BFF Crafts: Collaborative Paintings

image of a gallery wall of square abstract paintings in many colors

Happy International Friendship Day! A wonderful way to celebrate your friendships is to bring your favorite people together for creative time. While I normally find myself crafting alone, working on BFF crafts with my bestie Amanda always leads to the biggest laughs, reminiscing about funny old stories, and creating new memories.

I’ve been lucky to also share a house with my BFF for the past couple years. Brainstorming project ideas was easy since there are always fun things to make, decorate, and freshen up around the home.

images of two women smiling in front of a couch and a white wall with a few photo frames on it

There has been a big blank space above our couch except for a few photo frames. I challenged us to work on some art to finally fill this area with something unique to our friendship. We decided to create a gallery wall of many 12″ x 12″ canvases.

The Inspiration Behind Our Paintings

I’ve found a lot of inspiration lately from abstract artists like Abby Houston (who teaches on Creativebug) and Ashley Mary. I used many prompts from Abby’s classes to give Amanda and I some structure to work on our paintings. While one of Abby’s classes is directed toward parent and child, you can easily translate that element of collaboration to your BFF crafts.

image of a white plate covered in colorful blobs of acrylic paint in red, pink, orange, yellow, green and gold to prepare for crafting with friends

When I asked Amanda where she was drawing inspiration from, she said, “I was just thinking about our friendship and how magical it is! Channeling a lot of love and appreciation for you and our awesomeness :).”

She had also wanted to try painting flowers with a spoon or palette knife, and we ended up using a lot of flower and plant imagery.

To help our project feel cohesive, we first considered working with a limited color palette. I loved all the colors so much, though, that I didn’t want to leave any out.

Our Crafty BFF Painting Plan

  1. We began each canvas by writing down words of affirmation, notes about and to each other, and just all the silliness and weirdness that defines our lifelong friendship. All of these words would probably get covered up later, so they were like secret messages and mantras.
  2. Then we both worked on painting first layers, focusing on playing around with the colors and not having a plan. I liked using a big paint brush for this. Amanda discovered her love of painting with a spatula as well as pieces of junk mail.
  3. After the first layers dried, we worked all our second layers on each other’s first layers. I really enjoyed this part of the project, especially as a person who doesn’t identify as a painter or visual artist. This whole process was already a surprise to me, and swapping canvases made for even more surprises. Sometimes I asked Amanda to totally obliterate my first layer because I didn’t like it at all. I often found myself trying to preserve her first layers by just adding accents with Posca pens. We had never worked with the Poscas before and immediately loved them. Amanda went out and bought more pens the following day.image of 2 photos, on the left shows smearing a wet floral painting with a card, and on the right shows adding white post paint marker to a painting

It may be no surprise to you that this project took WAY longer than we expected. I thought we could turn it around in a day, but we really needed some more time after. I would suggest limiting the number of your canvases if you don’t have a lot of time. We ended up painting 15 canvases which was extremely ambitious. This also turned the living room into a giant pile of art supplies.

image of a sunny living room filled with acrylic paint tubes, paint brushes, and small half-finished canvases on tiny easels

The Big BFF Art Reveal

You could use a laser level and accurate measuring to hang a gallery wall. We just used a yardstick and some eyeballing. Our grid is a little wonky, but that’s okay, because so are we.

image of 13 collaborating paintings on a white wall above a brown couch

We are obviously not quitting our day jobs to become professional artists, but I love how our paintings turned out. A lot of Amanda’s first layers inspired me to try new things, which I go into more detail in the captions for each painting below. For instance, I started drawing circular bubbles to highlight some shapes on her first layers. Then, she ended up echoing the bubble shapes on her second layers, too. You will also find your own rhythms and patterns with your friends when you try your collaborative BFF crafts.

