Monday, September 30, 2013

DIY: Prada Marfa Sign

When it comes to Gossip Girl, I am not embarrassed to admit that I know a bit too much about the show, and anyone who's a fan knows about the top-notch art collection shown in GG's various Upper East-side apartments. 

One of the set's most recognizable pieces is an illuminated sign by Elmgreen and Dragset, meant to serve as a road sign for the pair's famous art installation – a non-functioning faux Prada store about 60km outside of Marfa, Texas. It serves as a perfectly chic backdrop to the stylish characters and money-drenched drama—it's always somewhere in the scene. It's black+white and gorgeous, so clearly, I wanted it in our peachy-glam guest room.

As an art enthusiast lacking an art collector's budget, my only options to own this iconic piece were to either purchase a canvas version here, or make my own. You all know I like a challenge, so off to the drawing board I went. This looks a lot harder than it was (although it takes a steady hand) so here's a step-by-step plan if you're interested in making your own. 


Pre-stretched art canvas - I went with 30x40" for the full large-scale effect, like the original.
Black acrylic paint + brushes
Black permanent marker
Adobe Photoshop or image editing software
X-acto knife and cutting mat
Easily removable tape (painter's or washi tape will do)

1. Start by creating the template for the design. To do this, I used an image of the artwork online, and imported it into Photoshop. I created a new Photoshop file in the size of the canvas (30x40") and imported the image as a layer in that file. I played with the scale of the art until the size looked correct, and printed the giant image out by tiling it onto regular letter-sized sheets of paper. Each printer is different, so I can't exactly walk you through how to do this, but Google can be helpful if you're not sure. Since you'll be scaling up a low-res web image, the letters will be pixellated, but you can cut away that fuzzy pixel halo when you trim the letters out.

2. To make the stencils, you'll carefully cut out each number and letter. I found that it made the most sense to cut the larger characters out ("Prada" and the arrow) and the smaller characters away from the sheet of paper, keeping them together like a stencil. This way, they're easier to trace and you won't have to worry about aligning each letter on the baseline, as they're already aligned for you. 

3. Use a ruler to figure out the placement of the stencils on the canvas. I recommend having an image of the actual art pulled up on your computer, or printed out, so you can reference the linespacing. It won't necessarily be mathematically even, you just want it to look right. Double-check all of your measurements to be sure nothing is slanting up or down—the type is the hero here, and anything "off" will become pretty obvious once you paint. When you're sure, carefully tape everything down. 

4. Now, trace everything. Use a pencil and be very, very gentle. It's difficult to erase pencil off of canvas, and you'll only need a ghost of a line to guide you during the painting process. 

5. Once you've outlined everything, remove the stencils and tape and double check that everything looks correct before you begin to paint. I suggest taking a look from a distance – prop the canvas up against a wall and see how it looks from there. 

6. Finally, you'll paint in the letters. You can make it easier on yourself by outlining the letters with a marker first, to get crisper edges. You'll probably need a few coats of paint to get everything looking solid. It's actually better to have your paint thinned down a bit with water or acrylic medium, because it will make the paint glide more smoothly across those detailed curves. Just keep layering the paint on, allowing it to dry between coats. Acrylic dries very quickly—by the time I finished one application, the first letter I did was ready for a recoat.

Easy as that! I feel like Lily Van Der Woodsen already. We're still working on finishing up the guest room, but this is starting to pull it all together. Let me know if you decide to give it a try!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Black & White

Clockwise from Prada sign: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6

Claude Monet said, "Color is my day-long obsession, joy, and torment." In working with color on a daily basis, I can't help but think, dream, and obsess over color. Choosing paint colors for our house was a love/hate situation—only made worse by the pressure to make the final call once we narrowed down our choices ("the slightest hint of green will ruin it!")

So sometimes, the mind needs a break. Black and white provides a duality that few combinations can produce: a sense of simplicity and peace while conversely shouting for attention. The contrast is stimulating; the minimalism restful. I love it as the single statement in a room, or as a graphic addition to an already colorful space.

I'm absolutely obsessed with this graphite loveseat – the pencil-drawn lines are a less graphic take on black and white – it would look so cool in a gleaming white office!

I recently did a DIY of the Prada Marfa canvas shown here, so I'll be posting that soon – likely next week. It came out so well and cost a fraction of the price – win/win. Can't wait to share it!

Monday, September 9, 2013

DIY: Distressed Wood Wall Art

Happy Monday, everyone!

This little project is probably topping my list of easiest DIY ever. 

I've seen a lot of cute distressed wood cut-outs in decor shops and online sales like One Kings Lane, but knew it would be just as easy to make my own and have it exactly how I wanted it. We had a bit of a dead space in out bathroom above the towel bar, and since we already have art and floating shelves on the other wall, I needed something different. With our bathroom decor feeling like a cloudy day at the beach (the only way I can describe it), I knew a little wood whale would be perfect.

I purchased the cut-out whale from Nana's Little Nest on Etsy – it was a pre-cut item but Cindy also does custom work, so you can get exactly what you're looking for. The rest of the DIY is almost too easy.

Once you have your cut-out, you'll paint it whichever color you want (I used acrylic paint). Since we wanted ours to be white with the natural wood showing through in the distressing, we just painted it white, but if you want to do a two-color look, you'll paint the first layer one color, and the second layer your most dominant color. You'll basically just be lightly sanding away the top coat to reveal what's underneath.

Your paint doesn't need to be perfect – as you can see in the photo, I didn't even paint it solid white – but you do want to follow the grain of the wood. Let it dry overnight before sanding it.

Use a few different sizes of sandpaper to gently sand away sections of the surface. Again, follow the grain. I started with a fine sandpaper, then roughed up some areas more with a higher grit to really bring the wood through. I also sanded the paint off the edges for a bit more wear and tear, as shown below:

After it's finished, you can mount it to the wall using double-sided mounting tape. We had some cork furniture pads laying around, so we used those to give a little more dimension, and keep it from looking flat on the wall.

The entire project cost about $5, no joke. Now I'm debating another one...just have to figure out where to put it! It perfectly solves for the awkward space on the wall, when you don't want to just throw up more pictures in frames. How do you typically solve wall decor challenges?