Friday, November 25, 2011

Tutorial: Melted Crayon Canvas Art

At any given moment, I have on the back burner easily two dozen projects that are kid-centric, just waiting for a willing kid or two to come and do them--models of the Nile seeded with chia so that they really grow, a working model rocket just waiting to be put together, a bag full of wood scraps to paint and glue into sculptures, a DIY sailor's valentine kit, instant snow powder, UV-sensitive beads, embroidery, BINGO, you name it. Normally, a kid or two chooses something, and I come along for the ride, making my own acid-base eruption or dipping a few leaves in beeswax, myself, before I back off and let the kids explore.

Sometimes, however, we do a project because I want to do it. That is, I see a project online or wherever that looks so awesome that I want to do it myself, so I set it up and start working, and then a kid or two comes by and sees me and says, "I want to try!" and I set it up for them, too.

Such was the case with the melted crayon canvas art that I've been seeing around, a simple encaustic art activity (and you know how we love encaustic art!) that just looks so cool that as soon as I saw it, I wanted to try it myself.

You will need:
  • stretched canvas (I pick these up every now and then when I can find a good price, and keep them in the closet until needed)
  • crayons (need I even admit that I over-buy these when they go on back-to-school sale? I'm betting you could have figured that out about me already)
  • glue (I use E6000 for my own art, but my impatient girls both used hot glue, and the heat gun didn't melt it later)
  • embossing heat gun (you probably don't think that you need one of these, but they're surprisingly useful. I've used mine dozens of times, and never yet for embossing!)
Choose crayons that still have their wrappers, although, as Sydney discovered, you can break them or cut them to size. Keeping the glue on the wrapper, NOT the crayon, glue the crayons to the canvas wherever you want them. Both Willow and I chose straight lines at one edge of the canvas, the better to show off the melting wax--


and Willow's

--but Sydney awesomely glued her crayons just every which way:

Set the canvas propped up on a table, with newspaper underneath it to catch the drips. You want the canvas tilted somewhat, so that the wax can leave a trail and not just fall plop onto the newspaper, but you don't want to tilt the canvas too much (or do you? It's your art!), or the wax won't go far before it re-solidifies.

The embossing heat gun blows its hot air, so you don't want to hold it too close to the crayons, unless you LIKE splashing molten wax on yourself (although that's a thing, isn't it? Well, now you know what TO do, I guess). It won't take you long to discover the sweet spot in which the heat gun melts the crayons just right, and to figure out how to hold the heat gun to manipulate the wax:

Sure, it looks cool and all, but it's hard to get a reading of exactly HOW cool all that brightly-pigmented, different colored wax looks as it's melting, so I made you a video!

I know, right? You're totally sold now, but I'm still going to show you how great our finished canvas pieces look:

This, though, is my favorite part:

The texture of the finished piece IS fascinating, and I love watching my daughter explore the tactile dimension of her finished art. 

So that's our new artwork! And now on to that chia seed Nile...

P.S. Interested in more super-fun kid projects? Check out my Craft Knife Facebook page!


Homeschool family said...

WOW, that looks totally fab, I want to do it! Do you think it would work with a hair dryer?

julie said...

I *think* it would, perhaps if it was set on high, but I don't own a hair dryer, so I can't test it out. Sounds like it might be experiment time in your house!

librarianstacy said...

Is it possible to use poster board or card stock instead of a canvas?

julie said...

I don't see why not. If you find poster board a little too slick or cardstock a little too thin, you could also cut down an old box and use the thick cardboard from that. You could even pre-paint the cardboard if you wanted your base to be a color other than brown.

Unknown said...
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Jenn said...

I made this today actually and was looking around the internet for more ideas when I found this page. I used a hairdryer for mine and it worked perfectly. It helped once I put on that piece that concentrates the heat into a certain location.

Tina said...

Chia seeds! Why did I never think of chia seeds when we were going to do this to go with the SOTW. I have everything else...

I think you should make more of these. They really are beautiful works of art. It would be neat to see what happens if you use some of the funkier colors (like the metallics or the swirls).

julie said...

The chia seeds worked AWESOME, just so you know. The actual Nile activity didn't work super well--I think it would work better if you simply thought of it as making a fun model of the Delta, not necessarily an accurately working model.

Unknown said...

I did this project, came out awesomely!!! I dont own a heat gun, so i used my hairdryer. Thank you for posting this!!

julie said...

Oh, yay! I'm glad that you tried it with a hair dryer--I'd been wondering if that would work, and now I know!

Trinity said...

I tried this with my daughter and if your not careful the wax breaks right if the canvas 😒 It was cool at first but because it easily broke it was sad 😞 Maybe a different material would work better then store bought canvass or do you use untreated canvas?

julie said...

Ours didn't have that problem--in fact, I even moved house with my favorite one and it's hanging up in my studio now--but I did some research, and some people reported a similar problem in the Comments to this post:

It sounds like much of the troubleshooting involved using Crayola-brand crayons, a high-heat glue gun, and a hot heat gun.

We tend to buy whatever the cheapest canvasses are, usually something like this:

We've also melted crayons on glass, though, which is slick, and I have one glass bottle that I melted crayons on as a young adult and which has survived 20 years living with me, including several moves, one across the country!

Anonymous said...

So do you have to leave the crayons on the top of the canvas? It bothers me seeing the wrappers in the finished product?

julie said...

You're not required to leave the crayons on top of the canvas, but you would need to choose a method of adhering the wrappers to the canvas so that they wouldn't leave marks when they're removed.

Anonymous said...

It works because I did this with my neices on a pumpkin