paint chip art part I — circles

12 Jul

In leaving Hastings street and moving into a rental, one of the things I was saddest to leave behind was the ability to paint the walls. I love the transformative power of paint, any kind of paint. I love the smell of paint, the feel of it, and I missed having a reason to wander around the paint departments of home improvement stores. Paint to me always symbolized potential, whether it was for a room (ahem kitchen), or for a canvas. 

I’ve also always loved paint chips, in the way that only a designer who has always coveted those Pantone chip decks can. The colors! So when I stumbled across the genius blog of the insanely talented Allison, I knew I had to put my own spin on her paint chip projects. They involved something I love, and the cost was minimal, something our budget loves.

O and I were headed to home depot anyway to try to find a light for the new house on the cheap, so I thought I would start on my paint chip project. The projects required two different types of paint chips- the single color kind and the chips that showed multiple tones on a card. We meandered around the paint department for a while, picking up some spray paint that I needed for another project- what’s with keeping it behind locked gates Arizona? Afraid someone might color a cactus?  I completely underestimated the difficulty in collecting enough paint chips without a- getting asked repeatedly by an increasingly suspicious  store employee if I needed help, and b- O pitching a fit because her goldfish supply was running low. We got our chips, paid for our light, and hustled out of there before anyone could ask why I had a dictionary-sized stack of paint chips jutting out from O’s diaper bag.

Some of my loot

Some of my loot. Thanks home depot!

To make art out of paint chip circles seemed the easier of the two options, so I started that one first. As soon as O went down for her nap, I started on my plan. First off, determine circle size.  Since I can’t measure for crap, I decided I would do a large-ish circle, a medium one, and a small one. Allison of the inspirational blog used various size punches to create her no doubt wonderfully uniform circles. Alas, I had neither the circle punches nor the money to justify purchasing them. I decided to trace my circles and cut them out. Easier said than done. After some serious searching of the house for the appropriate size circles, I ended up using a baby food jar cover, a film canister cover (remember 35mm film?), and a circle stencil I discovered on the ruler I had in my hand. I traced. And I traced. And I traced some more. Finally, I had traced my circles onto the back of all the paint chips, taking care to use the part of the chip that had the least amount of writing on it. Then- can you guess what comes next? I cut. And cut. And cut some more. My thumb went numb at one point and stayed that way for long enough for me to get concerned I may have pinched a nerve.

The husband, sitting next to me on the couch watching the DIY network, wondered out loud if perhaps I wasn’t a little obsessed. Must cut circles. Must cut circles.

The three sets of circles

Three sets of circles ranging from the size of a wine cork on the left, to the size of a baby food jar lid all the way on the right. and no, these are not all of them.

Finally, a couple of days later I was done. After a session of O “playing circles” with all the cut up pieces where she scattered them around the office like confetti, I was ready to start assembling them. I spread them out all over my kitchen table, as I wanted the color combinations to be as random as possible.

the assembled circles

some of the assembled circles

As soon as I started gluing them together, they started to curl up, being of a heavier weight paper. I sandwiched the glued-together circles between two cookbooks to press them flat. Where they promptly got stuck to the covers of the books.

After all the circles were dried, it was time to figure out their composition.

As the background for the pieces, I used three sheets of 11 x 17 paper I had kicking around. I knew I wanted to make three compositions. Why three? I like multiples of things and odd numbers are more interesting than even.

After trying out a few different compositions, I settled on a grid pattern, leaving a slightly larger margin of white space at the bottom of each piece.

Again, I put all the assembled circles in a pile so I would place them on the paper in a random order. Attaching the circles to the paper went very quickly, considering the amount of prep time the front end of the project took.

They looked awesome. There was something so graphic about them that I really enjoyed. Also, this project was not fraught with disaster as my endeavors normally are.

completed compositions

The completed compositions. pay no attention of the flash off the mirror I unwisely placed them in front of. Framed, they are 16 x 20 each.

A close up of a composition

A close up of a composition

Weeks later, after I had found frames for each piece, and lined them up to take a photo for the blog, it hit me. Kandinsky. They were evocative of a print of a Kandinsky painting I had in college. See for yourself.


FARBSTUDIE QUADRATE, Wassily Kandinsky, c.1913, courtesy of


I’ll post the other paint chip project as soon as it’s done. It involved even more precision cutting than this one! Fun!

4 Responses to “paint chip art part I — circles”

  1. dearandersoncooper July 13, 2012 at 12:21 pm #

    it’s funny, that kandinsky piece is called “colour study of squares”. i absolutely adore it and your project is such a great play on the theme. i have lots of paint chips at home and wonder what to do with them – i may just have to try this!!

    • e.marie July 13, 2012 at 4:58 pm #

      Thanks! It was a totally unintentional play on the theme, but I clearly must have had it somewhere in the recesses of my mind for it to come out looking as it did! It’s a fairly quick project to put together and makes some awesome art on the cheap. Thanks so much for commenting!


  1. peacock tutu tutorial | dispatchesfromthedesert - July 29, 2012

    […] Step 3- Cut out felt shapes. Feel grateful this does not involve as much cutting as the paint chip circles project. […]

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    […] love affair with paint chips […]

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