Paper Lanterns

Acrylic paint has got to be my favorite medium. It’s relatively cheap, easy to use, and can be used on canvas, paper, ceramics, glass, almost anything you can think of can probably work with acrylics or some variation of them. I have always used acrylic paint for crafts. Some of my favorite crafts have been the painted glasses I made as Christmas presents, the one time I attempted to paint outdoor lanterns with my friend (apparently metal is not so adapt to acrylics – good learning experience!), and the little model Tardis I made and covered in blue paint. Acrylics are great!

This semester is definitely my hardest semester of college to date. I am taking 18 credit hours, 15 of which are upper division Biology courses. I think I’ve forgotten what sleep is at this point, and I’m only a month into the semester. In all of the craziness of my life, I find that now is the most essential time to work art into my life.

Since I am so hectic, I wanted to paint something calming to counterbalance my busy life. Above my bed I have a string of white lights and a bunch of paper lanterns. They are the most calming thing for me to see before bed, so I figured I could try to paint them.

I began by sketching out a string of lanterns.

Initial pencil sketching on canvas

Initial pencil sketching on canvas

I wanted to paint them in bright colors, like blue, orange, and yellow. I wish I had thought of this before I drew out my lanterns. For future reference, do not use pencil under an area where you want bright yellow paint. I repeat, DO NOT use pencil under yellow paint! It will become a mess and take 5 full layers of paint to cover the dark marks. I wonder if oil paints would cover differently… I guess it takes experimenting to get better at anything! Go figure.

I’ve spent enough time staring at the lights above my bed to know that the light creates color variations, which were impossible to paint with my minimal knowledge. So I tried a shading technique that I saw on this tutorial video. I figured that the light emanating from inside the lantern looked pretty similar to the light that would be reflecting on the spheres in the video, but it would come from the middle instead of the edge. Despite what the video suggests, I used my lighter colors on the whole sphere first, then added the darker edges because my paints didn’t mix quite as well as those in the video, so I mixed on a paper plate and changed the shade of the paint by adding black or white to make the paint darker or lighter.


Slowly adding the darker colors on top of a lighter base

Since my time is stretched pretty thin, painting all of these lanterns took several weeks, but I loved them once they were all finished! So much so that I left it for another week without a background…. Well, I loved it and I had no time to sit and paint for even half and hour.


Accomplishment: Painted Lanterns!

As soon as I forced time into my schedule I finished my painting quickly and I must say I am very happy with the finished product! I have always found peace staring at the stars in the sky, which is why this step was so complicated for me. I spent a ridiculously long time trying to mix navy blues, blacks, whites, and light blues in order to get the sky anywhere close to the color it looks when I camp out under it. It’s still not perfect, but it looks pretty close to the correct color so I’m happy.


The final product!

This lovely little painting now hangs about the head of my bed next to the lights that inspired it. Despite the fact that it took me a month to complete, seeing this painting brings me just a little bit of peace every time I see it. It’s almost as if all the weights on my mind can lift for just a moment. And that is the power of art in my life.


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