Sunday, October 7, 2012

Mixed Media Project: Supplies and Getting Started

I recently completed a cute mixed media project (the "P" is 1 of 5 canvases) that I donated to the dance studio my daughter has attended for 7 or 8 years now.

Flat Canvases 
Mixed Media isn't really that difficult to do in that the PROCESS isn't particularly complicated.  It is the ability to design a great piece and balance it out that is the hard part and that is something you have to work through yourself .  If you are stumped you can find lots of classes online that teach you how to make a specific project.  Don't forget to you can use other pieces as inspiration.

What you need: Canvas, Glue, Paper, Colorants, Tools, Embellishments and an idea.

Stretched Canvas
Stretched Canvas
I buy canvases from Michael's or Hobby Lobby.  It doesn't matter whether you use the flat, hard canvases or the stretched canvas.   I love the look of the unframed stretched canvases for mixed media but the flat canvas is easier to work with.  I will say that the really cheap stretched canvases tend to stretch in the center and if you are working them a lot- like you do with mixed media-you end up with a sag in the center.  Sort of like getting old.

Lots of people use Mod Podge and I do as well….. sometimes.  It is cheap and easy to find.  That is really the only advantage I see.  Mod Podge is very watery which leaves things goopy and wet.  That means it is easy to gets lots of wrinkles if you aren't careful about getting them out.   I've seen people use watered down Elmer's glue as well which would basically be a homemade Mod Podge.

I prefer Gel or Multi-Medium as a glue.  It works great on paper but you can use it to glue just about anything.  I am talking big bulky items will stay in place.  Lots of companies make Multi-Medium- you will find it in the fine art supplies.  Golden makes a great product but it is pricy.  I used an entire jar + for 7 canvases I recently covered and at Michael's it is $15/jar.  That is certainly more than the few dollars for Mod Podge but I like the end results that much more.   My absolute favorite Multi-Medium- by far- is Claudine Hellmuth's Studio Multi-Medium.  It has a really nice constancy making it easy to spread out and the finish is perfect.  The problem?  It is harder to find.  Claudine recently announced that Hobby Lobby would be carrying some of her stuff signature products so it might become easier to get ahold of.  For now it is readily available online.  By the way, her paints are terrific as well; they have the consistency of Golden paints without the price.

Multi-Medium, like Mod Podge comes in different finishes.  Matte, semi-gloss, and glossy.  Which one you use is entirely a personal preference; I prefer matte- and this might be another reason I don't really like Mod Podge because even the matte is sort of shinny.

To apply the glue…expect to get messy.  I use a disposable foam brush and my hands.  Yes, you get messy and you will have to stop and peel every so often if you don't want big glue boogers on your canvas.  While texture is desirable…not all texture is good texture.

To begin you will needs lots of cool papers to form the base of your canvas.  Vintage is always better but I don't have a big stash of vintage so new works too.  I use a combination of maps, tissue paper, book pages, very lightweight cardboard, receipts, tickets, patterned scrapbook paper, out of date airline maps and papers (remember hubby is a pilot) ….anything will work here.  You will be covering it all with paint and paper and stuff so have at it.

Once the base is complete you will want some patterned scrapbook papers to built the image you are creating.  More on that in another post.

mixed media pack
Anything that lays down color works here.  Of course the go-to product you will use is paint but lots of other things are used to add texture and color.

I prefer Golden paint but it is pricy at $8 for a few ounces or Claudine's Studio line but they aren't available locally.  Most people would recommend cheap acrylic paints for beginning mixed media projects.  As in the kind you find at Michael's for $1.99.  Me?  I would never say that because I hate the way they feel on my hands and arms as I work with the canvas.  They are so dry and scratchy it literally drives me nuts.  I happy to report that Martha Stewart's paints feel like Claudine's or Golden paints with the rich, creamy texture that doesn't drive me insane after it dries.  They come in lots of gorgeous "Martha" colors and different finishes including  satin, gloss, pearl, glitter, metallic, glow-in-the-dark and chalkboard.  Martha's paints are self-priming so they be painted on almost anything without a lot of prepping.  Best of all,  they aren't very expensive and are available locally at Michael's and JoAnn's, as well as online. has a color finder if you want to check out the colors before you head to the store.

You can add lots of other coloring products as well including: water color paints, crayons, oil or water color crayons, colored pencils, markers, pens, stains, inks, and chalks.  Just about anything can be added.  Faber Castell has lots of cool products for making mixed media pieces including Gelato pigment sticks and mixed media Mix and Match packs containing Big Brush Pen, colored pencils, paintbrush and a rubber stamp.  They have pastels that are gorgeous and not messy.  Check out their blog for lots of mixed media ideas and videos showing who to use their products.

This would be the vague area of mixed media because "tools" can mean anything from a commercial stencil to an old roll of toilet paper.  I collect things and throw them into a big plastic storage bin as I find them.  Items commonly used are: bubble wrap, stencils, mesh, old cardboard tubes (aka toilet paper tubes), rubber stamps, inks, modeling pastes, sandpaper…the list goes on and on.  Anything that you can use to get texture onto the canvas.
Molding Paste Texture
Modeling or molding pastes are fabulous for adding texture.  They dry hard giving your canvas a raised element.  I will show you later how to do that but basically you trowel the paste over the stencil, remove the stencil, let it dry and color over it.  Golden is my favorite brand and they have lots of information on their website.  Michael's sells Golden and Liquitex brand and a little really goes a long way when you are beginning.

Again this is a vague topic because some people don't add much by way of embellishments outside of the color.  Me? I love to add glass glitter, ribbons, rub ons, scrapbooking supplies, rhinestones, fabric, flowers….on and on.  Anything goes again.  It's "mixed media" after all so MIX your MEDIA.

Donna Downey offers lots of free videos on her website as well as sells mixed media products.  She also offers workshops and online classes.  She hosts "inspiration Wednesday" by posting free video how-to's.  Be warned, like me she is very scattered in her artistic process, she drops things, has to go ask her husband to open jars, forgets stuff…..just like me.

Claudine Hellmuth also posts video tutorials on her blog.  Claudine is the real deal- she's nice as can be (I met her at CHA) and an actual artist with the credentials to back it up.

On to the photos:
A few small wrinkles are ok, but you do not want to leave any air bubbles or big wrinkles.  NO matter how many times you tell yourself they add texture….they don't.  Big air bubbles will pop at some point and big wrinkles just look amateurish and sloppy. Take the times to work them out.  

Be sure to cover the entire project with a final layer of multi medium before setting it aside to dry.

Let it dry for a few hours or over night.  I like to glue up a bunch because this is the messy part and once you get mess you might as well keep going.

Laters Baby….

1 comment:

  1. I haven't used Claudine's gel medium. I like Golden and use it on canvases and other pieces that get sent out. However, I use Mod Podge in my art journals, because it's cheaper and it's just my art journal. The one thing I don't like about Golden is, I find I don't get to use an entire jar of it. By the time I get to the last bit of it, it's too gluppy and just un-usable and a waste considering the price.
    Have a beautiful week, Danee!


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