DIY Wall Art: 5 Beautiful & Budget-Friendly Techniques | Bronwyn Tarboton | Skillshare

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DIY Wall Art: 5 Beautiful & Budget-Friendly Techniques

teacher avatar Bronwyn Tarboton, Home Decor DIYer and Actor

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Getting Started


    • 3.

      Painting with Dots


    • 4.

      Creating Squiggly Abstract Art


    • 5.

      Making Textured Canvas Art


    • 6.

      Exploring Sculptural Foam Art


    • 7.

      Final Thoughts


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About This Class

Explore your creativity and elevate your space. With DIY art, the gallery wall of your dreams is easier and more affordable than you think! 

If you had told Bronwyn Tarboton a few years ago that she would become a home décor DIYer, she would’ve laughed it off. As a Broadway performer the only craft she felt qualified for was acting. Then, during the pandemic things changed when some extra time in her schedule unleashed her inner upcycler. With a desire to fix up her home without breaking the bank, Bronwyn used found, broken, and pre-loved items to turn what others viewed as trash into treasured items. Now Bronwyn shares her DIY tips and tricks with tens of thousands of other creative novices on social media as @nyctrashtotreasures. Today, dive into learning how to create wall art you can’t wait to display—no matter what your artistic skill level. 

In this hands-on class you’ll explore how to:

  • Make an inexpensive project look upscale
  • Create one-of-a-kind art pieces
  • Play with markers, watercolors or foam
  • Design textured canvas art

Plus, Bronywn shares how she saves money while creating wall decor on a budget. From reusing canvas to finding high-quality but inexpensive materials, you’ll learn insider tricks on how to beautify your space and unleash your inner artist!

In this class, Bronwyn works with pre-used frames and canvases, watercolor paint, a black marker, joint compound, and a scraper to make five unique wall art pieces. Depending on what inspires you, you might only need some of these supplies. For a refresher on essential techniques or for more project ideas, explore Bronwyn’s full DIY Decor Learning Path.

Meet Your Teacher

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Bronwyn Tarboton

Home Decor DIYer and Actor


Bronwyn Tarboton, the creative behind the Instagram handle NYC Trash to Treasures, certainly never imagined she would become a DIY expert. But when the pandemic hit, Bronwyn, who had been managing a busy Broadway acting career, found herself out of work with a lot of time on her hands. Soon, she turned her attention to improving her apartment but since she had a minimal budget, she found herself searching the streets of Manhattan for free furniture that she would fix up herself. Before long, she had run out of space in her home and started selling her pieces online for profit.

Now, if you visit her instagram page you'll be able to buy lightly refurbished items and stunning pieces that have been completely transformed by Bronw... See full profile

