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Art On a Budget

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Nine months along and the nursery is done! I will share those photos later, but in the meantime, I’ll talk about how I got there and within a very tight budget. By far the least expensive elements in the room are the artwork. Yes, we have slanted walls, so we didn’t have room for a TON of art, but none the less… cheap.


I knew I wanted a mix between handmade art and bought art. I also knew I wanted art that would move to other rooms when Baby L grew out of the nursery. I love typography, so when I found the “happiness” art at Home Goods for $25.00, I had to have it. The message is perfect and the black really helps anchor that side of the room. As for filling up the rest of the walls, I wanted something personalized, something eclectic, and something different. So, I headed to Michael’s and picked up some canvases and decided to do a little DIY. I got 2 canvas packs one was 12×12 and one was 11×14. Both packs had 2 canvases in them. Price? $9.00 for 4 canvases. Score!

The colors of the nursery are grey, yellow, white, and accents of black and aqua. It took me a while to find the right aqua colored spray paint, but low and behold, Lowe’s had it of course! Valspar’s Seafoam, if you are interested.

I love silhouettes. I think they keep things minimal, but fun. Not too busy. So I sat down and wrote what I would like to see in the room. A Boston Terrier was a no brainer. We have two, and I know Baby L will love them both. I have always loved birds, so that was another easy one. Being from a VERY Irish family, the clover seemed suitable. Can’t let Baby forget his/her heritage! And I have loved this idea of animal heads in children’s rooms that is all the rage, so I knew I wanted to incorporate a deer head. I have to say, when I mentioned deer head to my husband, he had to have it! That was on his must-have list. As I sat back, I was realizing that my list was becoming very woodsy-themed. So, I just kept on going with the theme and decided on some nice birch trees to round out the art.

After I googled some images of each of my subjects, I decided on one for each. I printed them out at various sizes and tried them out on my canvases. Nothing needs to be centered. Live a little! I personally love how the Boston Terrier doesn’t fill up the canvas and is tucked away to the side. It makes the art spontaneous and fun! So experiment with sizes and placement, you will be glad you did. I also placed the canvases on the ground and tried to visualize how they would look placed together on the wall. This helped decide what images went on which size canvases and also gave me a better idea of how I wanted the wall to look in the end. The composition is important here – experiment!

Now if you will remember, I chose 5 images – birds, dog, tree, clover, and deer head – but I only have 4 canvases. Well I wanted to do something special for the deer head, so I decided to make that my special project for the hubby. More on that later.
Back to the canvases!

Once I figured out my image placement on each canvas, and where I wanted each canvas to go on the wall, I had to figure out color for each painting. I wanted a good mixture of the colors. It’s a nursery after all, and I wanted it to be lively and fun. This is purely a personal choice. And what is great, is that this project is so cheap and affordable, you can change the color and images as many times as you’d like.
So outside the canvases went. I gave them all a primer coat in white. This is a good idea to do, considering the canvases may not “match” even though they are all white. You may have one that is a bit more off-white than you thought. So a primer is simple and easy.
While those dried, I cut out my images to form my stencils. To do this, I used sticky-back sheet vinyl (it can be found at hobby lobby in a roll form) and my trusty X-acto knife. All I did was place my image on the vinyl and cut around the image using the X-acto.
Then I gave each canvas a coat of it’s “inside” color. And by this, I mean the color that I decided for the image. For the Boston Terrier, it was white. For the birds, it was yellow. For the clover, it was blue. For the birch tree, I did things differently. I wanted the trees to be grey with a white background. I knew it would be hard to get the white to cover the grey, so I reversed my process, and decided to cut the trees out of the vinyl and use the “negative” of the image as my stencil.
As all trial and error projects, this is where things got tricky.
Things were not supposed to get tricky of course, but that is the way it goes. From here, I waited for the paint to dry, then unpeeled a stencil and placed it on my canvas where I wanted it. Well, the sticky, wasn’t as “sticky” as I would have liked. Actually it wasn’t very sticky at all. The sides of the stencils kept coming up and I knew they would not give me the nice clean lines I was looking for. My thoughts? Oh well! Let’s try this anyway.

So once I stuck the vinyl on as best I could, I gave the canvas a nice even coat of the “background” color that I wanted to use. I let the art dry for a bit before removing the stencil. You don’t want the stencil to dry on the canvas, so it is important to remove the stencil before fully dry.
As you can see, the edges were a bit uneven and needed some addressing.
Fixing them was actually pretty simple. I just got out my itty bitty paintbrush and my small sponge brush and got to work fixing those edges. All you need to do is spray a little bit of your spray paint in a concentrated area and form a small puddle. Don’t go overboard though, because the spray paint dries very quickly and you don’t want to waste it! Then I just used whichever brush was applicable and fine-tuned those pesky mistakes. Once the paint dries (within minutes) you can barely see the imperfections. And hey, the imperfections show it was made with love!
I let the art dry for a day, then took them upstairs to the nursery. My particular canvases did not come with mounting hardware, so I had to add those. Luckily I had some laying around the house, but I imagine these are only a couple of dollars or so at a hobby shop. I just tacked those in lightly in the center of each canvas.
When placing your composition on the wall, I recommend using paper and tape first. I did not get a photo of me doing this, but that is exactly what I did in order to get the right location for each art piece. Just cut your paper out to fit the size of your canvas, and tape to the wall. It is that simple. That way you can move them an inch here, a foot there, etc. until you get the right composition for you. Then I made a mark for my screws and pre-drilled my holes. Our farmhouse has plaster walls, so pre-drilling is a must! We have found that out the hard way in years past. Then, place your screws and hang your art! Voila!
Now remember that deer head!? Well, I was lucky enough to have some time off work so that I could head up to my old College of Architecture. Here, I used a laser cutter to cut out a deer head out of white acrylic. I like the way that the deer “mounts” look, but I wanted to change it up, and be a bit unexpected, so I went instead with a 2D image.. Laser cutters are a great tool to do lots of fun projects on. I recommend looking up your local milling shop that has a laser cutter and reviewing the types of things you can create. I hope you can use these steps to create your own art! I believe art isn’t supposed to be expensive, it is supposed to be fun!


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One thought on “Art On a Budget

  1. Pingback: A Nursery for Finley « Living Simply

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