Introduction: "Don't Trash My DREAMS"

About: Artsy INFJ with a penchant for running away in a vintage Airstream to the desert... I'm quiet online so just because I don't like, share and comment doesn't mean I don't love you...I like you a lot.

I just love those deep, gallery wrapped canvases and wanted to create some trashy "on the cheap" art for the "Trash to Treasure" contest. As I was unloading my Costco box of olives, I realized that the flat box they came in looked a lot like a gallery canvas so I decided it was just the thing!

I've had a collection of well-used stencils since I worked at a scenic studio back
in the late 90's. We tagged the back of the scenery with them so they were used over and over again until they were thick and dripping with many colors. When the time came to replace the stencils, I promptly rescued the beautiful things from the trash. Yeah, that's a long time to keep trash but I knew someday I'd find the perfect use for them.

Time to turn trash into treasure!

Materials for a simple gallery canvas:

  • 1 flat box from food or product packaging
  • 1 roll of masking tape
  • gesso
  • acrylic or latex paint

Step 1: Steal a Box, Grab Some Tape...

I say "steal" but boxes are free, right? Sometimes when I go to Costco or other places that dole out boxes to use, I hunt for extra good ones that would make excellent gallery frames and I snag as many as I like. You're doing your part for the environment...don't make trash, make art!

Next, grab some masking tape. If you don't have any, hit up the Dollar Tree for some $1 rolls. I'd consider everything they sell to qualify as "trash", so I thought it fitting to use their tape for this project. Plus, at $1 a can feel free to go wild with your tape texture.

Step 2: Layer on the Tape...

Tear strips of tape and start laying them on the box. Rub them down well. You want to cover the entire surface, including the sides and edges...multiple times. I like to criss-cross the layers, changing directions to keep it random. For some, this will be boring...for others like myself, it will be a meditative experience! Either way, it's up to you whether you cover the inside of the box..for this project, I just let it stay raw.

Step 3: Gesso? I Guess So...

Next, I wanted to seal down the tape and keep the edges from curling, plus give it a smooth, paintable surface. Using an old credit card, I troweled on the gesso and then scraped the excess off the surface. It's a little like mudding a wall. If you want extra texture, think of it like frosting a cake! You can make it as smooth or as texturific as you want, but for this project, I stuck with smooth.

Step 4: Paint Time...

Now for the artsy part. Once I decided I was going to use the old, colorful stencils for the finished product, I wanted to put them on a black surface to make them stand out. But we didn't lay all that texture down for nothing. I used black acrylic paint to prime the surface, but you could use old latex house paint and it would work just as well.

After the paint dried completely, I used a dry t-shirt rag to rub white latex paint onto the surface. Roll the rag up so you have a flat surface, don't scrunch it up, that's good for other techniques! Squeeze some white paint onto a tray and dab the rag into it so it's wet but not "bloopy". Technical term there. You're going to "buff" the surface of the canvas and this will highlight the tape and accentuate the edges and textures.

Do this lightly as you can always add more paint. If you get it whiter than you'd like, do the same technique back over the white using the black paint. Maybe you'll get a pleasing tone in one pass, or maybe you'll have to go back over it a few times. Stop when you like what you see!

Step 5: Apply the Found Objects...

After spreading out my stencils, I decided on a word that I could spell using the limited amount of letters I had that would also fit on the canvas. Using Elmer's school glue, I adhered white card stock to the back of each stencil so that the letter would stand out against the black background, then I epoxied them onto the canvas after lining them up exactly how I wanted them.

Step 6: You Are SO Done...

Your trashy art is now ready to display. This hangs easily on 1 or 2 nails on a wall and requires no hanging hardware at all. You can also simply set it on your mantle or a bookcase. Add a weight inside the back if it wants to tip forward.

Thanks for checking out my trashy project!

Trash to Treasure Challenge

Participated in the
Trash to Treasure Challenge