Saturday, July 30, 2011

How-to: Mixed-media art using maps

Painting - "Traveling nature"
Recently I finished this painting, entitled "Traveling Nature." I painted it on canvas with acrylic paint and made the leaves using maps of places I've been to. For me, it's a combination of a meaningful reminder of my travels as well as a fun artistic accent for my home.

Places featured: North Carolina (Chapel Hill, Great Smoky Mountains), Maryland (Ocean City, Baltimore), Hawaii (Oahu, the Big Island), Arizona (Phoenix, Sedona, Grand Canyon), Florida (Miami), The Bahamas, Pennsylvania, Washington DC area, Mexico, New York (NYC), California (San Francisco), and Massachusetts (Boston).

I get inspiration from the various crafts and art blogs that I read, as well as from items I see in stores. (Note: I'm not affiliated with these blogs or stores at all, these are just items I happen to like.) I first got the idea for the color block background from this rug from West Elm:

For awhile the painting was just the orange and brown background. I was going to paint a big leaf on top, like the West Elm rug, but it didn't feel right to me to just copy something I'd seen in a store.

Then I saw these cute collages with maps. I really liked the idea of repurposing maps into wall art.

Looking for an interesting way to arrange the maps, I found this arrangement of leaves via Pinterest:

Here's a how-to for making mixed-media art with maps:

Materials and cost:

  • Canvas: $20
  • Brushes (small to medium flat and angled brushes for the leaves, larger paint brushes for the background): $5
  • Acrylic paint or flat wall paint: 75 cents to 8 bucks each, depending on size
  • Outdoor Mod Podge: $6
  • Plain scrap paper, pencil, painters tape, ruler for measuring and tracing
  • Maps : free online
  • Color ink for printing: $25 for 1 cartridge
Time: Allow about 1-2 hours for each step, spread out over about 6-7 days

When buying materials like canvas or paint, my tip is to wait until your local art supply store has a sale or offers a good coupon. I found this canvas for something like 60% off in January. These are items which are perpetually available, so it just makes sense to wait for a good deal.

1. Paint the background of the canvas.  I used painters' tape and a rule to get a straight line. I first painted one side with the brown paint and then the other side with orange paint. To get this orange color, I had the smallest size of paint can (half-pint?) mixed at a paint store. For the color to be consistent, I recommend getting the paint pre-mixed to the color you want, instead of buying tubes of paint and mixing yourself. This step takes about 30 minutes for each color block, spread out over 1-2 days.

2. Find and print the maps. I searched for maps (e.g., "Grand Canyon map") with google image search and filtered for only Large images which would print best. Most of my maps I printed out to fill 1 entire sheet of paper.  Using saved maps from travels is another option too. This took me a few hours on 1 day.

3. Cut out the designs you want for your collage from plain or scrap paper, sketching them out with a pencil first. I used leaves, but you could design and cut out whatever shape you want (hearts, circles, etc.). I think this step is really important for testing out the shapes before you cut out the maps.

4. Test out your arrangement of leaves on the canvas until you get something you like. If you want, you can use tape or temporary glue to hold the pieces in place, especially if it is a very exact arrangement. Steps 3-4 take about an hour (depending on how long it takes you to get the result you want)

5. Then, using the "test" pieces as a template, trace out the leaves on the maps and cut them out. Note: If you wanted an even more precise shape, you could design a template using graphics software like photoshop and edit the maps before printing them out. This you can do in about 15-30 minutes.

6. For the solid-colored leaves, I painted the plain pieces with acrylic paint (and then making sure they were dry before gluing to the canvas). I chose to do this rather than painting directly on the background, which would not have been as solid. This takes another 15 minutes or so.

7. Now position the leaves on the collage. Brush the mod podge on the pieces, stick them down, and then brush on a layer of mod podge over the pieces. This step is actually pretty quick if you do it all at once - maybe an hour, but if you spend additional time adjusting anything or repainting, that adds to the time for painting and drying.

8. When it's dry, brush at least 1 layer of mod podge over the entire canvas to seal it. At this point you could build up the layers using different stroke patterns if you wanted more texture. This is a very quick step and only takes about 10 minutes.

A word about the mod podge. I used Outdoor mod podge. I had looked at the bottle of "regular" mod podge glue which said I would have to use an additional sealer on top of it, whereas the outdoor mod podge glue did not require that step. It has a glossy finish that isn't tacky. My paper did wrinkle a little bit (which may have happened with regular version too), but the outdoor version does *not* seem to have reacted negatively to the canvas so far. I also hope that this will make the painting more durable than if I had just used the regular kind.

Cost:  Depending on materials you have on hand, this project can be free to about $75 dollars to complete. For example, I had to buy more color ink for my printer, which added $25 to my costs. I mention this because craft projects can often get deceptively expensive, so do them because you want to express yourself and have fun, not because you think it will be cheap. It can be less expensive, but not always. I probably could have bought a manufactured print for $75, which would have looked more professional, but would not have been as unique or meaningful.

So, there you have it. Feel free to share - what creative purposes do you have for travel mementos? Please leave your comments and questions for me on this post.


Nanda said...

Love the finished product!

Mary said...

Hello, How do I get in touch with you? There is no email or contact info listed .. please advise .. thanks .. Mary. Please contact me maryregency at gmail dot com

Mirabili Vestium said...

The leaves are wonderful!