Changing art around the home can be a quick and easy way to change the whole look of a room, but is can also be costly, so I like to create my own art! Follows is the step by step process I went through to create my Major Mitchell Cockatoo art (yes, that is what they are supposed to be) and how I made the timber frames around them. *For the timber frame I did use power tools that I already had, but there are cheaper alternatives that work just as well and they are also detailed below.
First I bought the canvases and paints from my local house to home. The canvases only cost $14.95 each while the paints were only a few dollars per tube. I always have a few tubes in the home along with craft paint brushes. I also sometimes use leftover wall paint and sample pots from projects in the home.
My inspiration for these canvases came from some gorgeous photographic images I found on the internet of Major Mitchell Cockatoos in the wild. Looking at these images I drew a small sketch (my interpretation) of the two poses I liked the most. Because I am not brilliant at drawing, I found recreating these sketches on a bigger scale difficult, so I drew a grid over the sketches and then on a much larger scale with a 2B pencil drew the grid lines onto the canvases (some maths involved to work out the right scale to fill the canvas). I then drew the birds using the small sketch with grid as my guide. *Note the B pencils are generally easier to rub out and best not to have them sharpened to a fine point as they will likely dent the canvas.
Once I was happy with the drawings, I went over them with a black sharpie. Then I was able to rub out the grid and pencil lines on the canvas. I had to do this gently so I didn’t stretch the canvas by putting too much pressure on it. I didn’t worry about getting rid of the lines completely as I then painted over the whole canvas with some white wall paint I had. Just enough to give the canvas a clean fresh look but so I could still faintly see the sharpie outline of my cockies.
Then I painted them with the paints I had chosen. I mixed a few colours, experimented and built them up over time. I wasn’t trying to make them look 100% authentic, I more wanted them to have a calm feel, that would work well with my wall colour and bedroom.
Once I was happy with how they looked, it was time to put a timber frame around them. This is such a cheap and easy way to make any canvas look good. I usually use Tasmanian Oak cover strap mouldings, but this was part of a bigger project that was on a tight budget, so I tried the Meranti timber. It was much cheaper and worked just as well, but I did have to go through the pile at Bunnings to find the pieces with the nicest colour and finish.
I taped the area on the timber that I needed to cut (this helps stop the timber from splintering) and marked the required cut on the tape. I used my mitre saw to make all the cuts on a bevelled 45 degree angle so they would fit together like a real frame. You can also use a mitre box to cut the angles, you just need to ensure you have a sharp saw to get a clean cut. *You can also sand the edge with fine sandpaper if your cut is a bit rough.
I cut one length at a time and held it against the canvas to determine the next length I needed. While a canvas is usually a rectangle or square, they can warp and the sides won’t necessarily be the same length. It is better to cut each length as required ensuring you have a couple of millimetres to play with and that the ends all meet up neatly. If your mitre ends don’t meet perfectly, try sanding them first before cutting again as they might just need a slight adjustment. Don’t forget to allow for the width of the blade when you make your cut.
Once I was happy with all my pieces of timber, I used my braid nail gun to attach them to the canvas. Additionally I popped a nail into each corner at the top and bottom where the timber meets, to stop the corners opening up. The benefit of the braid nail gun is that it is fast and the nails countersink on their own, so these spots can be easily filled with wood putty and sanded so that they basically become invisible. I have also used a hammer and small head nails in the past and these work just as well, but it helps to have someone hold the canvas while you are nailing them in. If you use nails and a hammer, buy nails with either a countersunk or bullet head (it will be written on the packet). This way you can tap them a little further into the timber using a nail punch and fill them as you would the braid nail hole. I have however left the nails visible before and no one but me notices, as people look at the art and not the sides of the frame!
For this project I didn’t use glue. I have used wood glue in the past to help attach the timber frame to the canvas, but have had issues where it has come through to the front of the canvas. If you use glue, ensure the canvas is facing up and the glue you put onto the timber is minimal. For smaller frames the glue isn’t necessary. I tend to only use it if I do a very large canvas like my Cockatoos below…yes I am a bit cocky obsessed!