Distress-It-Yourself

Well, it’s that time of year I bring you another Pinteresty-style post. And yes, it has to do with picture frames again. That’s what my DIY projects tend to be. This time, I tackled distressing a picture frame.

I wanted some art for my bathroom as I’m still decorating after over a year of moving into my apartment. So I did some antique shopping in Fort Langley and bought this old print and picture frame.

original printI liked the print, especially the postcard text behind the birds. It fits perfectly with the old handwriting on my shower curtain. But I didn’t like the sickly sweet pink of the wood frame. So I distressed it, thanks to these helpful “how-to” instructions I found here and here.

Since I wanted a dark brown colour to be the old layer of paint that showed through, I started off by repainting both pieces of the frame, applying two coats. My old acrylic paint set I got for Christmas one year came in handy so that I didn’t have to buy all the supplies.

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My kitchen table work space. The turquoise frame to the left needed some touch-ups so I did that at the same time.

IMG_0266IMG_0268After letting the paint thoroughly dry, I rubbed the edge of a candle along the frames because this prevents the next colour of paint from sticking to the brown. It also indicates which parts of the frame will peel away when you bring out the sandpaper. Don’t be shy with the wax. If you want a really distressed frame, rub away. You can see the path of my wax below.

IMG_0315 I painted the two pieces again in the main colour I wanted the frame to be.

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I mixed a large amount of white, a pinch of yellow, and some dark purple to get this purply grey colour

IMG_0319I only did one coat of the purply grey because I was going to be sanding some of it off anyway to have the brown show through. Next, I took a piece of sandpaper and started rubbing the frames. I was surprised how easily it took off the paint in the places where I had rubbed the wax!

IMG_0323The last step was to apply some clear varnish to seal in the paint. I borrowed a spray can of my dad’s which gave it a semi-gloss look.

IMG_0328IMG_0325And voilà! The funny thing is now I don’t even think I’ll hang it in my bathroom. I like it more for my hallway or living room.

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My antique corner, minus the Times Square frame I also repainted. You could say I have eclectic tastes!

So that was my bout of craftiness until next year. Any Distress-It-Yourself (or Do-It-Yourself) projects you have on the go?

The Night I Slept in an Art Gallery

I took a quick trip to Victoria the other day and slept in an art gallery. Ok, it wasn’t really an art gallery but it might as well have been. I fell asleep on a friend’s couch surrounded by fabulous walls of art. Most of the paintings were by her brother.

This one in the entrance way is my favourite. I like the movement, the bold colours, especially the bursts of black.

The one on the left reminds me a bit of Cubist paintings, except not as cubish and not as disturbing. Imagine sleeping in a room full of Picasso’s paintings, especially Les Demoiselles d’Avignon or Guernica. I wouldn’t get much sleep.

That middle square painting is absolutely huge. And so colourful. It makes you want to sit and stare at it for hours, trying to figure out if there’s a pattern or if it’s all just random. I think there’s a pattern, but I haven’t figured it out yet. In person, it looks like a picnic blanket or a quilt. Seeing it photographed, however, makes it look more digital as well – like pixels on a camera or computer screen, reminiscent of Douglas Coupland’s Digital Orca along Vancouver’s waterfront.

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Digital Orca. Douglas Coupland. Vancouver.

I gravitate towards geometric shapes, especially squares and rectangles. I like the lines they create, like a city grid. The right painting below reminds me of an upside-down treble clef, and music itself, which is and isn’t linear.

Here’s one of my attempts at an abstract geometric painting I did about a year ago with the acrylic paints I got for Christmas.

Speaking of Christmas, it’s coming soon. 3 days soon! Time for me to wish you a Merry Christmas and to leave you with one of my favourite modern Christmas songs. Enjoy!

Beautiful things we hide

How do I love thee? Let me lock you up.

Sounds a bit harsh, but isn’t that what we do with beautiful things?

Guggenheim Museum, New York City. I actually really like this circular space, but the walls are still white and you’re still looking at works of art in a museum.

We stick masterpieces in sterile environments like museums and art galleries. On one hand, this preserves the art. On the other, it sucks the life right out of them.

National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa. The building’s exterior may be unique, but the galleries inside look much like any other museum.

If art is meant to imitate life, where does life happen? In schools, streets, libraries, places of worship, pubs, cafés, offices, homes, malls, parks, public spaces—the list goes on. Instead of having beautiful things all grouped together in one place, wouldn’t art integrated with life enrich our day-to-day experiences?

How much more significant would it be to encounter Manet’s A Bar at the Folies-Bergère that I wrote about here when you’re ordering your drink at a bar? You would literally become that invisible yet reflected customer in the mirror who’s supposed to feel a bit uncomfortable.

A Bar at the Folies-Bergère. 1881-82. By Edouard Manet

Or how about seeing Degas’ Portraits in an Office or Edmond Duranty in your own office or workplace? The stack of papers and expression that says, “where do I begin?” looks pretty familiar.

Portraits in an Office, New Orleans. 1873. By Edgar Degas.

Edmond Duranty, 1879. By Edgar Degas.

There’s something about seeing art in the context it references that adds to the viewer’s experience. You don’t get the same effect when viewing art in a neutral space like a museum where every other painting shares the same backdrop. Let’s spread out the beauty. Many cities do have public art installations. How about indoors? Most restaurants and cafés hang art on their walls – I actually talked about this in my last post. Maybe even your workplace does. Can we extend this to other spheres we live life in too?

For example, I’m not a huge shopper and I have a strong dislike for malls, but even I would find a sterile suburban mall slightly more bearable if decorated with artwork such as these by modern Impressionist painter Leonid Afremov:

Day of Shopping. By Leonid Afremov

I’d be doing the same activity as these shoppers on canvas — there’s an affinity there between painted and real subjects. I am in their scene and they are in mine. In this way, seeing art in the context it references helps remove some of the distance between art and viewer that tends to get put up when visiting art in a museum. Even the term “visiting” has an alienating quality to it, like we are entering a world separated from ours when the two are, in fact, inseparable – nor should they be. I’m not saying every painting has to be put in the context it depicts (sometimes a piece speaks to us more if it seems out of place)  but I do think we should consider and play with the powerful space where art and life intersect.

Shopping District. By Leonid Afremov

What spaces in your life would you like to see come alive with art?

I’ll leave you with the song that inspired these thoughts.