I recently began playing with a few mixed media techniques I haven’t messed with in awhile and it’s interesting to discover things again with fresh eyes. About a decade ago (goodness, has it really been that long?) I primarily worked with mixed-media collage and painting but in the past couple of years it seems that the majority of my work is created with drawing media, like ink, with a dash of watercolor here and there. Feeling unfamiliar with processes that were once second nature was awkward at first but I think a lot of the habits I formed were still ingrained because I fell back into the swing of it soon enough. Unlike my earlier work, the emphasis on drawing really took these works in a different direction.
I’ll try to explain a little about my technique in each work. Each pieces is small and created on either 5×7 canvas boards or masonite. I started a few by adhering magazine imagery to the panel using the “soak and smoosh” method in which you soak the magazine paper to release the sizing, blot it dry gently with paper towels, then use acrylic matte medium to glue down. You then coat the whole thing with a layer of matte medium and “smoosh” out all the air bubbles being really (really) careful not to disturb the fragile surface of the wet magazine – a foam brush is essential throughout the gluing/sealing process but I “smoosh” with my finger because it’s gentler than the brush. And I swear, it dries even after sealed down wet! This totally prevents your collaged magazine imagery from doing that distressing bubbling and rippling thing in the end – it’s like magic, however, it only works with coated or glossy magazine images (like Nat Geo or Veranda) and not pulp papers.
In the owl image below I collaged found book paper to the panel, added a bit of thin and watery gesso to “push” the text back, and then started to layer on my printed collage materials. I created some interesting collage papers by running thin sheets of drafters tracing paper (a little yellowy in color) through my ink jet printer. I copied imagery and printed them on a sheet of plain paper then taped the tracing paper over this (you can see through to ensure it covers your image) and ran it through the printer again. This was very successful and even when it messes up you can generally use what you made later. I adhered these thin printed layers with acrylic matte medium and let them dry. I then used a 1mm Sakura Micron pen to draw the flowers and leaves. I followed this up by adding some areas of acrylic paint and then sealing the whole thing with acrylic matte medium. When the medium was almost dry but still tacky I pressed in some gold leaf. I sealed it again after this.
Side note: This piece sold in the first hour these works were put out – owls are hot still I guess. I think it went to a good home but I really liked it and secretly hoped it wouldn’t sell so I could keep it without guilt. In the night moths above I used the “soak and smoosh” collage method with an image that had been distressed using CitraSolv (see previous posts on this magical process – I have videos!) and the nice blue is the result. I took black gesso on a foam brush and coated the sides and created the vignette feeling. I then used a a 1mm Sakura Micron pen and a gold ink pen to draw the foliage and moths. I sealed the entire work an then painted back in with some of the black gesso (and sealed again after pressing on some gold leaf… because everything needs gold leaf…). And lastly, this little gem – a personal favorite as it depicts (to me) the geese at my school that I adore and see every day. The work started with collaged book material (that was about geese) and some of the thin yellow tracing paper. I printed the imagery of the geese on the paper and then decided they needed to be painted because the print alone wasn’t special enough. The lily plants were then drawn on with a 1mm Sakura Micron pen and white gesso was used to separate the cubical space a little and allow the plants to come forward. While I also wanted to keep this one I was so happy that a colleague ended up purchasing this work as she is also familiar with our beloved campus geese. It’s nice when work ends up in the right place.
Experimenting with these types of small work is a quick and easy way to work out ideas in a low-stakes and accessibly way. I had a lot of fun messing with them and the gallery where I sell stuff like this seemed to really like them as well (mainly because they sell). I’ll continue to make them but do envision making some larger paintings sometime in the future – I have the itch now.
For more information about some of the techniques I use here check out previous posts on: Toner Transfer Secrets Revealed and Playful Experiments: CitraSolv & National Geographic Magazines