What do Pigs & Cats have in Common? Decoupage

Spotted Piglet
Look at that little face! Is he cute or what? The inspiration for this project is an adorable spotted piglet. In a previous post, “Year of the Pig 2019,” I mentioned my brother’s affinity for pigs. We usually find a way to include a pig at any gift-giving occasion. Sometimes it’s just a card, or a flying pig ornament for the Christmas tree. We all share the same sense of humor, and the more ridiculous the pig, the greater the laughter.

Pig Plaque Details
For my brother’s birthday this year, I decided to combine two of his favorites: pigs and cats. Believe it or not, he and his wife share their home with 11 feline fur babies. Yes, you read that correctly. That’s a lot of mouths to feed! Each cat started out in life under very difficult circumstances, but after being rescued, they live comfortable, happy lives filled with play and lots of tender loving care. Such an unusual family deserves an equally unique family portrait.

How to Create a Wooden Pig Photo Plaque
On a recent visit to AC Moore, I noticed a large wooden pig plaque. It was really cute, but I held off buying until I could come up with something my brother would appreciate, and ended up liking the idea of a family portrait. The pig is large enough to accommodate photos of all eleven cats with my brother and his wife in the center. Any  size or shape plaque will work as long as it is large enough to fit all the images. You could also create a plaque to commemorate a special event, such as a graduation, a birthday, or your favorite vacation. Let’s get started.

Raw Wooden Pig
You may need to do some light sanding to ensure the surface and edges are smooth.

Pig Photo Plaque Supplies
Supplies:
Wooden Pig (20-1/2” wide x 11-1/4” high x 1/2” thick)
Acrylic Paint – tan & black
1) Jar of Mod Podge Gloss
1) Oval Mop Paintbrush
1) Elmer’s Permanent Glue Stick
2) Paintbrushes – one for base coat, and a fine brush for details
Heavyweight Matte Finish Photo Paper
Sandpaper
Scissors

Photo Layout
You might want to print a quick draft version of your photos to make it easier to layout on the plaque. This will also give you a chance to experiment with different ways of cutting them out to make your design look more attractive. Be sure to reprint your photos on heavyweight paper for the final project. If you try to use regular printer paper, it will bubble and curl as soon as you apply the Mod Podge, and you’ll have to peel it off and start over. How do I know this you ask? Because it happened to me! It was awful!

How NOT to Complete a Photo Plaque
I watched a tutorial video to learn how to use Mod Podge for decoupage. They made it look sooooo easy, but looks can be deceiving. They mentioned you could use laser printer color copies but said nothing about needing heavyweight paper. All my photos had been meticulously cut out, and glued down using Mod Podge on the backs. Initially there was a little bubbling, but it smoothed out as it dried. While the Mod Podge does dry clear, the recommended sponge applicator leaves streaks behind and it dries that way! Instead I recommend using an oval mop paintbrush, which produces a smoother finish. Next I applied an even coat over the entire plaque. This should have been the finale, but I knew I was in trouble after the first few cats had been coated. Within seconds, the photos bubbled and curled up into little blobs! It was horrifying! They didn’t mention that in the how to video! Frantically, I scraped the photos off and then used soap and water to clean the surface of the plaque. Back to the drawing board!

The Correct Way to Create a Pig Photo Plaque
This time I suggest a few changes to the process:
First, print your images on heavyweight matte finish photo paper.
Apply one coat of Mod Podge over the entire page of photos, using an oval mop paintbrush.
Allow drying time.
Cut out the individual photos. I chose to cut out the cat’s ears and round the bottom edges so that they would resemble spots on the pig.
Lay out the photos upon the plaque.
Trace the photos to determine the locations of the spots.

Painted Black Spots
Paint each of the black spots a little larger than the photos. I ended up making all the spots solid black to prevent tan paint from peeking out from behind the photos.
Paint the pig’s face, ears, hooves and tail. A painted smile goes a long way to give this little guy some character.

Glued Photos & Sealer Coat
Trim the photos and/or adjust the painted black spots as needed.
One at a time, paste each photo using Elmer’s Glue Stick.
Place a clean sheet of paper on top and firmly rub the surface and edges to ensure a good seal. Repeat this process. Let dry.

Finished Plaque
Apply a coat of Mod Podge over the entire plaque. Congratulations! Mission accomplished!

This is a fun and unique way to display family photos. Although pigs may not be for everyone, there are plenty of interesting wooden plaque shapes to match your family’s unique style and personality. Deciding which photos to use is a fun and adventurous activity. Let your creativity soar and be open to new possibilities as you create this memorable family portrait for everyone to enjoy.

