Earlier this season I introduced you to a creative exercise for curing artist’s block using mixed-media art techniques from Staci Swider. Due to popular demand, Staci has hosted a new “Mixed Media on Canvas” webinar! Join her for an hour of advice on how to turn your art from chaotic to cohesive.
For now, enjoy the following excerpt from Staci’s book, Acrylic Expressions: Painting Authentic Themes and Creating Your Visual Vocabulary. “See” you at the webinar! ~Cherie
5 Ways to Add Texture to Your Mixed-Media Art by Staci Swider
Just like building a house, you can not underestimate the benefit of a solid foundation on which to produce your painting. While considering a substrate on which to work, don’t overlook unusual surfaces such as paper bags, cardboard, wood, canvas nailed to plywood or wood collaged with papers. I could go on for ages.
For larger studio work, stretched canvas is an obvious choice because it’s lightweight and easy to hang. When working smaller than 24×24 (61cm×61cm), I like wood because of the irregularities in surface texture. Two different products. Two different outcomes. Each one beautiful and unique in its own right. You can alter the surface of both to simulate the other. I know–confusing, right? Just experiment and have fun. Remember, a little bit of research and prep work in the beginning will allow you to be that much more intuitive during the painting process and that’s what we are after–a loose, confident painting that just flows out of you instinctively.
Ideas for Textured Backgrounds
Most stretched canvases you purchase will be primed with gesso already, so you usually don’t need to worry too much about this step. It becomes important when you are painting on unfinished wood, Masonite or other surfaces. Gesso creates a barrier between your paint and any resins or sap that may rise to the surface of the wood. These natural materials can create stains underneath your painting and become quite unsightly down the road. The last thing you want is to complete a beautiful portrait and have a dark, irregular blotch show up on the forehead of your muse. In addition, when working on a slick surface such as Masonite, the gesso works to adhere paint to your substrate. It adds “tooth” and gives the paint something to grab onto so that it stays in place.
You can also add a small amount of pigment to your gesso to create an undertone to the final painting. Soft red will make your painting appear warm and cozy while a cool blue will create a cooler ethereal effect.
2. Texture Gel
This is one of my all-time favorite products. It dries rough and textured. You can spread it on thick or thin. Just don’t use your hands as it contains tiny fibers that can irritate your skin. Scoop it out with a plastic spoon or fork and spread it across the canvas. I usually apply texture gel in patches around the canvas. Let it dry before proceeding.
Any time you apply paint or gesso thickly, it’s an opportunity to scratch through the surface and create designs. I tend to make up-and-down and side-to-side motions to create my marks, somewhat reminiscent of woven textiles. Everyone has their own inherent mark-making signatures, so try it without too much thinking and see what comes naturally to you. Plastic forks, scrapers, and other tools are great for making marks. Plastic hotel room keys or old credit cards can be notched along one edge and used to scrape through the wet surface.
4. Creating Your Own Texture
There are so many products on the market that simulate everything from glass beads to coarse sand and everything in between. Or why not mix gesso and a little red clay from your backyard? This will add grit to the surface and give it a warm glow. Or how about mixing in a little lint from your dryer? Thanks to all of the great adhesives on the market you can glue down just about anything. The key is to match the surface on which you paint to the product you are using for texture. For instance, if you’re adding a rigid product that can crack or flake off, be sure to work on a rigid panel such as wood or Masonite. If you have a flexible acrylic product, you can use those on canvas.
If you would like to really add some thick depth to your surface, you can glue down scraps of cardboard. If you have corrugated cardboard you can remove one side and expose the repetitive ridges between the layers. This can make a nice pattern under your paintings.
• Register for Staci Swider’s “Mixed Media on Canvas” webinar