Step-by-Step Mixed-Media Lesson: A Blissful Birdcage

A cage can symbolize a sense of restriction, but when I saw Sue Pelletier’s artwork (below), I thought of anything but. The colors, the delightful style, and perhaps the free birds around the cage bring a feeling of joy. That’s no surprise, though; much of Sue’s artwork has this positive effect. “Birds show up in my work often,” Sue says. “I believe it has to do with not only the pleasing shape of a bird, but also the words that come to mind when I think of a bird: fly, soar, spread your wings. They’re all mantras I tend to use daily in my life.”

These mantras have worked well for Sue: she has recently come out with a new book, Collage Paint Draw: Explore Mixed-Media Techniques and Materials. It’s full of inspiration and fun step-by-step projects using a variety of media. Collage Paint Draw is available for pre-order now. Here’s a sneak peek.

Beginner mixed media art projects
Mixed-media art by Sue Pelletier

Birdcage Drawing by Sue Pelletier

The birds in my paintings are usually just a simple contour line drawing of a bird that I go into with graphite, pencil, or other mediums to build up the mark making. I usually keep the shape simple and make the bird interesting by creating visual texture.

beginner mixed media, CollagePaintDraw

1. Create the Background. Adhere an unprimed canvas strip to a canvas panel. Paint a background with watered-down acrylic. Let dry. For a splash of color and texture, adhere a piece of pattern paper to the canvas with gel medium. Sketch out the birdcage loosely with a pencil. Use a stencil and modeling paste to create birds. Then add lines into the modeling paste with a pencil.

2. Draw the Cage. Using a pipette, define the birdcage with black ink. The pipette helps keep the lines loose. After the birdcage is defined, add lines of texture and a border to the background with the pipette and ink.

beginner mixed media tutorials, CollagePaintDraw

3. Add Color. Add more color to the background and around the birds with water-soluble oil pastels. Draw over and around the birds with a pencil to add more dimension and texture.

4. Final Details. Select the letters you want to use for this piece and adhere them to the canvas with gel medium. Let dry. Finish the piece by adding some shine to the birdcage with a metallic permanent marker. ~S.P.

You’ll learn more than 30 mixed-media techniques in Collage Paint Draw, including lessons on drawing and painting, adding texture, and doing transfers, and resists. Sue’s teaching style celebrates playfulness in art. She has a way of making you feel comfortable experimenting with various media and tools. Collage Paint Draw is sure to inspire.

Spread your wings,



Blog, Collage, Mixed-Media Painting Techniques


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