Inspiration from Japan: A Mixed-Media Art Project

It can be difficult to come up with mixed-media art ideas on a daily, or even weekly, basis. To combat artist’s block and cultivate effective creative habits, one popular practice is to use the calendar as inspiration. Enter Alena Hennessy’s Intuitive Painting Workshop: Techniques, Prompts, and Inspiration for a Year of Painting. Complete with step-by-step mixed-media art lessons, the book guides you through the year with new ideas to keep your gears turning. The regular practice will help keep you primed to create. 

In the following excerpt from Intuitive Painting Workshop, you’ll tap into the beauty of Japan to create a beautiful piece of art for the month of November.

Mixed-media art by Alena Hennessy |
Art by Alena Hennessy (Pin this project!)

An Art Project for November by Alena Hennessy

This month we travel east to Japan and other worldly places to paint (even if it’s just in our imagination). Here the symbolic, quirky, flat, and dreamy illustrative style of Japanese art will inspire and motivate new ways of seeing and creating. When we learn to see how other parts of the world take in their surroundings and express them through paint, we learn so much not only as artists but also as humans. 

Do a Web search on Japanese artists or Japanese art and look through images until you find some that speak to you. Print several of them out to use as references. Take your time with this and choose some that you will be inspired to paint from!

What You Need:

  • Acrylic paint: colors you enjoy, including at least one neutral
  • Clear spray varnish
  • Inks: acrylic ink or India ink
  • Paint brushes for acrylic painting: soft round/mop, flat and angled
  • Paper towel
  • Pencil
  • Smock
  • Surface: canvas, wood panel, Gessoboard, Aquabord or thick watercolor paper
  • Water cup
  • Water-based paint pens and/or Neocolor II Artists’ Crayons


Mixed-media art techniques with Alena Hennessy |

1. Make a simple yet elegant background with just a few colors. I wet the Aquabord and then applied a light green ink. I blotted up the excess water or air bubbles with a paper towel, and then applied black ink into the center for a contrasting effect. Using a paper towel, I rubbed paint off down the center, leaving darker lines on the outsides. 

Mixed-media art techniques with Alena Hennessy |

2. I drybrushed any remaining black ink over the green parts to create an implied texture, almost like a wood grain. I did this simply by using a dry thick brush and dragging it into the semi-dry black ink. I then added a little more bright green ink over it to give the background another layer–for more depth. 

Mixed-media art techniques with Alena Hennessy |

3. Japanese paintings are pretty flat or surface based, and they have a whimsical illustrated quality to them. Begin to sketch in your subject matter with a pencil or paint pen. Look to your inspirational pieces but do not copy them outright. 

Because I’m creating a female figure, I used a beige (or flesh tone) water-based paint pen, and used a fine tip for her features (eyes, lips, nose) instead of a medium tip. I did use a medium tip for the rest of her, including her rosy cheeks.

Mixed-media art techniques with Alena Hennessy |

4. When the paint pen is dry, add more details to your subject and refine the edges and lines by using your fine-point paint pens. I have found Japanese art to tell a story of some sort, along the lines of innocence and purity of being. What would you like yours to convey? 

Finish off the painting by adding more details with the paint pens (it’s always good to step away for a while and then revisit it with fresh eyes). Seal the painting with a clear spray varnish once it's complete. ~Alena 

Get your copy of Intuitive Painting Workshop today–when you also add the Paint Mojo eBook to your cart, you’ll receive that Paint Mojo eBook for free! These two amazing resources will have you inspired and prepared to create mixed-media art all year long.

Until next time,

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Blog, Mixed-Media Painting Techniques, Mixed-Media Techniques


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