It’s all over blogland and Pinterest – art highlighting a happy couple’s anniversary. Sometimes it takes the form of a print full of numbers: you see these all the time, the bride and groom’s birthday, their anniversary, followed by the birthdays of their children. Super cute, but not quite mine and Canadian Bacon’s style. See, we don’t have kids, nor do we plan on having them. And I don’t particularly care for just columns of numbers because… math, shudder.
But I needed some art – preferrably cheap – for our bedroom, and I wanted something meaningful. I really liked the idea of anniversary artwork, but I didn’t like anything I’d actually seen executed. It’s just not us. We’re not some cutesy, rustic, industrial chic, whatever style artwork you usually see.
So I created something that honors how we met online, as gamer geeks.
Yes. My sign does indeed say “04.01.11 – the day our relationship leveled up.” This came around because at one time I overheard CB refer to me as his girlfriend to one of his buddies, and I had to get onto him for forgetting he wifed me. He was like “oh yeah, our relationship leveled up!” just like characters in video games do the longer you play them.
If you have no idea what I’m talking about, I’m not really sure I can explain. But it was adorable. And if you don’t “get” it, you can still make a sign like this with whatever cutesy phrase you want instead.
You can make a sign like this out of pretty much anything. You can print it. You can paint it on canvas. Me, I decided to build it out of scrap pieces of wood, because I have an incorrigible love for power tools. And I had a pile of scrap 1x6s in the backyard, just begging to be used.
Like most projects, I didn’t exactly plan on making this. I just got a wild hair up my ass and went out into the backyard one day and started laying boards together to see what I liked. This would probably be really cute pallet art, but I didn’t have any pallets. Actually, I’m sure pallets would be lighter – this thing is a beast – but again, I worked with what I had. So I picked out some relatively unwarped boards and used my compound miter saw to chop em all down to size.
This could also be cute if the edges were raggedy or stagger stacked, but I wanted a more smooth look. I knew I was going to beat the hell out of it to distress the boards.
That was the most fun part. I used thin strips of scrap wood down the back to secure the four pieces together, then took my hammer and other random objects to the surface of the boards to “distress” them. I wound up using the front of the hammer, the claw of the hammer, a scrap 2×4, and a decking screw to bang up the wood. That’s why it has all the dings and deep marks on it.
Needless to say, with my penchant for destroying things, I can’t wait to distress something else.
After I distressed the wood, I busted out my little hand sander to smooth it up. I wanted the face to be glossy and sleek, so I sanded and sanded and sanded. I rounded the edges of the boards and smoothed down their raw ends where I’d cut them.
Then I stained the whole thing, using a random pot of one of Meemaw’s multiple Minwax stains. I don’t even remember what the color was called. Walnut maybe? The can was ancient and half empty, and I used the rest of it. I used a small foam brush to apply the stain, and I tossed it after I stained it. I put three coats of stain on the wood to get it that deep color.
I had a hard time figuring out how I was going to get the saying onto the wood. I have ratchet handwriting, so I knew I couldn’t freestyle. Probably the best way would be to use a cricut or silhouette machine and cut out vinyl sticky letters that you could attach and then spraypaint around… or cutout a stencil to paint in. I have neither of those machines, so it took me a few days to figure out what I was going to do.
Finally, I struck gold. I asked my dad if I could borrow his Tracer. A tracer is a kind of smallish projector that artists can use to enlarge their artwork onto canvas, and he had an ancient one that he was happy to let me use. I wrote out the saying in a word document and fiddled with the fonts until I found a combination I liked. I knew I wanted something reminiscent of a popular video game. For some reason, the combo reminds me of The Legend of Zelda, which makes me happy :)
Tracing the letters were a pain in the ass. It wasn’t perfect. I used a pencil, I could barely see what I was doing, and we even lost power halfway through my arting. I actually had to pause and I didn’t resume for several days.
After I had the letters penciled on, I took a small craft paintbrush and black acrylic paint, and began to outline the letters.
At this point I was like… crap… this kinda looks rough. I also wanted to murder small children because outlining all those characters was a real pain in the ass.
In retrospect… PAINT MARKER. I should have bought one. This project would have been SO MUCH EASIER!
Next, I went ahead and filled in the letters. I just used some leftover wall paint, Sherwin-Williams Pewter Cast satin in cashmere.
I was starting to really question my artistic ability. I think the sign at this step looked like complete and utter crap. Still though, I decided to push on through to see if more coats of paint would help.
I used two coats of paint on the interior of the letters.
What really made it start to look better, though, was when I went back through at the end and painted the outline of the letters for the second time in black. That tidied up the whole project and made it look a million times better. It was starting to resemble art!
Really though, the poly was the crowning glory. I bought a small can of Minwax polyurethane and applied three coats with a foam brush, sanding lightly between coats with a fine sanding sponge. I absolutely love the silky, shiny gleam the protective poly gives the finished piece.
True story, this sign has sat in its completed state in my bedroom for about a month now. At first I couldn’t figure out how to hang it (it’s heavy!), then it took me a couple of weeks to get mounting hardware (two eyelets screwed into the back + wire strung between them), and then I just… procrastinated. I finally hung it this weekend, and it looks beautiful.
My bedroom is tiny and has no windows (I live in a basement, remember!) so it’s really hard to get good pictures in there. There’s pretty much no angle that I can get a good shot head-on without the poly reflecting copious amounts of whatever light source is nearby, so this is the best I can do.
I think I need to make some more gamer art. I’m thinking of a “There’s No Place Like 192.168.1.1” sign, and maybe a “Home Is Where Your Wifi Autoconnects.”
Well, as long as it took me to finally get this put together and hung up… don’t hold your breath.