Mixed-Media Valentine Party: An Artful Way to Brighten Your Winter

When I was a kid, and when my own children were younger, a Valentine's Day party was de rigueur. Who doesn't like cutting out hearts, gluing them to doilies, and dusting them with glitter? Add some pink punch, paper cups filled with Conversation Hearts, and red-frosted cookies or cupcakes, and a good time was had by all.

mixed media valentine
My mixed-media Valentine using acrylic paints
and gesso on canvas.

Well, my children are past the Valentine party stage (insert eye-roll here), but I'm not. I'm thinking of throwing a little Valentine art party for my friends. A mixed-media make-and-take, some grown-up punch, and a light dessert sounds perfect to me.

For some inspiration, I turned to the Collage in Color eMags. These interactive magazines for computer or iPad include an art party article, complete with art ideas, a yummy recipe, and an invitation you can print.

In Collage in Color II, artist Sue Pelletier describes a technique for a mixed-media painting of flowers on wood-cradled panels. I used her technique as inspiration to create my own canvas Valentine you can make with your friends.

Materials used: Raw canvas, acrylic paints, gesso, tissue paper, glossy gel medium, needle and embroidery thread, a ballpoint pen (or graphite pencil), and a black Sharpie®.

1. Tear a piece of canvas to size. Mine is approximately 4" x 6". Apply gesso with a brush or your fingertips, covering the canvas. Don't lay it on too thick, just enough so you can draw into it.

2. Use a heat gun to help dry the gesso. Take the pen or pencil and draw your shape into the gesso. I drew concentric hearts. You will be making grooves in the gesso and the pen or pencil marks will be left behind. Note: Embrace imperfection.

3. Start painting. I began with a wash of magenta, gilding it here and there with metallic gold. I like contrast and complementary colors, so I added a bit of turquoise with my fingers. I dabbed water in some places to spread out the color and blend it with the others. In other places I used a dry brush approach (but used my fingers), lightly applying the paint onto the canvas so that it would pick up the texture of the canvas and the gesso. When I decided I had the right amount of paint, I left the canvas to dry.

fruit trifle for mixed media art party
No need for starving artists at
your mixed-media party.
Serve a light fruit trifle.

This is where you enjoy your pink beverages and yummy snacks. (Might I suggest the fruit trifle from Collage in Color I? Toss cubes of pound cake with fresh fruit, place in a glass bowl, and top with whipped cream and a berry garnish.)

4. By now the canvases should be dry. If you want to add stitch, this is a good time. I had drawn "MINE" into the gesso with pen, but I wasn't happy with how it looked. So I hand stitched over the writing with an embroidery needle and some cotton floss. You could also do some machine stitching at this time. In Sue's piece, she zigzag stitched over a piece of crinoline fabric, cut it to size, and glued it to the surface with gel medium. This is a great way to add the texture of stitching when you can't or don't want to sew on your substrate.

5. You may be finished at this point, or you may want to add some details. I defined the heart shapes with a fine black Sharpie and added torn strips of turquoise tissue paper. Because I used gloss medium above and beneath the tissue, it looks like acrylic paint.

Now you and your guests have mixed-media Valentines to take home. They can be framed, stitched to a larger piece of fabric, fused to a felt backing—to each his (or her) own.

If a little art party doesn't brighten up your winter, I don't know what will.

For more fun with mixed-media art techniques, be sure to see our array of eMags including Collage in Color, Art Journaling: Exposed, and In Stitches.

P.S. Do you ever have an art party? Tell me about it (and don't forget the menu)!

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