Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Chalk Drawings, Kinkos, and The Law

Since I am big on big art, I'm all for taking average size images to the copy shop and getting them blown up to be really impressive.

Often, if you just biggie-size ordinary art, it becomes magically frame-worthy

Case in point: the chalk drawings I did on the sidewalk outside my home.

I wanted to create something primitive in its appeal, and then bump it up a notch with today's technology to make it unusual.

Skirting the Law

Did you know that if you take printed images like calendar photos, greeting cars, or magazine pages into Staples or any copy center, they won't copy it because it violates copyright laws?

Here's what else falls into the same category:
  • Musical lyrics
  • Architectural drawings
  • Cartoons
  • Newspaper clippings
  • Maps
  • Paper currency (if reproduced same size)
Of course you can make copies of copyrighted or trademarked material if you have permission. It's not as difficult as it sounds. My Staples store told me even Google will give you written permission to use their images.

And of course there are plenty of free and public domain sources of images and graphics, from the Library of Congress to The Graphics Fairy.

Sometimes the simplest approach is to create your own images. That's what I did with a piece of chalk and my camera.

I paid just $3.89 plus tax to have the photo I took and put on a zip drive printed poster size as an "engineering/architectural print." It's a well kept secret that this blueprint copy is the economy way to go when you want a big, black and white reproduction. Poster sized full color images will set you back about $12 -- still a bargain, even though the paper is not heavy.

My advice: Look through your own photos. Or take some new photos you know will look good reproduced jumbo size. What can you create and legally enlarge for framing?

Discover other fresh ideas for staging your home from my $5 home staging eBooks.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Make Your Own Abstract Paintings

The art that’s ideal for home staging is the kind of art that blends into the background.

It creates a relaxed, cheerful, confident, buy-me-now kind of mood.
Paintings composed of just soft waves of pale colors strike just the right note.

They’re not paintings of anything specific. They are place holders, and more. 

I like to think they create the illusion of mist over a marsh on a day full of promise. Of daydreaming through squinted eyes at the sky as seen from a hammock.

The viewer can bring to the painting whatever he likes.
Of course, there’s a way to DIY these kinds of paintings.

The Steps to Making Your Dreamy Painting

The easiest way to begin is to buy a canvas board already primed and ready for your paint. They come in standard sizes, so it’s possible you can find a frame second hand that will fit. Tip: Buy the frame first, then the canvas.

But you can also buy a stretched canvas, the thick, boxy kind popular now that can go up on the wall without a frame and look perfectly fine. Even Wal-Mart sells them.

Next, you’ll need some paints. Wal-Mart is selling craft paints at two for $1. You can’t beat the price. Craft paints come in way more colors than you’ll ever need, at fair prices. They are easy to work, clean up easily, and dry fast.
You’ll need a pair of latex gloves. And a roll of transparent wrap.

I suggest using two to three colors, plus white, to keep the painting's palette simple. 
Squeeze a generous amount of paint onto the canvas, putting each color in a few different places. . 
Cover the canvas with sheets of transparent wrap. Use your gloved hands to move the paint
around, blending them in some places and keeping them pure in other spots.  
This is how the purple and grey painting looks finished, framed and hung. 
When I removed the Saran wrap, I used wads of it to smooth out the paint,
cover all the canvas, and blend some areas by dabbing.
The painting shown at the top of this post started with a canvas I primed grey. 
It was already framed snugly with a strip frame, so I taped that off before painting.
I chose two shades of green, plus yellow and white.
I switched over to a heavier pair of gloves, too, 
because the paint dabbing at the end of the process gets messy.  
Covered with Saran, the painting looked like this. I could see that I wanted to make the
blending more subtle, so that's when the Saran came off and the dabbing began.

I think you will be surprised how some large abstract paintings will give your rooms a much more modern look. They are powerful in their ability to transform the feel of a room. Try it.

Once you frame and hang your dreamy abstracts, no one would ever guess that they are simple, homemade art projects rather than the work of some talented artist. Unless you choose to brag about it.
Don’t forget to download my furniture arranging eBook. It’s just $5, and I guarantee your home will look better because you read it.


