For over ten years, my husband and I have been discussing various mission statements for our home. This past week we celebrated 24 years of marriage. I decided if we haven’t figure it out what this marriage thing is about by now, we might as well give up, so my anniversary gift to him was this wall hanging. And he loves it. We both do, but it was a lot of work and the worst of it was that I lost the wooden panel canvas I wanted to use.
I woke up one day thinking I could do this project while he was at work and surprise him. But the only surprise was that I turned our entire house up-side-down. (I’m sure he was thrilled to come home to chaos.) The next day I reorganized and cleaned my studio because after doing art everyday for a month things were getting out of hand. Even after a thorough cleaning, I still found no canvas. We are not the kind of people who have a cluttered home–we like to see the walls. My hubby searched for it while he was home, but neither of us could figure out how such a big canvass could get lost in such a clean house. It was extremely frustrating and I even questioned if I dreamed it all up and never actually ordered it, but he remembered it too.
One thing we have learned in all our years together is that life is unpredictable, so neither of us got bent out of shape about it, but it was really weird. The next morning I temporarily lost my drive to do art so I got lazy and decided to sleep in. When I got up and came out into the family room, the canvas was sitting there waiting for me. After pinching myself, I texted hubby and sure enough he had found it in the garage in a box marked for guess what? Good Will–yikes!
So I cheerfully began the process of turning the canvas into a home mission statement. It took a whole day to write out the statement and stamp it on the board to make sure the letters would fit. After all these years, I basically knew what we wanted it to say, but to make it fit succinctly was key.
I found letter stamping rather tedious because I knew I was going to cover it all over with paper anyway, but it was a necessary step to make sure what I wanted to say would fit on the canvas and it’s a good thing I did, because I had too many words. I pared down my original statement several times to make it fit.
Another issue was finding letters that were actually the right size. I have lots of stamps (thanks to my hubby who faithfully supports the arts through buying my supplies.) Even with seven or eight different types I still struggled to find the right fit. And no, sorry local friends, I cannot share my stamps because they are organized in a way that only I can figure out.
Looking at the finished product for day one, you might notice I misspelled one word because looking at letters backwards while breathing in ink fumes causes a headache. After this, I called it a day.
End of Day One
For the second day, I used watercolor paper and gouache to make some little flowers and bigger flower shapes to add to the finish product. It might not seem like much, but these little details reflect the history of our lives. We have owned seven cats and treasured every one, so cats were naturally on the top of my list. We love the ocean and had our first kiss in New Zealand on a gorgeous beach and we honeymooned at and have lived on the Oregon Coast, so I added a couple starfish (and yes there really are purple ones.) We both love to read so a book is a must. The bluebird of happiness is always welcome in my art. And two hearts beating individually, but in time with each other is symbolic of our union.
By the time I was finished dreaming up stuff to paint and cutting them out, I was done for the day.
End of Day Two
I did what Kelly Rae Roberts calls “unleashing our joy.” I thought of what sort of things I wanted to build into the first layer. (For those unfamiliar with this type of art, mixed media art is not just about the looks of the finished project but a journey filled with meaning and while not all layers are visible on the finished project, they have meaning to the artist.
Life is too short to spend time gluing ugly paper on a board, so I chose papers that delighted me and began gluing them down with gel gloss medium. I love gel gloss medium because it seals the surface so you can wipe off the paint if you don’t like it for future applications. Here is the first layer glued on with a top layer of gel gloss applied.
Next I wanted to add meaningful layers for our marriage. My hubby is a musician so I added a G clef. We both love the writings of George MacDonald so I ripped a page out of an antique book (bought specifically for this sort of thing) “At the Back of the North Wind,” and glued them onto the next layer.
Here is the page I glued and as you can see for people whose families were not always happy, we have often felt much like Diamond, but we also have discovered we have a choice and we do not need to make the same choices as our parents. We especially like the last part, “When heart and head go together, nothing can stand before them.” Thanks George MacDonald!
For the paint layers, I first painted the whole thing including sides with the color I must wanted to use. Then I took some bubble wrap and brushed paint on it and then placed it on the canvas for some contrast. At this point you can no longer read the George MacDonald quote and you can barely see the G clef, but hubby and I know it’s in there and that’s what matters. This is where art really is a process.
Next I added some green paint and used some stencils to add more contrasting layers and more gel gloss before masking off the edges with painter’s masking tape (which is a lot like real masking tape except it’s blue and doesn’t stick as hard or ruin the surface.) I left this picture a little bigger so you can see the details. I think it looks like a pretty painting in its own right at this point.
I learned masking with white years ago from my mentor and friend Estle Johnson who not only taught me to paint with oils, but she paid for and took me to get my GED. At the time, I was young and had no idea how she was such a gift to my life–one of those human angels God sends when we are in need.
I thought of Estle as I painted this and wished she was still alive today so I could thank her for the many things she taught me. She definitely influenced my life for the better. This love I felt for her was also poured onto the canvass with each stroke. I felt straight white would be too stark and I wanted a warmer tone so I added some medium cad yellow to the white. I’ll show you what it looked like in case you want to make one for yourself. I will also add a list of supplies at the end of the page for those interested in making their own mission statement.*
So here is what the first layer looked like.
You can still see through it easily but I wanted to make sure my letters stood out so I went for a second layer. I then added some strips on the bottom and on the top I added washi tape that looks like a measuring tape that measures hope, joy, love, laughter and says I love U on it. It felt it was appropriate because these are the fruits of a good marriage.
Next I applied my larger fonts with paint. I put the paint on the stamps with a small paint brush and pressed down. This was looking good, but it was time for a rest so I stopped here.
End of Day Three
I got out the black dizzy ink pad and started applying letters. I found a way to keep the ink from stinking up the room in the shortest amount of time, I set out each line and prepared to stamp then opened the ink pad and as soon as that line was done, I shut it immediately. Then I prepared the next line of stamps. It was fun, but challenging to decide where to put the larger letters. All the words in larger letters stand out so I wanted them to be words that represented our core values like respect, love, freedom, etc. I also used that handy painter’s masking tape to measure and mark off each line to keep it straight.
After I had all the letters on, I added another coat of gel gloss to seal it off and started gluing on pieces of the water color art I had made. I didn’t use all of the pieces. The main idea was to have options but not overdo it. As I glued each piece on, I glued over it and then went around each with black marker for continuity. I also traced the turquoise letters with black. To finish, I put two more coats of gel gloss over the entire piece including the sides.
End of Day Four
Even though it ended up being a little late for our anniversary, I was thrilled to set it out last night and start supper. My hubby came home and made his yummy stir fry sauce and we sat and ate while we stared at it. That’s how it goes in a fun marriage. Here is one last look at the finished product hanging on the wall.
Supplies you might need if you want to make one of your own–
paper–the stiffer the better
gouache to make small art pieces
book page or items of interest to you to incorporate into your art
bubble wrap or other texture tools help
stencils and letter stamps of various sizes
(if you live in a small town look on Amazon)
*NOTE: Make sure you use zinc white for veiling because it’s transparent
You also might want to keep your selections to transparent colors which mix easily without looking like mud.
Here is a video I found that helps explain the advantages of transparent colors.