I’m one of those moms that takes pictures and videos of my kids almost every day. A little crazy I know, but I don’t want to forget anything. From the sweet way they say mommy to how they crawl and toddle around, to their two-toothed smiles and how their hair curled around their round little faces, I want it all forever ingrained in my mind, or at least be able to look back and fondly remember those days.
Every year for Valentine’s Day and sometimes even Mother’s Day and Father’s Day I make a handmade craft with my child(ren), like these heart stamps and hand print lilies that I wrote tutorials about in Thrifty Artsy Girl. I absolutely love making crafts with my kids especially when it’s to give away to family.
Handprint Valentine’s via Thrifty Artsy Girl on Instagram
I was perusing Pinterest for Valentine craft projects to do with kids and I saw a bunch of different wall art pictures of parents using the word LOVE and inserting their baby’s handprints and footprints in for letters.
Since I am obviously obsessed with capturing memories (and apparently the current size of my children’s appendages) I chose to put my own spin on this craft and use my 5 year old sons handprint for the O and my 15 month old daughters footprints for the V. I also wanted to put their ages and have my son write his name so I could remember how his handwriting looked when he was 5. Again, I want to remember everything! 😆
I also decided to use my newest, cheap and easy way to make wall art: reverse canvas. I first saw this technique on Facebook in one of my silhouette “inspiration” groups. I belong to a couple of these pages because I own a silhouette cutter machine that is currently a giant paperweight on our desk, waiting for me to get the time and gumption to learn how to use it.
Reverse canvas. Sounds interesting and mysterious right? It’s so simple but yet genius. It looks like an expensive piece of wall art but yet it’s super cheap. It’s so easy anyone can do it…Ok, ok, I think I’ve built it up enough so let me show you how to do it!
First let me tell you what supplies you need for this particular reverse canvas project.
- canvas (I used 12×12)
- paint (I used black waverly chalk paint)
- paintbrush, foambrush, etc.
- utility knife
- stain or paint for the frame
- staple gun with staples
- optional-steak knife
- optional-needle nose pliers
- optional-wood putty
- optional-sand paper
- optional-d-hook or saw tooth hanger
I stocked up on canvas from Michael’s when they had a 40% off sale and scored a 2 pack of 12×12 canvas for less than $4. I also buy canvas from Walmart but my store doesn’t have the 12×12 size.
I decided to do the V with Brynlee’s footprints first. I gathered up my canvas, paint and of course the baby with feet ready to go for this step.
I put Brynlee in her high chair with some snacks so she would hopefully be so distracted by her yummy treats that she wouldn’t notice I was smashing her foot in black paint. I kept picturing all kinds of disastrous scenarios that might happen involving black paint all over the kitchen ceiling, my hair and Brynlee’s entire body.
I shook off the horrible visions and went for it. I put some black paint on a paper plate and gently pressed her foot onto the paint and then even more gently pressed her foot onto the spot on the canvas that I wanted the V.
I’m not going to lie and say this part was easy. In fact it was definitely the hardest part of this project! I had to wipe her smeared footprint off the canvas the first time with baby wipes and start over. I prayed and crossed my fingers and toes (well, maybe not my toes 😆) that I didn’t mess up again…thankfully I didn’t!
Here’s the extent of the mess. Not as bad as I thought it would be! Since chalk paint is soap and water clean up I did manage to get the paint off everything, including her pajamas! This little bit of cleaning was so worth it!
After Brynlee’s footprints were dry I set about doing the next step, which is why it’s called reverse canvas. I flipped the canvas over and grabbed my utility knife.
For this part of the process you simply slice all along the edges of the canvas with your knife. You should easily be able to remove the canvas from the frame after you have cut all around. Sometimes the corners are tricky, requiring a few extra cuts.
