What to do with bad paintings

We’ve traveled a ton the past few years, and we’ve moved several times, too. Hanging art is always our last step in settling in, which means we’ve still got a few pieces leaning in a corner, six-plus months after being in our current digs.

I was recently flipping through our art and bumped in to this one. It makes me smile every time. I think we’ll update it soon and give it the same procedure we did the first time—which is what this post is about. It’s from several years ago, and I almost never write about things like this, but really, it’s a non-craft craft. It’s making art with kids. It takes almost so planning beyond keeping your eye open at thrift stores.

Maybe you need this smidge of inspiration this week?


I bought this ridiculously ugly painting at Goodwill awhile back:

Hear me out.

I actually passed it by several times, not giving it a second thought. It was priced at $30, which was, to me, overpriced for a painting that looked like it belonged in a hotel lobby in 1983.

But then the voice on the PA system said purple tags were half off that day. The painting had a purple tag. I kept shopping, browsing the kids’ clothes, the furniture, the plates, but the painting was stuck on my brain. I left without it. I mean… it was hideous.

I returned home, unloaded the car, and told Kyle I needed to go back, get one more thing. I paid for the purple beast and finagled it around the carseats, barely closing the trunk.

See, I wanted it for only reason: it’s huge.

I remembered a post from my friend Meredith ages ago, when she bought a Craiglist painting and immediately had buyer’s remorse. But she rectified it by having her daughter paint on top, and it looked amazing. Because it’s huge:

Photo from Like Merchant Ships

So I bought the 1983 hotel painting because of its size—canvases that size are really, really expensive. Definitely more than $15. Plus, this one had a nice frame.

I first painted a layer of basic latex primer.

This is also when I realized the painting was 3D.

Then I painted several coats of acrylic paint, just to give it a blank slate. I chose Robin’s Egg Blue from Craft Smart that I bought at Michael’s. Less than $1.

And then I let Tate go to town. I only gave her colors I’d be okay with hanging on the wall, and would look okay if they smeared and blended together.

The whole family ultimately chipped in and added a bit of artistry, and ended up with this random-yet-not-shabby original piece of art.

Tate calls it “A Windy Spring Day.” I like it.

It’s now hanging in our dining room.

It’s random, but I like the splash of color it adds to our dining room. I also like that it’s original art, created by us. And that it cost about $20 total. And that it’s better than the mauve disaster of its inception.

I love reusing instead of buying new, and I’ll hang a one-of-a-kind painting over a cookie cutter print any day.

Tsh Oxenreider

Tsh is the founder of this blog and just finished traveling around the world with her husband and 3 kids. Her latest book is Notes From a Blue Bike, and believes a passport is one of the world's greatest textbooks.

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  1. Thanks for the re-print (pun intended)! I bought an empty frame – no canvas- about six years ago because it was huge and empty. And the right color for my family room. The plan was to fill it up with family pics in a collage. It is still empty and now literally part of the wall paper. Sigh!

  2. What a great idea!

  3. Another great idea for a mega canvas! A couple of years ago, I bought one and spray painted it with chalk board paint. It’s been used by both the kids and me for years. I could have never bought such a huge chalkboard for $20!

  4. This is genius! I’ve heard of buying used paintings for the frame, but never thought about re-purposing the canvas. AND it turned out absolutely gorgeous. Very very cute idea!

  5. Brilliant! I don’t know why I haven’t thought of this. Loved the photo of baby in front of the painting for size and definitely cuteness 🙂

  6. Keri Misawa says:

    Wow, that is so pretty on your wall! I love original art that comes from people in the home it’s decorating!

  7. Hey, I painted the original painting! (Just kidding!)
    What a great idea! I will now be on the look out (after we finish our current painting project – an old dresser).

  8. Wow, this is such a terrific idea! I will definitely try to use it. I used to sell those paintings on Ebay or Craigslist, but painting on top of them and creating your own art work is a very creative way of reusing things!

  9. Pure genius! Brilliant idea. Why didn’t I ever think of that?! Thanks for sharing!!!

  10. I love how you’ve reused a painting for the purpose of having a canvas! I never considered the price difference, and kids usually don’t mind that they’re not painting over fresh canvas. Great idea!

  11. Smartypants!

  12. I LOVE IT!!! This is such a great idea and your canvas turned out amazingly well!!!

  13. I remember seeing this on Pinterest or Twitter several years ago. Super smart. If I ever see an extra-large canvas at a great price, I’m going to snatch it up.

    Thanks for the continued inspiration.

  14. Do you think it would work to paint a primer coat or two and then stick vinyl to it that you will later pull up? Or do you think it would pull up the primer?

  15. Excellent job. This will be a good try for me.. Thanks for sharing!

  16. I just found the exact same painting in my neighbors trash. Absolutely perfect. Now i am going to paint over it.

  17. So fun! Made me smile.

  18. This is so neat! I have these old paintings my grandmother had – they drive me nuts – will try this idea! Thanks

  19. This is such a wonderful idea! Thank you for sharing!

  20. I LOVE this idea! I’d honestly never considered it. One of my favorite instagrammers posted a photo of her dining room and it had an old thrifted oil painting that she had brush lettered a quote on. It was such a fantastic idea!

  21. This is definitely one of those “Simple yet brilliant” ideas! I’ve always been a fan of repainting furniture and other small household items to make them a better fit, but I don’t know that I ever would have thought to do this with an actual painting. I am pinning this post for sure, because I don’t want my brain to forget this.

  22. I love this idea!

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