Let’s Get Messy! A Watery Mixed-Media Painting Technique

mixed media painting
Watercolor papers assembled into a mixed-media collage, by Jacqueline Sullivan.

cate pratoWhy is it that kids love splashing in water and stomping in puddles while adults avoid getting wet almost as much as a cat does?

Oh sure, the occasional dip in the pool or wade in the ocean is fine. But the minute it starts to rain, we start to grumble about umbrellas and hair frizz and having just washed the car. If the kids or dog come in dripping from outside, we're all, "You're getting everything wet!"

I think the problem is that we just haven't played in water enough lately. So today I'm going to help you get back in touch with your inner splash-loving self. Of course, we are going to do this through art.

This mixed-media painting technique, by Jacqueline Sullivan, uses transparent watercolors diluted in squeeze bottles. But you could easily adapt it using acrylic paints. The point is to get loose and play.

So take out your paints, paintbrushes, and a spray bottle full of water and let's get started. (OK, you can go ahead and lay down a drop cloth first.)

1. With your watercolor paper flat, use the spray bottle to wet the paper in areas where you want paint colors to flow and mix. It should be damp (wet but no puddles). After you wet the paper, brush the water out evenly into the area that you are going to paint. If you want more control, use a 2" (5 cm) wash brush to spread the water onto the paper.

2. Shake your first bottle of color to mix it and then pour on some paint. Tilt and rotate your paper (it helps to place it on a board) to get the color moving, letting the excess drip into a shallow pan.

3. Before adding another color, let the first color find its place on the paper and rest a bit, or you will just keep washing the first color off with the next.

4. When your first paint has found its place and is not collecting in puddles, add a second color. Choose analogous colors (colors that are next to each other on the color wheel) such as yellow to green to blue or alizarin to violet to blue. If you cross over the color wheel and use complementary colors, you will get a muddy brown color when the color runs together.

This method will give you a beautiful flowing watercolor wash. It makes a great background or abstract on its own, or you can go further and use some additional techniques to create textured backgrounds. Jacqueline uses add-ons like a sprinkling of salt, sand, and charcoal or metallic powders to the wash for interesting effects. Play and experiment to see what happens.

Now, wasn't that fun? Jacqueline goes into more detail on her wet-paint process in The Cloth Paper Scissors Book by Barbara Delaney. There, you will find hundreds of ways to play with paint, texture, stitch, glue, paper, found objects, and more.

Yes, you will get a little wet and messy. But you will have so much fun!

P. S. What's your favorite wet or messy mixed-media technique? Share in the comments section below.


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


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