Monday, October 20, 2014

Cover-Up Collage from a Vintage Dress Pattern

I like art for home staging to be unique but not so novel that it takes over a room.

I like it to be big, and I like it to have a unobtrusive color scheme.

And it helps if the art adds a touch of whimsy to the space.

This DIY project fills the bill. It’s fun to do and you’ll be able to upcycle a less than desirable but large, glass-framed picture.

Big art can cost big money. But not this time. Here’s a way to take a large piece of art from the “Salvation Army Art Gallery” and convert it into something that I think is dynamite.

In my example, I used a 38” x 26” print of a Chinese painting. The gilt, bamboo-style frame was pretty, but the print was old. What happens to even good quality prints is that they fade in time. What’s worse is that different color inks fade at different rates.

Have you ever noticed old prints where the originally true reds turn maroon and the blues turn a tawny brown? Yeah, that’s aging.

So, even though this print had some redeeming qualities, the colors were off. It was time for a facelift in the interest of a more contemporary art piece for home staging. 
The skills needed for this project are the ability to use glue. You in?
For women of a certain age, these patterns are nostalgic. When the paper is 
glued down as art, a man might assume they are part of a mechanic's manual.

What you need
  • Large frame with glass, ready for hanging
  • Sheets of copy paper
  • Glue stick
  • School glue
  • Brush for glue and container for mixing it
  • Assortment of old dress patterns
  • Vinyl letters and numbers (optional) 

Steps to Take

Use the glue stick to paste down sheets of copy paper to cover the glass. Begin at the corners and the edges. It doesn’t matter if the sheets of paper overlap, but they should lie down fairly flat. I put glue all around the edge of the sheet and make a big X in the middle of it before sticking it down.

The faded print or controversial photo gets a clever cover-up that could be temporary.
Once the entire glass is covered with white paper, mix the school glue with an equal amount of water in a wide mouth container.

You’re going to cover the entire surface (now white) with tissue paper pattern pieces just like we did when we made a collage. Start at the outside edges and corners and use the straight edged pattern pieces there. You can wrinkle the paper to make it fit inside the frame. You want to hide the bright white paper with the vintage tissue paper.
Use the brush (I use a 2-inch bristle brush) to apply glue to the white paper surface. Then lay the pattern pieces down, one at a time, and brush the surface of each pattern piece with more glue solution as you go.
You don’t have to cut apart large sheets of patterns. Your pieces can be large or small, partial or whole.

I use school glue, but you might prefer Modge Podge. They both make collages easy
Once you have an interesting layering of pattern pieces, and the entire entire surface is covered with at least one layer of tissue, brush the surface with the glue solution. It doesn’t have to be perfectly smooth. Some bumps and ridges are okay.

The finished collage has all the appeal of an old map, but without the specifics.

For some additional black accents, press on a few assorted vinyl letters, numbers or symbols. It should look like some kind of set of instructions gone bananas.

Letters and numbers add impact and interest. Use as many as you like, or none at all.

What was a dated, faded Asian image has become a snazzy piece of modern art. 
Tips for Success
Don’t worry about the paper wrinkling or tearing. As long as your outside edges are straight, it will look good.

I like the paper to be glued down wrong side up so the directions are backwards and not really legible. It’s part of the silliness of the composition.

What I really like about this technique is that you can return the art to its original style after your home is sold, if you loved what was originally under the glass. Maybe you didn't want to decorate with your big photo of Miley Cyrus or that poster for The San Francisco Giants. Just use damp cloths to loosen the glue and remove the layers of paper, being careful not to let water seep around the edge of the glass to the original print underneath.  

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Decorating with Art - It Rubs Off On You

Are you ready to play artist? All you need to create images that are both subtle and sensational is paper, crayon, and something with texture.

If you have ever been to the Vietnam Memorial in D.C., you may have seen someone taking a rubbing of a name etched into the granite.

History buffs and archaeologists often make rubbings to keep records of gravestone markings.

You can do the same to help stage your home.

Once you see how easy it is to make a rubbing, your imagination is bound to jump into high gear. It’s a fun activity for children because the process is simple and quick but produces impressive results.
To make a rubbing you’ll lay paper onto a textured surface and use crayon to transfer an image of the surface. Crayon picks up the raised or incised areas of the surface.

