As is customary, completed product first. My sister and I do gag-ish gifts, and I wanted to raise the bar very very high. I actually looked into getting portraits commissioned, but after hearing that 2 would be like $5000 I decided to fudge it a bit and go full DIY.
Her birthday is in October, but I was having/had a baby in July, so I knew I'd be busy closer to the date. Knowing this was a HUGE project, I started about 6 months early. This album was made in August, but can't be made public until October 18, her birthday.
I wanted this thing to have a hand-made look about it…like some 1400's craftsman made this thing for the king and queen. I wasn't super worried about hiding mistakes, and perfection wasn't the goal.
In case clarification is needed, the first one is my sister Meg, the second one is her dog Delores.
Here's the starting image of my sister and her friends. She's trying not to smile. Since this process will be EXTREMELY forgiving of image quality, I don't care that this is one of the most compressed jpegs in history, taken with something akin to a Motorola razr.
This is the starting renaissance portrait I used for her. I googled "renaissance portrait" and filtered for large images. Let's ignore that it's a dude, the essentials of the picture are all we care about here.
A little bit of gimp magic, some creative color adjusting, a bit of blending, and the application of a canvas texture, and voila! A perfect renaissance image!
This is Delores. She hates everyone that isn't my sister, and gets hand-fed chicken from a human plate every night for dinner…which she doesn't want and often resists. Also she insists on being taken outside to pee like every 2 hours in the night, every night, all night.
Holy crap, look at that neck floofy thing. What an image! How would she even know if she dripped ketchup on her shirt?!? This is the one.
Gimp -> crop -> move -> rotate -> blend -> filter -> flatten -> texture -> done.
So…here's the portraits on 20×30 canvases. I would argue I printed the gimp images and used them only as reference as I actually hand painted these onto the canvases myself in a month-long painstaking process…others might argue that I simply went and got them printed at costco and then spray-adhesived them onto the canvas…I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree.
If one WERE to just get the images printed and glued, they may want to conceal their work by taking some mod podge and brushing over the image, along the lines and textures of the painting, to simulated actual raised 3D brush strokes. The effect works really well, and to be honest does a decent job of making the whole thing seem actually painted.
Onto the frame. I wanted this to be a big, ornamental, heavy, obnoxious frame, and I wanted to make it completely myself. I started buying 3 pieces of molding at home depot…here's me mocking up how they'll fit together.
Here's the first round of gluing and clamping the molding together…I ended up needing 4 of these long bars, and finished with just enough to spare. Measure twice, cut once folks!
Once that dried, I glued it down to some 1/8 inch masonite to provide some rigidity. Glue, clamp, wait.
I'm that guy that usually thinks "hey, it says wait 6 hours for it to dry, 1 is probably enough!" but for this, I really waited the correct times for all glue/paint. It was tedious.
Last piece of molding glued to both the other molding, and to the backer board.
Don't buy these clamps. They're not worth the money. If you get them for free, don't use these clamps, they're not worth the aggravation.
Here, I'm gluing a 1×4 onto the back…this is the piece that actually will surround the canvases. Notice the lip on the front, the portrait will rest in there. There is a surprising amount of measuring to make sure this whole cross-section fit nicely.
I didn't document it, but I used a belt sander to tidy up the front edge with the masonite.
Ok, first cuts…this not only provides the first edge to start measuring canvas widths/heights from, but this is the first view of the ACTUAL cross section…..drumroll please…
Ta-Da! Beautiful and clean cross sections!
So, with those cuts, I used my flush-cut saw to tidy the edges up a bit. This is critical for a clean fit.
This is showing how the corners will look…because this is the inverted angle from the cuts, it's actually inside out from what the final frame will be, but it's a great fit test.
I'm holding the corners together with biscuits from a biscuit joiner my father in law gave me, I figured the corners would be a great test for depth.
BOOM! Great fit, solid, all around good results. I'm very pleased with how this is looking so far.
Ok…measuring the cuts. The actual canvas needs to fit along the inside edge of the 1×4, so that's where we're measuring from. I used a piece of graph paper as a visual guide, since this nice flat measured side will be down, and the other side is too textured to mark.
Roughing this cut. I'm giving myself about 1/8-1/4 room.
Here's the cut, comfortably put. Now, I can eyeball edging it closer to the line and just do increments until it's the right length.
Measuring the fit. Looks good!
Measuring ALL the fits…looks GREAT! My wife is rolling her eyes so hard at the mess everywhere at this point that I'm sure her retinas are detaching.
Also, there's my dog Rygel in the background…I do understand that's a requisite for any karma earned. He's certainly begging for something at this point.
Testing the fit of the other one.
I didn't document the biscuit joining, because it's boring. They got biscuit joined, I promise, pinky swear, scouts honor!
So, the corners aren't perfect…they're CLOSE, but not quite great. Since this will be painted, we have a lot of room for forgiveness. I applied wood putty with my fingers, then pushed it in and smoothed it out using a lightly moist cotton swab. If you use too much water, the texture of the molding will swell, so be careful, but the result is good.
Ok, paint! First layer is black. I did the bottom first, since that will remain black. When it dries, it can stay there indefinitely. I used about 2 cans of this paint for this layer.
Painting the fronts. I want a nice thorough base coat.
Next up, glitter paint. This is a gold glitter, I wanted a light coat. You can see the glitter, but also you can tell it's a black base. Less is more, and smaller increments is best. I also got the edges a bit.
Another view of the glitter coat.
Lastly, the gold coat. I don't know why I didn't take a picture of the gold paint can, but it's rust-oleum gold paint, it shouldn't be hard to figure out. I want this to have a bit of a gradient to it, so I painted the top at a pretty aggressive angle, which you can see indicated by the helpful red arrow here.
Boom, gold paint! Looks perfect!
Here's a close up of the texture, you can see how the angle really worked to produce the gradient.
Lastly, several coats of this to seal the whole thing up.
Look at that! The final texture turned out PERFECT. I couldn't be happier with the results.
And here they are, with the canvases resting inside. Perfect! They're huge, heavy, obnoxious, and glorious!
Knowing this will rest against a wall, I put some felt feet on the corners.
Here you can see the canvas mounting (card stock plus staple gun), and the mounting. She can mount with the 2 mounts, or with 1 using the cord…it's up to her.
Lastly, the artist's insignia. This…is my masterpiece. Now I just need to wait until October!