Level: Beginner

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1. Introduction: When I started decorating my apartment, I had no idea where to start when choosing artwork and then I was completely overwhelmed by how expensive it was. But there is another way, make your own. Hey, I'm Bronwyn Tarboton, home decor, DIYer, and content creator. I also happen to be a broadway performer who taught myself upcycling during the pandemic. Now, my social handle, nyctrashtotreasures, has over 40,000 followers and my highly curated trash, as I call it, has been featured in print and TV. In this class, I'm going to show you five different ways to create one-of-a-kind pieces to proudly hang on your walls even if you don't have a single artistic bone in your body. Think of it like grown-up paint by numbers. You should take this class if you want to make something really cool that you can hang up on your wall. It's great for someone who has a bunch of blank wall space they need to fill or someone who wants to decorate a room on a tight budget. Or maybe you want to explore your own creativity but don't know where to start. Whatever your project, I hope you walk away from this class inspired, empowered, and holding a creation of your own that you can't wait to display. I promise, whatever your level or artistic background, you will find something in these lessons that you can do. Get excited and get ready to make your own original work of art. 2. Getting Started: Welcome to my DIY wall art class. I'm so happy you're here. I'm going to prove to you in this class that you do not have to be an artist to create an amazing piece of art for your wall. I can personally vouch for the fact that you do not need to have any special artistic abilities to be here. When preparing for this class, I had some moments of panic thinking, how did I end up here teaching a class about art? I'm not an art teacher. But then I remembered that over the past couple years, I followed some simple projects for my own home. I can proudly say that I love the final pieces. They look really cool and are pretty much full-proof to make. In this class, I'm going to show you five ways to make custom wall art. We'll start with some simple black-and-white abstract drawings and then switch to creating textured art using joint compound on an old Canvas. The final project is a modern sculptural piece will create using foam stuck to any frame. Along the way, I'll be giving you guidance on the types of frames that you should pick to make your art really pop. The first thing you'll need is a base, like a frame or canvas on which to create your art. I suggest buying these second-hand because thrift stores are always drowning in old prints and frames, so you can pick them up for really low prices. I usually spend under $10 and you'll swap the art out for your own. I also suggest getting canvases second-hand because it's so much cheaper. Don't be thrown off by how it might look in the store. By the ugliest Canvas or print that you can find, we're going to be painting over it anyway. In each project, I'll share some tips for what type of frame or canvas I think will give you the best results. Here's what else you'll need. For the ink and pen art, you'll need a regular frame, black watercolor paint, paper, a pen or pencil, and a black marker. For the minimal textured Canvas, you'll need any canvas, joint compound, and a fork or scraper. For the abstract foam art, you'll need a frame, foam, paint, glue, and some scissors or an x-acto knife. Now you know a little about the projects and what you'll need to try them yourself. Let's start on your first piece of art. Meet me in the next lesson. 3. Painting with Dots: [MUSIC] When the pandemic hit, I had completely blank walls and an undecorated apartment, I had just become unemployed, so I had absolutely no income, and I wanted to find a way to get some really cool art up on my walls without spending money. Some things are definitely not as easy to create as they look. I've done a lot of experimenting and these things that we're going to do, I promise you can make them without being an artist and they're going to look really cool and you'll be able to hang them up. How I start my projects is usually by picking a frame. A lot of people think they need to spend a lot of money on custom framing, and you don't. I look for my frame secondhand at thrift stores or I actually find a ton in the recycling or out in the trash. I think a lot of people get confused because when you're looking for frames in a thrift store, they're not going to necessarily look great, especially if they have weird things in them. These are both frames that I found in the recycling. Not worried about what's inside since I'm going to take it out. I'm looking at the shape and style of the frame, even the color we can change. You can either spray paint your frame or one of my favorite things to do is this thing called Robin buff. It comes in a bunch of metallic colors. You squeeze it out, and then rub it right onto the frame and it will go immediately into a metallic look. You can make your frame whatever color that you want it using, either paint or Robin buff, I'm using this frame which is already gold. First, I'm going to take apart my frame. I'm going to use either the backing or the glass to figure out how big we need to make our art. You'll need a piece of paper to make your art on. I'm using watercolor paint, so I'm going to use watercolor paper. I also like to keep an eye out for craft supplies at thrift stores so this is a pad that I got from Goodwill. I'm going to take my paper and make sure that it's the right size to fit in the frame. I'm using the backing to measure it. This paper