If you look around you, you’ll discover lots of interesting surface textures to capture in a rubbing. Nature provides you with some samples, like leaves, wood, coral fans, evergreens, and ferns. But things like baskets, serving platters, jewelry, metal plaques, rubber stamps, wood carvings, and architectural elements like manhole covers, tin ceiling tiles, and signs are also good candidates.

Flat surfaces work best. Hold or tape the paper so it doesn’t shift while you work. Long, steady crayon strokes are best. Practice first before you waste your best paper. 
How to Make a Rubbing

The best paper to use is one that’s soft enough to flex but not tear.  I've used sheets of kitchen parchment paper (wet, wrung out, air dried and ironed flat) to make rubbings and have been pleased with the results. Regular copy paper will make a decent picture as well. 
If you want to create your own raised surface, you can draw a design with a glue gun or with school glue on a piece of cardboard or foam core. Once it dries, you’ll have a “rubbable” surface. 
I made the print of the starfish in the above photo. But the surface was lumpy and it was tricky to keep the paper from shifting.

Other Rubs

I wanted something large that would lie flat and stay in one place, so I used an elephant ear leaf from my garden. Leaves are great rubbing subjects.

I knew the raised ribs of the leaf would pick up in the rubbing. I used a brand new green crayon with the paper wrapper removed.

I placed the leaf upside down because the veins were more pronounced on the underside of the leaf. Most leaves have more texture on the underneath side.

Stylized geometric images make good rubbings, even if they are
rather primitive like this one. If you have them or if you want to invest in
some art supplies, oil pastels are an excellent medium for this technique.

Why not indulge your printmaking whims by trying some rubbings, one of the oldest and most widespread printmaking techniques? It's a simple and economical way to produce interesting art for your home staging. 
Do you feel that your furniture placement could improve, but you don’t know how? Most people feel the same way. For help, download my $5 eBook, How to Arrange Furniture, A Guide to Arranging Furniture Using What You Have.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Drawing with Bleach: Some Tutorials Don't Pan Out

My first mistake was to not check Pinterest to see what others have done using bleach as an art tool.

My second mistake was not to own a bleach pen.

So, I thought it was a good idea to mix a  50/50 solution of bleach and water, and then use an eye dropper to draw on good ole, cheap construction paper.

I liked the results, shown in the photo on the right. And I should have stopped there. But I wanted to do another "kitchen-themed" printmaking tutorial. My mind turned to cookie cutters.

"It'll be great!" I told myself, envisioning soft, thick-lined drawings of birds and stars and hearts on dark colored papers.

But the results were a disappointment. None of my cookie cutters, whether they were metal or plastic, upside down or right side up, on hard surfaces of soft, would produce a reliable outline. It wasn't foolproof either: one drop or splatter of the bleach solution and the page was ruined.

How to Do

You can still produce a beautiful piece of art using bleach in a eye dropper. Or better yet, a bleach pen.

If you're not comfortable doing a rapid freehand drawing,
you can do more careful but still simple drawings like these dandelions I drew. 

To draw on construction paper for staging, I suggest you use a free hand and don't plan on a detailed picture. Play Picasso. Do a bunch and frame the best.

Yes, you CAN stage your own home. It's easy with help from my home staging eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and for Top Dollar. It comes with my money-back guarantee.

Cookie cutter prints = no go. Even my dog (left) turned up her Beagle nose at them.


Friday, October 17, 2014

Inkblots as Art? Why Not?

One day just over 100 years ago a young Swiss psychologist was reading a book of poems written fifty years earlier.

Each poem was illustrated by an inkblot design.

The psychologist was only 26, and the inkblots intrigued him.

Over the next two years he experimented with hundreds of inkblots until he found ten that he used solely to diagnose schizophrenia in his patients.
The man was Hermann Rorschach.

He lived only 10 years more, never knowing that his test would be used worldwide as a mental health indicator.

They are used to interview patients who are reluctant to discuss what they are thinking or feeling.

Rorschach never intended the blots to be used as they are today. Not as clinical tools, and certainly not as art.

Inkblots are fascinating. They’re loosey goosey and yet symmetrical.

