Tuesday, June 7, 2011

D.I.Y. Op Art Stools, a guest how to guide.

My best friend, Alex, is my other creative half.  We met in Art School, she's also an art teacher, and her classroom website can be found here. If she and I hadn't moved hundreds of miles away we'd probably be doing projects like this at least once a month (or week) when she sent me a picture of her newly completed barstools I KNEW I had to have her give a how to guide on them. They're so cool!  I'm thinking about having my students do something like this to a table next year.  Enjoy:

"I am a big advocate of turning an old or salvaged pieces of wood furniture into an opportunity for creativity. I’ve done this previously with my kitchen table. After teaching my second graders about Op Art this past month, I was inspired to create a set of Op Art stools of my own. Op (Optical) Art was an art movement from the 1960s that investigates the function of vision and how we perceive what we are looking at. A notable artist of this time was Bridget Riley, and I am always looking to promote women artists of any pre-contemporary art movement. These two design options are derived from her paintings.

Materials you’ll need:
Salvaged table, chair, stool, your choice.
Sandpaper to roughen up the surface of the wood, as it likely has a shiny finish. A medium-fine grit works well (180 grit) as you don’t want to create a scratched surface.
Acrylic paint, black and white
Small paintbrush
Medium flat paintbrush with a nice, sharp edge
Acrylic spray finish, or epoxy resin if you want to spend the extra cash
For circle design only: compass, or if you don’t have one, you can collect circular containers of varying circumferences
For square design only: a triangle or T-square

Circular Design

Begin by sanding down the surface you are going to paint. No need to spend too much time doing this, just enough to create a matte surface.
You then want to begin drawing the circles with pencil. Start with the larger circles and work your way in. Remember that these are not concentric circles (circles with the same center). The distance between circles should be the same only on one side, meaning that they should be balanced in one area of the circles. Additionally, the circles need to be positioned in a way that when you draw your first line across the stool, it bisects every circle as close to perfectly as possible.

The next step is the most important in creating the visual illusion of the design. Begin by tracing a straight line through the center of the circles. Continue tracing parallel lines across the circles, spacing them closely together toward the center and slowly growing apart as they move away from the center.

After you’ve completed all your pencil work, you are ready to begin with paint. I suggest painting the white sections first, as it is easier to cover up a white mistake with black as opposed to covering up a black mistake with white. Start by outlining the interior of every white section with your very small paintbrush, as you would a checker board (every other shape). This will be your most time consuming part of this project. If you are concerned with messing this up or being too ‘in the zone’ to remember which color goes in which shape, label every other section in pencil with a “B” for your black sections before you begin with paint. After you’ve outlined all sections, go back and fill them all in using your medium flat brush. With the white, you may need 2 coats of paint.

Repeat the previous step with the black paint.

Finish by spraying the paint with your acrylic finish, or for the more experienced artist, coating it with epoxy resin. If you are curious about this process, you can refer to a previous post where Jennifer details how to use it.

Square Design

If you’ve come across square stools or have a square table that needs an update, this design would be more appropriate. You want to begin the same way with sanding the surface you are going to paint. Next, find the exact center of your square. In doing this, mark the mid-point of each side of the square. You are going to draw a total of 4 lines—2 that go from corner to corner and 2 that go from mid-point to mid-point.

Next you will begin drawing your squares of varying sizes. This is where the triangle or T-square will be essential—otherwise you’re going to make a lot of mistakes and spend more time fixing them than you need to. Each square’s corners MUST intersect with the lines that connect the outer corners of the chair/table. These squares should be relatively the same distance apart. You can choose how many or how few squares to draw, but know that the more you draw, the better overall effect you are going to achieve.

Continue the same way as you would have with the round design from here on out. Remember that it needs to be painted like a checker board, meaning that black shapes can only (barely) touch other black shapes on the corners, white shapes only (barely) touching other white shapes at the corners, etc.

Note that these designs DO take some time and focus, so consider saving them for only the most important people’s asses to park on. Happy painting."

Don't you love her?! Hope you enjoyed my guest post, sorry I've been too busy to give you all a seriously awesome D.I.Y. project but I hope you enjoyed Alex's comprehensive guide.  If you do complete this project, link me to it in the comments below.  We'd love to see your work!


  1. Very Cool! Love this post, thanks!

  2. there are many benefit for me ,thank you.