Tuesday, January 20, 2015

presenting the presents! (version J.J.0)

I harbor a fair amount of guilt over the fact that money is tight, considering it's...you know...my fault (having abandoned my job and all). Rowan's Christmas gifts were easy enough to handle this year, but my main squeeze was another story. Historically, I'm not the best gift-giver, so with such a limited budget, I was extra worried about what to get for J.J. this year.

Since Rowan has been born, though, she's provided endless opportunities for perfect DIY presents that make the receiver cry (that's the goal, right?). As far as I'm concerned, hand me a smudged print of a blurry picture of her, and I'm good. Thankfully, J.J. (and my mother-in-law!) are way more creative and thoughtful than that, so I've been on the receiving end of some sweet gifts in the last year or so - ceramic baby footprints, photo collages, a canvas painted by Rowan (when she was seven months old...a prodigy, obviously), and even a board book featuring a story about Rowan and Mama. So once Christmas was approaching, I turned to Pinterest for inspiration and found tons of great ideas - mostly involving canvases, Mod Podge, and craftiness way beyond my skill level (which is approximately Advanced Kindergartner, Not Including Scissor Work, Where Student Shows Significant Delays).

My favorite project, while calling for both a canvas AND Mod Podge, still looked doable and involved ripping paper instead of cutting. Screw you, subpar fine motor skills!

There are a million canvas quote tutorials on Pinterest, but this one (from www.six2eleven.net) caught my eye because of the colors. I loved the idea of the letters popping out against a white base - especially since I wasn't sure where we'd end up hanging the canvas (assuming it came out as display-able). As for the quote I went with? Well, J.J. and Rowan have a favorite song to dance to together - "Home," by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes. Watch how Rowan's face lights up when she hears it:

Clearly, the quote I needed to use for this project was "home is wherever I'm with you." I hunted around on Pinterest a little more to check out different letter arrangements, sticker fonts, and color schemes, but in the end, I stuck with the tutorial in the link above.

Here are the materials I used:
- Blank canvas (had one already)
- Letter stickers (had some, but ended up buying another set from Michaels for contrast)
- Torn-up pictures from magazines
- White acrylic paint & a medium-sized paintbrush (had already)
- Spray adhesive (also from Michaels)
- Mod Podge (also from Michaels)

My friend Emily came over one afternoon so we could craft together (effectively snuffing out my self-concept of craft hater), and Rowan managed to take an extra-long nap so I could tackle the first step of the canvas - ripping up colorful magazine pages and gluing them to the canvas. In retrospect, I should have ripped up larger pieces - I made pieces that were, like, 1" x 1"; I think 3" x 3" would have been better. There was...a lot of spray adhesive involved. 

You would only need to let the glue dry for, say, an afternoon, but I didn't get a chance to paint for over a week - it was harder than I thought to find a time when J.J. wasn't home and Rowan was either not home or napping! In the meantime, I played around with letter arrangements and discovered that I liked the look of two contrasting fonts better than just one. The next chance I had, I stuck the letters on - not with any real planning or technique; just wherever they looked right. I wanted to include a picture of J.J. and Rowan, too. Well, actually, originally I wanted to use a picture of all three of us, but it turns out there aren't any great pictures out there of the whole family. There are tons of J.J. and Rowan, though, so I went with one of my favorites - which was also sufficiently in focus and close-up enough to work for the canvas.

(We don't usually carry her around outside in a straightjacket. She had woken up cranky
from a nap, so Dada was bouncing her around outside while she was still in her sleep sack.)

There are tons of ideas on Pinterest for transferring photos to canvas, and I hope to try them someday, but for this, I just cut the picture into the shape of a heart and glued it to the canvas. I covered it with a matching heart-shaped piece of paper before I started painting - the hope being that it would pop through the white paint the same way the letters would.

Finally, I painted the whole canvas with the white acrylic paint, let that dry for about ten minutes (with the aid of a hair dryer...I was in a rush to get it done before J.J. and Rowan came back from an adventure), and did one more coat, again using the hair dryer to speed up the process. The last step was removing the letter stickers, which (SURPRISE) turned out to be the suckiest part. Even though I had firmly attached the stickers, paint bled under most of the edges, which made them hard to remove - and not as sharp as I wanted them to be. Luckily, the paint that had bled was still wet, so I used a paper towel to clean up the edges a bit. They aren't perfect, which I actually prefer, but I didn't want them to be illegible, which some of them initially were (oops).

Final product, after doing two coats of Mod Podge a week later?

And Dada loved his Christmas present (whew).

We ended up hanging it in the kitchen, over what is now Rowan's little art corner. I just used a Command strip on each corner to hang it. I find the strips work really well with lightweight canvases, with the added bonus of helping to stop the canvas from warping, which sometimes happens when you use a lot of glue.

...Which reminds me - I need to do an update on how Rowan's art corner is coming along! Meanwhile, though, I'd love to do some more canvas projects like this one. Fun, easy, relatively little skill involved, and I'm pretty happy with how it turned out. And pretty thankful that there are great ideas for low-cost presents out there! Ah, Pinterest...the gift that keeps on giving.

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