Layers & Textures

In some regards, this project should’ve been called “Mini Pandemonium”… After sharing my Pandemonium work online, I was contacted by a store owner wishing to have me teach that as a class at her store. As I explained to her, there would be no way to teach all of the techniques that I’d used for that piece even in a two day workshop so I decided to make a mini version of that piece for students to learn the basic construction of the base layers for creating Pandemonium, just on a smaller scale.

When I taught this as a class, I explained to students that creating a layered piece of artwork like this is just like making spaghetti sauce from scratch – it takes a lot of time to slowly build all the flavors to make the perfect sauce! And like making sauce from scratch, it always seems to take three times the amount of ingredients and time to get the finished product LOL

I prepped the surface of this 12 inch square canvas with heavy white gesso, and then hand tore some printed tissue paper that I wanted to incorporate into the background. Those pieces of tissue were then roughly placed onto the canvas so I could know where I wanted to paint the blue base background color that would show through the printed tissue paper. Once this was completed, I adhered the tissue paper into place and then used a stencil to apply Matte Gel Medium over parts of the printed tissue paper, that once dried, would act as ‘windows’ allowing the printed tissue to show through the harlequin printed stencil.

It always seems a little counter intuitive to spend all of this time up to this point to create a background just to cover it up, but that’s the next step! Using a palette knife, I began to randomly cover the canvas (sans the harlequin stenciled areas) with Sculpture Medium to create the rest of the texture base of the canvas. There are a variety of different materials available at hardware stores that can be substituted for the Sculpture Medium to create this texture and I always encourage students to experiment and find the best one that fits their needs because the drying times and texture created all vary.

When teaching this in class, we used heat tools to speed up the dry time of the mediums we use to create the backgrounds but like all texture mediums, my preference is to allow them to air dry overnight completely (or put it outside on a nice, sunny day) to keep the integrity of the mediums. Sometimes when using a heat tool, the Matte Gel and Sculpture Medium can sometimes crack in places, which happened with this project – but I love that look and just think that it adds to the texture!

Once the background texture was set, I began to add color washes onto the background to slowly build the color that I wanted. The beauty of using the Sculpture Medium and Matte Gel is that you can add a substantial amount of water (or other liquids) for building color layers without loss to the texture itself. For added shimmer to the background, I also used metallic mica powders in blue and bronze to highlight the texture areas.

For added texture and dimension, I like to incorporate torn pieces of cardboard into my mixed media pieces because it’s inexpensive and is a quick way to add an industrial look to your artwork. I generally add the cardboard to my canvas before applying the Sculpture Medium, but since I didn’t take a picture of this step in the process while creating this piece I’m mentioning it now. Adding the cardboard at that step of the process allows you to create a more seamless background that can incorporate the texture and colors selected for the background composition.

The Eiffel Tower image is added to the cardboard with Matte Gel, and the image and cardboard piece is then outlined using Brown Rust Effects Paste. While the paste was still wet, I added gold mica flakes and black metallic micro beads for even more texture. To the right of the cardboard is a wing made of paper clay that was colored in the same process as the background.

The lower half of the cardboard piece features a metal finding that was colored with metallic acrylic paints and mica powders after a couple of base coats of black gesso. The keyhole was made from paper clay, with the inside of the keyhole exposing gold mica flakes. From the bottom of the metal finding is a fleur-de-lys charm.

Every lock needs a key, right? With that idea in mind, I quickly sculpted a key from paper clay to place in the upper left corner of the canvas. As with the embellishments on the cardboard layer, I applied a layer of Brown Rust Paste onto the canvas to adhere the key into place. While the paste was still wet, I added the inclusions to highlight the key a bit.

I hope that this project inspires you to try some new techniques on your next mixed media project!