How to Take an Old Painting and Make it Yours

by Rhonda Gilliam 06/28/2020

Image by Juraj Varga from Pixabay

If you're looking to get creative but to do so on a budget, then one fun activity to look at is upcycling an old painting and making it more personal to your style. By old paintings we mean those $2 thrift store oil paintings and popular prints you nabbed for cheap at a garage sale last year. A lot of these paintings get tossed out because they are often plain and don't fit a lot of modern homes. For example, a woodsy oil landscape painting might be pretty but it can also be pretty boring. The following is a look at three ways you can tap into your creative side and transform those old paintings into talking points:

3 Ways to Update an Old Painting and Make it Yours

  • Add in your favorite pop-culture characters. This has actually become a popular art technique used by artists like David Irvine, but really anyone can do it. For those looking to expand their paint skills, simply use acrylic paint to paint your desired pop-culture character directly onto the canvas itself. If you don't trust your painting skills, then find or print and cut out an image of your desired pop-culture character(s) and use a product like Mod Podge to adhere the image to the oil painting. 
  • Invert it with word art. Two of the most appealing qualities of oil paintings are the colors and textures. The swirls of paint strokes and the gorgeous merging of bright and pastel colors. If you have a painting in which you love these qualities but find the general subject to be boring -- such as a bowl of fruit on a kitchen table -- then one great way of personalizing it is to invert it with words. In this process, what you do is consider a phrase you love. Print out that phrase in large letters and then use them to create an inverted stencil. So instead of painting in the letters, you'll paint everything else so that your desired phrase pops out with the oil painting colors and textures you love. This page offers a great step-by-step tutorial of this technique. 
  • Dip it for a new perspective. This technique has grown thanks to artist Oliver Jeffers who uses it primarily for portrait oil paintings. While his portrait technique is cool as it makes people appear as they are looking over a wall, it's not the only type of painting you can use it. Dipping a landscape or subject piece sideways or diagonal can also create a cool and more modern look. To create the dip look, you can either quite literally dip the whole painting into an appropriately sized bucket or you can tape off a line and paint on the desired side. 
  • Stay Creative and Stay Tuned

    These three upcycle tips are great to follow whether you're looking to release some creative energy or want to update your living room aesthetics. For more tips, don't forget to subscribe!

    About the Author

    Rhonda Gilliam

      I have lived and worked in Farmington, MO for over 35 years. I love this area and I feel blessed to be able to help my clients find exactly what they are looking for. It's not a job when you love what you're doing!