There is no better way to honor the mothers in your life than with a gift of art. This Mother’s Day art project works a few different ways: You can make a beautiful work of art for your favorite mother, make the project with your favorite mother, or give a special creative mother in your life this fantastic mixed-media video workshop. You really can’t go wrong. I decided to try the project with the goal of making the finished piece a gift, but after working with these techniques, I feel like I’m the one who received a phenomenal present!
I downloaded the video workshop Surprise Garden: Design Elements for Mixed Media Flower Painting with Carrie Schmitt. If you don’t know Carrie’s work, you should check it out—her floral paintings are so exuberant and colorful that you feel good just looking at them. This video has incredible painting techniques, none of them difficult, and Carrie walks you expertly through every step. The takeaways are huge, and the techniques can be applied to art journal pages, too.
I started with a flat 9″ x 12″ canvas, and even though it was primed with gesso, I brushed on another coat. Couldn’t hurt. I also worked on a 11″ x 15″ sheet of gessoed 140-lb. watercolor paper, with the intent of cutting it up to make Mothers’ Day art cards. To keep the paper flat I taped it to a piece of Masonite board. Whenever I try new techniques I try to work in a series, or at least have two pieces going at once. This allows me to get over that feeling of preciousness, and what I learn from one piece, good or bad, can be applied to the other.
I created an underpainting using Carrie’s methods that are designed to loosen you up and prepare you for working intuitively. I chose analogous shades of blue, including cerulean, phthalo turquoise, and Payne’s gray, plus lime green and white. You can brush the paint on, or spread it with a palette knife or your fingers, or all three, until the canvas is covered. In some spots, while the paint was still wet, I scratched into it with the end of a paintbrush.
Mark making came next. I amassed a collection of mark-making tools, which included bubble wrap, stencils, a wooden pottery tool, a crochet doily, a paint tube lid, and punchinella, or sequin waste.
At this point Carrie recommends thinking about having a range of values on the canvas, from dark to light. In the video she also shares a fantastic technique for making sure your piece has a good balance of several design elements—you’ll want to incorporate this trick in all of your work, not just this Mother’s Day art piece.
When that layer was dry, I began to build my garden, using a contrasting palette of pinks, reds, and yellows, and more mark-making tools. Being able to watch Carrie create her layers step by step in the video is so helpful, and such a confidence booster. She warns about getting too attached to any one layer, and that alone made it so easy to push through and keep going.
I used chalk to outline the flowers, stems, and leaves that would form my garden, and heeded Carrie’s recommendation to embrace wonky flower shapes as well as more familiar ones.
For a background color I chose pale blue, and started painting around the chalk lines.
I soon discovered two things: I hadn’t made my focal images large enough—while painting I could tell that I was covering more of the underpainting than I wanted. Also, the blue was too dark for my taste. That oversight resulted in a happy accident. I painted over the blue with white, and really liked the results, since it gave the piece more depth of color and added texture from the brush strokes.
As for making the flowers and leaves larger, I knew I’d have another opportunity to do that with the second piece on watercolor paper. For the canvas piece, I filled up areas of white space with leaves and dots, and I outlined some of the circle shapes to give them more presence. Here is the finished canvas:
For the Mother’s Day artwork on paper, I used pale pink for the first background layer, knowing I’d paint over it with white. I also made the flowers and leaves larger, but there’s still room for improvement. Here’s the final piece on paper, with some embellishments added with paint pens.
I cut up the paper piece and made it into Mother’s Day art cards that I can’t wait to send to some spectacular women who deserve to be celebrated.
Creating this piece with someone special sounds so great—I think I’ll invite a friend over and see what fun we can stir up. I hope you have a wonderful and creative Mother’s Day!
Looking for more Mother’s Day art projects? Try making these mixed-media poppies that incorporate doodling and “painting” with tissue paper.