As a self-proclaimed "artist," I don't tend to buy pictures and paintings to hang on the walls of my home just because they match my decor. I like them to have a special meaning or be something I created myself. As I was contemplating what to put on the walls of my family room, I thought how nice it would be to have a visual representation of our family and genealogy. I thought I'd try making this stretched canvas family tree. It's a mixed media project that is easy to make and enjoy, even as you continue to add information to your family tree. Here's how it's made:
- 12" x 24" stretched canvas
- gesso primer
- acrylic paint - green, blue, brown
- 1" wide foam paint brush
- Sakura Pigma Micron 02 Pen
- cotton swabs
- pink and blue brads
- chipboard monogram
- brown and green cardstock
- leaf die cut or punch (QuicKutz A-RS-0102)
- Mod Podge - Matte Finish
- Begin by priming the canvas with gesso. This will help the paint "stick" better to the canvas as you create your design. I chose to use a spray version of the gesso, but you can also buy a version that you apply with a paintbrush.
- Once the gesso primer has dried, you can apply the background colors of your design. Since my project is a family tree, I chose a green bottom and blue top to represent grass and sky. I wanted a more faded coloring for the background, so I used a little bit of water on my brush to water down the acrylic paint. The water helps create a wash effect, instead of an opaque solid background. I used a 1" brush and worked in long horizontal strokes. I also painted the sides of the canvas in the same pattern since they will be visible when hung on the wall.
- Next, it was time to design the tree trunk and branches. I used two pieces of brown 12" x 12" cardstock to create the halves of the tree. First, I drew one side on the back of one piece of the brown cardstock, making sure to leave plenty of space between the branches for the leaves and being sure to create enough branches to fit my full family tree. When I was happy with the design, I used a craft knife to follow my pencil marks and cut out the tree. To create the other half, I traced the first half onto the back of the other sheet of paper to make a mirror image and then cut it out as well.
- Next, I cut leaves using a QuicKutz die-cutting machine. I cut enough for each person in my family tree. Since this particular leaf design faces one way, I made sure to cut half with the top of the cardstock facing up and the other half with the cardstock facing down so that I would have both the original leaf image as well as its mirror image to use throughout the tree.
- To add depth and definition to the entire design, I used chalk to highlight and shadow the tree trunk and leaves. Let the chalk "set" a while (an hour or two) before moving on to the next step. This will help prevent smearing or removing chalk when you cover it with the glue.
- Using a foam brush and Mod Podge glue, adhere the tree trunk to the canvas. Be sure to coat the entire tree with the adhesive before placing it on the canvas to avoid bubbling. I found that starting at the bottom, applying glue directly to the canvas a little bit at a time as I pressed the tree trunk down worked best. Once the entire tree trunk is adhered, coat the top of the entire project with a layer of Mod Podge and let it dry.
- Once the glue is dry, lay the leaves out on the project as they will appear in the final product. Then, one at a time, put a layer of Mod Podge on the canvas underneath the leaf, lay down the leaf, and cover it with another layer of Mod Podge. Continue this process until all the leaves are adhered. Then, let the glue dry completely.
- Add a chipboard monogram to the center of the tree trunk to represent your family name. I used a self-adhesive chipboard sticker, but you could also use Mod Podge to adhere a die-cut or other alphabet embellishment.
- To represent my children, instead of leaves I decided to use pink and blue brads set at the base of the tree trunk. That way, I can add to the project at any time by simply cutting a small hole and inserting a brad.
- Finally, you can begin writing in your family members' names, birthdates and dates of death. I used a Sakura Pigma Micron 02 pen and wrote the names along the outer edges of each leaf and dates directly on the leaves.
The beauty of this project is that names and dates can continue to be added as I learn more about our family history and genealogy. But in the meantime, we can enjoy this art piece of family history on our living room wall.