Hi all! I'm up today on StencilGirl Talk with my quarterly blog column focused on paint and texture. This month I've taken inspiration from the fall season and made a mixed media panel with a tree bark-esque textured background, and fall leaves made from acrylic skins.
I'm excited to share that I'm an instructor in a new year-long online art retreat from Mystic Springs Studio called "Art Walk Alchemy 2019." The theme for the year is going to be focused on totems and talismans — those ideas, objects, and emblems that represent something significant in our lives, and I couldn't be more excited.
Each month you'll receive two lessons - each with at least 1-1/2 hours of video, from two different professional artists... 24 in total! There's a diverse and amazing group of artist mentors joining us this year, and I'm thrilled to be a part of it.
I can't share peeks of my project just yet, but I can tell you that it's going to be part sculpture, part totem, a bit goddess-inspired, and chock full of some of my favorite mixed media tricks and techniques. We'll create a 3D mixed media piece that’s kind of a cross between a spirit doll and a totem. I'll share techniques for creating a basic armature by working with clay, foam, cardboard, a wooden dowel, and aluminum foil. Also, some alternatives for faces aside from sculpting – I’ll provide ideas and even a few sources. We’ll create some embellishments, including items for the totem that go through and inside the doll – starting with a headdress. We’ll embellish the entire structure using beads, trims, paints, fabrics, broken jewelry, small found objects, and paper. I’ll also share alternative ideas for representing the totems aside from creating them from scratch. The entire piece will be based on a pedestal of some kind, with options to be discussed in the class. I'll be providing patterns that you can download and use at home - it's going to be fabulous, if I do say so myself!
For just $99 (early bird price good through 12/31/18,) you get all 24 downloadable art lessons, a creative community, supply lists and early access to some course packs, plus downloads and freebies throughout the year. There's even a payment plan to make it a bit more budget friendly.
Here's a quick little intro video with a bit more information and a quick peek all 24 of the teachers:
Hi all, and welcome to my stop on this week's blog hop with StencilGirl and Emerald Creek! At this point I don't think that it's really any secret that I love me some embossing powder. It's such a versatile medium, and you can use it in so many different ways! Of course, embossing powder also pairs perfectly with stencils, so I was thrilled to hear that StencilGirl and Emerald Creek were teaming up to do a second blog hop (we also did one in December of last year. If you missed it, make sure to check that out too for even more inspiration!)
This time around, I decided to decorate the cover of a handmade artist book that I've been working on. I wanted something that was extremely textured and grungy, and yet still fit with the overall theme of the book, which is courage.
Of course, I also put together a short tutorial so that you can see how to recreate these effects in your own projects. Ready?
To start, I coated the cover with black gesso, let it dry, then used a gold texture paste with my Chinese Garden Plum Blossoms stencil to get the flowers onto the background. You could do this with pigment or embossing ink and embossing powder, but I knew that I was going to do quite a bit of layering and melting in the vicinity of this design and I didn't want to lose the crisp lines, so I used the texture paste instead.
Once the texture paste was dry, I took out some scraps of tissue paper, matte medium, and a brush, and started laying the foundation of the texture in the background. It doesn't really matter what the pattern is on your paper, (or if there is one!) as it will all be covered up in the end. (Old sewing patterns also work great for this.)
I coated the background in matte medium, scrunched up some tissue paper and then coated the back of that as well, and then laid it on the wet background, manipulating it with my fingers as I went so that I created lots of peaks and valleys with the paper. I kept doing this until most of the cover was coated, leaving the flowers peeking through.
I worked fairly quickly at this point - this was partly to keep myself from overthinking the positioning of the tissue paper, and partly because I needed the matte medium to be wet for the next step, which was the application of a lot of Baked Texture embossing powder. I started with Rocky Road, sprinkling it around the edges and right along the areas next to the flowers - I wanted something very textured and crusty looking, and this was the perfect way to get that look. I tapped off the excess powder and returned it to the jar, then I used Dirty Sand, making sure to leave some areas open, then repeated one more time with Chunky Rust. I put the extra powder back in the jar each time so that I could use it again later.
