Thursday, August 9, 2012

Rainbow Melted Crayon Art

This was a gift for a couple of friends who just bought a house, who also like rainbows.

Backstory: I had been seeing these melted crayon art paintings around the internet  (on Offbeat Home, on unsimpleliving, on this blog, and on this blog, as well as hearing it was on pinterest, which I don't use). I totally wanted to make one, especially after seeing some of the ones people had made with silhouettes and umbrellas in the silhouettes. My first idea was to do a "Singing in the Rain" piece, with the silhouette of Gene Kelly hanging off the lightpost, but I put it off after remembering that I don't have a ton of wall space for displaying artwork, so it would be silly to make it for myself. When I heard my friends were buying a house I realized they were the type of people who would probably enjoy something like this, and after a little bit of brainstorming about what to use for the silhouette, I had myself an awesome idea for a housewarming gift.

How I did it: First, materials. I bought a canvas from the art store and a pack of Crayola's from somewhere. I also ended up buying two of those long stick lighters you use for candles and grills. From around the house I used blue painters tape, black Sharpie markers, and a utility knife and a few blades.

Next, process. If you look around at the various examples on the web, some people used hair dryers, some used heat guns, some ran crayons through cheap hot glue guns, some people used lighters, some people used the sun... There's probably a billion ways to melt crayons and make art. I wanted a lot of control over the process, but have limited resources, so I tested a hair dryer and a stick lighter. The lighter had a slight advantage just on initial trial, and later turned out to be key to the look I eventually achieved.

The silhouette came from a combination of two pictures of my friends from a wedding, each with elements of the two in profile that I wanted to utilize. I tried to scale them to about the same scale and used the GIMP and my cheapo tablet to sort-of trace around the figures and come up with a reasonable silhouette (I had to guess at some lines because I didn't have a full figure shot of both of them due to the heads of the people who were sitting between me and them at the wedding where I took the pictures).

I used the ol' "charcoal pencil on the back of the picture, trace the front" trick to get the outline on the canvas before filling it in with Sharpie marker. Once it was mostly filled in I covered it with blue painters tape horizontally and then vertically, cutting the tape with a utility knife (yes, a craft/exacto knife would have been better). Because I wanted to have puddles at the bottom, I taped off a ground line and cut out puddle shapes. I also taped some cardboard beneath the puddle cutouts to catch the drips (although in retrospect that step was likely unnecessary.

For the crayons, I separated out the colors and laid them out in a rainbow, although not exactly in color order (because that's how I wanted it). I peeled the papers off the crayons. I took a piece of cardboard to match the top of the canvas and glued the crayons on that, which I had taped to the top of the canvas.

I melted the crayons with the stick lighter, taking care not to keep it lit too long (because it seems to use up the fuel quickly and get the lighter and possibly the canvas too hot). At first I tried to only melt each crayon a little at a time, but I didn't like the way the wax built up, so I began re-melting the drops and drawing as much color down the canvas as possible, still a little bit at a time. It took a while, and I drained a lighter completely. I melted down about half of each crayon, which happened to line up with where the canvas and cardboard met. After the majority of the wax had been worked down the canvas I melted purposeful drips down the canvas, melting every other crayon then removing them and melting the other crayons (this step may have been easier but more time-consumptive if I had removed all the crayons and then placed and melted them individually).

Next, I peeled off the painters tape from the silhouettes, then pulled off the cardboard under the puddle areas. A lot of crayon wax had pooled on top of the cardboard and I had to pull a chunk of it off, then melted the remaining pieces and poured off some of the wax, letting the rest pool on top of the puddle areas. Then I pulled off the tape while the wax was still warm. The goal was to have a marbley effect with a thicker cover than the majority of the piece.

Finally I went over the Sharpie again, trying to get the best coverage I could. I signed the bottom side of the canvas.

What I learned: Wax is fickle. Canvas encourages wax to go in every direction. If you want distinct drips you need to either keep your crayons very separate or use a different method like the hot glue gun. If you want *no* color getting under your tape, you might need more layers and/or better/newer tape, although I do like the color bleed beyond the obvious edges on the ground line and the puddles. Melting the wax all the way is awesome and creates a great effect.

What I might try next time: A different base material (perhaps smoother?). Taping around a slightly wider space than the silhouette to leave a little more room for error/create more of a halo/reverse outline. Coloring on the canvas and then using a lighter to glaze the wax, hopefully creating a watercolorish effect. I do want to eventually do the "Singing in the Rain" art, maybe when I have more wall space. I've also seen some very minimalist art with single colors and drips becoming grass or flower stems that look fun.

Final Thoughts: In the end, I really like how this turned out, and the couple I gifted it to really liked it. It was a lot of fun and really got me itching to craft more, so hopefully I'll be able to keep it up.

1 comment:

  1. I lovelovelove your singing in the rain idea and will be totally excited and totally jealous when I see it, lol.