Layered Canvas Family Project

This layered canvas turned out to be one of my favorite art projects I have done with my kids. It started off as a holiday Advent activity and turned into something we will be doing all year long. The basic idea is to work on one canvas over many days, adding a new material every time. Because it started off as an Advent activity, each material was a surprise, hidden inside of a bag for that specific day. This quickly became a fun game where they would try to guess what the next material would be. If a material didn’t fit inside the bag (like on day 1), I would set it up like an Invitation To Create and surprise the girls that way. Although we tried to do this every day during early December, I quickly realized that it was going to have to be every other day- and sometimes we’d go a few days without working on it. This made it a much more enjoyable experience and helped me realize we could continue on indefinitely! Here is what our process looked like…

Day 1: Canvas, acrylic paint, brushes, cup of water, and rag.

Advent Activity 4

Evolving Canvas

Day 2: Paint pens.

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We had a friend over for day 2, so she happily joined in.

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Day 3: Gold spray paint and wood snowflakes.

Karuna and Ora each had a wood snowflake and placed them at different spots around the canvas before spraying over them. Karuana (age 7) got the hang of the spray can, but Ora (age 3) definitely needed help with that part. Then they lifted the snowflakes up to reveal their shape! If you want to try this, you can use any kind of object- paper, cardboard, plastic lids from your recycle bin, etc. But make sure to do it outside. We tried to keep the door to the rest of the house closed and the windows open, but the fumes were still pretty stinky!

Evolving Canvas 1a

Day 4: Fabric scraps, Mod Podge, and foam brushes.

I loved that this was a collaborative project for the whole family. I was right there alongside the girls every day, exploring the materials and having fun. Aaron, their dad, also joined in one of the days as well, making it a true family project.

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Using Mod Podge (affiliate link), we created a fabric collage on top of the dried canvas.

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Day 5: Coffee filters, scissors, Mod Podge, and foam brushes.

We first cut out snowflakes from the coffee filters and then we glued them onto the canvas using watered down Mod Podge, just as we had done with the fabric scraps.

Evolving Canvas12

Day 6: Chalk.

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Chalk turned out to be our favorite medium for this canvas. I was intrigued by the chalk on Meri Cherry’s thrift store canvas and knew I wanted to try it out. I had no idea how soothing it would be to rub chalk all over the different textures that we had created so far. The stiff canvas, the rough fabric, the dried-up crinkled coffee filters- all made for great rubbing textures. The girls also loved blending different chalks together to create beautiful new colors.

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Day 7: Oil Pastels.

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Day 8: Watered down white acrylic paint & brushes.

I asked Karuna what we should do for the last day and we talked about what different mediums would do to the outcome of the painting. What would make it more colorful, more busy, more soothing, etc. She said that it would depend on what room it would go in. “If we hang it in the art studio, it should be more colorful, but if we hang it in the living room, it should be more soothing.” My thoughts exactly! I asked her what we should do if we were to hang it in her and Ora’s bedroom. She said, “It should be more soothing.” So we decided on doing a wash of watered down white acrylic paint over the entire canvas. I was hoping it would be thin enough to allow more of the details to show through, but this is what it turned out to be. Perfect for the start of another round!

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My favorite thing about this project- aside from the many days of creative fun and collaboration with my girls- was how it opened them up to the concept of layering in their artwork. Before this, their paintings were always “finished” after one session. They wouldn’t even consider adding something on top of their finished piece. After we did this project they were thinking of things to give to grandparents and other family for Christmas and they decided to take old paintings they had done and add chalk and paint pens to them to create something new. They came out awesome!

Have you ever tried something like this with your kids? If not, give it a try and let me know how it goes! You don’t need a large canvas, you can use a small one or even a piece of cardboard. Can’t wait to hear how it goes for you :)

Update November 2017:

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  • Mary January 7, 2016  

    I LOVE this. Thank you for the wonderful idea and inspirational blog.

    • Megan Schiller January 7, 2016  

      Thanks so much, Mary!

  • Sara @ Happiness is here January 8, 2016  

    So lovely!!

    • Megan Schiller January 10, 2016  

      Thanks Sara!

  • Ramya February 11, 2016  

    Have you tried doing this on a medium other than canvas? I picked up a cabinet door in a flea market and did a news print mod podge as my base layer on the sanded door and then added more paint layers.. Eventually we added buttons, fabric, shells, etc to it.. It was an amazing project!

    • Megan Schiller February 11, 2016  

      Great idea, Ramya! That would be so fun to experiment on all kinds of surfaces. Thanks for the suggestion.

  • Nilu April 30, 2016  

    Always wanted to do this with my girls but wasn’t sure how to start. Thanks for listing all the different materials/day. Just waiting for their summer holidays to start so we can get started on it.

    • Megan Schiller May 2, 2016  

      Glad to help, Nilu! You can also use whatever materials you have around the house. It’s fun to experiment with different things. Hope your kids enjoy the project!