Once the entire background had its first coat of powder, I pulled out my heat gun and went to work. I kept it pretty close to the surface so that the medium and powder would bubble as it melted. The effect you achieve with this is fabulous! (Just a note that you may have heard from me before, but because you're heating acrylic mediums here, you get fumes. I always cover my nose and mouth for this process - I even have a respirator in my studio for really extended embossing sessions!)
After the first layer was melted, I took out Ancient Amber, Deep Sea, and Patina Oxide and alternately re-melted the surface with the heat gun, sprinkled powder on the hot surface, and then heated to fuse it into the surface. The result is a gorgeous, mottled look that you really can't get any other way!
Once I'd gotten the texture I wanted in the background, I pulled out a blend of gold leafing flakes and applied some on the background, then used some gold wax from PaperArtsy and applied with my finger on the tops of the texture - it adds depth and shine, all at the same time.
To this point, I'd done a pretty good job of adding the grunge factor, but I needed some boho - bright colors to the rescue! I used my Posca paint markers to color in the flowers. I like to add in a few shades of the same color or two similar colors and blend them with my finger while they're still wet.
I also pulled out my Marabu Art Crayons and added bits of color into the background, using my finger and a water brush to spread it out a bit.
Finally, I took some Emerald Creek Fleur brads, poked holes in the cover with an awl, and then inserted them to give a subtle, decorative touch to the cover. I used my finger to wipe a bit more of the gold PaperArtsy wax over the surface - the raised design on the brad really picked it up beautifully!
Voilà ! The finished cover!
Here are a few close-ups so that you can get a good sense of the amazing texture you can get by using embossing powder in your mixed media work:
I hope you enjoyed today's project... I know I did! Of course, now for the part you've all been waiting for!
GIVEAWAY One lucky winner will receive $50 in Gift Certificates to Emerald Creek and StencilGirl® Products!
Enter to win by leaving a comment below, then be sure to visit the other blogs in the hop and comment; the more blogs you comment on, the more chances you have to WIN! One winner will be chosen at random from all blog comments. (One comment per person per blog please.)
You have until Tuesday, August 21st at 11:59PM Central Time to leave your comments. The winner will be announced on the StencilGirl® Products Facebook page and Emerald Creek’s Facebook page on Wednesday, August 22.
Make sure you check out all of today's posts for lots of fabulous inspiration!
This course will walk through the creation of a mixed media panel, done in my signature Boho Grunge style, from start to finish . I didn't have the project pre-planned other than to bring some likely options to the shoot, so you get to see the organic process as it really happens in my studio!
Here's the project that I make in this class - it's called "Crossroads."
In the workshop, I'll share the background technique that I used for this piece, as well as some stenciling tips, how I created the layers, and how I selected and assembled the elements of the focal point. I'll even show how I made different metals look the same and applied a faux rust effect! You can use these techniques to create a similar piece on your own, or apply them individually to your projects.
I'm very happy with how the class came out, and it was a lot of fun to film it... I hope you'll enjoy taking the workshop just as much! You can check out the introduction video and intros to each of the course chapters for free, or register now! I hope you'll join me!
Over the last year or so I've received lots of questions about how to use woodblocks for printing, especially on paper. I love to use block-printed images in my work... they make beautiful focal points for collage, and there are also a lot of stunning patterns that are great for backgrounds and patterned papers. One of my favorite things about them is that they give you the ability to create your own unique collage fodder as you can change the colors of your paints and colors and types of papers, the arrangement and combination of the blocks when printing, etc... so that you can create something that brings your personal flair into your work!
While I'm definitely not a pro at printmaking, I've been fortunate enough to get some good instruction that's helped me find what works for me. First, I was at Artistic Artifacts in Alexandria Virginia a few years ago and had a great demo from the owner, Judy Gula. (She has a video out there too that's also helpful!) They carry lots of blocks, and they work directly in families in India to have them made, so they're Fair Trade and support the artisans directly.
I was also very lucky to be able to attend several demos and workshops while I was in Jaipur, India last year. I got some real hands-on experience, observed masters at work, and was able to talk to one of the workshop owners about some of the details of the printing process, especially how they set up their printing tables.
