Tuesday, November 6, 2012

DIY Paint by Number: Botticelli's Flora

Last night I finished the last of my three paint by number mini-portraits of the ladies from Sandro Botticelli's Primavera mural. Say hello to Flora! I took a lot of creative liberties, and painting her eyes nearly drove me crazy, but I like her. Doesn't she look like Uma Thurman? I hung the trio near my kitchen table, and they're the first thing I see when I come home.

I'm beginning to realize that this technique yields portraits very similar to American Primitive art. When I was a kid, my mother collected American Primitive portraits of children--the cruder and creepier, the better. Dad hated them, but I loved them, and I remember helping her hunt them down in antique stores when I was small. Her fondness for these oddly flat-faced images definitely rubbed off on me.

Want to paint your own version of Flora? Click for instructions and a free paint by number template...
and to see some hilariously bad early versions of this painting. We're talking monkey Jesus bad.

Supply List:
one 8 by 8 inch pre-primed canvas
carbon paper, one colored pencil, tape, and scissors

a few small paintbrushes
acrylic paint in black, white, red, green, pale blue, Caucasian flesh tone, and various browns and beiges

1. Save these images and print them on standard-size printer paper. Choose the "full page photo" setting, and DO NOT check the box that says "Fit picture to frame." You want two nice, large 8 by 8 inch square images. 

2. Trim the excess paper from the black and white image so you have a perfect square.

3. Tape the carbon paper securely to your canvas, carbon-side down. Make absolutely sure the black carbon side is down; otherwise the image won't transfer. Yes, I once traced an entire painting with the wrong side down, and it's infuriating. Tape the black and white image over the carbon paper, so the image stays securely in place.

4. Use the colored pencil to trace over ALL the lines on the black and white image. Why use colored pencil? Then you can easily see what you've already traced. This part takes about 20 minutes, and it's tedious relaxing.

5. Gently loosen the tape and remove the black and white image and the carbon paper. Your canvas should now look like this. Yay! It looks cool but kind of weird, right? Don't worry! Just keep going.

This is what happens when ladies and topographic maps become one.
6. Paint! I like to start with the skin, then paint the facial features, and work outward toward the edges. Feel free to change the details of the painting as you like. I changed the details a lot to make it look the way I wanted: I changed the color of Flora's collar to give it more definition, gave her a wreath of greenery in her hair, added light contrasting curls to her hair, and removed the stuff at the bottom left of the painting because I thought it just cluttered things up. 

I did these cartoonishly bad things things to her face in the name of glamour. 
But um... NO. I ended up painting her features just as the template dictated.

Feel free to use this template for personal use and modify it however you like, but please don't use it for commercial projects. If you do try this project, send me a picture! I'd love to see your finished painting and link up to your blog.


  1. This looks fun! Can't wait to try it

    1. Thanks! It's so much easier than you'd think, too.

  2. I am OBSESSED with this trick, I've just finished my third and started experimenting with psychadellic modifications withe the hues of different pictures, I'm having so much fun!! Thanks to you!

    1. YAY! You honestly made my day. I love that someone else is able to get some happiness out of this, too. :)


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