Monday, March 7, 2011

Week 10: Just a Little Bit Nicer

This week, we're not going to do anything wacky with new art materials and techniques. We're going to create a few small projects that use what we have and make our corner of the world just that little bit prettier. We'll be sprucing up an ugly painting, and rejuvenating a few planter pots. Plus, we'll piggyback on Week 7 with a new take on the folk art planter pot.
New plants brighten up the yard
Formerly hideous painting is now bearable
Project 1: Springtime Planter Pot
It's early spring here in the San Francisco Bay area, and last year's geraniums are looking pretty tired. Time to send them to the great compost heap in the sky and pretty up the front window.

Bye bye, old geraniums
What you need
  • potting mix
  • balanced fertilizer
  • plants (I used lysimachia for the trailing plant and two perennial violas in each pot)
  • terra cotta pot
  • garden gloves
  • trowel
  • optional: wire mesh window screen material (available at hardware stores)
Everything you need for this project
1. Take out the old plants and compost them.

2. Cut a piece of window screen to cover the bottom drainage holes of the pot. That prevents the potting soil from leaking out of the pot and making a mess.

3. Fill up the pot about 2/3 of the way with potting soil. Water the soil so that it's moist.

4. Sprinkle some fertilizer over the surface, then scoop it through the soil so it's evenly distributed.
Sprinkle fertilizer
5. Add your plants. It's nice to have a trailing plant that spills fetchingly over the edge of the pot. Keep the plants close enough together that they give the pot a filled-in look.

6. Add more soil as needed to fill up the pot, and water thoroughly.

And there you go!

Our cute little springtime pot

Project 2: Painting SOS
Several years ago, I painted an enormous dahlia flower and hung it in the dining room across from a complementary dahlia flower canvas that I'd painted previously. It creates a nice symmetry to have these opposing dahlia paintings. But man, I hated that flower. Something about it always bugged me. And I had to look at it every single day. Time to fix it up -- finally.

This week, I happened to be sitting in the dining room painting something else, with some red paint on my palette. I just walked right up the wall and started whacking away at the painting right there. It ended up much the better for it.
This painting used to annoy me so much I stuck another picture over the middle of it. 
What You Need

  • acrylic paints of your choice
  • paintbrush
  • palette paper
The main problem with the painting -- and it's hard to see this in the "before" picture -- is that the colors are muddy. This is a red dahlia, but I used these gloomy yellow ochre-like colors in the centers of the petals, with dark shadows in the center and under the petals. Adding bright, saturated, opaque reds -- a mix of cadmium red medium and cadmium red deep -- makes the painting pop.

Also, the composition is boring. The flower sits floating in the middle of the picture without touching the edges. Pulling some of the petals over to the edge of the canvas gives it considerably more interest.

Finally, the flower's center was previously quite dark. That gave the whole painting a gloomy, draggy feel. Covering up the dark center with new bright yellow paint gives the painting new energy.

Petals move to the edges, the center is brightened up, and the petals get a coat of bright red paint.
Lesson learned for this project: if you don't like something you've made, go ahead, paint over it and try again -- even if it is three years later. The only gotcha is making sure the painting isn't varnished before going back in; this one wasn't. I must have known I wasn't really done with it.

Project 3: Planter Pot Redux
Here are some updates to the planter pot we made in Week 7. This planter pot here is a stenciled version, done by third graders for a school fundraiser:

And this is the planter pot from Week 7, now outdoors with a plant in it:

And that's this week: a few little projects, adding a little cheer.


  1. Oh my, the dahlia! That reminds me of that scuffed up poppy painting sitting in my garage. I think it's in need of a Make52-intervention!