This was a demo of Dabu block printing. It's similar to Batik, only they use mud as the resist instead of wax and coat it with sawdust while it's drying.
At another workshop in Jaipur, we observed and then got a chance to participate in more traditional block printing on fabric. This gentleman appears in my video below:
And here I am, printing a border on my fabric (the final product was pretty nice, if I say so myself! And the owner of the workshop asked me if I was an experienced printer... lol. I was proud of my meager skills.)
The workshop was filled with inspiration... blocks were piled on shelves under every table, and vats of ink sat in the sunlight, waiting to be used...
We also had an opportunity to see how the blocks are carved. There are videos of this process online if you do a search - it's mesmerizing and awe-inspiring.
A close-up of his work - gorgeous.
You could buy blocks from the street vendors! I had one follow me with some gorgeous border blocks and I was able to negotiate a crazy good price for them... between that and the workshops, I came home with a lovely selection to add to my collection.
With that introduction, on to the tips and tricks!
I put together a video which includes a clip that I took in one of those workshops along with my tips for printing surfaces, choosing and applying paint, printing, and cleaning your blocks. I'm also showing the two main types of woodblocks that I use in my own work, and then below I've broken out the highlights in case you want a refresher or just want to skim instead of watching the video (it's about 18 minutes.)
1. Printing Surfaces
You need something with some give under your paper or fabric while printing; traditional rubber stamps are usually mounted on some kind of cushion, but blocks also need that "give" in the surface in order to get a good impression, especially since these are all hand-carved and the surfaces may not be completely even. A few options:
My surface is a sheet of foam core that's been covered with four layers or 1/8" thick fun foam from the craft store. I made sure that they all fit together very tightly so there are no gaps in my surface. This works for me because it's large enough that I can print on parent sheets of paper (usually around 24" x 36") and then cut them down, and I can also pick it up and put it away when I'm not printing.
You can use something like a mousepad or a yoga mat. In the video I show a mousepad, a Pergamano mat (Pergamano is parchment craft where you emboss and pierce vellum to make beautiful designs... I'm not kidding when I say I've tried everything!) I also showed a thick piece of something like craft foam that also works great.
2. Paints, Papers, & Tools
First up, paint. Generally speaking, ink doesn't work - it dries too quickly (although after a conversation on Facebook, I do want to experiment a bit with some types of pigment ink, just to see if I could heat emboss one of these images.) The "ink" they use in India is like a very thin paint, and they have shallow open boxes with thick pads in them that soak up the paint from below and they use it like a stamp pad, refilling it when it starts to get low. While that's practical in a professional printing workshop, it's hard to find a way to store and maintain that sort of thing at home, so I just stick with paint, a palette, and a brayer.
I use acrylic paint - student grade is fine for this... I save my Golden and other professional grade acrylic paints for other applications, especially because you can go through a fair amount of paint in a printing session and it could get expensive fast if you're using the good stuff.
That said, paint on its own dries too quickly to print with, so you need some kind of extender. That has the benefit of both thinning the paint for better application and printing with the blocks, and extending the open time of the paint so that it doesn't dry before you can print with it.
I use a fabric or textile medium as my additive. You could use something like the Golden GAC-900, but again, I tend to save the expensive stuff and use the craft product here. The other one I've got in the video is from Delta, and you can find it in the aisle with the craft paints. It works just fine, and it will save you a lot of money! Of course, you can use other extenders, but this lets me print on both fabric and paper without having to change mediums. (You can print on fabric with another medium, but if you want it to be washable, you'll need to make sure you're using a fabric medium and then heat set it later.)
I just put the paint out on my palette (I use a metal inking plate - the one I have is Jack Richeson and I like it because it has a lip that goes over the edge of the table to help anchor it.) I add in my medium and mix it up with a palette knife. In the video I said that it's thinner than heavy body acrylic but not as thin as fluid acrylic, but that's personal preference. The ink in the workshop in India was quite thin, and I've used some other paints that were thin and those worked great too. You can also premix your paint and medium and store it in an empty bottle - I do this sometimes as well.
A few other thoughts on paint and ink...