happens to be the exact perfect size, I promise I didn't plan that. If your paper isn't the same size, you'll just want to trace around it and cut it to be the right size. I'm going to tape off the edges because I like how it looks when there's a nice clean edge and a little bit of white showing. Let's just eyeball it. The edges are taped, let's practice our dots before we get to our piece of paper, I'm just grabbing a piece of scrap paper, our watercolors and a cup of water, we want there to be enough water so that it creates a cool texture and a dip, but not so much that it's going to drip all over our paper. You could also do this with a brush if you don't want to get your finger dirty, but I like the dull look, plus it's more fun. Let's practice a couple of dots. That's pretty good because I like it when it bleeds a little bit. As you're going, you're going to be dipping your finger and just adding more water as you go. Just practice some until you get a consistency that you like. Once you feel good about practicing, we're going to start on our real piece. I'm dipping my finger in the water, getting some paint, though I was a little scared starting, and here we go. Dip, so I'm purposely making these all a little bit different and pretty close together and pretty much in a straight line. But little drips like that will make it look cool. Yes, you don't need to worry at all about them not being the same or them being different textures, it's all going to make it look really cool. You can go back over them if you don't like some, you can dip more water, you can dip more paint. If you're not feeling good, you can go back to practicing. That seems good, I'm going to go to the next row. I'd keep the rows pretty close together. Let's go on to the third row, keeping it pretty close together. You'll keep going all the way down, then once it's dry, you want to peel off your tape so that gives you a nice border. Definitely wait for it to dry before you put it in your frame. Here's one that I did, the whole thing. Let's put it into the frame. Make sure your glass is clean, and then the backing, and you have your own art. I think this is really cool how there's different shades, there's little drips. I promise if you hang it up, your friends will think it's cool and you probably paid money for it and you can brag about how you made it yourself. Join me in the next lesson where we're going to use a marker to create some squiggly abstract art. [MUSIC] 4. Creating Squiggly Abstract Art: For this lesson, we're going to make more abstract art this time using squiggles. For this project, I would use a little bit more of a sturdy, nicer-feeling frame. I also use one that has a mat because the look of the frame and the mat is what's going to make your art pop and seem fancy. This is a great example of a really high-quality frame that does not look good in the store. I found this as is at my goodwill. It was 99 cents. Does not look that appealing, but it's actually, if you look at it, a custom frame that someone had made. If you can just look past this, then you can have a custom frame for your art piece. I'm going to use these frames to create two different versions of squiggles. For this project, I like using either a black frame to bring out the black squiggles or a gold frame to contrast. First step is to take your frame apart. This frame was actually a silver IKEA frame that I spray-painted black. First, we're going to take the mat so we know about how big our art needs to be. Two options for paper. For this, you can use any plain white paper, even cheap printer paper, or you can use a book page which creates a really cool like vintage distressed age look. Here's our white paper. Then I'm going to get a book page. If you don't have an old book, you can grab one at the thrift store or just take some back page out of an old book that you have at your house. This is perfect. I'm just giving myself an idea of about how big my art needs to be because I'm going to tape it on the back of the mat. I'm just marking off about how big I want it to be, like tracing around the hole and then we'll cut it out. Now, we have our markings. Let's cut out. This doesn't need to be exact since it'll be taped on the back. We cut out our paper. Let's just check. That's a good size. I just love using the book page because of the contrast with the mat. Let's get our white piece of paper ready if you're using that. I'm just looking at the light, seeing about how big the piece of paper needs to be. Great. We'll cut it out. Just test it. Now that you have your piece of paper prepped, let's start making your squiggles. I'm going off some inspiration that I saw, which looked like written lines but really messy. Feel free to practice on a scrap paper if you want, so that's what you're going for it. You will start on one side and just write in the messiest way possible, all the way across the page. Let's try it. Starting top-left and just go for it. Don't think it's like you're writing a word but you're not. The messier the better, works on this. You want to find lots of variation between how tall you're going, how short you're going, going side to side, doing loops, so just have fun with it. If you mess up, you can just grab another piece of paper. Let's make some squiggles. We're doing our second line, keep it pretty close. As you're going, you might feel a little bit crazy like I'm not doing anything. I'm just squiggling lines on a paper, but I promise when we get it in your fancy frame, it's going to look really cool. Let's keep going. You do want to be a little careful at the bottom. You just want to make sure you have room for an actual line and you don't run out of space. As you go