I failed to document how some of these canvases dramatically transformed from layer to layer, but there are a lot of funny little stories inside all the paintings that we can both remember every time we look at our wall.

image of an abstract painting in Mandy shades of purple with white triangle and gold circles on top
I really loved Amanda’s first layer and felt it was a finished painting. The gold circles I added are a calendar of July 2023. The day we worked on the paintings is in red. This is inspired by Heidi Parkes’ Story Quilt Top class.
image of acrylic painting with colorful pink flowers and a big teal swirly circle behind them
My first layer was simply black dashes. I told Amanda, “You could just paint a big red circle over this and call it done.” So she kind of took that to heart with a big blue circle. She had started to spend a lot of time on her 2nd layers, so this painting was an exercise in having more chill.
This painting ended up making us laugh so much. Amanda’s 1st layer had a strange pink blob in the center and a drab green swirl around it. We called it the Vortex (of evil, of doom, etc). I tried to preserve the swirl but brightened up all the colors and turned the blob into a flower. When in doubt, turn it into a flower.
image of an acrylic painting with purple pastel flowers and lots of dreamy floral imagery
I can’t even remember what my 1st layer was since Amanda’s 2nd completely took over. You can see the bubble motif that we ended up using quite a bit. She also explored her palette knife flowers as well as creating a soft, dreamy atmosphere with lots of smearing.
image of acrylic painting with a big bold central flower in pinks and reds against a black and purple background
Amanda called the 1st layer “spores.” There was a black border and then black circles dispersed toward the center. You can see the texture of the “spores” underneath the pink paint. I had a lot of on the 2nd layer with tons of paint and Posca pen.
image of an acrylic painting with soft green hills, a pink sun, and 2 big white and yellow flowers on the bottom
Amanda’s 1st layer here was all green, with some texture in the center that resembled a Christmas tree. I almost defined this tree but then decided to go with a mountain theme and making different marks inside them. The two flowers represent us.
image of a highly textured acrylic painting with colorful abstract shapes
I went rogue with this one and did all the layers. I wanted try my hand at something like a painting of abstract “rocks” that Ashley Mary has done. The 1st layer was colorful blobs. The 2nd layer was light pink paint with modeling paste.
image of acrylic abstract painting with blue and teal background and red heart foreground and pink flowers layered on top with two dark figures at the bottom
This is another example of me really liking Amanda’s 1st layer. I added some lighter teal layers as well as bubbles, white marks, and pink flowers. The two dark mysterious figures represent us having an adventure in a strange world.
image of an acrylic painting with a pink background, covered in white dots, and a big central green leaf with the words "that's hot" in gold
This painting actually has 3 layers done by 3 people. I did a 1st layer with a pink ombre that was not covering up the silly words underneath, “Ur so hot right now.” Amanda’s niece came over to hang out, and we encouraged her to join the painting. She meticulously added all the white and yellow dots. She asked that someone put something on top even though we thought her dots looked great. Amanda then added the leaf, and I guess this painting couldn’t escape its inherent “hot”ness.
image of an acrylic painting with a teal background, a giant purple geode on the left and giant pink flowers on the right
My 1st layer was teal with some finger-painted orange zig zags on the left side. In the 2nd layer, Amanda turned the zig zag into a dragon. But she didn’t like the dragon, and then somehow the dragon turned into a geode. She echoed my twin dark creatures and put them in a pirate ship. I think the creatures help enhance the idea of exploring an alien world. They free your brain of trying to have the painting make sense.
image of an abstract floral painting with a green background and orange and purple flowers
I remember seeing my 1st layer here and asking Amanda to feel free to completely obliterate it. She preserved some of my circular shapes with her flowers, but I like how she transformed everything and made it super abundant.
image of an abstract floral painting with a golden yellow background, a flurry of white and green stamens, and small leaves in blue on the bottom
We had somehow been avoiding yellow as a 1st layer, so Amanda threw down a bunch of yellow. I then imagined that we were far inside of a flower, in a cloud of stamens. I found the yellow very challenging. It’s funny what colors make us feel creatively comfortable or uncomfortable.
image of an abstract painting in greens and teals with pops of pink and a white leaf motif
This was the first canvas I switched with Amanda to make 2nd layers. I really loved what she already painted. This was the beginning of me adding leaf elements to the paintings. The pink flecks in her 1st layer inspired me to enhance them with pink ovals. I also played with white and black marks to add even more texture. This is the color palette that speaks to me most.