How to Reuse a Canvas to Make a Jackson Pollock Style Painting

So I’ve been a little slow to finish projects as summer has turned to fall. Life gets in the way sometimes, but I’m hoping that now winter has arrived I’ll find some free time for crafting and making. Here’s the big project that I did complete in August, finally written up.

A friend of mine ended up with some very large canvases that she wanted rid of. I happily volunteered to take them off her hands, planning to prime them and reuse them. I hated to see them go to the landfill. The original art on them was done by children which might have been beautiful if I knew the children, but I didn’t, so there was no sentimental value in keeping these pieces intact.

Canvases before I started

Depending on your plans, you may want to first sand the canvases. The ones I started with certainly had some spots with raised textures, but since I was planning to create abstract expressionist art on top of them, I decided to leave that texture as a design feature.

I made sure the canvases were clean and then I started to prime. I used this acrylic gesso pictured below:
Basics Acrylic Gesso

This product is widely available: I found it at Dick Blick, Michael’s, and Amazon. Here’s what the canvases looked like after the first coat…

One coat of gesso

And here’s me being silly while I was working on them:

Me being silly with a paintbrush

So I lost count of how many coats it took me. It was at least 3-4. For these two large canvases (plus one other small one that I primed at the same time but haven’t painted yet) it took me about 1 1/2 bottles of gesso. And they would not have been ready to just paint from where I got them. They would have needed a solid coat of white to be fully prepped. I wanted a grey background for my art, so I used that to finish prepping and covering the old art. I literally used an old paint sample of grey paint that was sitting with all my house paint. Jackson Pollock used house paint all the time in his work because he was poor and no one could tell the difference. And while I’m no Jackson Pollock, I do appreciate his sense of utility. For the other colors, I used acrylic colors from Dick Blick in black, white, and dark indigo blue. I did the painting in layers from dark to light, finishing with white which I watered down and mixed to make it really runny and splattery.

I listened to a lot of Alt-J while I was making these, and I definitely took out some built up aggression from the current USA political climate. I also did a couple of subliminal messages – especially in the black, I created abstract versions of a couple of meaningful shapes that spoke to me. Because I can’t really draw anything to save my life, it was really freeing to me to know that however it came out, was how it was supposed to be. I also worked hard to make the paint go generally all over the canvas and not leave any bare spots.

Completed canvases

Finally, I got the pieces dry and threw them up on a very large, bare wall in my basement. They… really tie the room together.

Finished artwork hanging on the wall

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