If you’ve ever wondered what to do with an ugly old painting, here is a quick and easy DIY project for upcycling it into a brand new journal!!
Begin by removing the canvas from the frame. This can be done quickly and easily by flipping over the painting and sliding a small, sharp knife between the frame and the canvas.
Poke the knife through the material, and slide it through the canvas until the piece falls away from the frame. Lay the painting flat on a large piece of cardboard or a tarp.
Using gesso and a brush, paint over the old surface until it’s covered. Gesso is an opaque primer that covers the old surface and prepares it for another medium. It will cover over oil or acrylic paints, and allows you to use your choice of mediums in the future.
When done priming one side of the painting, flip it over and do the same to the back side of the canvas.
While the gesso is still wet, I add some white acrylic paint and mix it over the piece, creating some interesting patterns on the surface. I use a palette knife to do this as it allows me to work quickly, but you can use a brush or even an old credit card to move the paint around quickly over the surface.
Notice how the gesso allows the original texture to show through – if you want to cover the texture, you can use a thicker modeling paste or add additional layers of gesso until the surface is smooth. Keep in mind you’ll likely cover any texture later if you’re adding collage materials or additional paint.
I like to add asemic writing in my art and use a bamboo pen or a skewer to scratch into the wet paint. Asemic writing is a visual feature that adds the form of writing to a piece without using language. It looks like writing but is typically illegible and adds interest and visual texture to your work. Let dry.
Using a ruler or yardstick, measure equal areas as to where you want to cut the canvas to form the pages of the journal. This canvas was approximately 12″ x 15″, so I divided the 12″ side into three pieces with 4″ to each part. Use scissors and cut a small slice at the edge of each mark. Rip the canvas at the cut mark, pulling downwards. This makes frayed edges and an interesting, uneven tear that adds more visual texture to the finished piece.
Stack the torn pieces on top of each other, and find the center by measuring with a ruler or yardstick. Draw a line down the center with a gel pen or colored pencil. This line will become your guide for stitching the pages together and gets covered up once the threading is completed.
Using an awl, poke small holes along the line and through the pages. Try to make the holes equal distances, if possible.
I used waxed thread to sew the pages together, but you can also use embroidery thread if you’d like. Use a strong thread to ensure the pages stay sewn together when decorating and embellishing your new journal.
Use a sharp upholstery needle with your choice of thread, and sew the pages together. When you get to the end of the page, flip the piece over and complete the sewing stitch. Tie off the ends with a strong knot. You can also leave some threads to add decorations to them later.
I like to leave threads at the bottom of my journals for adding hangy-dangys later on. If you prefer a cleaner look, then knot the thread and cut off the loose ends. Dab nail polish on the knots to ensure they won’t unravel later.
And here’s a photo of the finished journal. Now the fun part begins as you make over each page however you desire. Enjoy brushing new paintings onto each page or collage interesting papers onto the gessoed surfaces.
You can even stitch interesting designs or tack down embellishments on the pages. Embrace the imperfections of the deckled edges and little threads – they add interest. Enjoy making each page of your new canvas journal into a new masterpiece you’ll be proud to display!