This project has so many of my favorite components. I love color, paint, process art, functionality, and several steps for a project and this fun project incorporates all of that.
It’s not too difficult and a few steps can really set up kids or you for a fun project that (I believe) you would then enjoy the finished product for years. Embrace the process being the art and enjoy it with this project.
I will quickly show you the main steps I did in this project with campers at our studio. My purpose is to inspire you to embrace color and to maybe try parts of this project to make it your own. You can change the measurements, techniques and tips to create a fun piece that works for you!
As I was dreaming up this project for my campers, I used a mix of donated wood and bought supplies to create a basic tray. I started by trimming plywood pieces with my Miter Saw and Brad Nailer to create small wood tray. The frame for my tray was approximately 13″ x 8.5″.
2. Sand and Prime
I wanted my campers to focus on the wood squares that went IN their tray, so I prepped the tray a bit more for them. I sanded the trays and primed them white, so my artists could spend more time enjoying painting the wood squares.
3. Paint squares & Tray
I built my wood trays to be able to hold (6) 4″ x 4″ wood squares. You can build your tray to hold whatever size tray you want. Or you can skip adding the wood squares and just paint the bottom of your tray any of these fun ways.
I pulled out a mix of different materials to allow my campers to paint their squares in an abstract, fun way. In this step, we focused on the process of creating, experimenting, playing, observing, pivoting to enjoy painting without a paintbrush.
The techniques we encouraged were:
- Painting with pipettes and watered-down paint. You can read a post all about this technique here. This technique creates a marbled-paint pour that is a super fun look.
- Scrape painting with an old giftcard or hotel key. In this technique, you move the paint around with the key and the focus is on play. Depending on how hard or light you press the key down you can blend colors and show movement with creating ripples.
- Fun tools like feathers, forks, cooking basters, and tooth picks all can add fun stamping or blending in paint. You can’t fully control your image with these tools, which forces you to play and discover.
I planed to allow my campers to use a paintbrush to paint their wood trays, after they painted their wood squares.
I imagined the squares fun and abstract and then the tray being where they could practice “controlling” their finished product a little bit more.
I was so surprised (and excited!) to see that the campers had so much fun exploring the fun tools and paint techniques that most of them choose to paint their tray in the same way!
4. Dry and Spray Sealer
After everything was painted, we let it dry overnight. Because of the thick layer of paint, it took longer to dry. Once everything was dry, I used Rustoleum’s Clear Gloss spray to completely cover the art. This sealed their masterpieces, added a protective layer, and helped some of those blended colors pop a bit more.
5. Final details- Glue squares and add handles
It was fun to encourage the artists to play designer on how they would like their squares to lay in their wood tray. Once they figured out the order they wanted them to go in, they used wood glue to put the squares in place inside the wood tray.
They were gorgeous! I added the handles to complete the trays and were ready to be taken home and stylized!
Each tray turned out so different, yet beautiful and colorful. I love the mix of color, wood, and metal handles.
The squares allow the wood tray to have fun different colors all mixed together. Any one of the wood squares might not be loved if taken out and used on its own. Yet, when the wood squares are paired together with other fun squares they look stunning and make one another even more fun.
I love how I had some ideas for the main parts/steps of this project, but it was open ended enough that the campers could play and personalize it to their own taste. I never mentioned splatter painting, yet the girls did play with that technique.
It always amazes me what the campers come up with, when given freedom to play. I learn from watching them. One camper painted a wood square and then used it as a stamp and stuck another square to it. When she pulled the squares apart the most stunning abstract design was the result. You can see this technique in the above picture on the bottom right tray.
You can try the fun techniques on paper.
You can buy a wood tray and add to it.
You can find other random things to paint with from around your house.
There are so many ways to personalize this project or the paint techniques to make something fun today!
What do you think!?! Do you want to make a fun, functional painted piece now!?! Imagine the possibilities. How can you add some color to your world today?