Happy Crafting!

Birds of a Feather – Decorative Wood Crafts


For some reason, I often find myself drawn to the wood crafts aisle at my local hobby store. Maybe it’s the quick reward for very little effort at an inexpensive cost. Who doesn’t enjoy a little instant gratification? There’s always something new to discover. New trends and seasonal favorites compete for your attention on the shelves.

Painted Inspirational Words
The popularity of the television show, “Fixer Upper,” has brought farmhouse chic to the forefront of home design trends. As a result, oversize wood letters and words have become very popular wall art. If a particular word or phrase has special meaning for you, spell it out on a wall as a daily inspiration to share with your family and friends.

Birds on Wire
Looking for a quick and easy way to add some pizzazz to any flat wood surface? Apply contact paper or left over wallpaper for interesting colors and patterns.

Wooden Bird & Fish
For a distressed look, keep the color palette soft as if they faded over time, allow the paint to dry, and then use sandpaper to “age” the surface.

Painted Wood Boxes
The base coat for decorative boxes can be painted using brushes or spray paint. Intricate details and complex designs can be applied using fine point paint pens in solid or metallic finishes. Rhinestones and beads will provide a touch of sparkle.

Wood Owl
This adorable little owl has a painted face and the patterned wings were created with contact paper. For clean, crisp edges on the eyes and beak, use stencils.

Wooden Eggs
Painted eggs are a tradition in many cultures. Applying wax in intricate patterns and dipping the exposed areas into dyes created these beautiful designs.

How to Paint a Wooden Flamingo
Now that you’ve seen several woodcraft examples, it’s time to try your hand at decorating. AC Moore has an excellent selection of freestanding wood animals, including a flamingo, rhino, hippo, stegosaurus, peacock, elephant and more.

Flamingos
As with all projects, it helps to have a little inspiration. Seeing live flamingos really helps with color and feather pattern decisions as well as basic biology.

Raw Wood Flamingo
As you can see, the thick wood has been cut out in the shape of a flamingo and has the advantage of strong, sturdy legs, making this a freestanding, three-dimensional piece. Both sides and all the edges will need to be painted. Due to the raw nature of the wood, it may require a little sanding, especially along the edges.

Supplies:
Wooden Flamingo (7-1/2” high x 4-1/2” wide x 1-3/8” thick)
Acrylic Paint – orange, black, & white (plus optional yellow for eyes)
1) Bottle fabric paint – orange
1) Bottle fabric paint – pink
Paintbrush
Sandpaper

First Coat of Paint
Step 1 – Paint the flamingo with orange acrylic paint, including both sides and all edges.

Second Coat of Paint
Step 2 – Apply a second coat of orange acrylic paint, and add details to the face. The legs have been painted gray.

Textured Paint
Step 3 – Create a feathered texture by applying orange fabric paint. The paint on the head and neck was applied in a random dotted pattern because these areas are smoother than the lower body. Use long strokes on the torso, ensuring to go in the direction of the feathers. Refer to the inspiration photo as needed. Allow the paint to dry overnight. Using a small paintbrush, and orange acrylic paint, add the thin leg and feet details on the sides, front and back of each leg. This gives the illusion of thin legs like the live birds.

Second Coat Textured Paint
Step 4 – Create more texture by repeating the orange fabric paint process in Step 3. Add additional details with pink acrylic paint: Dot the pink over the head and neck, and create the wings on the torso. Refer to the inspiration photo as needed.

Finished Flamingo
Step 5 – Apply a second coat of pink fabric paint, thickening the wings and increasing the pink highlights on the head and neck. Allow the paint to dry overnight. Using a paintbrush, give the beak a second coat of white and black acrylic paint. To give the eyes more dimension, add a large dot of yellow fabric paint. Remember to add a black dot in the center of each pupil.

This completes your flamingo project. He may not take flight, but the bright colors and cheerful expression are sure to make you smile.  For more painted wood crafts, please click here.

Happy Crafting!

What’s New in the Studio?


It’s that time again. You’re in a creative mood but aren’t sure where to start. The endless possibilities can be overwhelming. Sometimes it’s easier to look at a wide assortment of completed projects, to see if anything piques your interest. Below are photos of several projects for your review. When you find one you like, click on the link above the photo for a complete list of easy to follow instructions. Enjoy!

Harry Potter Monster Book
Harry Potter Monster Book

Bejeweled Box
Jeweled Box

Suncatchers
Mirror with Applied Suncatchers

For additional photos and instructional links, please click here to visit a new page on our website called “How to Projects.” From time to time, new projects will be added, so please stop by to see what’s new in the studio.