You can pay $50 on Etsy for an inkblot print. Or you can make your own, saving money and experiencing the satisfaction of creating something unique.

Let's make some inkblot prints to decorate your home for sale.

What you Need

We're still in the kitchen this week making prints for wall decor. I chose to use food coloring because I think most people have some. I also chose construction paper because it is inexpensive, available everywhere, and will absorb the dye easily. Plastic boxes to frame your prints are an easy framing and hanging option. I like that they're lightweight enough that a push pin will hold them up.

Who  knew Rorschach
was such a handsome dude?

  • Some sheets of construction paper
  • Food coloring dye
  • Paper towels
  • Newspaper or other paper to protect work surface
  • Acrylic box for framing
  • Paper sized to fill frame 

How to Do

Decide what color paper and what color dye you'll use. I would avoid the neon colored construction paper for home staging art. You'll most likely make more prints than you will want to frame. Make a bundle and choose the best. You never know entirely how an inkblot print will come out.

Work near a sink. Prepare a work surface nearby by covering it with newspaper or kraft paper. Place a few layers of paper towel in the center. 

Start with one piece of construction paper. Wet both sides of it under running water for a few seconds. Place it on the paper towels and fold it in half, being as precise as possible.

Open the sheet of construction paper and a place dots of your selected color(s) in the center. Close it on the fold, and use a paper towel to press the surface to distribute the food coloring.

Open the paper. You may decide to add additional colors of dye and repeat the folding, or to lay it flat on newspaper to dry. After it's dry, iron it between layers of paper towel to remove the center crease.

Your inkblot art is ready for mounting on a piece of plain paper (color of your choice, but nothing beats white) and placed in the acrylic box for hanging.

Hermann would be amazed. But maybe not. The images captivated him as well.

Inkblot art has a  contemporary feel to it, but looks at home in any setting.

The classic Rorschach test is made with black ink on white paper. Photo via Centsational Girl.

Begin here: Don't be afraid to put dye on both sides of the fold. There are no rules. 
If you want to keep the dye from staining your fingertips, now's a good time for latex gloves.
I decided this inkblot needed more color, so I dabbed on some more dye.
The color I added was blue, so this is how it looked after folding and pressing. 
For tips on making your home look better, whether you are putting it on the market or not, download my $5 eBook, How to Arrange Furniture, A Guide to Arranging Furniture Using What You Have. I guarantee you'll be satisfied or I will give you your money back.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

What I Learned in Two Weeks

There's more to blogging than writing.
There's shopping. And learning!
Fifteen days ago I pledged to post here daily about one topic. 

My usual blogging schedule is once or twice a month, so I knew I was jumping into the deep end of the pool.

Try as I did, I couldn’t talk myself out of signing on to The Nester’s 31-Day Challenge. I knew the problem wouldn’t be lack of ideas. The problem would be choosing which ideas I could turn into posts that would read as interesting and helpful.
In other words, was I a good enough writer, organizer, and crafter?
I learned seven different things

I Have Bad Habits

The most value I've received from the challenge so far has been observing habits that I want to change. These habits include -- but are not limited to -- poor time management, overestimating my skillset, and a tendency to skip to new projects and ideas before completing a previous one.

They say the first step to changing behavior is to see it. When my self-defeating habits became magnified, I am seeing how they really do limit my productivity. The next step is to substitute a new behavior. I’m working on that!

I’ve Still Got It (Part of it, anyway)

When my children were in high school their grandfather bought them a video course (it’s now available on DVD) called “Where There’s a Will There’s an A.”  We watched it together, and I learned things I wish I had known in school.

One of those things was that you learn better by revisiting at brief intervals what you are studying. I was reminded of this study method when I noticed that over the past 14 days my computer skills have improved.

Any blogger knows that blogging requires multiple steps. As long as I was posting monthly, I didn’t get the rapid repetition of tasks those steps called for – writing, editing, research, camera work, photo editing, and using social media. I’m 72 years old and my short term memory gears are beginning to slip. When you’re young your brain absorbs like crazy. But aging makes learning new stuff more difficult. So I was encouraged by the improvements I made in skills, mostly the speed at which I was able to do routine blogging work. I was able to more realistically set deadlines for myself and keep to them. I developed a rhythm that helped me be more efficient.

