Wednesday, August 17, 2011

chiang mai dragon paint by numbers

Chuck the Magic Dragon is finally done.  Isn't he pretty?

I was inspired to try this after seeing Danica's chiang mai dragon wall she did for a client. (Hers is much better, but we can't all be artistes. Did you see the de Gournay painting she did in her foyer?)

I won't lie, this was one of the most tedious, time-consumig projects I've ever done. It took me about two months.  If I had huge blocks of time it might have taken a few days, but I did it during nap times and after bedtime, so it took a while.  I finally made a big push to finish it, and worked on it every available moment for the last four days.

 After some false starts trying to get the design onto the canvas, my friend Jackie took pity on me.  She started to hand-draw the design onto the canvas, but her sister is an artist and has a giant projector, so she blew it up and traced it onto the canvas. This essentially allowed me to treat it as a paint-by-numbers project, although without the numbers or the ready-made paint.

If I were more artistic, I might have known to treat the canvas. (I asked the salesperson where I bought the canvas if I needed to do anything to treat the canvas and he said, "oh, no, its ready to be painted on!" Jerk.)    I probably should have started with a layer of gesso, or at least a base coat of white, so that the canvas didn't suck up all the paint.  Since I didn't know this, it took two and three (four for the pinks) coats to get a uniform coverage.

At first I was very exact and colored in each little piece as it was drawn on the canvas.  After a month of that I started taking liberties with the design and went for more organic strokes, trying to follow the shape rather than the exact pencil drawing.  That helped speed up the process.

I also used $1.29 acrylic craft paint from Michaels, which is not exactly stellar quality.  Its very flat and muddy.  Despite the wide array of colors available, I ended up mixing my own to get closer to the color of the design.  This was difficult--try as I might, I just could not get the colors of the dragon to come out right.  So I ended up going with sort-of-close-but-not-quite colors.  I prefer to think of this painting as a "chiang mai dragon as interpreted by Lisa" rather than a true to form replication.

The canvas is a 36x48 size that I bought at Pearl for $45, and I bought about $50 worth of craft paint and brushes, although I used about $20 worth.  If only I could find the receipt to return the rest.  So, for approximately $100, I got a large scaled painting of my favorite fabric.     


  1. The painting turned out fabulous!

  2. I just wanted to let you know that this looks AMAZING! You did such an awesome job that it makes me want to pick up a paintbrush and try my own! Thanks for being an inspiration!

  3. OMG! That looks awesome. What a great way to get the "look" in your room.

  4. This looks fabulous! Great job!

  5. Oooh I LOVE this. I really need a crafty project too but I never know where to start...

  6. hello, i came across your painting randomly when i was searching for some inspiration for my next art project. i never really painted before, but after seeing this and the original design i decided to go for it and create a large scale replica like yours. Yup, bought a canvas and everything :) I was just wondering if you could help me on what colors to choose. Like you, i'm finding that i need to mix most of my colors to get closer to the original, but can i ask how you got the light green you used for the leaf next to the dragon's head? And the dragon scales?
    Btw awesome painting. Hope mine comes out looking that great.

  7. Anthony,
    I threw out most of the paint bottles when I was done with them, so I'm not sure what color the leaves are. I took a printout of the pattern to the paint store and tried to match the paint as closely as I could, and also bought a few close colors so that I could mix the paints. Keep in mind that using craft paint will result in flatter, muddier colors than buying more expensive acrylic paints.

    Hope yours turns out great!


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