down, just start to pay attention like near three-quarters all the way from the bottom, and just make sure you can finish off your line. You have your squiggle done, and now you're going to see how it looks in your frame. Let's take this, put it over. I'm not even going to look. We're just going to hope for the best. Put some tape on and, yeah it looks really, really cool. I think this will look really cool, like hanging with another piece of modern art as a filler in a gallery wall. I just think it's really playful and random. I like it. If you're feeling like even that's too much and you just want to go crazy. Let's go back to our book page. I have one of these in my apartment because I just absolutely love how easy it is. It looks like art, and I love how it looks on the discolored page. For this one, no thinking, I wouldn't practice, just take your marker and make some squiggles, and don't think about it. Three, two, one, here we go and you're done. If you want to, you could add more. I'm not going to let myself. We're done. Let's see how it looks in the frame. We have our frame with our mat, tape it in and try it. You can hang it up in your apartment. If you hate it in a week, you can do a new one. Let's put it together and we're done. I love it. I think it's so fun. You could totally hang it up and it took like less than five minutes to make. You can touch up any scratches on your black frame with your marker. I like using a black acrylic marker or a brush pen or you can also use a Sharpie. Try it out yourself. Grab a frame with a nice mat. Grab some white paper or distressed paper, grab a marker, scribble it out, put it in your frame and you'll have some really cool art to hang. Meet me in the next lesson, where we'll create a minimal textured Canvas. 5. Making Textured Canvas Art: In this lesson, we're going to be making a minimal textured canvas. These are all over Instagram and TikTok. People are making them on their own, but they also are sold in stores and by artists for hundreds and hundreds of dollars. But they're actually really easy, cheap, and fun to make. For this project, I would use a canvas. You can use a plain canvas or a canvas that has a frame around it. I would definitely get this secondhand. Go to the thrift store and find any canvas. It does not have to be blank, because we're going to paint over it. Here's an example of a canvas that I found at my thrift store. If you ever see at your thrift store or at the dollar store, a frame that has this gap between the canvas or the frame. Definitely grab it because that's going to make your piece look extra expensive. For the color of the frame, I like frames that have a wood texture or black because the art is going to be white, so it can make a really cool contrast. If you have a really bright canvas, if I was working on this piece, I would paint over it with a neutral color just to start so that the extra colors that you don't want don't bleed through. I'm not going to work on that frame because I haven't had time to paint over it. I grabbed this frame at my local housing works. What I love about this frame is the size, it's huge, and I love the light wood color. This frame was $22, which is actually way more than I normally spend for an art project. But I looked up this size of canvas when I was at Michaels and this has a canvas new is actually $60. Shopping second-hand, that's a significant decrease. This is going to be a huge piece of art. It's really going to make an impact. First thing is we're going to tape off the frame so that we don't have to worry about getting joint compound or paint on it. Now is the fun part. We're going to scoop a ton of joint compound onto the canvas and spread it all over. You can use your hand, you can use a scraper. Just get it on there somehow. Let's spread our joint compound on the canvas. This is the fun part because it's super goopy and fun to spread around, you want to get a really good healthy amount. Because we want to have a thick layer all over the canvas so that we can play with it and create some texture and design in it. I don't have kids, but I think this would be really fun to spread a bunch of joint compound on and then just have your kids do whatever they want on it and then hang it up. Maybe if I ever have kids, I'll do that. I love doing this part because you don't have to think about it. It's really meditative, you're just spreading it out. Just nice to be playing around with something goopy, not looking at a screen. When on the edge, just spreading it, making sure I'm getting it all the way to the edge of the canvas. You don't want to get too much on the tape because then it will get dried and harden. Keep spreading it out. You want it to be fairly thick and it doesn't need to be smooth, but just somewhat even across the whole canvas. Once it's all spread out. Just double-checking because I got it really thick on the sides. I want to make sure that we're still able to peel the tape off. Now, we have some options. You have your joint compounds spread out. This is where you get to decide what you want your texture to look like. If you look at these online, you will actually see many being sold that look almost exactly like this. If you want to spread your joint compound and leave it messy, that can be really cool art just on its own. We're going to create a little bit more of intentional designs on it. To make the design, I'm going to use this thing that I got at the hardware store, which has these little ridges in it. You can also use a fork for this. You can also use your fingers. Let's do it. Let's just start making some big arches. The really fun part about this is you can try a couple to get your hand on it. You