Saturday, September 28, 2013

Harlequin Serving Tray with Eyes DIY

My inspirations for this project were tole painting, surrealism (the eyes), and the dark character of the Harlequin. There are many, many harlequin serving tray DIY's but I wanted to make mine special. Here are some inspirations for you;

Acrobat and Young Harlequin, Pablo Picasso 1905 source

Harlequin Dress, New York 1950
Lisa Fonssagrives © Irving Penn source

Luis XIV chest source


Trois Nocturnes by Claude Debussy seems to capture the feeling I was trying to achieve.

Materials: The object you want to decorate, pencil, paper, ruler, paint (whichever colors you prefer), chalk, possibly painter's tape, polyurethane or varnish. You might want to use other materials I didn't use, if you are doing decoupage, for example. Here is my tray with the Harlequin pattern already done.

1. I used a tray, but I also suggest a box, tabletop, or any surface of your choosing. I painted it black and  added gold diamonds. There are many ways to do this; herehere or here. You can use tape to get a perfectly straight line, but if it's a small area then it is not difficult to do it by hand like I did, without tape. It might even make it look a little more interesting. Also, multiple coats might be required to cover a dark color with a much lighter one, so unless you are using a more expensive lighter paint I recommend painting the base with the lighter color

2. Select a template for the design you are going to be doing. If you are going to put  in eyes, then choose something with an almond shape already in it, for example the following. The middle piece of the flour de lis can have an eye in it. you can modify the 2 side pieces to make them more accommodating for the almond shape of an eye. If you wanted you could make the center piece a big eye and the two side pieces smaller eyes. Look for things like centers of flowers, or leaves. This is just an example but I hope this helps. 


If you are having difficulty finding a pattern then maybe try vectorstock or dreamstime for some usable vectors. You might have to simplify them. This is the hardest part of the project, but it is also the part that adds the most uniqueness. I made my design in all the black diamonds but I think it might be interesting to put something in only one or a few of them, especially if you are covering a large area. Also you can find a stencil or make one or decoupage/ lacca povera.  Here is the one I selected, it was on a random box.

3. Make your design. 

I made a separate drawing for the half diamonds, it wouldn't look right to just slice the first one in half in this case because the eyes would get sliced in half Un Chien Andalou style. It has a weird Illuminati symbolism to it. Pure coincidence.

4. Then transfer your design, you can also use chalk or graphite, I used white charcoal.  If your design is relatively complex like mine, then definitely tape it down. 

5. Paint in the areas you need to, this might take a few layers. Don't be too worried if you don't get if perfect because you can correct the errors later with the paint you used as the ground paint.

6. Draw your eyes with white paint, it might take a few layers too. It's up to you how realistic you want them to look. you can even add eyelashes. I think this project would have worked equally well had I used lips.

Follow with any color you want for the irises. I used  different colors but I think it would look equally good to use only one. The thought occurred to me to draw "portraits" of peoples' eyes i.e. my mother's eyes, Presedents' eyes, Marquis de Sade's, Elizabeth Taylor's, Christina Ricci's (only celeb I ever had a crush on) or possibly National Geographic Afghan Girl's eyes. I could not think of which eyes to do, though one of them might be the eye from the Tell Tale Heart

7. Lastly seal it in with shellac, polyurethane or varnish. Make sure to clear off any remaining chalk or charcoal, and also to erase any pencil lines. I used amber and clear varnish. If you don't plan to ever have water come into contact with this surface, lets say if this was a side of a cabinet then one coat should be sufficient. This is how it turned out. I am very pleased with it, it has the exact presence that I was after. Let me know if you have any questions or I left something out. This is my first DIY post and I hope you enjoyed it.

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