Easy quick art piece


Carrying on with the Boho Romantic colour scheme and injecting in a pop culture twist I decided to whip up a quick art piece. It’s so quick and easy I actually feel awful referring to it as art. But to be fair it has no other purpose but to look fab in a retro fitted frame on my wall.
I chose the British Keep Calm and Carry On WWII propaganda poster as the subject. The poster has become a pop culture superstar since it was rediscovered in 2000. The morale boosting poster was originally produced by the British Government at the beginning of the second world war, to be distributed in the event of wartime disaster but was never used.


Here is what I did, and the materials I used.

  • 1x Keep Calm and Carry On tea towel (acquired from trademe)
  • 1x complete wooden picture frame with glass
  • Gesso primer
  • Acrylic paint – choose an appropriate colour for your artworks frame.
  • an assortment of brushes
  • 1x backing board
  • masking tape
  • an assortment of sandpapers – coarse to fine grits



Step one:

I sourced the frame from a thrift store. It’s a relatively plain frame with a soft round profile and is constructed from Rimu wood.

Disassemble the frame. I wasn’t able to get the glass out as it was a ridiculously tight fit. So I masked up the glass to strengthen and protect it. If you have to do it this way – make sure you slip the masking tape under the frames edge right to the edge of the glass so when you get to the painting stage you wont have any problem with bleeding.

Sand back the frame with a coarse grit sandpaper and ensure it’s a thorough job. I used P80 grit.

Follow with another sanding but with a finer grit paper to remove some of the deeper scratches from the previous round of sanding. I used P120 grit.

Run your fingers over the surface of the frame, it should be smooth to the touch but still have enough purchase for the paint to adhere too.



Step two:

Time to prime!

I have chosen a light colour of paint for my frame. This colour needs maximum light reflection to look it’s best. If you intend to paint your frame a dark colour you may want to use a grey, or black primer (grey is neutral and black absorbs light and supports dark colours best). This is a general prep rule for any type of painting you do, think of it as a foundation.  🙂

Apply the first layer of gesso with or without dilution with water – that’s entirely a personal choice. Ensure your brush strokes are all in the same direction, I chose to run my brush strokes with the grain. I don’t dilute my primer on the first layer because I am super lazy and this is a quick slap together of pieces, rather than a masterpiece of epic proportions. Leave to dry thoroughly.

Apply the second layer of gesso, I dilute the second layer with a little water to eliminate some of the streakiness and fill some of the brush strokes of the previous layer. Make sure you’ve got good coverage. Leave to completely dry.

At this point if you think you need more layers of primer feel free to carry on applying them after a quick sand back. But the primer layer is only there to assist with light reflection through the paint. Nothing more as you wont see it.

Obtain a very fine grit of sandpaper ( I think I used a 240 and then a 400 to finish) and cut back any roughness in the paint. Don’t sand so much to remove the paint – you don’t want to see any wood peek through. Sand just enough to smooth out any brush strokes and blemishes.

Give the frame a good brush down. You can use a a dust brush, or soft cloth to ensure the piece is dust free and ready for the next step (don’t use a tack cloth as it may leave wax residue).


These pictures are after the first layer – unsanded



Step three:

I chose a delicious peppermint teal colour.


It’s so minty fresh and appropriately 1940’s. It also is a complimentary hue for the orange red colour of the tea towel print. I get majority of my acrylic paints from hardware stores in the miss-tint stock at approx $3 for a 250ml tub. I’m like a magpie for bargains, only problem is that it is a bit of a lucky dip. You may strike it lucky and get a range of fantastic bright bold colours…… or you may find a million shades of beige. It’s worth keeping an eye out.


PAINT!! I just painted one layer and made sure every visible part of the frame/primer was covered.

I used a soft acrylic brush and painted across the grain of the brush strokes of the previous primer layers to ensure all peaks and valleys were levelled out. Leave to completely dry.


Step 4

Stage it!  make a mock up of the final piece to ensure you’re on track, and finalise any outstanding decisions.

At this point I had Hubby out trying to source a new back board for me so perfect timing to stage.

So to do this, just gather the pieces together and decide what colour backing you will use. I consulted my material cupboard for a back board substitute in a few different colours. I wanted to minimise the colour palate and keep it as crisp and retro as possible. I always think of the rules for colour dressing and my studies on colour theory when it comes to selecting colour for anything and everything.

If you’re not familiar with colour dressing is it usually used in a fashion context, but the same applies to art. In order not to muddy the visual appearance you need to use some restraint in the selection of colour. Pick a primary colour, coordinate colour, and accent colour – and you will never go wrong.

Examples of colour dressing


Anyway, I digress. during the staging phase I made my decision to keep the back panel white. I think it looks delicious like peppermint ice cream, milk shakes and cupcakes!!




Step 5

Preparing the back board.

For me this will be simple because I have chosen pure white. So I will just use 3 layers of diluted gesso, followed by a quick sand.

If you want to apply a colour you should follow steps three & four – priming, sanding, painting to get a good finish. Or you could go out and buy one of those coloured cardboard frames and overlay the tea towel or image. That would be more professional. But as this is for me I am not really fussed about all of that pomp and grandeur.


Now for the finish. A good steam iron is required to remove any wrinkles from the material of the tea towel. This is followed by an strict cleaning of the glass and frame to remove any dust, grime or fingerprints. I laid the clean frame and glass on the kitchen linoleum floor and laid the tea towel in place on the glass. Following this Hubby helped by laying and pinning the back board.

To finish off the piece I put some masking tape around the back board and frame edge to keep the dust out and re-strung it.


and *viola* – delicious enough to eat!!!



I could have used a printed poster but I like the tactile quality of the tea towel. I prefer to have a bit of visual texture in the piece rather than a boring gloss print.


Total cost:

tea towel $10

frame $14

paint $3

back board – free

= $27 NZ


5 thoughts on “Easy quick art piece

  1. Pingback: DIY shabby chic storage solutions. | Pepperbox Couture

  2. First reaction: Fantastic! It looks great, Pepper…perfect color choices for ‘nice and crisp’, but it’s the inspiration of the quote that adds so much value to the piece! Wish we had that type of attitude here in the States, where many just hold their hands out for ‘freebies’ (AND…they would ‘settle’ for a cheap, glossy print in an horrendous frame, too)! Take a bow, kiddo–well-done!


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