Printing ink like Speedball works great. But, it's generally water soluble so if you're going to use your papers for collage, it smears. A lot. (Take it from someone who knows!)
There's a brand of printing ink called Akua that works really well and prints beautifully, but it has some drawbacks that make it so that I, personally, prefer not to use it. It's made from an oil (it smells like tung oil to me, and I don't care for the scent,) and it's crazy messy to clean up... it gets under your fingernails like nobody's business and good luck getting it back off. The other thing is that it dries through absorption, so if you print on thinner paper or print multiple colors on top of each other, if there's not enough paper to absorb all of the ink, it will never dry. (But, you can leave it out on your metal inking plate and walk away for a few hours and you're golden when you come back!)
Also, Golden OPEN acrylics work great - I do thin those with the OPEN medium. They print beautifully and the open time means they don't dry before you can print, but they're very expensive and because they're meant to have that really long open time like oil paints, your prints can take up to several days to completely dry. I don't know about you, but I sure don't have time for that! LOL.
To apply to the blocks, I use a brayer:
Soft rubber brayers tend to work best, especially with the hand-carved and slightly uneven surface of the blocks. If possible, it's nice to use a brayer that's about the same size as your block or a bit larger - this helps to keep lines from the edge of the brayer from showing up in your print. The one I used here is my favorite - it's a 6" Japanese brayer, but you can definitely get more budget-friendly brayers from Amazon or your local art or craft supply store. (I said in the video that I thought the name of the place I get them from was MacPhersons, but it's actually McClains - close!)
Finally, choosing your substrate...
Woodblocks are designed for printing on fabric, so obviously fabric is going to work perfectly. I usually just use cotton, muslin, or even like a duck cloth or canvas and they've all worked great for me. But paper is where it gets tricky, and I have a lot of people tell me that printing doesn't work and half the time it's because of the paper they're printing on.
I'll just say this, cardstock has never worked well for me. The combination of thick and stiff means that it's pretty much the antithesis of fabric, and that means that it doesn't mold to the block when you're printing, even with the right surface underneath. Try and find paper that has a lot of the same qualities as fabric. For me, that means something very flexible and fibrous - my go-to papers are rice and mulberry, but I've also used printmaking paper like BFK Rives with a lot of success. It's thick, but has the other qualities you need.
My friend Jill takes a lot of printmaking classes and she shared a good tip with me that I've used successfully... if you have a thicker / stiffer paper, you can spritz it with water and then blot it with a towel. The water will help break down the fibers so that the paper loses that stiffness, but you need to blot it so that it's not actually wet - you don't want your paint to seep or spread after you print. (Unless you do, of course... that could be a cool effect if you wanted to do it on purpose!)
Wow... that's a lot of build-up before getting to the main event, right? But the printing doesn't work if you don't have the right surface, paint, and paper.
You'll want to ink up your brayer, but make sure you don't get it too gloppy or you'll get gloppy prints (probably best to watch the video for this part.) Then I put my block face up on the table or in my hand and apply the paint, making sure to get good coverage. You'll want to make at least one or two test prints on scrap paper (I use deli paper) because you generally need to prime your block the first time you use it in a printing session before you get consistently good prints... the first few usually have gaps and faint spots.
To print, just carefully place the block where you want it, then press down with both hands - even pressure, and make sure that you press all areas of the block. I do this standing - it gives the best leverage. (And as I mention in the video, I've had sore abs the next day after printing for a few hours straight!)
If you want to see how they do it in India - which is painful to watch AND do yourself, make sure to check my clip in the video! It does work, though!
Also, as I mentioned, you can use a baren - I usually only do this with my smaller blocks... it helps to apply even pressure on the block so that you get a complete print without having an uneven application of paint. (If you want to do this on larger blocks, you can make or get a press - there are lots of different ones available.)
4. Clean Up
The last question I get is whether / how to clean your blocks. Yes - I clean them. I try to clean them as quickly as possible after use so that the paint doesn't dry in the nooks and crannies of the design. I use water and a bristle brush called a mechanic's nail brush so it's fairly gentle. Of course, this also has the benefit of doubling as a way to clean your hands - mine always get covered in paint! This particular type of brush has a line of bristles on the back that's meant to get under your nails. Very handy!
