Away weekend coolers: tips from art majors

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Away weekend season always makes me instantly popular as the only art major among my friends. Weeks in advance I get bombarded with “will you help me make my cooler?” and “I’m so not artistic, I have no idea what to do.”

Everyone looks forward to getting asked to an away weekend, knowing that they bear enormous amounts of stress when it comes to painting a cooler for your date, (especially if you’ve been asked very shortly beforehand). Luckily, there are a few tricks a for great cooler that your date will love without anyone being able to see your minimal artistic skill. To ease the pressure of this fun yet stressful tradition, I met with a couple of other art majors to get some tips for making a creative-looking cooler in a short amount of time with the least amount of skill.

Kelsey Sweeney, BFA, finds it easiest to start with a cooler from Coolers by University, because they’re “paintable, and already sanded for you with a completely flat surface.” This eliminates the most tedious and least enjoyable task of making an away weekend cooler– sanding and preparation.

“And you can buy a set that comes with paint,” Sweeney said. “It’s literally so easy to paint on. And it comes with sealer and finish.”

As far as coming up with what to put on your cooler, I find it easiest to get inspiration from Pinterest for the basics, and then work into the specific interests of your date. Luckily, if you don’t know your date that well, there are plenty of basics in regards to either the destination of the weekend, the fraternity your date is in, or where he’s from. Getting ideas from Pinterest for any of these is a fun way to get excited about what you’re going to paint, but they can also be deceivingly difficult to mimic.

“You could trace it,” Eden Miller, BFA, said. Printing out pictures and using tracing paper to copy them onto the cooler is an easy and efficient way to copy an image without any drawing skills. If getting an accurate rendering is your main concern, you could also “project it onto the cooler and then draw it,” Miller said. Depending on which resources are most available, either using a projector or tracing paper can make a tremendous difference in time and accuracy.

Once the tracings are done in pencil on the cooler, it’s easier to start painting (the most fun part). Sometimes it helps to start by painting a solid color background before tracing letters or pictures onto it. You should always plan what you want on each side so you don’t get stuck with the tedious and time-consuming task of painting a background around your already drawn letters and images.

If you’re really in a time crunch, using stencils and spray paint is always a quick and efficient tactic. Sometimes simple is the way to go if you’re anxious about your lack of artistic ability. Printing out pictures and gluing them on also looks great if you take the time to do it well. If all else fails, there are plenty of art majors willing to make a little extra cash that could help you with the job.

“I charge $17-18 an hour for custom work,” said Sweeney. “I worked on [the cooler] for 10-12 hours, so I charged the girl $175.”

So if you have a lack of faith in your artistic abilities, plenty of majors are always looking for work opportunities. The most important thing to keep in mind is this is supposed to be a fun task, and if you use these tips you’ll have a great-looking cooler just in time for away weekend. Happy painting!

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