I was going to start this Studio Saturday post by telling you how wonderful the March Art Lesson is. I’m still going to do that, but I’ll sum it up in three words: Venetian plaster art. Wait, make it five: mixed-media Venetian plaster art.
I’m sure Venetian plaster and I would never have entered into a relationship had it not been for Art Lessons Volume 3: Venetian Plaster Party, by Sandra Duran Wilson. But after being formally introduced, we are now an item, and I’ve cleared space on my supply shelf for this 30-ounce can of amazing.
I never tire of touting our Art and Lettering Lessons series because it offers so many great techniques that are perfect for all levels of mixed-media artists–and the lessons are affordable. Since nearly every step is accompanied by a photo, and each lesson includes a companion video, it’s like the artist is there with you every step of the way. This year’s series, called Texture Adventures, offers tons of ideas for creating physical and visual texture in mixed media. Venetian plaster is the star of Sandra’s lesson, and this material truly makes the piece come alive.
I used an Ampersand Encausticbord as my substrate; Sandra recommends this because it’s absorbent and takes paint beautifully. These boards are also very stable, so you can add wet media without fear of warping. I misted the board with water, then applied fluid acrylics in Golden Artist Colors Quinacridone Magenta and Manganese Blue Hue, and DecoArt Media Phthalo Turquoise. I tilted the board to let the colors drip and do their thing, and got this:
More misting, more paint, and some paper towel blotting took me to the next phase. In the lesson, you’ll work with isopropyl alcohol to get cool patterns in the paint. That alcohol technique is all kinds of awesome, so you need to indulge. When I got the paint to where I liked it, with different colors and values represented on the board, I let it dry.
For the next step I chose a stencil (I used the Versailles stencil, designed by Nathalie Kalbach for StencilGirl Products), taped it to about 2/3 of the board, and applied heavy gel medium with a palette knife. The gel dries clear, and you’ll see the full amazing effect of this step later on.
Thin collage paper was decoupaged onto the rest of the board; I chose some Tim Holtz Idea-ology Melange Tissue Wrap.
Finally, it was time for the plaster. Having never worked with this medium I didn’t know what to expect, but I discovered that it’s very smooth, has the consistency of thick cake frosting, and is extremely easy to work with. I spread it over the stenciled part first with a palette knife, then over the collage paper. While the plaster was still wet, I embedded a rubber rug mat into the plaster covering the paper, removed it, and fell in love with the texture. If you don’t like the way the texture looks, you can re-do the plaster and texture it again. Let the plaster dry completely—you’ll know when it’s ready because it will feel room temperature, not cool, to the touch. I let my piece dry overnight.
And now…the big reveal! I sanded the plaster covering the stenciled area. Since the gel medium acts as a resist, those areas show the paint underneath, like a window, while the other areas remain white. Excavating the stenciled area was really fun, and seeing the result of the technique got me hooked on this process and on discovering more about Venetian plaster art. This is not gesso. This is not modeling paste. It’s something completely different, and worth exploring.
I’m not spoiling the entire lesson because there is so much more to it—stamping, painting, adding color and shading, plus finishing techniques—that will get you to a final project you’ll love. I’m already thinking about incorporating Venetian plaster art in a shadow box, on book covers, trying it in a silicone mold…the wheels are turning. Don’t miss Sandra’s companion video that comes with the lesson–it includes extra techniques and tips.
Here’s my final piece:
Download the complete lesson here and you’ll be amazed at what you’ll learn. And check out our other Art Lessons and videos for even more techniques and inspiration for all types of mixed-media art!