The year, my little brother joined the ranks of the working world. He moved back to Houston, where he is currently working as an engineer in the oil industry (yup, my kid brother is a smarty). As a recent graduate, his apartment boasts an interesting array of hand-me-downs, including some wicked plaid couches and a few pieces of furniture he’s chosen from himself. While Brother (as he’s known) would love to have a condo full of sleek European furniture and modern art, he grew up with the same set of parents that I did. Which means the plaid couches are here to stay, and the walls are destined for a life of bare-whiteness – that is, unless we can find some budget-friendly ways to solve these design dilemmas. So, when Christmas rolled around this year, deciding on his gift was simple. Little Brother was getting a big piece of custom artwork that would cover lots of wall space – without breaking the bank. As an homage to his summer abroad in London, I knew I wanted to paint a big, graphic Union Jack.
To contrast with the modern, linear graphic, the Union Jack would be on a weathered, pallet-style wood canvas.
With the design concept under control, we headed off to Home Depot to grab supplies. We picked up 6 1 x 4 pine boards, 2 at 6 feet, and 4 at 8 feet. I also snagged some paint: a quart of Behr Ultra White latex in a flat finish, plus two sample-size containers of Behr paint in Vin Rouge (a deep, wine shade) and Midnight Dream (a gorgeous navy color).
Armed with supplies, we started by building a box. We cut 2 pieces of wood to 27 3/4 inches long and 2 pieces to 38 1/2 inches…
For a box that was 27 3/4 inches tall and 40 inches wide. We joined each of the boards using our Kreg jig for a super strong, clean seam.
To create the “canvas”, we just cut 8 pieces of wood to 40 inches wide, and then nailed them to the box.
If you’re making your own pallet, you can adjust the width to whatever you like. When it comes to adjusting the height, it has to be a multiple of your board width. Since 1 x 4s are actually 3 1/2 inches wide, 8 boards gave us a total height of 27 3/4. inches.
Next up was priming our creation – I used a random can of Kilz no-VOC primer that I found lying around the garage, and then painted the edges of the pallet with Midnight Dream.
Then it was time to draw my Union Jack. Naturally, this was much more difficult than I had expected, since I neglected to research the appropriate scale and dimensions of the flag before I embarked on this project. Apparently the real deal is twice as wide as it is all – which clearly mine is not. So I took a pass on accuracy and put my ruler to work creating the best imitation I could. Don’t tell the Queen.
With the design drawn, the next step was filling it in with paint. I used 1-inch and 3-inch sponge brushes, plus a small art brush for detail work. After quite a few coats, old Union Jack was looking pretty awesome.
To age my painting and define some of the imperfections in my faux-pallet, I went over the design with some Minwax Antique Walnut stain. I just wiped it on with a rag, and then immediately wiped most of it off. The difference was really subtle, but totally worth the effort.
I finished up by giving the whole painting a light coat of water-based sealer for an even, satin-y sheen. Then it was time to haul my masterpiece inside and take a million pictures.
Since our family didn’t get to spend Christmas together, Little Brother won’t get his gift until our belated celebration. I’m dying to see his reaction – and which wall it ends up on! I’ll be sure to share photos of Union Jack when he makes it on to a wall.
In case you’re wondering how to hang a piece of art like this, the best method is to attach a wood cleat to the wall with screws (a 1 x 2 is perfect). The painting can be rested on the cleat, or screwed into the cleat for extra stability.
Have you put your paintbrushes to work on any DIY projects lately?