Introduction: Found Paper Minimalist Canvas Art

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I just moved into a new house, and wanted something to cover a big space and tie together all of the different decor colors in the room. I settled on a grouping of six 8x10" canvases, but you could do this with any size, provided that the found paper is big enough to cover it. I'm using sheet music, but this project would work equally well with wrapping paper or maps. I made circular cutouts, but you could do stars, diamonds, squares, faces, animals... whatever you think you're dextrous enough to cut out.

Step 1: Get Your Materials Together.

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You will need:

1. acrylic paint in whatever colors you want (get more than you think you need, because it sucks to run out in the middle of a project)
2. something to mix the paint on that is reasonably non-porous (I used disposable coated paper plates)
3. a palette knife to mix the paint (only if you're making your own colors)
4. a paintbrush (I used a 1" synthetic hair; don't use natural hair that is too coarse or it will leave too much texture behind in the paint)
5. X-Acto knife
6. cutting surface for X-Acto (piece of cardboard, back of a notebook, whatever)
7. light-colored pen or pencil
8. ruler
9. a number of stretched canvases in whatever size you want
10. enough found paper to cover the canvases
11. Elmer's glue or Mod Podge
12. staple gun and staples
13. string or yarn
14. nails/picture hangers/3M hooks/etc.
15. a level with horizontal and vertical bubbles
16. hammer

Step 2: Decide What Colors and Shapes You Want to Use.

I used a circle, which was very easy to cut out, but you might be more ambitious. Leaves, hearts, and various silhouettes would all look neat. You can Google "stencil" or "silhouette" to find the shapes you want. If you wanted to get REALLY intricate, you could make a damask (although that would look better with plain paper).

I picked the colors based on the existing colors in my living room. I went with red x 2, burnt umber, gold, green and black. This was made simpler by the fact that my found paper is black and white. Your color choices will be constrained by the colors in your found paper.

Step 3: Trace the Outlines on the Found Paper, and Cut Out.

Picture of Trace the Outlines on the Found Paper, and Cut Out.

On a flat surface, put the found paper front-side down and put your canvas on top. Trace around the canvas with your pen/pencil.

Now trace the cutouts in the middle. You'll be using both the inside and the outside, so be neat. And since the paper is flipped over, remember to draw/trace your design backwards.

Cover your work surface with something you don't care about (such as cardboard) and cut out the designs with your X-Acto blade. For the straight lines, a ruler with a metal edge makes the process a lot faster.

Step 4: Paint the Canvases and Let Dry.

Picture of Paint the Canvases and Let Dry.

Mix your custom paint colors, if applicable. (Mix more than you think you'll need.) Squeeze paint onto whatever you're using for a tray (or paper plate) and paint a thin layer of acrylic onto your first canvas. Paint the sides, too, not just the front. When painting the front, finish with long strokes all in the same direction while the paint is still wet.

Set down your first canvas to dry, rinse out your paintbrush in water thoroughly, and follow the same procedure with each canvas. Once they have all been painted, wait an hour or two, and apply a second coat of paint. To even out the texture, make long, light strokes perpendicular to the ones in your first coat.

Acrylic paint can take a variable amount of time to dry thoroughly, depending on the temperature in the room, the humidity, and how thick the paint is. I let mine dry for about 6 hours. That might be overkill.

Step 5: Glue the Paper to the Canvases and Let Dry.

Picture of Glue the Paper to the Canvases and Let Dry.

I wasn't picky about the paper lying absolutely flat, and I wanted a matte finish, so I used Elmer's Glue instead of Mod Podge to stick the paper to the canvas. I applied a thin line around the edges, inside and outside, stuck the paper down, and then weighed the canvas down with books to minimize wrinkling/curling of the paper. I let them dry overnight.

If Mod Podge is your preference, here is a guide on how to use it.

Step 6: Attach a String to the Back for Hanging.

Picture of Attach a String to the Back for Hanging.

Cut one piece of string for each canvas. Make them as long as the canvas is wide, plus two inches. Then tie a knot close to the end of each string, so that they won't be pulled out from the staple.

Use your ruler and a pen to mark the places for the staples. (I made mine about 3 inches from the top on each side.) Do this to each canvas - but make sure it's the right way up first!

Staple the string to the canvas on both sides. Make sure the string and staple gun are both centered. If the staple doesn't go in all the way flush with the back of the canvas, you can put it on a flat surface and hit it lightly with a hammer until it's holding the string.

If you don't have a staple gun, you can attach the string with small eye hooks. If you want something more durable than string, you can use picture wire.

Step 7: Create Guide Marks on Your Wall, Put in Nails/hangers, and Hang Your New Art.

Picture of Create Guide Marks on Your Wall, Put in Nails/hangers, and Hang Your New Art.

How you hang these is up to you - just remember to measure the distance between the taut string and the top of the canvas, then make your dot that much lower. Before you make the dots, decide how far apart you want your canvases. Mine are two inches apart, and the canvases are 8 inches wide and 10 inches tall, so: 2 + 8 = 10 inches horizontally, and 2 + 10 = 12 inches vertically. So we'll use those measurements.

Make your first dot. Hold the ruler against the level, and push it up/down until it's straight. Measure 10 inches horizontally from the first dot, and make another dot. Then do the same on the other side. Then, make your second row of dots by measuring 12 inches down.

Put in nails/picture hangers where the dots are. (You could also use 3M hooks or something if you don't want holes in your wall.) You might have to reposition the nails if your canvases aren't even when you hang them. Remember to take a few steps back and look at the whole grouping to see if it looks even or not.

Enjoy your new art!

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