My daughter’s room, completely by chance, seems to have ended up with a bit of an owl theme, so I wanted to make her an owl canvas to go in there for her second birthday. To get some inspiration, me and her went into her room with some pieces of paper on a clip board, some crayons and a camera to find and capture some of the owl images around us.
I had a blank canvas for making into a homemade photo frame, so I thought I would use that for this little project. I’m not very good at planning things out, and sticking to that plan, but I thought I should probably at least give it a try for this piece of work, seeing as it would need to be done in different stages and with different media. Once I’d planned out the canvas, I needed to build it up in layers.
I made the sky using scraps of my daughters’ drawings. I got them to scribble in blue pens onto the colours of paper that I wanted to use for the sky. I then stuck these onto the canvas using PVA glue. So that my daughter could also be involved in making the actual canvas, I covered one patch of it at a time in the glue and then she was able to place the piece onto that patch in the position she wanted.
When making the tree trunk, the first thing I did was sketch and then cut out it’s outline on brown paper (I actually used an old envelope cause it was the colour I needed and I am a bit of a recycling fan!). I then stuck this outline onto the canvas in the right position and then stuck the bark on top of it. We collected bark that had fallen off trees on walks that we went on. I found the best bark to use was the kind that is a bit more thin and papery. The thicker barks would have needed a lot more glue and, more importantly, they seem to be much better habitats/resources for little creepy crawlies and I didn’t want to disturb them by taking that bark. I made sure I only gathered up a small amount of bark and only the flat, sunbaked bits, not the curled up bits that might be useful to bugs.
Even though this kind of bark is fairly similar to paper, it is SO MUCH harder to work with! It was really difficult getting it to stick to the canvas, especially when it came to going over the edge of the wrap around canvas. I used PVA to do the majority of the sticking down of the bark but then used UHU to make sure some of the edges were properly stuck down. Both glues had the added benefit of drying clear so any bits that could still be seen would just look like resin. Already having the brown envelope colour underneath meant that even if there were tiny gaps in the bark, they wouldn’t stand out.
Finally, I needed to make and attach the owl to the rest of the canvas. I made it out of my daughter’s old clothes. We have bags and bags of old clothes from our girls and they all have such lovely colours, patterns and textures so I thought I might use them to build up my own little bank of fabric pieces to use in this and future art projects.
I used one of the original owl drawings we did in my daughter’s room as a template and then cut out and arranged the fabric into position. I didn’t think the eyes were quite right to start with so I made sure I tried a few different options before I settled on the choice I preferred. Once I was happy, I temporarily attached the fabric pieces together using little dabs of Pritt Stick and then hand sewed round the edge of the joins between the different pieces. I chose a black thread to do the sewing because I liked the homemade/craft effect of the stitches and I wanted them to stand out.
I had planned to also hand sew the owl onto the canvas to secure it in place but it was far too thick and I couldn’t get the needle through so I secured it with UHU instead. I did worry that it would soak through the fabric but I couldn’t see any sign of the glue on the outside of the fabric and it fastened it really securely. I wanted to pad the owl out to make it a bit more realistic. (Well as realistic as pink and blue fabric owl with a pocket on it’s tummy can look!) So I used the left over scraps of clothes fabric and cut them up in little pieces and used them to ‘stuff’ the owl.
Now all that was left was to choose a photo to go in it and wrap the whole thing up for her birthday.