Study is Fun

To make sure I am not boring my reader or looking stupid, I like to research what others have done online before getting too far into any tutorial. For the past two weeks I’ve increased my understanding of my topic -- artwork’s role in home staging.

One thing's for certain: there's no shortage of creative minds out there and people who are willing to share their expertise.

I also remembered how much I enjoy creating art to share, especially printmaking. I took a college course in printmaking, and realize now how much I gained from it. Long term memory seems to improve with time!

Accountability Works

I’ve always been a believer that if you socially acknowledge a goal you’re more likely to attain it. I’ve written about how committing your intentions to a journal or a friend acts as a kick in the pants.

Knowing that my button was on The Nester’s site encouraged me to keep going. I felt I had an obligation and I did not want to quit because I knew I would feel like a loser. It didn’t even matter if people were reading my posts or not. But they were.

Be True to Yourself

The most common advice new bloggers receive is, “Just be yourself and you’ll succeed.” Use your own voice, the pros tell you.

Useful advice if you’re full of self confidence. But what about the rest of us? How do we settle on a voice we’re comfortable with?

When I had to write more copy in less time than usual, I had to write faster. Faster writing forced me use my own voice, and what I learned was that being myself isn’t all that scary. I now write faster with less stop-and-go editing, even though I continue to second guess every word I write. And re-write, and re-write.
Sometimes we need reminders why we do the
things we do. Mug from Caf├ęPress.
It’s a Girl Thing

I also learned that stretching yourself is its own reward. When my husband sees me working on DIY projects, and getting up in the middle of the night to write something I think I might forget by morning, he wonders why I bother.
He doesn’t ask for an explanation. He’s good that way. But I usually feel compelled to explain.

“It’s good for me,” I tell him. “I need to step outside my comfort zone. I need a creative challenge.” 

I doubt this makes sense to him, but I am selling more eBooks, and he does notice that.
I Like Caffeine

Lastly, I discovered (duh!) this was not a good time to try to go cold turkey on coffee. 

Perhaps I'll discover additional lessons during the two remaining weeks of the challenge. Fingers crossed.  

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Decorate Your Wall with Your Own Circle Painting

Attention home stagers. Do you have a wall to fill with something that adds a layer of interest to a room without becoming a focal point?

Then I have a quick and easy art project that's perfect for you.
This could be the shortest tutorial in my series of DIY art for home staging.

Put paint on bowl rim. Invert bowl on canvas. And there you have a “modern masterpiece.”

A circle is a symbol of continuity and completion. It’s a comforting and at the same time, uplifting image. Sounds to me like something every staged home should have.

In Japanese ink painting, a hand-draw circle executed with one or two brush strokes takes discipline and focus. Similar paintings of a simple, isolated circle and of multiple circles have been done by well-known American and European artists as well.

If you would like to see samples of contemporary circle paintings, here  is a post by Nancy Marcus

Now you can add your name to the list of artists. We’ll cheat a little and do it the easy way.

Circle prints can be small, medium or even gigantic. This medium size print
hangs in the home of designer Meredith Heron.
Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky's circle painting from the early 20th century.
Of course, it is handpainted, but you can see the appeal colorful concentric circles have.   
 What You Need
  • 1 large bowl
  • Throwaway plastic cup
  • Hot glue gun and glue stick
  • Aluminum foil
  • Small amount of craft paint or leftover house paint
  • 1 primed canvas bigger than the circumference of the bowl
How to Do

Invert the bowl and glue the base of the cup to the base of the bowl. This will be a handle to make lifting the bowl off the printed canvas happen without any oops.

The plastic cup gives you a handle. As an alternative, you can fashion one out of duct tape.
Lay down a sheet of aluminum foil big enough to accommodate the inverted bowl. If you need to overlap two sheets of foil to make it big enough, place a few dabs of hot glue under the top layer of foil to keep the foil layers from shifting. 

Invert the bowl onto the foil. Outline the rim of the bowl with craft paint. If using house paint, use a plastic spoon to generously drizzle a line around the bowl’s rim.

I used gold paint. Black is common, but almost any color is fine, depending on your decor.

