Big Art, Small Price – a DIY Love Story

I love scene stealing art pieces.  They transform a space and speak volumes about the person that chose it.  I especially love huge art pieces, but inevitably those come with a huge price tag.

In comes Surface View – a company out of the UK that has arrangements with all the major British and Scottish museums. They make reasonably priced custom reproductions on canvas, paper or even wallpaper and murals.  I’ve recommended Surface View to clients and they have had good success, but I’d not had opportunity to use them myself until recently.

When you combine these canvas art prints with my technique to transform a frame you can have something really special.

First, let me show you my inspiration piece.

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Last year I found this huge yellow wood frame in the alley with my next door neighbor’s trash. It had been a mirror; but when the mirror shattered, it went to the trash pile.  I had to do something with it! So I began experimenting with chalk paint and wax.

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It’s ridiculously easy.  You paint on a coat or two of chalk paint and then apply dark wax with a brush.  The trick is to use a wood color and then add dark wax to give it depth and dimension. I use Annie Sloan chalk paints and wax, but Lowe’s sells a knock off and I’m sure there are others.

It’s so forgiving. If you don’t like it, just paint over it.

This was not the first time I’d used chalk paint and wax to update frames and transform them into something better.

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An hour with Annie Sloan Paris Grey Chalk Paint and some dark wax and this piece we have in our bedroom was just so much better.

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After

For this large yellow frame, I decided to go for a Pecan wood color.  I used a combination of Aries and Honefleur and then a dark wax when it was dry.

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Next step was what art should fill the frame and this decision was the hardest.  My husband and I are particularly fond of J.M.W. Turner and after lengthy discussion we chose Life-Boat and Manby Apparatus Going Off to a Stranded Vessel Making Signal (Blue Lights) of Distress”  (yes, that whole thing is the name!)  currently at the Victoria and Albert Museum.  The canvas print took about two/three weeks to arrive from England. Shipping was free.

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Because of the curvy frame, it’s impossible to stretch a canvas and not have ripples.  So I opted to use wallpaper glue to affix the canvas to the wood.

If you have a square frame, then you can stretch the canvas or have it stretched at a frame store. Dallas friends, Decor Art & Frame on Upper Greenville near Central Market is great.  I appreciate their knowledgeable staff and prices are very fair.

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After a lot of brushing and smoothing out air pockets, I cut the canvas to match the frame’s curves.

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At this point I felt the canvas lacked the luster you’d see on an old oil painting so I applied Annie Sloan’s clear wax to the canvas.  To be sure it was even, I applied the wax with my hands. I could feel where it was and where it was not. After it dried, I used a soft cloth to buff it. The difference was subtle but important.

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The final touch for authenticity was adding an art light.  We figured that if we really had a 3×5 foot 200 year old painting, it would naturally have an art light.  I won this light on eBay for a fraction of retail.  It’s a battery powered LED, so no need for an electrician.

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Here are some inspiration pictures from Surface View’s website that show other ways you can style what they offer.

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In this example, the art is stretched to cover the edges so you don’t even need a frame. You can crop to print just the portion of the piece you want and select the exact dimensions.  For example, to fit the frame, my print is larger than the original and I had to crop a bit at the bottom.

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Here the piece is hung with wood batons and a leather cord.  I love this look!

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These are just a few of the styles on offer. They also have vintage maps, photography, and fabulous old cartoons. Check it out for yourself.

For the record there is no paid sponsorship here.  I just love this company making great art accessible and wanted to share with you my current favorite DIY (literal trash to treasure) love story!

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