Home decor Upcycle

How to Paint a Symphony

Use chalk paint and glaze to refresh an outdated piece of artwork | www.thechelseaproject.com

Hello Friends,

Ok.  Before you think I’ve totally gone off the rails, just hear me out.

It’s true.  I painted a symphony.  

And, it’s also true that it was my first collaboration with Mozart.  

But, I had a really good reason.   Really……I had this big empty wall that faces the dining room.  So naturally, I dug through my stash of outdated accessories until I pieced together a unit of  “wall art” that worked for scale and size.  But, oh my goodness, everything was…sooooo dark and sooo outdated.

This brown wall unit gets lightened with chalk paint | www.thechelseaproject.com

But, since I was actually going for texture and not “wall art,”  I needed to find a way to make these pieces go all David Copperfield.  They didn’t need to totally disappear, but they really needed to create the illusion of disappearing….and…. at the very least… fade into the wall.

Mozart's Symphony in G minor on canvas | The Chelsea Project | www.thechelseaproject.com

The only problem was how to save all of this cracking and chipping goodness that was buried underneath all that brown.  What I had to do was find a way to lighten and brighten the piece (and the other accessories) without losing the original character.  #tallorder

STEP 1:  Get in the Groove

First, I  found a great recording of the music score that is painted on the canvas.  The canvas is actually just a tiny snip of  Mozart’s Symphony #40 in G Minor, K 550 – 1. Molto Allegro, but it’s such a great snip.  Ironically, this symphony was known as one of Mozart’s “dark” pieces, presumably because it wasn’t written in a “happy” key.

I gotta tell ya, when I was in music school, I must have heard this piece a thousand times.  It was a staple of learning.  Like oils for the artist or words for the writer.  We dove into the nooks and crannies of this work in order to better understand its genius.  How fitting that I am once again looking at the nooks and crannies….and trying to understand them….so they can be saved. #againwiththeirony

STEP 2:  Add Primer

To start, regular old block-out primer (in latex) was added to the sides of the canvas and around the musical score.  No matter what, I did not want the brown to bleed through.  The same primer was also applied to the other accessories.

White primer is the first step in the process | www.thechelseaproject.com

STEP 2:  Create a Cloud

Then chalk paint was made from Sherwin Williams Dover White and a chalk paint additive.  Click here for information about the additive.  

Once it was mixed, a portion of the paint was subsequently turned into a milky solution.

Then a very thin layer of the chalk paint and the solution was applied to the canvas to create a cloudy look.

The second step is a very thin coat of creamy white chalk paint to the entire canvas | www.thechelseaproject.com

STEP 3:  Distress the Edges

The canvas was scratched with a toothbrush to create a worn and torn appearance.  Sandpaper was used around the outer edges, but really didn’t work as well as the toothbrush.

Close-up of the patina created by the layers of chalk paint and glaze | www.thechelseaproject.com

STEP 4:  Apply Glaze

Then a diluted tobacco-colored glazed was brushed over the entire canvas and wiped off with a damp cloth while the glaze was still wet.  Care was taken to make sure that the glaze remained in the nooks and crannies.  Click here for info about using glaze.

Canvas is lightened with chalk paint and glaze solutions | www.thechelseaproject.com

STEP 5:  Layer Paint and Glaze 

After the glaze dried, it looked a little dark so another dilute solution of the creamy white chalk paint was washed over the canvas and wiped with a damp cloth.  This time, when the canvas dried, it looked pasty so a solution of aqua-colored paint was worked into some areas of the canvas.  I just kept washing paint and glaze in various areas of the canvas (and wiping with a damp cloth) until I got the look I wanted.

A greenish chalk paint was thinned and dry brushed to the outer areas of the canvas | www.thechelseaproject.com

STEP 6:  Add Accessories

Then the other wall accessories, which had been refinished using the same technique as the canvas, were added to the wall.

Wrought iron is distressed with layers of chalk paint and glaze | www.thechelseaproject.com

One layer of primer and then several layers of chalk paint and glaze.

Sconce updated with chalk paint and glaze | www.thechelseaproject.com

To create a focal point, an over-sized vase filled with branches and forsythia stems was placed in front of the canvas.

Add layers of texture with branches and forsythia stems | www.thechelseaproject.com

And, the table, which was also refinished for the space, provides added dimension and color.

The green paint used to tint the canvas is the same paint and color used to refinish the table | www.thechelseaproject.com

The result is layers of texture and chippy goodness that frames the flower stems, but does not detract from the focal point.

The painted canvas provides a muted backdrop for the stems | www.thechelseaproject.com

And so it is with Mozart’s masterpiece symphony, now lightened and brightened as a background textural element.  Muted by layers of paint and glaze, but retaining the characteristics of the original piece.

