Shiny Happy Boxes and Bags

Shiny Happy Boxes and Bags

It’s been a long time since I’ve bought wrapping paper… and I find it almost impossible to throw away bags and boxes that I ‘just might’ find a use for. So in the interest of decluttering let me guide you through the creation of these truly unique gift bags and boxes.

Firstly, you’ll need some bags and boxes to upcycle. I LOVE Apple packaging, and it’s best to paint over all the imagery on them so you don’t get your recipient’s hopes up (unless you truly are giving them and iPad of course!). I’ve also used a couple of simple bags and a post box with some interesting Ukrainian leaf stamps (thank you Etsy!).

If there are stamps or interesting things or images on your bags and boxes, make sure they’re stuck on well. I’ve used some Golden Gel Medium to adhere the stamps well, but PVA or a glue stick would also do the job for this project. (The leaves on these stamps inspired the pattern I ended up painting onto this box.)

Choose your colours and paint over the text and logos – I’ve used Teal + White, Hansa Yellow + White and Magenta + White. By adding the white to each colour I’ve made the paint more opaque/less transparent, and more likely to do a good job of covering the bits I want to disguise.

Then using a paint pen or brush, start adding some patterned detail. You can also use stencils, more collage, pencils or sharpie markers. Be inspired by the patterns around you – fabrics, cushions, even all those new colouring in books that seem to be everywhere at the moment, can all be sources of pattern inspiration.

Here I googled ‘woodblock’ images and started with this paisley pattern inspiration.

For this bag I used acrylics to sketch on a loose wreath especially for Christmas.

Now, whether they go under a tree or in the mail, know that your packaging is as much a gift as what’s inside. Do a few at a time so you’ve always got a bag or box handy.

Fun, huh? I’d love to see what you make! Share with me on instagram or facebook – #shinyhappyart

Guesso Gesso

Guesso Gesso

You know those canvasses that say they’re pre-primed… and unless you are making them yourself with a fabric like linen or calico or some other sort of canvas, most of the ones you buy would be ‘pre-primed’.

Today’s tip is simply to make sure you prime them again. Before you paint on them. It’s the difference between your paint DRAGGING on the surface or GLIDING on the surface.


Obviously GOLDEN is my brand of choice – the gesso is like pouring cream – divine.

Priming a canvas with gesso helps keep your paint on the surface, so that it doesn’t seep through, which in turn means you’ll have more control over the paint and be able to predict your results better.


I’ve been particularly interested in the concept of gesso since I saw this amazing portrait of Deborah Mailman by Evert Ploeg at the National Portrait Gallery. It’s painted on jute, and the background is rough and raw, but her SKIN is so smooth you want to touch it. I imagine he built up layers of gesso and perhaps molding paste, to create this delicious distinction.

There’s a terrific video here about how to prime your canvas –

And a wonderful GOLDEN video here about going a step further than just simply priming with gesso, and making a totally smooth surface to paint on, using modelling paste –

There are different types of gesso, but I mainly use GOLDEN white or blackGOLDEN’s Sandable Hard Gesso is great if you are painting on a rigid surface (timber, etc) and want to sand it between coats and get a super hard, smooth surface. You can use acrylic gesso under acrylic or oil paints.
So, if you haven’t tried painting on a properly gesso’ed surface before, please try it – you’ll notice the difference straight away. 🙂