In my last post, I’d refinished two frames but only had the artwork to fill one.
Here’s the rundown of a quick DIY wall art project I did to fill my second frame. It’s a simple technique that can easily be personalized with something meaningful to you.
The Knight’s Tour
Chess has a sentimental place in our home. Not in the way you’d imagine…a couple playing together, an ongoing tournament on a rainy day. It’s that I’m so outrageously awful at it, it’s become a long-running joke.
It’s my husband’s favorite game and he plays almost daily. He tried to lead me through a few painful games when we were dating. His reaction, “I can’t believe you’re so bad at this.”
Chess has become a symbol for our differences, we’re Spanish vs. American, lawyer vs. designer, chess lover vs. chess dunce. We’re one of those couples who have opposite talents, but it works for us. Besides, do you really need two chess masters in the same house?
Although I find playing the game torturous, ironically I love the history and culture that it’s tied to. I’m drawn to the idea of chess, to the rituals, geometries and strategies of it – not to mention the beauty of the pieces.
So knowing all that, when I saw the knight’s tour, I knew I wanted to make an art project out of it.
What’s the knight’s tour? It’s the path a knight takes to move through the chess board visiting each space exactly once (read more about it here).
I’d never heard of it either, until I came across this animated GIF.
Isn’t it a cool geometric pattern? Almost symmetrical, but not quite.
Using this pattern for an art project was perfect for us since it represents something that we love (or want to love), in a modern and abstracted way. Plus I like having decor with a back story. It makes a fun show-and-tell/icebreaker when people come over.
Sketch it out
On a piece of white matte poster board, I measured the size I wanted for my chessboard. Then I penciled in small dots where the center of each square should be.
I lightly drew in the path of the knight’s movement. This step could be skipped but I found the pattern a little confusing (again, a chess dunce) so I wanted the extra security of having it all sketched out before painting.
Paint the lines
With this project you’re really just tracing over the pencil lines with paint.
I find that one of the most important factors to getting good painting results to make sure you have the right consistency paint. Here your paint should be thick enough to be opaque with one stroke, but thin enough to flow easily from the brush and not feel gloppy. If the paint is too thick, it will skip along the paper and you won’t get smooth lines.
I used acrylic craft paints for this (slightly thinned with water). This is what my brush looked like loaded with paint:
Notice the two colors of paint on the brush (black and orange)? I did that because I wanted the painting to appear to be mostly black, but also to have some accent colors mixed in.
I loaded the brush with a black paint and then dipped just the tip in a bright color. When the paint was brushed on, the two colors mixed. Like this:
I used a mix of several bright colors throughout the painting. Here is my palette with the colors I used.
Next I traced my pencil lines in paint, varying the accent colors as I went along.
There is a nice subtlety in the paint colors that doesn’t come through well in photos. From a distance it looks black, but up close the blending of colors is really nice.
This close-up shot shows some of the variations in color strokes.
DIY wall art, done.
Then I just popped it into the frame and mat I already had.
Hang it up
I hung this under the Prague drawing. I think the style of the two together balance/contrast each other well. Although I predict that the Prague drawing won’t have a long life on display, but it works for now.
A trick for aligning frames
This tip is a little random, but I thought I’d throw it in in case it helps someone hanging a set of frames.
I don’t have a level. It’s one of those things that I never justify buying. I usually just find a way around it, like this…
So in needing to hang two identical frames in perfect vertical alignment, without a level. I came up with this, a DIY plumb bob.
Worked like a charm.
It’s not the most revolutionary idea, and I’m assuming self-explanatory from the photo. But it is a handy trick. This is also useful if you have a level, but it or your ruler are not long enough for what you want to measure. The only requirement is that the weight at the end of the string/twine is heavy enough so there is no slack in the twine.
So that’s it. This project is doable for anyone who can map out a grid and trace a line with a paint brush.
The knight’s tour is just one idea. You could use the same technique and trace out any pattern or movement that has meaning to you.
You could trace something geographical, like draw a line connecting the places you’ve lived or traveled. You could disguise a personal message by tracing Morse code or braille letters. You could even trace the pattern that you dog makes wagging its tail. The last one would be hard to record, but you get my point, the possibilities are endless.
So, I may not be able to make it through a full game of chess without wanting to cry, but I can make art out of it. I think that’s a pretty good compromise. Although now that I have the knight’s moves memorized maybe I should try another game…