In 2003 I painted my first three upcycle canvases. Since then I've continued to find canvases at yardsales and thrift stores to repaint. Once I bought a mass produced painting at the hardware store, and once a friend gave me a large canvas. I like to paint over old paintings because the canvases are cheaper. A new blank canvas can be $100 or more, where I can get the same size canvas free or at a minimal cost of $25 or less. For another thing, I like to incorporate part of the previous artwork into my final piece. And third, I like to upcycle ugly canvases to make the world a better place. However, I sometimes also work with canvases that were already pretty good. Such canvases usually don't need much work. - Nori


GPB Apartment
Apartment at Hyperion and Griffith Park Boulevards.
House paint and oil paint over yardsale canvas, 24" x 18" - 2003.

The first three paintings shown ont his page were by the same artist, and I found them at the same yardsale in approximately 2003. Sorry, no "before" photos, but I will describe what the under painting was like. The first one, which turned out to be a portrait of the apartment where I lived at the time. All I added was the light blue and light yellow. The artist used texture - perhaps painting over tissue paper (?), so I also used a razor blade to scrape off some of the texture.


Lake Arrowhead
House paint and oil paint over yardsale canvas, 30" x 40" - 2003.

This painting took much more work. I added layers and layers of paint until I got what I wanted. The only parts remaining from the under painting are the ochre colors in the lower left corner and the strip of aquamarine blue on the right side. You can also see the outlines of the texture from the under painting. I love the texture and was glad to include it in the final painting.

I had recently been to Lake Arrowhead, and wanted to make this painting a picture of my impression of that place. To convey the idea of tree covered mountains, I made two stencils, one small and one large, then painted them with different shades of oil paint.


One Creature
House paint and oil paint over yardsale canvas, 24" x 36" - 2003.

No "before" photo, but the whole canvas looked like the body of the creature, with the black-blue-red motif, which can also be seen in the upper left area. I used blue house paint to modify the dark background, and added some yellow along the top. This all went quickly and I was happy with the result.


Oil painting over department store canvas, 40" x 40" - 2014.

A neighbor had this canvas stashed behind a door in her apartment. I asked her what it was and she said, "My sister bought it and didn't like it, so she gave it to me and I didn't like it either." I asked her for it and she gladly gave it to me. I later gave her my old vacuum cleaner for her daughter. That's what neighbors are for, right?

This canvas went through several revisions until I got what I wanted. At one point I used a razor blade to scratch it up, and even left a small tear in the canvas, which I later repaired. This is one of my most successful upcycle canvases, and hangs in my mother's living room.




Dream Gate
Oil and house paint over second hand store canvas, 41" x 51" including frame - 2014.

This large canvas was a real puzzle. Mostly it was a matter of getting rid of the ugly features I didn't like. It was highly textured, so I left the texture. The first thing to go were the oversized sailboats. They would be ten stories high! I simply painted over them. I also lowered the horizon line of the water, because the perspective seemed odd in the original painting. The next obvious element to go were the ugly bushes and oddly distorted perspective tile walkway. However, I loved the railing, and left most of it, then added a magic door. I like the surreal quality to the painting and identify this as the gateway to the dream world.

I showed this painting in the Dream Gallery at the annual conference of the Association for Dream Studies, June 2018.




House paint, oil paint, and felt markers over second hand store canvas, 32" x 36" - 2018.

I sat on this one nearly a year before I saw desert mountains with kachinas overseeing a waterfall.






Acrylic paint over second hand store canvas, 30" x 40" - 2014.

No "before" photo, but the canvas looks about the same, except now with daffodils.


Mixed media over yardsale canvas, 32" x 32" - 2016.

No "before" photo, but this one had a patchwork background, evident along the top right, somewhat on the left side, and along the bottom. The reflection of the boat is mostly from the under painting. The original had a big bold Eifel Tower, surrounded by oversized handwriting in French. I used oil paint for the sky, then printed out a photo of an old steamboat to paste onto the painting. I used house paint to form the shoreline of the river.


Mountain Home
Oil painting over thrift store canvas, 18" x 18" - 2017.

My brother wanted a small painting of his house, the moon, and the mountain range surrounding his house. The mountain on the left is actually much higher than the others, but from the perspective of the road below his house, they all look about the same. I used Google Maps to get pictures of the mountains and his house, which I traced onto the canvas.

The under painting was nightmarish, however, I left parts of it show through in the final painting as the bones of the mountain. It took longer than I expected to get everything right. Although it was supposed to be a Christmas present, I finally gave it to my brother in February.




Free Spirit
House paint over thrift store canvas, 18" x 18" - 2017.

Here is another hideous under painting from the thrift store. As soon as I brought it home, I started to work on it because I really hated it.

The main things I liked about the painting were the glitter moustache and the border, so I left those elements. The glitter is visible in the creature's wings. It is still quite busy, but now with soul.




Ray of Light
House paint over hardware store canvas, 30" x 37" - 2017.

I bought this at the hardware store on sale for about $25. It was pretty good already, but I felt it was too busy and unfocused. It sat in my closet for more than a year until it struck me what I could do with it. I decided to just give it some grounding along the bottom, then trim back the crazy cherry trees to make it more peaceful.




Two Flowers
House paint over thrift store canvas, 18" x 18" - 2017.

Here's another thrift store painting that was already pretty good. In contemplating what to do with this one, I realized that I love the two flowers. They're well done and beautiful. After thinking it over for a couple weeks, I used the house paint to simplify and calm down the canvas.




Sunflower Land
House paint over thrift store canvas, 18" x 18" - 2017.

This canvas was trite and plain, but I loved the colors, so I picked it up. Instead of a printed photo of two sunflowers, it is now a land of its own.




Red Flower
House paint and mixed media over thrift store canvas, 12" x 16" - 2017.

This canvas was beyond trite with all the neon paint (see below). The flower was beautifully done, so all I needed to do was tone down the neon yellow-green background. I added a fanciful Christmas tree ornament for fun.




Dragon Flowers
House paint and felt marker over department store canvas, 18" x 18" - 2017.

The "before" shot of this was lost (I blame the computer), but it was a country kitchen style flower in the middle of a postage stamp quilt motief. All that's left of it is a few patches of the quilt along the top. This one took a lot of tries because there was little to work with. Finally I painted it mostly blue and treated it like a blank slate. Because of all the layers of paint, it has intersting thick texture. The texture made me see the dragon in it and bring it out with felt tip pens.


Beta Pond
Acrylic paint over Goodwill canvas, 20" x 12" - 2019.

I found this already beautiful painting (below), obviously painted by an artist. It was lovely, but too busy. After staring at it for a couple of days, I saw the beta fish, which I felt was the artist's original intent. All I had to do was tone down the clutter with a more consistent color scheme. It was beautiful before, but is now has a clearly defined subject.




Change is Good.
Chalk pastel over acrylic paint, 18" x 14" - 2019.

Some friends acquired this painting and wanted to hang it in their front office. They brought it to me because they thought it needed some perking up. All it needed was more color.



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