Here's where the discipline and focus come in handy. You have just one shot at this. No second guessing or slipping.

Have your blank canvas next to your foil and bowl. Look at your canvas and decide where you will make your imprint. Lift the bowl, carefully press the rim onto the canvas, and rotate the bowl a half turn to be sure you have distributed the paint in a circle.
Lift the bowl. You can wash the paint off immediately. Use a hair dryer to heat the glue to remove the disposable cup, being carefully not to burn your fingers on the hot metal bowl. Any glue residue you can remove with acetone (nail polish remover).

Let the canvas dry in a level position to prevent any runs (unless like some artists you want the look of paint runs). Sign your name -- or even a fictitious name -- near the bottom edge of the painting

Finally, hang your handsome new artwork on that blank wall.  

There's hardly any mess with this method of painting. If you recycle a disposable bowl,
you  can discard the bowl with the aluminum foil when you're done.

Your circle won't look like a mechanical rendering, and that's the point. You can make it
more "active" by moving the bowl around a little, or even stamping multiple times. 

It's almost impossible to create an ugly circle painting. I made these colorful prints by
dipping two different size glasses in paint. Using glasses, you don't need a handle.
If you want more ideas to stage your own home the thrifty way, download my eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and for Top Dollar.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Five Simple Steps to Make a Rose Painting

Today we’re back in the kitchen to show you how to create a lovely picture of flowers using more paint and vegetables. We’ll make cabbage roses from celery and romaine hearts. Doesn’t it sound romantic?

Step One. Gather Your Materials

Here’s what you need:
  • Pencil
  • Ruler or T-square
  • Poster board to fit a frame you have
  • Plate covered with saran for palette
  • Craft paints
  • Foam brush
  • Bunch of celery
  • Head of romaine lettuce
  • Knife
  • Plain paper for test-printing
  • Paper towels to wipe potatoes between color changes  
  • Poster frame and foamcore for backing.    

Step Two. Prepare to Print 

Using a pencil, lightly draw a border a few inches inside the poster board outside edge so that your artwork will have some white space around it. Make the border equal on both sides, and slightly wider on the bottom than the top (see photo above).

Place blobs of each of your colors on your palette. Cut the bottom off the celery, about 4 inches from the bottom. You’re using the heart of celery for printing, so push the celery stalks out to make space between them. Slice the lettuce 2 to 3 inches from the bottom.

If you prefer, use a paper plate instead of a saran-wrapped dish. 
I used more than one romaine heart to add some variety. They don't need to be fresh.

Step Three. Paint and Print.

Using the foam brush, generously cover the cut ends of the celery heart with paint. Place the lighter colors in the outside of the “bloom” and add a dab of the darkest color to the very center. Test what a print will look by pressing this painted end onto the plain paper. Print celery flowers at spaces all over the area inside your pencil lines. Do the same with the romaine.

You don’t need to wash or wipe your brush between colors. They will mix on your brush and on the cut celery and lettuce ends. If you find all the paints on your palette have been mixed into one color, add a small amount of fresh paints to your palette, and continue.

Press the lettuce heart firmly on the paper, but don't wiggle it. 

You can crowd your blossoms tightly together, or not. I like to space them across
the paper, reminiscent of old fashioned wood-blocked wall paper.

Step Four. Wait and Finish

Allow your print to dry thoroughly, probably overnight. Add your signature to the lower right corner, just inside the pencil line, and write the name of your picture in the lower left corner. Make sure you are signing on the bottom of the print (the one with the wider border). Carefully darken the pencil line if you like its position, and you want to create the illusion of a mat surrounding the rose prints. The best way to do this is to have a T-square, but a good ruler will do if you measure carefully so your corners are square. You can always erase and draw it again.
Drawing a line around the art is a simple way to upgrade the poster-sized art
to look at first glance like it has been matted.

Step Five. Display It

Place your picture in the frame and hang it. Using a 50-cent piece of poster board, a $1 piece of foamcore for backing, a poster frame that you can find for around two bucks at second hand stores, plus a few tablespoons of craft paints, you’ll have a large and lovely framed original!

It’s easy to make your home lovely in the eyes of buyers, easy when you know how. Learn how by downloading my $5 eBook DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and for Top Dollar.


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