Tuesday, March 18, 2014

How to Use Sewing Pattern, Acrylic Medium and Inks to Build a Mixed Media Subtrate

Students and others often ask about my mixed media substrates.  I use a variety of different methods for building backgrounds and underlayers for my mixed media paintings.  Here is a short visual tutorial about building a simple and easy visually exciting base for a mixed media painting.  

Mixed Media
sewing pattern, inks, matte medium
prisma color, oil pastel, gloss acrylic medium

You will need the following -

  •  A canvas,  piece of masonite, canvas board or piece of heavy
       (at least 140lb) watercolor paper as a support for your substrate

  •  Acrylic Matte Medium

  •  Sewing Pattern

  •  Water Based Acid Free Inks in colors you love 

One of my favorite underlayers is created with old sewing patterns and these are available practically or actually for free - ask around.  Sewing patterns go out of style so people give them away or they can be bought for a few cents at thrift shops, garage sales and church rummage sales.  I sometimes use the sewing pattern with all it's lines and printing and allow this to come through my painting as part of my design - other times I cut out the patterns so that I am starting with the creamy tissue and no writing or print.  I love the surface it creates and it is a joy to paint and draw over.  It has a vellum like quality. I love the way it randomly absorbs ink and how it grabs media in different ways where it overlaps - it gives you lots of surprises and therefore creative options.


top left - Canvas Board, Top Right - Acrylic Matte Medium
Bottom Left Sewing pattern sheets, Bottom Right Sewing Pattern cut into large and Small Pieces
Choosing Acrylic Medium  -  Feel free to use any brand or grade of acrylic medium you like for this project as long as it is acid free.  I like the liquitex that I am showing here - it is reasonable priced and does the job.  You can buy something much pricier, or less expensive and get the same results. Please do not substitute Modge Podge - this will not work because you will want to go over this with paint, color pencil, ink pens or whatever your medium of choice is.  Acrylic Matte is the best for this, you can continue to add layers of this medium as you work to set the under layers.  I often work in oil pastel with acrylics and/or gouache and prismacolors.  I use Acrylic Matte in between to set and hold the layers -  Also do not use Gloss medium is too shiny and also will not work as it will repel your over layers.  Just so you  know,  you can go over gloss with a layer of Matte if you have made this mistake and keep rolling along - yes I have done this so I know this from personal experience!

top left and right - adhere sewing patterns to top and around sides,
 by painting under and over with acrylic matte med
Bottom Left - Acid Free Water Based Ink
Bottom Right - Adding color to substrate

When choosing an ink for your substrate you want to find a water based acid free ink.  Here I am using glimmer mists which I really like - it is both water based and acid free.  The version I have here also has the additional advantage of coming in a spray bottle which I like very much - it has a very small amount of irredescence - which I also really like and it comes in lots of colors that work with pallets that I like.  You can really use any brand - brush or spray - what ever you like - as long as you go for water based ink that is acid free.

Why water based? When you spray or brush onto your new surface you can rub off as much as you like, if you feel like you have put too much on, you can brush or spray on water and pull more color off or create other loose watery effects - water based inks flow nicely together and blend really nicely over the paper as well. Here I am only using ONE color but please feel free to experiment - I often use several on the same canvas.

Top Left - Rub, apply and remove some color with Paper Towel and/or Water
Top Right - Step back and admire
Bottom Left - speed up drying time with a hair dryer
Bottom Right - Get to work on a New Painting!

After spraying or brushing on the ink(s) rub or pull off some of the color until you are happy with the distribution of the color.  You can brush on and pull off more with water, add more color and continue to remove and add color with inks and paper towels.  When you are happy with the results - you can speed up your drying time with a hairdryer.  Your finished substrate is now ready for you next mixed media project!

I like to create several substrates at one time. Sometimes I don't add any color but other times I will just start a warm or cool pallet with a wash of one warm or cool color to start and then choose to add more colors or not later.  I can then go in and grab a pre-made canvas and go when I have an idea I want to explore.

Mixed Media Painting in progress.
Prismacolor drawing over prepared substrate  as shown above with sewing pattern and inks.
The softness of the inky wash over the creamy paper make it easy to create a moodiness
even though I am only about midway through this painting.

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial on creating a substrate.  Please check back and follow my blog for more tutorials, posts and artistic meanderings.



Mixed Media Painting "Wistful" by Marcy LaBella
Digitally Altered


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