An Exercise for Curing Artist’s Block | Mixed-Media Painting Techniques

Have you ever been in the mood to create something new, but didn’t know exactly what you wanted to make or where to start? That can be frustrating. The good news is that there’s a way to resolve it, and Staci Swider is here to show you how, with an exercise in mixed-media painting techniques. Staci is the author of Acrylic Expressions: Painting Authentic Themes and Creating Your Visual Vocabulary, an inspirational book of mixed-media lessons and ideas to keep you making new art every day.

Also of note today is the Cloth Paper Scissors Mixed Media Excellence Awards. The grand prize is $1,000 and publication in Cloth Paper Scissors magazine! Click here to learn more about it. Good luck! ~Cherie

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Mixed-Media Painting Techniques: White Self Rabbit by Staci Swider

Here is the most basic painting technique I use when I want to work intuitively but don’t really have an idea of where I’m going. I’ve got that urge to create but no direction. It’s also a great exercise when suffering from artist’s block as there is no prescribed outcome, so there’s nothing to make you insecure. Rather, you are responding to the marks made initially and making new ones accordingly. When I work this way I build up patterns by stamping or scraping into the paint. Then I sit back and interpret the surface, looking for what I refer to as the “spirit” of the painting to come through and tell me what it wants to be.

Mixed-media painting techniques | Staci Swider,
Steps 1 and 2

1. Prep the Surface. Using a wide brush, add a layer of gesso to prime your surface. In this example I am working on a Masonite panel. I applied it quite thick and made several random scratches into the surface. Allow to dry completely before proceeding.

2. Add Color. Using a variety of colors, loosely cover your entire painting surface. Keeping the color wet and juicy allows for spontaneous color mixing. You can use your fingers or a wide brush to apply paint.

Mixed-media painting techniques | Staci Swider,
Steps 3 and 4

3. Start Stamping. Cardboard shapes dipped into paint create more geometric and linear mark making while your hands and fingers will make more organic shapes. Combining both on one piece of art creates interest and variety.

4. Stamp With Your Fingers. Using your hand and fingers, add random patterns. Try holding your hand in a variety of positions. Eventually you’ll find that certain actions start to come naturally and you’ll make shapes spontaneously.

Mixed-media painting techniques | Staci Swider,
Steps 5 and 6

5. Finish Stamping. This is when all of your sketching and getting comfortable with your personal imagery shows itself. Prop your piece up against a wall or on your easel and look at it to see what shapes or images pop out at you. Turn your piece onto its side and repeat. Repeat until you’ve considered all four directions. Eventually an image will present itself and become obvious no matter which direction you turn your piece.

6. Draw the Rabbit. Using a grease pencil, draw in the shapes of your image. I try to use the natural breaks in color as a line as much as possible. This makes for some interesting shapes and proportions that are far more interesting than anything I can plan, and often creates a more quirky expression when creating faces.

Steps 7 and 8
Steps 7 and 8

7. Paint the Background. Paint your image. Try incorporating the patterns and lines created in the earlier steps as a part of the painting. In this example I kept the fingerprints as spots on the rabbit but made a few color adjustments. I also maintained the stamped cardboard lines in the background, but again changed the color to incorporate them into the background.

8. Paint the Rabbit. Using acrylic, paint the bunny. Try to incorporate the patterns and lines you created before.

Mixed-media painting techniques | Staci Swider,
Step 9

9. Add Final Details. With pastels, add details. Give him whiskers and color in the flowers. Add any other texture and color you want. ~Staci


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