Friday, July 20, 2012


In preparation for August's First Friday & the Infringement Festival, I wanted to introduce a new project that is super easy to do, as well as inexpensive to create. However, for those who don't have the DIY bug, I will have a few for purchase on August 3rd in front of Indigo Gallery along with my posters and shirts. 

My mother bought me a few packages of very large painter's drop cloths almost a year ago thinking that I might be able to turn them into hand-painted floor mats. My whole senior year later, I finally have time to experiment with them! Painter's drop cloths are very inexpensive, very large pieces of canvas used to protect the floor when painting a room. They also have a very thin layer of waterproofing on the bottom to prevent any paint from seeping through onto the floor below. I saw on one of my favorite blogs (designlovefest - a true inspiration) that they were transforming the drop cloths into colorful picnic blankets using spray paint! I thought I would take it a step further and make a more intricate design with more involved painting techniques. (This isn't the most original project but it's super easy to do yourself, again very inexpensive to create, and very useful!!) 

erin curry diy picinic blanket airandseadesign

I started by measuring out the desired size of the picnic blanket. One of my drop cloths is very long and thin (46"x120") so I stuck with the width at 46" and squared it off with another 46". This is a near perfect size blanket for two to three people and some snacks :). I ironed the whole piece so that the surface would be easier to stencil and paint on. I then started sketching to see what kind of design I wanted. For my first piece, I wanted to stick with something very simple and utilise one shape in my design that could be repeated and manipulated.

I made this stencil of the shape I was using for my design. It is made from Bristol Vellum paper. Bristol is a thick, smooth paper that is used mostly for mounting but it works well for stencils because it doesn't immediately become saturated with paint, thus compromising the edges of your design. I edged it up with some blue painter's tape to make it easier to tape down to my surface without ruining the stencil. 

I wanted a concentric design and found some inspiration from quilt designs; they are generally very geometric with simple repeating layouts so it was perfect for this project. I used a Singer Disappearing Ink marker so I could map out my design first and get an idea of what it would look like. I found the center of the cloth, and worked me way out from there.   

After some trial and error, and making a lot of marks, I decided on my final design and darkened up some of the lines so that it was easier for me to decipher when I started painting. Don't be afraid to use this marker and lay it on thick!! It is one of my favorite tools in my studio and it really does disappear after about 24 hours or a good wash.

After completing my layout, I then had to decide what colors to use (this is always a big ordeal for me). Lately I have been really in love with purples and oranges and how they interact (this is also evident throughout my senior thesis show) so I chose yellow, orange, red, and purple. I knew I wanted to create an ombre look within the geometric shapes to spice it up a bit so an analogous color scheme was important! I am using acrylic paint because after it dries it is NOT water soluble, meaning it will not come off in the wash. You may also use latex or enamel house paint if you have that lying around. 

To the right are the colors I mixed. Word to the wise: NEVER use the colors right out of the tube. Those colors are like that for a reason; they are highly saturated and true colors so that when mixing colors, you are able to do so with more accuracy. All of the colors you see on this piece were mixed using at least three or more colors (believe it or not). All of the colors needed to be mellowed out and in order to do this I added the COMPLEMENT of each color I was mixing - opposite colors on the color wheel. For example, to tone down orange you add a very tiny amount of blue. Or to tone down purple, add a VERY tiny amount yellow. This will allow you to attain unique colors, and colors will live much happier together :).

To begin painting, I placed my stencil on the canvas in the middle of the design and taped down the edges with more blue painter's tape. I used a large brush and put the paint on relatively thick since the canvas really soaked it up. Some dabbing may be required to really cover the surface of the canvas. To get the ombre look, I started with my lightest color and moved up in stages from there. Use light brush strokes to mix the two colors together and never let the paint dry before you get to blend them. I wouldn't use more than three colors at a time within one stencil. The space isn't large enough and you'll end up with some really muddy colors. 

erin curry air and sea design airandseadesign picinic blanket diy paint geometricRepeat these steps with the stencil over and over until you complete the design. I changed around the direction of the ombre but kept it symmetrical. Don't be afraid to experiment with this technique; change around the proportions of the colors or the direction of the fade. I never really had to clean off my brush since the colors were all blending together anyway. Half way through, however, I did have to make another stencil because my first one was getting soggy and I was having some bleeding around the edges. 

erin curry air and sea design airandseadesign picinic blanket diy paint geometric

And voila!! Here is the final product. I stuck the whole piece in the washing machine as soon as all the paint was thoroughly dry (which took a few hours) and then hung it up to dry outside!! The disappearing marker disappeared and it softened up the canvas a bit. I added some white details in the corners and I'm really liking how it looks against the natural canvas so I think I will be expanding on that. 

It is a bit rainy here in Buffalo, or else I would have gotten some action shots of it being utilized! Hopefully on the next sunny day I can take it over to the park for a nice late lunch by the lake. Oh and there's my little dog Arrow trying to get into the picture. Hope everyone enjoyed this super simple project :)