Bored student paints on miscellaneous objects over break

Images courtesy of Leila Raines

Fall break. A period of peaceful bliss, reclaiming the hours of sleep lost to midterms and spending idle days lounging on the couch in pajamas. However, even while marathoning reruns of “Parks and Recreation” and “The Office,” and ignoring the short (and rare) bursts of motivation to actually do homework, the familiar feeling of restless boredom settled in shortly after I arrived home.

After weeks swamped with endless piles of reading, homework and writing assignments, I hoped to spend my time off diving back into one of my favorite hobbies. I filled a bright yellow M&M’s World bag with my paint supplies: the acrylic paints, blank canvases and assortment of brushes of different shapes and sizes that had sat, mainly unused, in one of my desk drawers for the entire first half of the semester. My fingers itched to wrap around a brush and start painting, so much so that I started deriving inspiration from the blank, everyday surfaces surrounding me. From the covers of novels and notebooks to old mementos of my life before Vassar still cluttered in my bedroom, any object with some kind of static, empty space for me to paint on brimmed with potential. My imagination started filling in those spaces and by the end of the break, I hadn’t touched any of the blank canvases I had lugged home.

Here are some of the pieces I came up with:

Hardcover Book

A few years ago, just the thought of leaving even an accidental pencil mark on one of the pages of my beloved books horrified me. Over the years, though, I eventually grew to love annotating my books, filling pages with the colorful streaks of my highlighters and the scribbles of my thoughts in the margins. Over break, I took another step out of my comfort zone by painting on the cover of one of my favorite books, my hardcover copy of “The Hunger Games.”

I wanted to capture some of the novel’s main themes in my painting, and the image of fire immediately stuck out in my mind. I could picture exactly what I wanted to paint: abstract tendrils of flames rising up from the bottom of the cover, the vibrant red, orange and yellow colors popping out against the dull gray background. When I first took the dust jacket off of the book, I found a golden embossment of the Mockingjay stamped on the front of the cover. I continued with my original plan, trying to work around this engraving.

Although the prospect of painting on one of my books felt scary at first, it ended up being one of my favorite painting experiences of the week; my passion for reading combined with my passion for art, and I loved using this creative visual medium to further express my love of books. I won’t be surprised if many of the other hardcover books on my shelf end up decorated with acrylic paint in the future.

Spiral Notebook

Images courtesy of Leila Raines

I have already painted on a spiral notebook before, but I still felt compelled to try again, specifically with one that I am using this year for school. My goal was to paint all four of my class notebooks, but that might have been a bit too ambitious (I only ended up painting one before I moved on to other projects). 

I painted the yellow notebook that I am using for one of my English classes. What started out as one single image—yellow flowers springing out from the bottom of the cover—spiraled (no pun intended) into a cluttered scene including a bee, a poorly-painted honeycomb design and floating dandelion seeds, all against a black background.

I may or may not have run out of black paint by the time I finished my painting, but at least I’ll have something fun to look at in class.

Tape Dispenser

For some reason, the empty surface of my tape dispenser spoke to me. As much as I liked the turquoise color on its own, I immediately envisioned filling in the circular space of the dispenser with an abstract sun. I experimented with a variety of pastel shades of pink, red, orange and yellow to compliment the brightness of the turquoise, making the background appear more like a bright sky behind the beaming sun. 

The process of actually painting the tape dispenser proved somewhat challenging since the surface itself wasn’t completely flat. Plus, I accidentally poked my fingers on the sharp metal ridges too many times to count. Despite its trickiness, it was definitely one of the most fun objects to paint on, as I tried to fit my artistic vision into the abnormal shape of the dispenser. I only ended up painting one side of it, but I hope I will be able to return to it in the future and paint the other side to accompany the sun.

High School Dance Competition Plaque

Back in high school, I joined my dance studio’s competition team. During my senior year, I did a lyrical solo and took it to a handful of local competitions, eventually competing with it nationally. I ended up placing in the top ten for my category, and I received a little plaque. Ever since then, the plaque has lived in my room, collecting dust. I wanted to individualize the little wooden plaque since it was a generic piece that the competition handed out to all of the top-10 finalists. Thus, it became my next painting project. 

There wasn’t a lot of space for me to work with on this one; only the borders of the plaque were completely empty. Despite being a relatively short project, I enjoyed its simplicity. I painted a vine of purple flowers along the sides of the plaque. Thankfully, I didn’t relive too many of the sometimes painful memories of my days traveling to those exhausting dance competitions as I was painting.

Overall, I learned a lot from my experiences painting on surfaces that I am not accustomed to working with. This random collection of objects sparked my creativity in unique ways, and I enjoyed exploring the variety and allowing them to shape my visions for each of the paintings. Maybe my sheer boredom over winter break will drive me into a full-on Rapunzel from “Tangled” moment and I’ll start painting on all of the walls and ceilings of my bedroom. I can’t say that I would be too upset if that happened.


  1. Charming, joyfully written. I had the urge too pull out my paints and brushes and search the house for objects too paint.

  2. Beautiful piece, very well written. Beautiful art. I love art and I love this piece. Perhaps I love art because my name is Arthur, “Art” for short. But I digress, you are an excellent writer and artist. Keep up the artwork, perhaps you will be in the Louvre one day with this amazing artwork, or Día Beacon.

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