Monday, August 22, 2011

How to paint a tree mural...

Okay, that title may be a little misleading.  I think this post isn't so much as a "how-to" as you "you can do this!"  I want to tell you about the process of painting this life-size tree in Eliza's room, from "yeah, I think I can do that" to "oh my gosh this is a disaster" to "YES! I'M THE COOLEST EVER!!!"

Let me just start by saying: You can do this.  Believe me, if I can do it, you can do it.  I've been a paper-crafter for a long time and I consider myself to be pretty darn crafty, but only lately have I begun to discover that I can be artistic as well.  The key is giving yourself permission to not be 100% perfect, but to enjoy the process and believe in yourself.  I recently stumbled across this quote and I LOVE it:

Too often we talk ourselves out of trying something new because we don't believe we can do it right!  Why?!  Are we afraid the craft/art/life police are going to come and take us away?!

So, with that big and overdramatic introduction, I'm going to give you instructions if you want to paint a tree exactly the way I did:

1.  Paint the room with your base color.  Make sure you have a little leftover for "editing" later.

2.  Start sketching out tree shapes.  If you're like me, most of them will look pretty fugly.  Go to Pinterest and start looking for trees and tree art to get an idea of the shape you want to create. (Man, who knew there were so many cool tree tattoos out there?)  Eventually, after a bunch of tries, you'll figure out the shape you want, and you'll begin to feel like an artistic genius.  I really wish I had kept the bazillion sticky notes I sketched trees on so I could show you.  Most of them looked more like scary Halloween trees than a pretty girly whimsical tree.

A few of my inspiration photos, found via Pinterest. Seriously, it's awesome.

3.  Take a pencil and sketch the basic shape of the tree on your wall.

4.  Using an art brush (my fave was a rectangular brush about 1" wide), paint in the outline of the tree.  Add branches.  Fill in all the outlines.  Let dry.  (Hey, look, you can see my sticky note with my tree sketches on the wall!)

5.  Start painting on your leaves.  I recommend going from left to right so you don't drag your hand through wet paint.  Also, I decided before I started that I was going to do tear-drop shaped leaves in groups of three at the end of each branch and twig.  That worked for me because it that consistent element kept the tree from being too wild and crazy.

6.  Half-way through, step back and think "This does not look like my sketch.  This tree looks really barren."

7.  Take a picture with your phone, upload it to the computer, and do a little virtual editing to see what changes you need to make.  I went into PhotoShop elements and painted on a few more branches and more leaves and already felt happier.  I also doodled the little birdies I wanted to cut out of vinyl and put on.

8.  Start making changes.  Step back and think "Oh my gosh, this is a disaster.  This is an ugly tree!  If this tree were growing in my yard I would chop it down!"  Freak out.

9.  Take a deep breath.  Maybe it just needs to be pruned instead of chopped down.

10.  Repeat step 7.  This time in PhotoShop, I made the trunk skinnier and the tree taller so that it had a more rounded shape (instead of looking like some weird step pyramid).  I also decided to do the bird and cage instead of the thing I doodled before.

11.  Keep tweaking until you step back and think: "YES!  I'M THE COOLEST EVER!!!"

The point is, don't give up, and don't freak out.  Your process won't be the same as mine -- but that's probably for the best.  If you were really cool and found a tree shape that you loved, you could use a projector to put it up on your wall, trace the projection, and paint in those lines.  And that would be awesome!  But I don't have a project and I didn't find a tree shape that I loved, so I just winged it.  And I did think I was going to hate it forever there in the middle, but by the end I was able to come up with something that I really loved.

It's not really about the tree -- it's about taking chances in the things you love to do!  Go out on a limb, branch out, leaf your fears behind! (Okay, no more puns...)

Create an awesome life!

P.S.  I cut the bird and bird cage out of vinyl, from artwork I designed myself.  I do sell those shapes as cut files in my etsy shop if you're interested.  I am not currently taking any actual vinyl orders -- too much life going on right now!


Denise Rose said...

So cool! I love it! And I love Pinterest too! Such a great idea place and a place to keep up with your ideas!

Tonia said...

That is awesome!!

Prudently Painted Vintage said...

You are the coolest ever! LOve it!!

emarci said...

I so admire your courage...I am trying to reach that point in my creative life, too. Love the quote!

Shelley Whiting's art said...

I love the tree. It's very whimsical and magical.