We all have it.

The beautiful piles of artwork stashed, almost falling over, cascading all over the kitchen, leaning in the foyer, meandering around the laundry room.  Perhaps you have a bulletin board that they get tacked to occasionally or a refrigerator adorned with colorful renderings of unicorns. Each piece, well, let’s be honest, most pieces hold a special place in our hearts. I’m constantly gabbing with other moms about how we “bury” some of our precious darlings’ creations in the trash so our dear little sweeties can’t possible think that their touch of scribble on an old receipt isn’t cherished beyond belief.  You know you’ve done it!

diy creating wall art with your kids artwork by Melissa Stottmann

Now… say you save all of this artwork for your kids.  Anywhere from 5-10 years of creating, depending on how artsy your child is.  I had 145 pieces of art photographed from this year of Pre-School, which I realize is largely a hands on type of year.  Let’s do a little math though, exaggerated on the high end, for emphasis.  That’s 1,450 pieces of art.

What are you going to do with these? Save them as momentos to give your child when they move out?

If my mom had handed me 10 containers of my art I would have laughed her all the way to the curbside trash can.  Seriously.  Why keep all of them and overfill your own life with containers, storage and stuff that you can’t enjoy and look at because your wall space and decor won’t allow it?

Well, I do want to look at all of it. I do want to enjoy it.  I also would like to preserve work for my daughter in a way that she won’t think I’m the craziest person in the world.  So… what’s a photographer to do? Photograph it.

What I Used:

  • A large window with enough light
  • Seamless background paper (I used “Bone” by Savage)
  • A camera and a 35mm lens
  • Moirai Compositor to collage the images
  • Lightroom to edit the images quickly

How I Set It Up:

Here’s the window and the table I used.  I simply laid a piece of my seamless backdrop paper on the table and topped it off with a bit of a masking tape.  It wasn’t 100% flat.  I rotated through artwork quickly – taking just 1 shot for each item, unless there was a detail I wanted to remember (like how she added an adorable ring and meticulously placed little flowers on my dress in her art show piece entitled, “The Prettiest Mom At The Ball”. I simply couldn’t just zoom out on that one!)

Then I kept it manageable.  The time and quite frankly drive to photograph each art piece as they came in or even on a weekly basis simply didn’t exist!  I probably worked through a pile once every other month or so.  The stack would get out of control so I’d photograph everything and then put it into a container in the basement (death row) – or hang it up wherever necessary.

table full of kids art projects by Melissa Stottmann

Bone seamless paper by Savage

Editing:

Each time I photographed the light was different.  The same window was being utilized, however, the variations in day, season, etc. created their own unique white balance challenges.  Using a flash, next time, might be ideal to help combat these issues.  However, I let go of perfection and used Lightroom to edit these images closely.  Not perfectly. That’s okay.  I’m okay with it.  No, really I am.  Okay… maybe it drives me a bit crazy.

adding contrast in Lightroom to photos by Melissa Stottmann

Just about every image was helped by adding contrast and deepening the blacks.  This made the shots pop much more.  They also all needed some brightening. I tend to shoot warmer and the ‘Bone’ colored seamless added to the warmth so many needed cooled down.  Some days I shot there was some nice reflective snow outside the window, others were overcast and left a greenish tint on the images.  I altered the first from each set and synced the groups of images from each “session” to make my editing faster.

Creating the Collage:

I exported all of the images I planned to use as a 2000 pixel (on the long side) JPEG file.  I didn’t leave them as full resolution because they didn’t need to be and it would have slowed down Photoshop when I loaded all 114 images that I settled on using.  I employed Moirai Compositor to collage all of them into one file. The beauty of Moirai Compositor is that I simply chose the size of the final image (I initially thought I would do this as a 24×36 – but changed my mind when it came time to print to 20×30) and the space between the images (50 pixels) and hit ‘create’.  Moirai created the collage in minutes, well, less than minutes.  I added some quick words to the bottom for prosperity’s sake and BOOM! A years worth of creating was completed.

childs art display collage from photos by Melissa Stottmann

Printing:

I pondered ideas for printing for a long time.  I knew I wanted a poster-like product.  I wasn’t sold on having a high quality print, in fact, I enjoyed the idea of having the print feel more casual.  I considered printing a poster from one of the local low-end labs.  Their prices were around $20.  If I had printed a poster, though, I would have needed to find a way to display the poster.  All I could envision was all of my crappy posters of teen heart throbs squished onto the wall with sticky tack.  You know… the time when J.T.T. falls flat on you while you are in a dead sleep and you wake up in a panic that you are being attacked by some floppy thin bird-like creature giving you paper cuts? What I’m getting at, is that I knew I’d end up with the poster falling over.

So I looked at frames.  For a very flimsy cheap frame that would cover my 20×30 print size it would have run me about $15-$30.  The total for this, low end, project would have ended up around $50.  At that price I probably should just do a high quality print.

That’s when I stumbled upon ACI’s “Cling Wrap”… GENIUS! I could stick it to the wall like an old school Colorform Barbie Play House!  For around $30 it was ordered and complete!  The Cling Wrap has a bit of a canvas texture on the image side while the back reminds me of a plastic bookcover that you can remove and replace.  I had this stuck and displayed in a few minutes.  As per their instructions, I let the print lay flat for 1 hour and washed the wall well before applying.

wall cling collage of childrens artwork by Melissa Stottmann

texture of wall cling from ACI

Alternatively, a scrapbook type of book layout with drop in pages would be a great idea. I may still do this for the kids in addition to the print.  I can do two or three pages of collages instead of a big display per year and let the book grow.  This way, they can take it along when they wave goodbye and buy a house.

So you might wonder… this container that is holding artwork in the basement… Well, it’s still there, not thrown away.  The days are numbered, though! I’m asking my daughter, now that her work is hung up on the wall to go through and choose 5 favorites.  The rest? Sorry little guys.  We’ll do an emotional goodbye.

Now for the “BUT MELISSA’S”… I don’t have {insert one of the many products I mentioned above/used}.

Alright…  I know I’m going to hear from people that don’t have Lightroom, Photoshop, or Moirai Compositor… and perhaps you don’t have a desire to grab some seamless paper.  There’s nothing more frustrating than reading a fun tutorial and seeing the writer name products you don’t have.  I hear you! You can still do this project!   Use one backdrop in your home: a light colored carpet, a wood floor, a white sheet, your daughter’s adorable comforter on her bed.  Get creative! Use your iPhone to snap the images and save them up until you are ready to print and create a collage straight from your phone.

I suggest checking out the App, ArtKive.  You can save the Art to the app and even label it and write notes.  Then, easily print a book or create a collage!

Are you still sitting on the computer? You’ve got 145 pictures from this past school year to take! And… go!