the top, so I didn’t make the top layers as thick as the bottom layers.
Using your lightest yellow (for me it was the ivory), fill in the center, leaving a small area of white.
Grab your sponge and begin to dab/blend the colors, moving from darkest to lightest. You’ll fill in the white area during this process. If you’re unhappy with your gradient, you can add more of any color and repeat the process. I ended up adding some white so there was kind of sunburst at the top-center. I left my background pretty messy, but you can make yours as smooth as you want!
With the extra paint on the sponge or brush, paint the sides of the canvas.
Let your background dry really well before starting to paint the flowers.
Meanwhile, let’s work on our homemade texture paste. The biggest money-saving choice I made was to make my own texture paste instead of purchasing it from the craft store. Though the real stuff is pretty cool, it’s an expensive purchase for people who don’t paint often. Don’t worry, the DIY version works really well too! I found the recipe on Such a Pretty Mess and tweaked it a bit.
Get out a plastic cup (or airtight container if you plan on using the texture medium again) and add 1/2 cup of baking soda, 3 tablespoons of Elmer’s Glue All (or school glue), and 2 tablespoons of white acrylic paint. Mix really well. It should be the consistency of thick frosting.
If you’re scared of the texture paste, don’t be! It’s pretty simple to use and has a great result. If you still don’t want to, feel free to skip the steps that involve mixing the texture paste into your paints.
On a paper plate, squeeze out some of your flower colors. Next to each color, add a gob of texture paste and stir together with a brush.
For painting the flowers, I used two brushes. The large brush was about 3/4 inch wide and the other was the smallest brush that came in my pack. If you have options, I would recommend an even smaller brush as it would result in thinner stems.
Using the larger of your two flower brushes, paint a circle on your canvas. The added texture paste will help it stay thick instead of spreading out across the canvas as it dries.
Use the different colors to paint different sized circles across your canvas.
When your first layer of circles is dry, use brown paint and your teeny brush to paint a stem on each flower. The stems should come from the center of each flower, but don’t worry if they’re not perfect. If another circle is in the way, you can paint the stem on top of it or behind it.
Once the first layer is completely dry, begin your second layer. These flowers can go on top of stems or even on top of other flowers. It won’t be perfect, but want to add a little bit of depth to your painting.
Once the flowers are dry, paint the second set of stems. Make sure that some are painted on top of flowers, to get more of a feeling of depth. When your stems are dry you can add more layers if you want, but I stuck with two. How do you think the texture turned out?
Here’s a close-up of one side of my finished painting. You can see the texture as well as the different layers of flowers.
What do you think of the finished product up on the mantle? I’m super happy with the result, but I had hoped it would solve my decorating problem… now all I want to do is accessorize! Has that ever happened to you?