7 Fast Mixed-Media Art Techniques for Backgrounds

19 Nov 2012

When you're trying to make mixed-media art but you're short on time, what's the best step you can take? Over the years, I've heard many artists say the answer is to prepare backgrounds in advance.

I used a gelatin monoprint as a background for this mixed-media collage.
Investing  even 30 minutes between errands, after work, or when the baby naps saves you time, because when you get down to creating that journal page, mixed-media painting, self-portrait, etc., a) you don't have to wait for a background to dry and b) you avoid blank canvas syndrome.

Here are seven ways you can prepare backgrounds ahead so you can dive right into art-making later.

Make textured paint backgrounds. Using acrylic paint or watercolors, apply a wash of two to three colors to your paper or canvas. Then, tilt the substrate this way and that to allow the paint to drip and make rivulets. You could also dab the paint with a wadded paper towel or bubble wrap, or lay crumpled plastic wrap on the paint, let it dry, and then remove for a mottled effect.

Use resist techniques. Lay down shapes or writing on your substrate using a paintbrush and gesso, a hard graphite pencil, liquid graphite, a stylus, or even a wax crayon. Then paint over your substrate. The paint will resist the areas where the shapes or writing exist, creating a background with depth.

Layer stencils. Today's pre-made stencils come in all shapes and motifs, from flocks of birds to abstract art. And you can always make your own with acetate and a craft knife or found objects. Layer one or more stencils onto your substrate and paint over them, apply ink from a stamp pad, spray paint, or splatter painting techniques to create different effects.

Jacqueline Newbold uses maps and book pages as backgrounds for her paintings.
Another art technique you can use to make backgrounds is to reuse paper or "failed" artwork as a substrate. What could be faster than starting with a material that is already a perfect background?

Phone book pages make great backgrounds. They are cheap, plentiful, and the pages are lightweight, so they lend themselves to many mixed-media art applications. Be sure when you use phone book pages as backgrounds that you apply enough other media on top to obscure the names. Old book pages work well, too.

Maps and brochures make terrific mixed-media art backgrounds as they are full of lines, colors, and numbers. Of course, you will want to omit or obscure any material protected by copyright.

Recycling art is a quick way to start a new piece. I like to use gelatin monoprints that don't stand on their own or that suffer from poor color combinations or smudged images.

To be sure you make the most of your creative time, you also want to be sure you have all the tools and mixed-media supplies you need at the ready. We have top-quality supplies and tools, plus books, DVDs, and video downloads from renowned artists to use as resources in your mixed-media art. There are new items arriving daily, so be sure to visit the Cloth Paper Scissors shop now, and see what you're missing.

P.S. These are just a few tips for starting backgrounds. What are yours? Please share in the comments section below.

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on 19 Nov 2012 11:22 AM

 What product will work when collaging watercolor items onto a watercolor painting that I so NOT want to smear or blur.  i also may wish to watercolor on top of prior work.  I love what I have done so far...with one exception in the upper third of my painting, which has spoiled it completely.  It has been suggested that I create a larger collage "painting...but, don't know what to use and fear a disastrous outcome. I have not been successful so far with trial and error peices on which I have been practicing.   Please help.

on 24 Nov 2012 6:06 AM

Hi Evelyn - you can always cover your existing water color with a coat of clear gesso before collaging, or just collage into the clear gesso.  If you are planning to watercolor on top, instead of gesso, try using a fixative like PYM (preserve your memories) http://www.precision-blue.com/.  Hope this helps!  jessicasporn.blogspot.com

Jacqueline56 wrote
on 24 Nov 2012 10:21 AM

It is difficult to add over watercolor paintings because they are water soluble.  If I have to paint over a watercolor with  something that will dissolve it, I try to do it quickly and with one stroke and keep my fingers crossed!