An outdated canvas is refreshed with chalk paint and glaze | www.thechelseaproject.com

If you have a canvas that you’d like to lighten and brighten, please test the paint’s ability to handle the addition of chalk paint and glaze in an inconspicuous spot before moving on to the main part of the piece.  I knew before I started that I wanted this canvas to look worn, torn, faded, and brimming with chippy goodness.  This meant there was less pressure on the original paint to adhere to the canvas.

Use chalk paint and glaze to refresh an outdated piece of artwork | www.thechelseaproject.com

If you have any questions, please message me in the comment section (below).  

If you have enjoyed this makeover, I do hope you will share it with your friends.

And, as always, it is a pleasure to share this project with you.

Easy Outdated Wall Art Turned into Background Texture | The Chelsea Project


Shared at these great parties:

Sweet Inspiration via My Sweet Things


  • Reply 1915house March 27, 2016 at 5:45 pm

    This turned out so beautifully, Susie!!! The muted effect is perfect against your wall and the table coordinates so very nicely. What a great way to lighten up your space.

    • Reply theChelseaProject March 28, 2016 at 3:22 pm

      Thanks so much, Sarah. We love it so much and are so happy to reuse these outdated items.

  • Reply Marie, The Interior Frugalista March 27, 2016 at 5:54 pm

    Wowsers Susie, I love everything about this wall art. Such a great idea and just love the techniques you used to achieve this time worn look. Pinning to share

    • Reply theChelseaProject March 28, 2016 at 3:23 pm

      Thanks, Marie. You’ve just made my day. Thanks so much for visiting and for sharing the post out. You’re the best.

  • Reply Toni Harvey March 27, 2016 at 10:57 pm

    Susie, you killed it, that looks fantastic! And I can see tiny bits of color in the canvas drawn out by the table color below. The balance of the new focal point is perfect. I’m not sure I would have had your patience in applying so many layers 🙂

    Oh, and it’s been great listening to Mozart’s symphony while I read and comment oh your post. Another wonderful balance idea that added a nice surprise to what might otherwise be an ordinary blog post. And….as I typed my last sentence the symphony concluded 🙂

    • Reply theChelseaProject March 28, 2016 at 3:25 pm

      Thanks, Toni. I love for you to visit the blog. You get me…and listening to Mozart while reading the post….well….it’s just the civilized thing to do. LOL. #ourfirstconcert

  • Reply Jayne March 28, 2016 at 10:01 am

    Your love of music and decor are in harmony here! (pun intended.lol) Really beautiful!

    • Reply theChelseaProject March 28, 2016 at 3:27 pm

      Thanks, Jayne. Every once in a while, my music background bubbles to the surface. LOL.

  • Reply Melisa Lissa March 29, 2016 at 1:52 am

    This turned out so beautifully. I love everything about this wall art. Really beautiful! Such a great idea.

    • Reply theChelseaProject March 29, 2016 at 6:17 am

      Thanks, Melisa. Appreciate much.

  • Reply Alina Watson April 2, 2016 at 12:34 am

    Hi Susie,
    Wonderful 🙂 it’s really wonderful and amazing to learn more about Paint a Symphony! I still didn’t ever think to paint for Symphony but Susie your this post is really helpful to learn more and get better ideas for “How to Paint a Symphony” !

    • Reply theChelseaProject April 3, 2016 at 7:23 am

      Thanks so much. It’s good to hear that you enjoy the project. I have another painting that was repainted, but in a different way, coming up soon. I do hope you will consider following via email so you get all the updates.

  • Reply María P. Gómez April 10, 2016 at 11:27 am

    Hi Susie, love what you did to that Symphony! I really like it’s lighter but still the music notes and cracks are showing!

    I would love to invite you to share it with us at our new Sweet Inspiration party, which is live every Friday. http://sweethings.net/sweet-inspiration-link-party1/

    Have a wonderful week!


    • Reply theChelseaProject April 10, 2016 at 11:31 am

      Thanks Maria….would love to link up…Thanks for the invite.

  • Reply Audra @ Renewed Projects April 10, 2016 at 8:52 pm

    I love that you went to the man himself for painting inspiration. Turned out beautifully! Love the bright yellow flowers placed in front, a happy welcome to spring.

    • Reply theChelseaProject April 10, 2016 at 9:33 pm

      Thanks, Audra. I agree. I love that Symphony so much and am so happy to have it out of hiding and back on the wall.

  • Reply Carolann May 20, 2016 at 7:10 pm

    Honestly, what a masterpiece! I’ll be over to pick it up. lol It’s amazing though for real. What a statement piece. Love love it!

    • Reply theChelseaProject May 20, 2016 at 7:44 pm

      Thanks, Carolann. I try to remake as many accessories as possible.

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