After you have removed the canvas that will contain your artwork you can either:
A- remove the excess canvas from under the staples and then remove all the staples
B- remove just the excess canvas from under the staples
C- leave it as is because it’s the back and no one is going to ever see it unless they’re a nosy nelly or they’re curious about how it’s made
From my experience I have done all three. The first time I made a reverse canvas I removed all the excess canvas and the staples. I quickly found out that was the biggest waste of time ever. Now I find myself usually just ripping the excess canvas off from under the staples because the corners usually end up bulky looking if you don’t, and it’s almost therapeutic ripping it off 😁. For this particular canvas I just left it as is because the corners were fairly flat, with no bulky canvas remaining.
Now for the big reveal: how your frame looks…simply flip the frame over that you just cut the canvas off of. It’s always a surprise to me to see how the frame looks. The frame was never intended to see the light of day once the canvas was stretched, so the person who assembled the canvas could really care less what it looks like. If they have to put staples in three corners to make it work, they will.
I’ve had some truly beautiful frames with knots and no staples, and some horrible ones with wood gouged out and staples in two corners. If yours has staples you can leave them in if you want a more rustic look, and/or add some to the corners if your frame is missing some. Or you can remove them and repair your frame, which is what I had to do with mine.
This 12×12 frame is the worst I’ve ever seen. The staples were pushed so far into the wood and they had damaged it so much that I couldn’t leave them in even if I had wanted to!
So if you haven’t figured it out already, reverse canvas is basically a canvas disassembled and then put back together using the frame that was previously inside the canvas as a frame now outside of the canvas.
Next, instead of wallowing in the fact that I didn’t get the perfect, knotty frame of my dreams, I decided to continue with the artwork. I placed the frame where I wanted it to end up and prepared my black paint, paper plate concoction for my son to make the O with his hand.
Sometimes (I find out after the fact) I expect too much from my 5 year old son Jackson. It’s like I really want him to be able to do the dishes and mow the lawn but he’s really only capable of dragging the garbage out and finding the remote if it’s right next to him (sometimes not even then). So my hopes weren’t the highest that he would be able to stamp his handprint without smearing it. Miracles upon miracles he did it! He didn’t even get paint on his clothes or face!
Now for repairing my sad, beat up frame. I used a steak knife to gently pry the staples up, being careful not to knick up the wood even more. Then I pulled the staples out with my needle nose pliers.
For the holes, gouges, etc left by the staples I always try a “trick” that Cory taught me before I resort to applying wood putty: Saturate a paper towel with water, fold it up, place it on the damaged part of the wood, place something somewhat heavy over the wet paper towel and wait. Water causes wood to expand so sometimes this simple trick along with some light sanding will fix the blemishes in the frame.
The paper towel trick did not even make a dent in the deep gouges in my frame so I had to use wood putty. After the putty was dry I simply sanded and then stained my frame. You have to really look hard to see that I repaired the frame. I am very happy considering how damaged it was to begin with.
To complete the LOVE artwork I hand lettered the L and E and Brynlee’s name and age with a permanent black marker. I had Jackson write his name and age so we can forever see what his handwriting looked like at the age of 5.
I then trimmed the excess canvas off so that it was the same size as the outside edge of the frame. Usually the line made from where the canvas was originally stretched on the frame is exactly where you need to cut.
For the final steps I grabbed my staple gun. I lined up the canvas exactly how I wanted it while I had the artwork face up and then ever so gently I flipped it over, being careful that the canvas stayed exactly as I wanted it. Then I stapled one corner, pulled the canvas tight and stapled another corner. I stapled all the corners, pulling the canvas tight every time. Then I stapled the middle sections, and all around, alternating sides while making sure to pull the canvas tight so no creases or wrinkles remained on the canvas, much like how a canvas is stretched over the frame initially.
I added a D-hook that I had bought in a package of 100 for super cheap off of eBay to complete my new masterpiece.
Then I hung our new wall art by the kitchen table where our family can see it everyday.
By looking at the finished product you would never guess that it cost me less than $5! This art work is perfect for Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, birthdays, heck, any holiday or simply just because!
I don’t think I could love this artwork anymore if I tried! The fact that I made it with my children makes it even more special and I will surely cherish it for the rest of my life!
P.S. Our first vlog will be coming up soon and it will showcase reverse canvas with a mixed media art project that you won’t want to miss! 😉