Upcycle Design Report: Surreal Symphony

Let’s start by refreshing on what my upcycle project actually is. I used vinyl records that no longer play music as canvases for surrealism paintings. This way the records don’t end up in the landfills creating more pollution. Th surrealism aesthetic is a mix of realism and the creativity of the imagination. You can read more about the aesthetic and my project on these posts:

Surrealism Aesthetic: https://www.aesdes.org/2024/01/24/aesthetic-exploration-surrealism/

My Project: https://www.aesdes.org/2024/01/31/upcycling-project-surrealism-painting/

Surrealistic art is the expression of the imagination. Often times with surrealistic art, you will see realistic facial features, like eyes, with an unexpected twist. Surrealism is a very broad aesthetic as it contains many different art styles and types. For both my art style and project as a whole, I used a few pieces as inspiration, but in the end my art pieces related more to my own original style than to anything else. A couple pieces that I took inspiration from are shown in Images 1 and 2 below.

Record Album Vinyl LP Asian Japanese Lake Water Painting by Tony Rubino - Fine Art America space head Art Print by anneamanda | Society6

My vision for this project I had planned to paint on each record in a surrealism style including musical elements to tie the canvas in with the art. On the first record I decided to include the image of a woman with a piano coming out of her head. The woman herself is very realistic including shadows and accurate facial features which shows the realistic characteristic side of surrealism. I decided it was best to make the woman in black and gray so that the piano keys would stick out and create contrast. On the second record I decided that it was best to continue the shape from the first record, so that they could hang together and flow nicely from one vinyl to the next. To continue the flowing shape I decided to add a staff that circled back around the record, with a starting point that lined up with the ending point on the first record. I also played around with the sketch to make it flow well with the shape of the record. I wanted the art to draw your eye around the record in a circular pattern. I think this is one benefit to the circular shape of the record. I added music notes to the staff with neon colors that added contrast to the vast amount of white I used. The digital sketches I ended up drawing for both these records are shown below in Images 3 and 4.

I decided originally on using acrylic paint for this project because it is cheaper and I thought it would be easier to use on the vinyl material. I started with the record that has the staff and music notes because I figured it would be the easiest to paint. I ran into a few issues in the beginning though. I didn’t originally know how the acrylic paint was going to work with all the grooves in the records, and I opted out of sanding them because I felt like that would show up in the final pieces and I didn’t want it to distract from the paintings. The acrylic ended up needing multiple layers and that caused a lot of texture that I did not originally want in the pieces. I ended up not minding the texture because I believe it brought some life to the piece overall. However, since I struggled with the acrylic paint for the first record, I decided it was best to use oil paint for the second record, especially since I was painting a realistic face. Oil paint is my medium of choice normally so I decided that I would work best with it, and since there are two sides to a record, if it didn’t work out I had the ability to flip it and restart. The oil paint ended up working perfectly. My process can be seen in Images 5 and 6.

Yes I painted on my best don’t mention it haha. Due to time constraints and the issues I ran into using the vinyl as a canvas, I chose to omit some of the original aspects that I had planned for the record with the lady and piano keys on it. I decided to keep out the music notes and the record that was at the bottom of her neck. I just felt that because of the restraints I was running into that it could have made the entire painting more messy rather than adding to it. I could always come back in the future and add back in those details when I have more time and more practice painting on vinyl material rather than just a regular canvas.

Images 7 and 8 below show the two records before I added final touchups. I really do love how they turned out and although I strayed a tiny bit from the original plan, they still hit the surrealistic aesthetic perfectly. The realism components include the shapes of the music notes and the woman’s face. The imagination comes in with the addition of the piano keys and music, the shape of the keys from the piano, the flow of both the piano and staff, and the bright colored additions to the keys and music notes.

After cleaning up any edges and adding a clear top coat I got the final project shown below in Figure 9.

When hung together you can see how your eye flows from one record to the next because of how I chose to connect them. I plan to keep them hung on my wall and maybe even add more in the future. Although I ran into some issues, I really loved doing this project. As an engineering major I haven’t gotten many chances to showcase my artistic talent, especially in my favorite aesthetic. This project gave me the chance to do that and create more recent art pieces that I can hang around my home. Overall, I would say that this project was a success and I honestly couldn’t be happier with how it ended up looking.



[1] Tony Rubino. Rubino, T. (March 7th, 2019). Record Album Vinyl LP Asian Japanese Lake WaterFine Art America. https://fineartamerica.com/featured/record-album-vinyl-lp-asian-japanese-lake-water-tony-rubino.html

[2] Rachel Olynuk. Olynuk, R. (April 8th, 2019). A Rainy day kinda loveFine Art America. https://fineartamerica.com/featured/a-rainy-day-kinda-love-rachel-olynuk.html

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3 Comments. Leave new

  • Jonathon Gruener
    March 3, 2024 10:46 pm

    Hi Sierra. I think that this project turned out amazingly. Your paintings look so similar to your sketches it would be hard to tell them apart. How are you planning on hanging these? Just through the center hole, or perhaps framing them?

  • Great job on the project, it turned out very well made. The painted versions look identical to your digital sketch. It was a good idea to try the two different paint types to get different finishes. I was wondering if you are planning on adding more vinyl pieces to it in the future.

  • Hello Sierra,
    I think you did an amazing job on this project! It was cool how your final piece really encapsulated your aesthetic and ideal plan. I also liked how you told us about the challenges you faced with your materials and what you did to overcome them. It is a fun read and I’m just curious to hear how you like your artifact and how you are putting it to use; and if there are some design changes you would make for another iteration.


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