actually have quite a while to go back and smooth the joint compound over and do it again. I find going in one, slow smooth motion works the best. It's okay if your first one doesn't look smooth, I've practiced this quite a bit. You can do circles. That looks okay. You can do lines within an arch. You can do things that connect to each other. That's pretty cool. I find that I do better if I don't plan it too much and I just do it. Often you'll think it doesn't look good. But if you just stop and look at it the next day, you'll realize it's really cool. Just have fun with it. Usually, just like a couple swipes is good and then you can move on. I feel good about my design. I'm going to set it out and wait for it to dry before pulling up the tape. That was our minimal textured canvas art. I'm going to leave mine as is, I love how it dries into a white chalky color. If you want to, as soon as it's dry, you can paint over with any color that you want to really make it your own. Join me in the next lesson where we'll be creating a modern sculptural piece of art using foam. 6. Exploring Sculptural Foam Art : [MUSIC] In this class, we're going to be making a modern sculptural piece of art using an old frame and foam. If you haven't seen a lot of these before, I definitely suggest looking them up. You can Google sculptural art, and it will pull up a bunch of different people doing it in different styles. I was just really attracted to these online because I love things that are neutral colors, but also play mind games with shape and texture. We're going to create this piece that has an incredibly high end look using craft foam and a really ugly frame. For this project, the most important thing is that you have a frame that's deep because we're going to be stacking multiple layers of foam that will go inside it. We have our frame, I have my bathroom rules. The next thing we need is a foam. I'm using sheets of foam that I got at the craft store. These come in either sheets or rolls. I find the sheets a little bit easier to work with because they already sit flat, but I've done it with rolls. The first thing that we need to do is create the design. I looked at a ton of these online, and I just loved them, there's so many cool designs. If I were doing it for my own apartment, I would probably just copy one that I loved online. I'm going to talk you through exactly how to follow my design, and you can make adjustments to the end if you'd like. The first thing we're going to do is just create a template for ourselves to refer to while we're cutting the foam and making the layers. Let's draw out the shape of our frame. Next, we'll draw one semicircle. Let's make one slanted line from top to bottom. Next, we'll make one swoop from left to right, one additional straight line, and then one circle over the line. Once you have your design, now we're going to assign layers, so for our layered art, there's going to be a bottom layer with no foam, the first layer foam, and the second layer of foam. I'm going to use numbers to remember that bottom layer will be zero, first layer one, second layer two. This part of the circle will be zero, will be one As you're assigning layers, you want to make sure that the same layer isn't next to each other because we're trying to create shadows and play with dimensions, so if this is zero and that's one, we know this can't be one because the ones can't touch each other, so we'll make this two. This one can't be zero, it can't be two, so it has to be one. You can just do what I'm doing if you don't want to worry about this [LAUGHTER]. Now we have our template. Let's set it aside and actually start to cut our foam. We want to create that look of almost the floating frame where there's the art and then a little gap, so I'm going to cut two sheets of foam that are about one inch smaller than my frame. Measure out your frame, mine is 11 and three quarters inches, so then you'll measure your foam about one inch smaller than that. So 11 and three-quarters was my frame, we'll go 10 and three-quarters. Just make a little mark there. You will want to use either a yardstick, or ruler, or something flat because you really want this line to be straight. Because if your layers are not straight and don't line up with your frame, then it might look a little bit wonky. Then the other way is, mine is 17 and three quarters, so we'll go one less 16 and three-quarters, measure it down mark it and then making sure that you're really getting this line straight. Now I've measured out my foam to the size that I need, and I'm going to cut two squares that size. You can do this with scissors. I'm going to use an exacto knife just because it makes it way faster, and it makes the lines waste smoother. You can also use your yardstick or ruler just to help you get the lines really straight. This is definitely a part that's worth taking your time with, because if the lines are not straight, it's not a good start. This phone is just craft foam. You can get it at most craft stores. The kind I got was just about $1.50 per sheet, so you should be able to get all the foam that you need for definitely under $10. Let's check how it looks in the frame, that just sit right inside the frame and there's a nice gap. Now we are ready to trace our design. You might think I'm cutting things in a weird order, but I promise if you just follow along step-by-step, it's going to be the easiest way. Now we're going to trace out our template onto our foam. This is where you want to take a little bit of time, and make sure that those lines are really smooth. Let's start with our half circle, then go for our diagonal line, then our swoop, then our one extra notch, and then our circle. I