Mountain Home
Oil painting over original art on cloth 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.



Why Upcycled Canvases?
by Nori Muster

Since around the end of the century, I have worked mostly with upcycled canvases. I find them at second hand shops, yard sales, friends' houses, and retail outlets. The main thing for me is the width of the stretcher bars. I usually only work with wide frames (1-1/2"), because I can paint the sides and no frame is required. Seven of my upcycled canvases are on permanent display at an office on Baseline Road in Tempe, Arizona.

My favorites are discarded original works, because they have character. I often get why they landed in a second hand store, but take them on to complete the artist's vision. I always leave elements of the original work in the finished piece.

My second favorite are mass produced canvases with real paint on real cloth canvas. These are assembly line works, where one artist paints the trees, one paints the sky, one paints the bridges, fences, and so on. Those can be a lot of fun.

The hardest to work with are printed paper canvases. Cloth canvas can handle moisture. You can pour paint on it and it will eventually dry. However, even a bit of moisture can wreck a paper canvas, depending on the quality of the paper, and the amount of cloth content. Plus, because they're printed, there's no texture.


Scary Trees
Ornamental trees that haunt your dreams.
Mixed media over original art on cloth canvas, 24" x 24" - 2020.

The original was a haunting image that sat around for years before I worked on it. Finally finished it during the 2020 pandemic. It turned into a happy image, with the flexibility to lift the fabric and look back on the darker image.

I considered glue, but decided the best way to attach the fabric would be to pierce the canvas and use wire. The flag includes two small holes in the top corners, where I used thin wire to secure the flag to the canvas. The blue scarf is gathered with a cable tie, then nailed to the top of the frame.



The original looks like student art, acrylic on canvas paper.


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

This one, and the next two on this page were by the same artist, and I found them at the same yard sale 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 original art on cloth 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 original art on cloth 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 printed cloth 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.




The Sea Dream Gate
Oil and house paint over mass produced painting on canvas board, 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 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 original art on cloth 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 original art on paper/cloth canvas, 30" x 40" - 2014.

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


Mixed media over printed paper canvas, 32" x 32" - 2016.

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. The reflection of the boat is mostly from the under painting.



Red Silk
Abstract red image.
Acrylic paint over printed paper canvas, 16" x 24" - 2020.


The original painting was nice, but it's just a photo printed on paper canvas, stapled onto a frame. I wanted to give it more character. Now that it's done, it reminds me of watermelon. It's a comforting image for the hot summer of 2020.



I wanted to preserve more of the vineyard image, but it turned out I didn't need to. The new design is simple and colorful.


Free Spirit
House paint over printed cloth/paper 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 printed cloth 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 printed paper 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 house paint to simplify and calm down the canvas.




Sunflower Land
House paint over printed paper 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 original art on cloth 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 printed cloth/paper 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 mass produced paper/cloth 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.




Pink Daffodils
Mixed media paint over printed paper canvas, 36" x 24" - 2019.

One of our neighbors sold his vacation rental and invited us to take whatever we wanted before he sent the people over to clear it out. I knew exactly what I wanted - the three large canvases that hung in the unit. One was wrecked, sadly, because it was paper canvas. This one however, cleaned up quickly, showing only slight damage in the upper right. Within forty-eight hours of acquiring it, I fixed it. The background was an imposing and overpowering charcoal black, but the flowers were perfect! I envisioned them as a floral broach rather than live flowers. (This painting had water damage in the upper right corner but I upcycled it anyway.)



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