In addition, I sometimes use a gentle soap - I like this Savvy Soap that I get from McClains - it also smells nice! They say it has a "citrus scent," but it actually smells more like cinnamon to me. Either way! Again, this is good on both the blocks and your hands. If you use the blocks that have the white stain to show the design, usually the white is still there after you clean them. It depends on what the maker used when the block was created - some will rub off, but most of mine come back - the block below has been used and cleaned a few times and still looks great.
I've used stencils along with a few different acrylic mediums and paints, collage, embossing powder, and a few other fun dimensional elements. Make sure to head over and check out the step-by-step tutorial and lots more photos!
I'm excited to have Jackie Neal jumping in from the Artist Tribe today with her stunning mixed media panel called, "Are the Stars Out Tonight?"
Jackie is doing all kinds of fabulous dimensional stenciling using my new July StencilClub collection, "Ceramic Tiles." (This set of three stencils is available exclusively to StencilClub members, so if you're interested in getting your hands on it, make sure to check out the club! If you join before July 15th, you'll start with this set, and it comes with a mini online class too!)
Surprise! I bet you thought that with last month's stencil release that I was done for a while, right? Nope! I'm thrilled to share that I'm the StencilClub designer for July! This month's collection is called Ceramic Tiles - I think you can see why. Here's a little peek at the stencils that will ship to members on July 15th:
I also filmed a quick introduction where I share the background on the design inspiration as well as a few fun little tips and tricks about how the stencils can work together:
Of course, I also have few samples using this months designs... (and seriously, now that the cat is out of the bag, I'm going to be using these all over the place!) First up, I've started yet another new artist book, and the first two spreads both use these new stencils. This is a handmade book, and the pages are a bit under 8" x 8." On the opening page, I used the 6" x 6" Fleur de Lys tile and cut out the center - that's backed with a vintage letter written in a beautiful Slavic script, and then I used the center of the 4" x 4" design in the middle.
On this second spread, you can see where I used one of the medallions from the 9" x 12" repeating Circle Tile stencil as part of the focal point:
One of the perks of StencilClub is that each month's collection comes with a mini online class... you get a sneak peek in the video above, but here are a few photos of the project we'll make in the class, which is a mini art journal made from a single sheet of paper.
In the close-up here, you get a better idea of what the 4" x 4" stencil looks like when you repeat it to create a full medallion:
During the video, I also create one of my collage papers as part of the process:
These stencils are exclusively available to StencilClub members, but it's only $25 a month and there's no commitment. You get all three stencils, plus the online class and downloadable PDF! Not to mention the fabulous and supportive Facebook group and a monthly coupon. If you're interested and you aren't already a StencilClub member, you can sign up before July 15th and this will be your first kit. (Plus, club members can order any previous StencilClub collection, including my December 2016 collection, Heraldry.) So what are you waiting for?
A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to teach a few classes at Papercraft Clubhouse in Connecticut, and Artist Tribe member Jill McDowell was there to join in the fun. Today she's sharing the translucent art journal that she made in class and then finished up at home (we only did the backgrounds and the front side of the accordion journal in class, so she added a lot!)
Jackie Neal is joining us from the Artist Tribe today with a truly mixed media creation! She's combined lots of different types of products and techniques to make a journal cover full of fabulous details!
Today I'm sharing more details and examples using the three Boho animal designs: fish, birds, and butterflies. I'll start with the original Boho design... the fish. This actually came about more than 10 years ago when I was trying to find a way to fill space on the huge walls in the stairway of the townhouse I lived in at the time. I was still pretty much a mixed media novice, but I had an idea to make a series of 16" x 20" canvases and cover the background with textured shapes and patterns and then put collaged animals on top. Heading down the stairs was all cool colors and I used fish, collaged in paper. Heading up the stairs was all warm colors, and I used birds collaged from fabric. It actually turned out really cool, and I kept those installations in place for years, even after moving to Connecticut!