Happy Crafting!

Trompe l’oeil – Painting Not Politics

In “The Wizard of Oz,” Judy Garland and friends danced their way along the yellow brick road. The next time you watch the movie, take a closer look at the scene when Dorothy meets the Scarecrow. You can see a line across the yellow bricks on the road to the left. This marks the bottom edge of a very large canvas, suspended from the ceiling, which provides the illusion that the road winds through the countryside and beyond. You may not know the terminology, but that is a perfect example of trompe l’oeil.

Translated into English as “fool the eye,” trompe l’oeil is an art technique used to create three-dimensional illusions. In order to fool the eye, the artist must excel at utilizing perspective, light and shadow, color, and scale. Each of these aspects lends another layer in a composition created solely to entertain and challenge human perception.

Mountain Path
Mountain Path
The arched niche in this photograph is real, but the stone path, lavender flowers and mountain vista are painted illusions. Notice how well the path aligns with the opening of the arch, inviting you to begin an awesome hike through a beautiful landscape. The mist and snow covered peaks lend a chill to the air in this amazingly realistic scene.

Waterfall Bridge
Waterfall Bridge
While some illusions evoke wonder and awe with their fanciful, storybook qualities, others tend to be appreciated from afar due to a projected sense of danger, particularly in regard to depth perception. Probably the most disorienting 3D illusions are located upon the floor. When you see what appears to be a gaping hole in the ground, you’re going to walk or ride around it. Notice the people in this photo are walking along the perimeter of the bridge, not down the center. Interestingly, the black dog in the background is not fooled by the illusion. Maybe dogs have a different way of sensing depth than we do. The water appears to pour in from both sides to become beautiful waterfalls plunging into a deep gorge below. Painted to resemble rushing blue water, a portion of the left side railing nearly disappears. It’s a shame the painted water doesn’t match the green color of the existing river to complete the illusion.

Old Fashioned Storefront
Old Fashioned Storefront
The proprietor of this store stands ready to serve his customers, while his wife sits nearby people watching. Epicerie is the French word for grocery store. This family-run business showcases fresh produce and vegetables in front of the store and upon shelves inside the store windows. The stacked merchandise, cast shadows, and event poster upon the wall add realistic touches to this beautiful artwork. It was clever of the artist to use the words on the store windows to advertise his or her painting business. Perhaps that is why they chose not to show reflections on the glass.

Italian Restaurant
Italian Restaurant
Romance meets fairy tales in the lovely formal gardens adorning the second floor of this popular Italian restaurant. White flowers follow the railing as if they are growing alongside the staircase. The open door at the top of the stairs teases the viewer to step “outside” to walk along the beautifully landscaped paths. The only downside to this mural is the unfortunate location of the air conditioning vents near the ceiling, which detract from the grand garden illusion.

Ornate Window Frame
Ornate Window Frame
Artisans, who trained a lifetime perfecting their crafts, constructed old world architecture. This simple wood framed window exudes that same Old World charm “sculpted” in paint. The ornate details, use of light and shadow successfully combine to give this window frame depth and a richness found only in some of the most prized buildings in Europe.

Deep Sea Diver
Deep Sea Diver
Treasure hunting on a pirate shipwreck in an underwater mine field is not for the faint of heart. This diver appears to have been successful in his search, but he’s not the only one interested. The 3D rendering has effectively created the illusion that the diver’s upper body leans out beyond the wall. The gold necklace is so real you could almost take it from his hand. An octopus tentacle reaches into the painting from our side in the real world – Yikes!

Candlelit Bridge
Candlelit Bridge
It appears a section of this ultra contemporary bridge has collapsed, revealing an ancient chamber hidden below. This moody, mysterious scene is reminiscent of a Harry Potter film. As we peer into this strange stone-lined room, we are met with the vision of sands in an hourglass, which appear to have stopped flowing, and a burning candle, resting atop a pedestal. Wax drips down the sides and the flame flickers above the walkway surface. What other secrets lie hidden in the darkness? Should we dare to find out, or turn and run? I’m guessing most people would find another way to get to the other side.

Hailing a Taxi Cab
Hailing a Taxi Cab
What a phenomenal painting! The artist has an impressive grasp of perspective and the effects of light. Check out the shadows cast upon the brick wall by the man, the car, and the signpost. Nothing has been overlooked. Even the single orange balloon and string cast a shadow. A floating car would be a very cool way to travel with virtually no traffic. Descending could be problematic. I wonder if they give frequent flyer miles?

