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DIY Project: Paint a Gymnast (Boryana Kaleyn)

Hello everyone,

I want to share with you a painting project I started over a year and a half ago and now it is finally finished! I love looking at art inspired by rhythmic gymnastics such as drawings and paintings of gymnasts, even sculptures. That is why I decided to try and paint a rhythmic gymnast myself. Lacking any professional skills in this particular area, I chose to do a paint-by-numbers project which is essentially like a colouring book but with acrylics on a canvas.

The paint-by-numbers kit was developed in the 1950s, and has been especially popular for re-creating famous paintings at home, such as Van Gogh's 'The Starry Night' or Veermer's 'The Girl with the Pearl Earring'. Paint by numbers was also featured in one of my favourite movies - 'Mona Lisa Smile' (2003) with Julia Roberts. I recommend watching it if you haven't already, it is beautiful. In this article, I have decided to show you the process of creating an RG painting using this approach. You may like it, or you may not like it. It's okay, art is meant to be subjective anyway.

I chose to create a portrait of Boryana Kaleyn in her 2021 ball routine. I have already written about this routine in my first blog post (you can read it here). It is possible to get a custom-made paint-by-numbers canvas and that is what I went for (see the photo I used here). In the pictures and text below, you can follow my process of creating a portrait of Boryana Kaleyn's. I hope you enjoy it.

Kit Contents

The kit comes with all the acrylic paints and a colour map so that you can read which colour code corresponds to which number on the canvas. Then you can use the number stickers to place on top of each paint pot. Unlike a generic paint-by-numbers picture, a custom-made one means that the paints have been mixed uniquely for it. This is why the numbers aren't displayed appropriately on the lids to begin with. The kit comes with three brushes which appear at first to be of very low quality, however I ended up using them all because they were the perfect size for this project. Then, of course, the canvas itself. I went for a 60cm by 40cm size which is really quite big and in retrospect I should have gone for a smaller one to fit my easel. I chose the DIY frame which comes as 4 bits of wood that were really easy to assemble. You also get the pins to attach the canvas on the frame.

Step 1 - Frame Assembly

This step is super easy. The wooden frame bars are designed to fit into each other and it takes no time to slot them in to get the frame. I realised later that the shorter sides were the other way around (😃).

Step 2 - Canvas Preparation

This step is trickier than step 1, as I found it requires patience and attention to detail. The hardest part really is to get the canvas as stretched out as possible so it doesn't sag anywhere in the middle. I may have used some extra pins to secure it in place. I also made cuts at the corners to fold the canvas neatly. Having said that, I don't know if this is neat either - I winged it.

Step 3 - Painting

This part takes the longest, naturally, and the bigger the canvas, the longer it takes (so choose wisely the size of your canvas, if you do this - is my advise). It took me over a year to finish the painting by finding some free time to do little bits every now and then. I also deviated at times from the original plan in terms of colour and shapes, partly because some of the paints unfortunately dried out 6 months into the project. But I managed to take it to a satisfying conclusion.

Step 4 - Display

You can see the finished product below.


Thank you so much for reading. If you have enjoyed this article, press the little heart icon (❤) at the end and consider sharing it with other RG fans. Follow me on Instagram - here. Did you start a DIY project during the pandemic that is still going on? I think most of us probably tapped into some creativity during that time! It was the process of working on this painting that I enjoyed the most. I think it is also a great way to celebrate beauty in rhythmic gymnastics!

Until next time,


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