Fast forward to about a year ago... I still have the original collaged fish, and I took one and traced it to make an updated version - my handmade collaged Boho fish. (My original design was a basic hand-drawn shape made from cardstock and I carried that over.)
I was really surprised out how popular these little guys ended up becoming! I continued to make and even teach similar versions of these fish, and then this last January it evolved into what I call my 3D Boho Collage technique. I hand-drew a new fish design for one of my early versions of this technique, named him Gus, and instantly fell in love. That exact drawing was then scanned and became one of the fish patterns on my new Boho Fish stencil.
You may have seen it, but in case you missed him, here's Gus:
I also used the new middle fish design as a beaded embroidery pattern for one of the pages in a new artist book I've started... it's on a transparent page that layers on top of a paper page that has a collage version of the fish on it - they line up so that when you layer them, it looks like this:
The third fish on this stencil is actually the exact same body as my original pattern, and then I added fins and some other details.
Of course, if I did fish, there had to be birds as well (had to close the loop on that original concept from more than a decade ago!)
While I was playing around with the Boho collaged fish, I also drew a stylized bird pattern and made a collage of that:
Like the fish, this guy was traced and scanned and became the first of the birds on my Boho Birds stencil. Of course, I had to try out my 3D Boho Collage with the birds as well, so he also became Rusty:
Rusty needed some friends, so I drew two more less stylized birds to keep him company and added a few words and phrases to the design. One of them cried out to become another 3D collage, so this one is the "Queen of Her Nest."
Finally, I wanted to branch out to something new for the third stencil. Butterflies are a motif that I use frequently; for me they symbolize change and transformation. I drew three designs, including a Peacock butterfly, of course! and added those words to this stencil:
I pulled out my art journal to work with these, starting with the largest butterfly and some soft pastels on top of a collaged background:
On another page, I stenciled the other two butterflies and the word "change" and then used watercolors to fill in the designs.
Whew! That's it for my introduction to this new stencil release! I just love all of these designs, and I hope you do too! I took pictures of the process for several of my samples, so watch for some tutorials in the near future. In the meantime, all of my stencils (including the new ones) are available in my shop, and of course they're also available from StencilGirl.
Linda used my Not Afraid to Try stencil along with recycled paint skins from her craft mat. In her post she discusses both the idea fear as well as overcoming it, and she's also sharing several other art journal pages with this stencil. Make sure you stop by her blog to read more and see all of the details!
This release includes six "Boho" stencils (hopefully there will be more, but we'll see!) as well as the first of what I hope will be many in my new Collage Textures & Patterns collection. I've been working hard to create samples for these new designs and there's a lot to share, so I'm going to break it into two posts so they don't get too long. Today I want to focus on the circle stencils.
First up, the Collage Textures and Patterns, Circles stencil. The inspiration for this collection came while I was making collage papers in my studio. I started thinking that it would be great to have stencils that had been specifically designed with the idea of making the types of collage papers that I use most frequently, so why not design some? I hope there will be many more, but I wanted to start with my favorite motif - circles.
The top section was designed to create random areas of texture and pattern - large or small, and it's great for filling in spaces. The middle can obviously be used as a border, or you can mask off specific areas to use them on their own. The bottom was tricky to design, but I'm so thrilled with how it came out! You can repeat this both horizontally and vertically to make borders and backgrounds, or just use part of it for a section of pattern. The whole stencil works beautifully with molding and texture pastes as well (just make sure to clean it thoroughly so the pastes don't gunk up the openings.)
I've used this stencil on several of my samples, starting with this one - "Crossing Paths," which also features my Boho Striped Circle stencil (more on that one in a minute.)
This piece is 16" x 12" x 2" on canvas and has lots of layers of collage and paint. You can see where I used the top section of the stencil for random pattern, and then the border design was used to decorate and emphasize the lines in the cross behind the focal point.
The focal point of this piece is an assemblage of found metal objects and jewelry parts all layered on top of the Boho Striped Circle stencil. This design was inspired by a hand-carved woodblock I found in India last year.
I used gold texture paste through the stencil onto some painted deli paper and then tore it out and collaged it onto the canvas. You can also see how I've used it on the top and bottom of the "Ornery Ostrich" mixed media piece below:
Of course, this piece also showcases another design; the Boho Star Circle stencil, again inspired by a woodblock from India.