Happy Crafting!

The Basics of Decorative Painting

Paint Brushes

In a post two weeks ago, faux finishing was discussed with several painting options and instructions for sponge painting. Faux finishing is part of a larger category called decorative painting, which includes stenciling, murals, and custom painted details.

At it’s most basic, decorative painting can be as simple as painting vines on a flowerpot. Be sure to use weatherproof paint, not only to protect it from rain and sun, but also from watering the plants.

Stenciled Butterflies & Vines
Stenciled Butterflies & Vines
Stenciling is a fairly easy process. Choose a plastic stencil, a few paints, and some sponge brushes. Painter’s tape is great for holding the stencil in place while you work, painting one color at a time. AC Moore has a nice selection of stencils. Crafter Tip: Stenciling on a textured wall is not recommended. The bumpy texture can cause the colors to bleed, and the designs may appear stretched or irregular.

Antiqued Wood Chair with Painted Floral Seat Back
Antiqued Wood Chair with Painted Floral Seat Back
Furniture presents the challenge of durability. Paint alone is not enough. Crafter Tip: Consult a specialist, or research what types of paints and sealants to use to ensure your designs will withstand every day wear and tear.

Now if you’re really feeling ambitious, here are some amazing painted murals:

Floral Wall Mural with Metal Butterflies
Floral Wall Mural with Metal Butterflies
This bead board paneled wall was painted green as a background color, and then the flowers and vines were added. Crafter Tip: Even though you are painting a mural, you don’t have to paint everything yourself. There are plenty of wall art options, which will coordinate with your painting, such as these sculpted metal butterflies, the perfect complement for this gardener’s retreat.

Tinkerbell Wall Mural
Tinkerbell Wall Mural
Disney characters are sure to be childhood favorites. The flowers and vines in this mural can be painted by hand or stenciled. Crafter Tips: In lieu of using a paintbrush, delicate details can be made using a fine tipped paint pen. If Tinkerbell seems a bit beyond your skill set, purchase a Disney decal, or wallpaper version and adhere it to the wall after the mural is complete. It will save you time, and from a distance, no one will ever know.

Ocean-Themed Exterior Wall Mural
Ocean-Themed Exterior Wall Mural
The old block wall in this photo has been given new life through wall art. Because of the large scale, and dependence upon the weather, the artist used a paint sprayer to speed up the process. With the overall design blocked out, the details can be added using a combination of a fine spray nozzle and paint brushes. Crafter Tip: Using a paint sprayer will certainly give your arms and upper body a workout. You won’t need to go to the gym that day!

Asian Water Dragons Mural on a Porshe
Asian Water Dragons Mural on a Porshe
Vehicle painting is a specialty in itself. Painted details can include logos, initials, stripes, and full-size murals. Crafter Tip: Vehicle painting is best left to the pros. Manufacturers’ new vehicle warranties will most likely become void if the body paint is altered.

How To Decoratively Paint a Powder Room

Fleur-de-lis Powder Room
Fleur-de-lis Powder Room
Fleur-de-lis design was made using an ink stamp, which was purchased from the scrapbooking department at Michael’s craft store.

Acrylic Paints, Ink Stamp & Fan Brush
Acrylic Paints, Ink Stamp & Fan Brush
To produce more consistent imprints, paint was applied directly upon the stamp using a small flat brush. The stamp was then pressed against the wall, spacing the pattern by eye. All the brown fleur de lis designs were completed first, and then the stamp was cleaned in preparation for the green paint.

Create a Fleur-de-lis Pattern
Fleur-de-lis Powder Room

Fleur-de-lis Detail
Fleur-de-lis Detail
Using a fan brush at the four corners, brush strokes were applied with the contrasting metallic paint color.

For continuity and consistency of the design, it is probably best to have one person working on a project. However, if your friends or family would like to help, assign a particular design element to each person to be completed throughout the project. Using the fleur-de-lis project as an example, one person could do all the stamping while another applies the flourishes at the corners.

Crafter Tip – Future Decorative Paint Removal
I once had a painter in my home to give estimates on a few small projects. I had recently finished a mural in one of the bedrooms, and as we walked by, the painter said, and I quote, “Do you know how much Kilz it would take to cover that?” Although I was appalled at the idea, it certainly gave me food for thought. At some point in the future, how could I easily cover over painted designs without filling the house with toxic fumes? The answer is simple: paint over it using the same paint used to create it. There was an acrylic midnight blue design (Folk Art Brilliant Ultramarine) painted across the upper half of one wall. White acrylic paint (Folk Art Wicker White), purchased from A.C. Moore, was brushed over the dark paint. Just to be sure, a second coat was applied. The painter was stunned to see how well it covered. The new wall paint was a pale blue, covered in only one coat, and there were no toxic fumes. To protect the air quality in your home, be sure to select low odor paints, with low or no VOCs (volatile organic compounds).