do not trust myself to draw circles and we want this to look really clean, so I would say hunter onto your home, find something that is a circle that you can trace so you can use boll, cup, bucket, anything you have around. I'm going to use this bucket, so let's trace out a circle and it does not matter that we're riding on this foam because we're going to paint over it at the end. Now we have our lines drawn. I'm just going to remind myself of the numbers, so I'm just copying directly zero, one. Now it is time to cut. The first thing we're going to do is cut out just the zeros, so if there's a zero and a shape around it, that's what we're cutting out. You want to start in the inside and go to the outside. If you're doing an exacto knife. With scissors, you'll have to go out to end. It doesn't matter if it aligns up exactly with your lines. I don't want to cut too much, but I want to cut too little. There we go, so we've got our one, zero. Let's do our other zero. This one is definitely the hardest, but it gives a really cool look at the end. Just trying to follow the line. We cut out our zeros. Next, take your second piece of foam and put this foam on top. Now, I'm using this top piece as a stencil to draw that cutout onto the bottom piece, so whatever zeros you cut out, trace out onto the bottom piece. Now we're going to cut the same thing out of this bottom layer, so basically we're cutting out exactly what we just cut out. I find that using it as a stencil, instead of just trying to guess where the lines are, makes it line up a lot more clean at the end. Now, we have our bottom piece with our zeros cut out, that piece we're going to leave as is. Let's go back to our first piece of foam. Now, we're going to cut out all of the twos and they're going to go on top, so find whatever it says two, and like these are all too so we can cut off this whole swipe together. Last one, now we've cut out all of our pieces. Take your frame. First, we'll put that bottom layer with only the zeros cut out. Then we're going to follow our template and put the twos on top. That's a two, goes right there. That's a two. Lines up pretty okay. There's a two so we have all of our pieces. This is where you want to double-check that things are lining up, and this is where you can now use any of your extra pieces to add or take away anything you want from your design. Like we could add in an extra circle, that's cool. It can be cool to add on like one or two random pieces on top that create a third layer because it just gives the whole thing more dimension. I think I'll use my scrap circle piece there on top, but this is where you can just have fun. I made one that I didn't plan at all using scrap pieces, and that one actually turned out cooler than some of the ones I've planned, so just go to town on it. Once you feel good about your design, now we're going to glue your pieces down. Normally, I use mod podge, today I'm going to try a glue gun just to speed things up. Starting with your bottom layer. This can be messy, it doesn't matter. I recommend not using a glue gun because the mod podge, you can make adjustments as needed, whereas the glue gun once it's on, it's pretty stuck. Another thing to know is I'm going to be painting my whole frame, but if you don't want to, you can tape it off beforehand and just paint the inside. When you're laying your shapes down, the goal is for things to line up and create the optical illusion, and if your cuts aren't exactly straight, like you can just trim them before you glue to make that line happen. Wait for the glue to dry, and then we're going to paint. You want to make sure that your pieces are definitely secured down and that the glue is dry so that things don't slosh around while we're painting. I'm going to be painting my frame because I'm going for a monotone color. My frame is pretty rough already, so I don't need to stand. If your frame is super glossy, you might need to give it a little bit of a sanding so that the paint will stick. If you did this on top of a glass frame, then you want to mix your paint with baking soda so that it will stick to the glass. You can learn all the details on the world on that in my ceramic effect class, my frame doesn't have class, so we're going to paint right over it. Picking pink color, I'm going for a stone look. I've seen these done in tons in white and a top, you could do it in black, so let's just go for it. You might need to do two coats if your base frame is really, really bright, so this is when it really starts to come together. You really get it and all the creases, create the brush strokes so that if it dries like that, it's in a way that makes sense with your shape. Let's do the frame. I love when the frame is the same color. To me, it just completes the whole thing. It looks very different than our bathroom art. This frame is dark, so once it dries, I'll just go back and touch up any parts that need it with a second coat. My frame was $8, the foam was just under $3. I had the glue and I have the paint, so this whole project cost around $10, which to me is insane for the way that it looks. Now we have our modern sculptural art piece, so go try it for yourself. I cannot wait to see what you make. [MUSIC] 7. Final Thoughts: Thank you for joining this class. I truly hope I've been able to show you how you don't need to be an artist or have tons of money to have trendy original wall art in your home. Go ahead and try a few of these projects and let me know how it goes by uploading photos to the project gallery and tagging me at NYC Trash to Treasures on social. Once you get more confident, feel free to branch out and try your own variations. I cannot wait to see what you make.