Mixed-media artists rarely follow a formulaic approach to making art. Give us a tutorial, and we’ll add our own special touches until the finished piece is uniquely ours. That’s what Sue Pelletier did when she attended a paint bar with friends. Instead of painting the Statue of Liberty with the class, she painted a flag; then she added meaningful lettering in the style of mark making. We hope you’ll follow Sue’s tutorial in that same spirit. Use her ideas to make your own one-of-a-kind flag (or whatever it is you wish to create)! This article first appeared in our July/August 2013 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors magazine.
Wave Your Flag, by Sue Pelletier
For me, the story behind creating a series of work is often as important, if not more so, than the technique and actually making marks on canvas or paper. The first flag I painted was done with a group of friends at a paint bar. My friend Benjamin was leading the group in doing a Statue of Liberty painting. Being a bit of a non-conformist, I decided to paint a flag instead, very loose and painterly. I used traditional colors, but I also added drips and splatters and some arbitrary colors. The entire painting was done in about two hours. I liked it when it was done—but I did not love it.
I took it home and leaned it against a window in my kitchen. Every time I looked at it, I thought, “It is missing something.” After a day, I decided what the piece needed was words—stream-of-consciousness writing. I wanted to write about what being free meant to me.
I grabbed a large black Sharpie and began writing on the stripes of the flag. I did not overthink it. The words themselves became more about the actual looseness and repetition of the letters than whether the actual words were going to be legible to anyone but me. I let myself ramble . . . blowing bubbles, the one with the most toys does not win, laugh out loud, and more. I literally did not stop writing until the flag was covered with my verbiage. When I put the painting back in its spot, I loved it!
Sometimes, you need to step away from a piece for a bit and go back to it later, to add or take away until it just feels right. You will know when it feels right.
- Chip brushes, two 2″
- Canvas (I used a 16″ × 20″ stretched canvas.)
- Heavy matte gel medium
- Containers for water, 2
- Vintage papers: music sheets, old journals, book pages, etc.
- Fabric scraps: crinoline with stitching, burlap, muslin, etc.
- Acrylic paints
- Star stamps (I like to use a variety of sizes.)
- Marker (I used a Sharpie® chisel-tip marker.)
- Oil pastels, water-soluble (I like to use Portfolio® series water-based oil pastels.)
- Graphite crayon, 9B (I use Lyra brand crayons.)
- Dimensional embellishments: mica flakes, chunky glitter, star cutouts
- Spray mists, gold and silver
1. Using a chip brush, apply a nice layer of matte gel medium to the canvas, covering the entire surface. Don’t forget the sides of the canvas; these will be collaged as well.
TIP: I use a separate water container for the gel brush. I do this so the paint-free water eventually turns into its own fabulous gel medium mixture.
2. Lay the papers and fabrics loosely onto the surface, blocking out the stripes, the stars, etc. I usually tear the papers and fabrics, because I love the look of the frayed edges showing through. Have some pieces of fabric and/or paper go off the edges of the canvas a bit. (Figure 1)
NOTE: At this point it is important to note the direction of the text on the papers or sheet music, because you will see bits and pieces of this layer in the completed painting.
3. Paint another layer of gel medium on top of the papers and fabrics, pushing out any air bubbles with your fingers. Allow to dry.
4. Use the graphite crayon to loosely sketch where the stripes and the star area will be painted. (Figure 1)
5. Paint in the stripes and the star area. I usually begin with traditional red, white, and blue, and then go back in to add pops of color. (Figure 2)
TIP: When applying the paint, I am almost dry brushing it on, because I want to see the layers of text and fabric underneath. Remember, it is always easier to add more paint later than to take it away.
6. Using a star stamp and acrylic paint, stamp some stars onto the flag. (Figure 2) While the stars are still wet, scribble around the outside and inside of the shapes with the graphite pencil. Drawing into wet paint is a great way to get your texture on.
7. Continue adding color to the stars and stripes using streaks of nontraditional colors to create visual interest. I try to move around the canvas with various colors, making the streaks different widths and lengths. (Figure 2) Don’t rush. Build up the colors subtly and playfully. Allow the painting to dry overnight.
8. Use the marker to write your words. I consider the lettering to be part of the mixed-media mark making. I am not concerned about being able to read each word. It’s more of a stream-of-consciousness thing. (Figure 3) I am very aware of what my subject matter is so my thoughts tend to sway towards what is important to me, beliefs I have, and thoughts I hold dear to my heart.
9. Go back in to different areas with the pastels to finish off the coloring. I dip the pastels in water and draw, scribble, and smudge, and then blend the colors with my fingers. (Figure 4)
10. Use the graphite crayon to add some final scribble details and then rub the crayon along the edge of the painting to give it a nice gritty outline.
11. Optional: Add dimensional elements like mica flakes, chunky glitter, or star cutouts in cardstock or wood, as desired.
Fabulous things to add to your flag
1. Add paint from a squeeze bottle for added mark making. When the paint dries, use the graphite pencil to rub over the lines.
2. Drip and splatter paint on the flag.
3. Use gold and silver spray mists on the flag when it is complete.
Sue Pelletier is a mixed-media artist who lives in Massachusetts. Visit her website at www.suepelletierlaughpaint.com.