If you are anything like me – a working mom with two kids in daycare – you probably have mountains of artwork. I think we’ve brought home 1 or 2 pieces per day since 2009. I’ll guiltily admit, I’ve thrown some away. Yes, I have. What was I going to do, put them all on the fridge? Keep them all in a box? I made a rule to keep anything that 1) had a hand print or footprint on it, 2) displayed good use of color (yes, Julian is quite a talented little impressionist), and/or 3) used stickers, paper collage, or three-dimensional objects. I typically discarded the stuff that appeared to be last minute piece scribbling designed to keep him busy for the last ten minutes of his day.
Even with all the “recycling” I had done over the years, we easily had a collection of well over 100 pieces. Despite my best efforts, I still had boxes of artwork I didn’t know what to do with. I also happened to have a TON of 8 1/2 x 11 canvases from a disastrous christmas project in which I tried to transfer photos using gel medium and color copies. For some reason, it worked fine for the lady on Pinterest, but not for me. Of course they were supposed to be gifts and of course I waited until the 23rd to start the project. Of course my family forgave the lack of presents that year. It is the thought that counts, right?
To the piles of art and the canvases in need of repurposing, I added Mod Podge and voila: hangable art work for our (relatively) new home!
Julian’s First Three Years: The Art
How did I accomplish this masterpiece? Well, it helped to have so many great colors to choose from. I wanted to capture dates and handprints as well. And I had to have a steely heart, because this project involved ripping, yes, ripping, his art into bits. In the end, I hope you agree, it was well worth the “sacrifice”. Below is a step by step guide to preserving an unassuming toddler’s art into a functional piece for the home. Originally, I intended to hang these in Juilan’s room, but we liked it so much it garnered center stage in our foyer.
Canvas Art Collage:
What you need:
- Mod Podge
- 4, 6, 9, or more 8 1/2 x 11 canvasses, depending on how large you want the final work to be.
- A crap load of toddler art
- 1 Bottle red wine (optional)
Step 1: Comb through all the art and separate into color piles. I wanted to create a blended effect going from purple, to blue, into green, then yellows, oranges and reds.
Step 2: From the piles, I picked the pieces I liked best in terms of technique and content (remember, I favored a few handprints and a variety of dates to show progression). This is obviously very subjective and rejection of pieces is very difficult for a mom. But it can be done. A little red wine helps!
Step 3: Rip the chosen few up into pieces of various size and shape. I ripped organically, but you could cut as well for a different effect in the finished product. Be sure to keep the ripped bits in color piles if you want to create a blend like I did.
Step 4: Arrange the blank (or in my case the previously imprinted) canvasses on the floor or a table in the configuration you choose. For the placement of pieces, you want to push all the canvasses together to make your rectangle.
Step 5: Start setting the ripped bits where you want them, in collage fashion. They will overlap and hang off the sides, but that is fine. Ideally, they will overlap multiple canvasses as well. This is the step that, for me, took the most time and effort (and wine). I had a specific vision in mind and it took a while to materialize. And I think I scrapped what I had more than a few times to start from scratch. For this reason, you simply place the pieces. Do NOT yet apply any Mod Podge. Take a picture for reference:
Before Cutting, Take a Picture
Step 6: Once you are content with your layout, take some very sharp paper scissors and cut the paper you’ve laid out between each canvas, so that you have an individual canvas collage for each canvas you laid out. The idea is that when you are all done, the canvasses hang together as one unified piece. Cut very carefully and think ahead. You may need to move around some pieces if, for example, your cutting efforts will yield pieces too tiny to keep track of.
Step 7: After you are done cutting between each canvas, cut around what would be the outside edge of the entire layout. I wrapped a portion of the outer pieces around the edges of the canvas to create color on the sides, but the inside pieces obviously won’t get that treatment. If you want to wrap the outer edge pieces around, leave an inch or a bit more hanging over each (finished size) outer edge. See picture below for detail of before and after finished, wrapped outer edges.
Far Right Corner Canvas
Outer side detail of wrapped pieces on finished product
Step 8: Carefully separate the canvasses and take a close-up picture of each one for reference:
Upper Left Corner Canvas
Step 9: Now that you have cut and separated the entire thing back into workable, individual canvasses, it’s time to (finally) start Mod Podge-ing. Take an individual canvas, hold a paper towel over the pieces to keep them in place, put your hand carefully over the paper towel, and flip the whole thing over so that the pieces are face down on your work surface, then gently remove your hand and then lift the canvas away slowly. You then start with the bottom most piece (will be the top piece of your now upside down set), and spread Mod Podge over the back of the piece, then smooth it down on the canvas in the correct spot, according to the individual picture you took of that canvas. Repeat until all pieces are in place on that canvas. Repeat for each canvas. I worked with the adjacent one(s) next to the canvas I was Mod Podge-ing so I could align any pieces that straddled more than one canvas. Note: this step takes a long time. Took me WEEKS and much more WINE to finish each of my 9 canvasses. Hey, I am lazy when it comes to crafts, I work two jobs, I have two kids, I kept running out of wine. It happens.
Step 10: Once you are done applying the collage pieces to each canvass, spread Mod Podge over top of each canvas to seal. Read here to learn more about different finishing techniques with Mod Podge. I chose a ‘brushed’ look. I am quite happy with the result. In my limited experience working with Mod Podge, it’s impossible to wreck the finish.
Step 11: When they are all dry, hang the canvasses. I chose to break them apart, leaving about 1″ between each. If I had to do it over again, I’d spread them out farther, so play around with it a little bit before committing to nails in the wall.