Here's a closeup of "Ornery Ostrich" so you can see some of the details:
The ostrich is a digital sketch I did on my iPad that I printed out and accented with colored pencil and an acrylic glaze. The stenciling was done with molding paste on cotton rag paper, then I cut out the star-shaped center of the design and used it as a frame, surrounded by beaded embellishment.
The last stencil I'm featuring today is my Boho Mandala Circle stencil. Again, inspired by a woodblock from India as well as traditional mandala designs.
On this piece, entitled "Stolen," I once more used the stencil as the base for layering various dimensional elements, then repeated it around the sides of the wooden panel.
For a different look with the Boho Mandala Circle stencil, I used it to create a layered and collaged focal point on this art journal page:
Also, the title of this page - "Away," was done by rearranging the letters from a phrase on the Boho Fish stencil. I stenciled them onto the fabric background with black StazOn ink and then stitched over top with gold thread.
Recently I posted one or two work-in-progress photos and then a picture of the finished product for a new mixed media painting that I called "Phoenix." As it happens, I took photos at the different phases along the way... not a full on tutorial, but I thought it would be fun to share how this piece progressed and maybe a little bit of my thought process as I worked.
To start, I had an inspiration piece in mind - vague, and totally subject to change, as always. I began by gathering supplies to do some collage on the background (as you can see, I always use really cheap, beat up brushes with gesso and matte medium - then I don't feel so guilty about gunking up the ferrule.)
I pulled out my easel and set up my canvas - 24" x 30," and got to work. Here you can see what it looked like after I wrote all over the background (a highly cathartic part of my process that I do quite frequently on everything from canvases to art journal pages - it shows up in various layers of my work, and here it happened to be the base layer. I also frequently write in French - using a second language seems to make it easier for me to express thoughts and feelings. Weird? Maybe!) On top of the writing is the collage and white gesso.
Next I started painting. I just grabbed Indian Yellow and Prussian Blue because they look good together and they were right there in big bottles, conveniently sitting out as if waiting for me to use them on this. Over the last few months, I've been very drawn to the plus sign or a modified Maltese cross - for me it symbolizes positivity, healing energy, and renewal.
As I worked, I used my typical process of cleaning off my paintbrushes on scrap paper, creating some fabulous collage fodder in the process...
While I was making these papers, I had no intention of using them in this piece, but the artwork seemed to call for some of the specific motifs that had ended up on those collage papers, so I tore them out and added them onto the painting.
My original inspiration was already fading fast at this point, and as I continued to work I suddenly started thinking about my visit to the botanical gardens in Singapore four years ago. Don't ask me why... I still haven't entirely figured out how and why my brain makes the connections that it does, but I have learned that it's usually a good idea to go with it. So with that in mind, I sat down and sketched out some flowers and then colored them with soft pastels and then used an aerosol acrylic spray to seal them so I could collage them onto the painting without smudging the color.
After letting the sealant dry overnight, I cut out the flowers and collaged them onto the piece.
I knew I wanted even more flowers, so I took out my Chinese Garden Plum Blossoms stencil and stenciled some more blooms into each of the clusters, then used acrylic paints to flesh them out.
You can see hints of it in the photo above, but my work wouldn't be "boho grunge" without the grunge - I love a nice, dark texture paste, and I'd added some all over the canvas here, and also used several word stencils and stenciled a series of words on top of each other all around the border of the canvas. More catharsis, plus it framed the artwork quite nicely! I also used my Ornamental Compass Screen stencil here and there in the background for the added impression of texture.
To me, the symbolism of the cruciform motif and plus signs inside circles along with clustered blooms of flowers seeming to burst out of the grit and darkness made me think of a phoenix - rising from the ashes to be reborn and start anew. (If only it was that easy to break through and overcome our challenges in real life, right?)
Here are a few close-ups of the finished piece:
I'm really pleased with how this painting came out... in fact, it's the first piece of my own work that I've ever displayed in my living room where visitors can see it! In any case, I hope you enjoyed this little glimpse into my process :)