A Simple Visual Element that has a Dramatic Effect for Mixed-Media Art

Do you use text in your art? Sometimes when I listen to a favorite song, lines get stuck in my head, so I write them down in my art journal and surround them with a drawing. One in particular came to me last year when we moved to our new house. It was a big, emotional change for me, and a line from a popular song helped me make the transition. The line was “Home is wherever I’m with you.” It became my mantra as we unpacked our belongings and made our new house into our new home. Several weeks later, I sat down on our front porch and wrote the words, drawing symbolic images on the page. It was only after that that I could let go of the lyric. I finally felt at home.

Sue Pelletier loves to incorporate words and text in her mixed-media art. “They ground the piece for me,” she says in her new book Collage Paint Draw. “Even when I feel like I’ve created a visually interesting piece of art, if it doesn’t include a letter or number, I feel like it is missing something. All is well in my world with the combination of stringing along my words as I paint.”

Mixed-media art by Sue Pelletier, author of Collage, Paint, Draw
Artwork by Sue Pelletier, who says: “If you place your words and
letters off to the side of your piece, or layer gesso or fabric over them,
the viewer’s eye will move around the painting, taking it all in. The
words or numbers provide a visual treat.”

The Word in Art by Sue Pelletier (an excerpt from Collage Paint Draw)

Often I’ll start a painting with a quip or saying I heard somewhere. The words often come first–not always, but often. Single words work well, too, like a mantra of sorts. My words are often the same on many pieces: laugh, dance your dance, believe. These are all words I live by. It makes sense to me to incorporate them in my work. If you can add a sentence or two that ties into your piece, you’ve created your story visually and as a story teller. Often my verbiage is humorous, because I see the world through humor and the oddities of day-to-day living. I can do a painting of an old saddle shoe, but if I add the words “scruffy little shoe” to the piece, people connect to it on a different level, almost an aha moment. They get it. My story becomes a story they connect with as well. Never underestimate the power and joy that comes with humor!

If the artwork comes first instead of the words, you’ll still have a finished piece in the end. It’s just a different way of getting there. I will paint and paint and paint a piece. Then, days later, some words may come to me and bam! The piece is complete.

I love both processes of adding words to my pieces. Stay true to yourself, what you believe, and the stories of your life.  Your words will come to you. ~Sue

How do you incorporate words in your mixed-media art? I’m sure Sue’s excerpt above has inspired some new ideas. If you’re ready to start a new project and could use some guidance, take advantage of the Collage, Paint & Draw with Sue Pelletier kit, which includes her book, along with Textures for Collage: Build ’em Up! (video), Preparing to Paint: How to add texture, depth & personality to your art (video), and three stencils: a Mary Jane-style shoe and two dresses. Of course, this collection is only available at the Interweave store, and quantities are limited, so don’t wait to order your set.

Stay true,


Art Journaling and Lettering, Blog, Mixed-Media Techniques


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