DIY Interior Styling

How to DIY a Large Scale Modern Art Triptych

February 25, 2019

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diy large abstract art living room

Figuring out art for above our sectional has been a long process. I even wrote a post about what to do with that big blank wall almost exactly a year ago and have done truly nothing about it since. OR HAVE I? I have. But only recently.

moody living room with large triptych
corgi on couch mid century dresser living room

[ Lamp | Sectional | Rust Pillow | Paint Color: Benjamin Moore Raccoon Fur ]

Our IKEA sectional runs along the longest blank wall in our whole house, and it’s been a bit of a challenge for me. I considered building a gallery wall, a grid gallery (like the grid gallery in our bedroom), painting one large art (something like the abstract art in our guest bedroom), or just framing a large photo. I even considered a very long shelf. And then I saw this art in a CB2 catalog.

The Inspiration

[Source: CB2 Catalog]

It’s clean, not too busy, modern, and totally DIYable. The components are pretty simple: a frame, a mat, a solid piece of paper, sketchbook paper, and a drawing on that paper. Once this idea was in my head, I couldn’t let it go, so I set to planning. I went to my local JOANN and Michaels to find their largest, slim black frames. I found my favorite option at JOANN with the large-wall-friendly size of 40×27 inches. I went back home and dropped that size of frame into a SketchUp model of the living room and decided that 3 frames would fit quite nicely above the sectional. My next step was to figure out how much of the frame I wanted to fill with a mat, how much space should be solid paper, and how big my sketchbook paper should be. I’ll walk you what decisions I made and how I put it altogether.

DIY Large Framed Art Triptych Supplies:

  • 3 40×27” frames (measurement is of the inside, frameable area)
  • 3 Custom cut 40×27″ mats with a centered 16×25” window
  • 3 Sheets of 19.5×25.5” Canson colorline art paper in cream
  • 1 Top-spiral watercolor sketchpad
  • Pencil
  • Charcoal
  • Kneaded eraser
  • Spray fixative
  • Rubber cement
  • Masking tape
  • Ruler
  • iPad Pro (very optional)

How to Make Your Own DIY Abstract Art Triptych

Planning is important! I use SketchUp to plan things like this but you can easily do this with good ol’ fashioned paper, pencil, and measuring tape. If you need help visualizing the scale of things in your space, it never hurts to map things out with painters tape. My plan told me 3 40×27” frames would work nicely above our KIVIK sectional, but you can make this same art project and in whatever multiples you want. 

I picked up my frames at JOANN and put them in a tiny cart. I found some Canson Colorline art paper in cream (plus gray and white as back-up options) as well as a small watercolor paper sketchpad.

I saved an image of my mat diagram to my phone to have as a reference. It has the exact outside frameable area (40×27″) and a window of 16×25″. Always make sure that the dimensions of what you’re matting are larger than the size of your mat window so you have room to secure your art.

I waited in line at JOANN to have mats cut but overheard the person at the counter say that they send out their matting and framing work so there would be a few days lead time involved. Your girl is impatient – if I want to wait a few days for something, I’ll order it online FROM MY HOUSE. So I paced the aisles, putting all my measurements into for a base price, and then called a nice person at the framing desk at Michael’s who said he’d do same day mat cuts for me as long as I didn’t show up too close to closing time. The price was $39.78 with oversize shipping included and the gentleman at Michael’s quoted me at $44.00 per mat. I wanted to wrap up this project up over a weekend, so getting the mats same-day at a higher cost was worth it to me.

Back home from my shopping adventure, I started sketching out some simple line-drawing abstract art ideas on my iPad. I wanted to create a fluid line, so I drew connecting loops and lines with interesting bends without worrying about making something perfect.

If you’re less comfortable with drawing freehand, a simple geometric shape or stack of shapes would look great. Abstract art is just that – it’s abstract and imperfect. Another idea is to make no-look line drawings of objects in your home (lamps, vases, plants, etc.) or people. To make a no-look line drawing, just put your pencil down on your paper and look directly at what you’re drawing, make one continuous line to draw your subject and never look down at your paper until you’re done! This is a fun way to stretch your brain and not focus on perfection.

Once I had 3 that I liked, I used my iPad as a light table, placing the paper on top and then tracing my drawing with charcoal. You can skip the iPad entirely and just sketch out your art with pencil and then trace. 

I smudged my charcoal in a few places but was able to clean it up perfectly with a kneaded eraser. To make sure my art would last and not create anymore smudges, I tapped my paper over the sink to release any loose charcoal and then sealed my work with a spray fixative. 

While the fixative dried, I secured my large paper to my mats using tape. My art school days will have me recommend acid free masking tape, but scotch tape will do the job. Tape opposite corners first, securing all four, and then secure the top, bottom, and sides.

Once my drawings were completely dry I distressed the spiral-torn edge a little by bending the ends and tearing a few so that it looks like it was swiftly torn from a sketchpad. Super casual.

I used my quilting grid to clearly mark the placement of my art without having to make any marks on the paper. Next, I laid them face down on a piece of cardboard and coated the backs with rubber cement, all the way to the edges. I quickly and carefully placed the sketch paper using my quilting grid as my guide. To ensure perfect adhesion, I placed a book on top of the paper while the rubber cement dried.

Once the rubber cement set, I placed my art in the frames by first removing the backing cardboard and then placing my matted art inside the frame. I secured the backing board back in place and then the artwork was ready to hang!

diy large scale art corgi on couch living room

My SketchUp drawing told me I wanted the edges of the outside frames to a few inches in from the edges of the back cushions of the sectional and for there to be 6 inches of space on either side of the middle frame. When hanging artwork above furniture, a good guideline is to have the bottom edge of the art fall 8 inches above the top of the furniture.

diy abstract art triptych
close up of diy sketch art
view from living room into entryway

And that’s it! The new art has made our living room look much more finished and cozy and was the perfect minimal, modern touch it needed.

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  • Reply Jessica February 26, 2019 at 3:26 pm

    Wow! Love this simple, but beautiful DIY. I absolutely LOVE the piece you have in your bedroom and am too facing a blank large wall above my sofa situation. Good inspiration to get me started!

  • Reply Liz February 27, 2019 at 1:20 am

    Stunning! I have a similar blank wall above my sectional that has been waiting for art for years – I needed this DIY! Thank you! :)

  • Reply Lindsay March 5, 2019 at 8:49 am

    Hi! I just linked here from EHD and wanted to say that your house is beautiful! I am from Pittsburgh and absolutely love that city! I currently live far from home and miss it every day. I am hoping to make it back soon. Anyway, great work!

    • Reply thesweetbeast March 5, 2019 at 9:18 am

      Hi Lindsay, thank you so much! Pittsburgh is the best city in the world as far as I am concerned :) I hope you are able to make it back soon, I’m sure the city misses you as well!

  • Reply Laura March 6, 2019 at 9:38 am

    I love that unpainted wood is making a comeback. I live in a 1927 Tudor and it’s so hard to find good paint colors and modern inspo for these old homes. Thank you!

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