Happy Crafting!

Why Just Paint? Faux Finish.

Faux finishing is a great, inexpensive way to transform a room and can be easily done over a weekend, and sometimes in a few hours with minimal effort.

There certainly is no shortage of ideas and inspirations for faux finishing including: retail stores, restaurants, shopping malls, magazines, books, websites, videos, craft and paint stores. Instructional videos can be found on YouTube, but don’t forget to check paint manufacturers’ websites as well.

You may already have many faux finishing tools in your home without even realizing it. Paint can be applied using rolled up plastic wrap or fabric; synthetic sea sponges; brushes, sponge rollers; and trowels. Application methods include dabbing, rolling, splattering, brushing, and glazing. Additional supplies and advice are available through local craft stores, and home improvement or hardware stores.

                          Faux Marble                                               Faux Metal
Faux Marble and Faux Metal
Faux Marble has a mottled background and white veining applied using a feather.

Faux Metal is created using a specialty iridescent metallic paint applied on the diagonal for a hammered metal appearance.

                       Crackle Finish                                      Faux Venetian Plaster
Crackle Finish and Faux Plaster
Crackle Finish involves painting a background color first, followed by a special antiquing medium, which cracks as it dries, revealing the color beneath for an aged, weathered look.

Faux Venetian Plaster has color and texture applied at same time with a trowel, which is a two step process, followed by a drying period, and sanded afterward to create a soft sheen finish.

Textured Wall Paint
Textured Wall Paint
Textured Wall Paint is probably the easiest faux finish to apply. No special skills are required. If you can use a paint roller, you can texture a wall. After it dries, the wall will resemble the texture of plaster, and the softness of wallpaper. With a bold punch of color, it can be used as an accent wall in a living room, dining room or master bedroom.

These faux finishing techniques are not limited to walls. The same processes can be applied to ceilings, furniture, and just about any other surface.

How To Faux Finish A Room

Research faux finishing ideas and installation methods. Choose your design. Choose the paint colors. Having several color combinations is fine because the first step will help you narrow down the choices. Purchase the paints and corresponding application tools required for your chosen faux finish.

Trying something new for the first time can be a stressful experience. What if you make a mistake? What will you do if you fail halfway through the project? If the paint colors looked great in the store, why do they look so different in my home?

Crafter Tip – Sample Boards are your best friends.
You need to experiment with your color schemes and methods of paint application. The simplest solution is creating a sample board. Sample boards give you a chance to get your feet wet, so to speak, without the overwhelming feelings that can come when faced with full-size wall or an entire room. Hone your skills on the sample boards. With proven skill and newfound confidence, you’ll be ready to take on the full project. Keep your sample board handy for reference while you are painting.

24” x 36” poster board is an easily manageable size. Another option is foam board, also known as foam core, which consists of two pieces of poster board with a piece of foam sandwiched in between for strength. The ability to pin inspirational photos is an advantage of foam core over standard poster board.

Gold Metallic Paint & Synthetic Sea Sponge – (2nd paint color, taupe, not shown)
Gold Paint & Synthetic Sea Sponge

For the technique demonstrated in the bathroom below, first paint a coat of the background wall color on the sample board, and let it dry. Apply each group of colors on different areas of the sample board, being careful to label or make note of colors used. Feel free to experiment with various brush and or sponge techniques. Let the paints dry.

Faux Finish Close Up Detail Sponge Painting
Close Up Detail - Sponge Painting

Now lean the sample board against a wall in the room to be painted. It is important to see the colors under the existing natural and artificial lighting. Begin the elimination process. Some will be very obvious missteps for one reason or another. A few usually rise to the top of your list. At this point, you can do some additional testing. You may want to create another sample board with larger samples of your top picks.

Sponge Painted Bathroom
Sponge Painted Bathroom
Sponge Painted Bathroom

Once you have decided, it’s time to tackle the faux finishing of all the walls in that room. Take your time, and remember it doesn’t have to be perfect. The beauty of hand-applied finishes is the variation and artistry. If you are using multiple colors, apply one color at a time, and then repeat the process.

You can do this!

Happy Crafting!