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Artist Community
Mixed Media
Written by Susan Jillette
One of Three Tips & Techniques-2006 contest Winners

To prevent boredom and to get as much as I possibly can out of my painting experiences, I often change my subject matter and the medium that I work with. I use oil, watercolour or acrylic paints on either paper, canvas or prepared board.  I usually work in series and do all the planning for each painting in the present series that I’m working on, before I start painting. This will ensure that each finished piece will relate to the next in subject matter, technique and colour. I then decide on the medium and support that I will use for all the pieces and decide which one I will start on first.  The demonstration here is done with acrylic on canvas.  It’s the first in an appliance series that I am presently working on and is called “Mixed Media”.
  I first set up the objects that I want to depict in my painting. After looking at the set up from many different angles and moving pieces around until I get a composition that works for me, I photograph it using a digital camera, without a flash and lots of natural light from a large north window. I can then examine the photo on the computer and adjust colours or contrast and remove or add anything in the composition that I feel is necessary to make a successful painting. To me, planning the painting is the most important part and should be done with care.

I then proceed to do a careful drawing. Since the composition is a busy one already, I eliminate small details such as brand names on tubes that would only make the painting more cluttered looking.  I then transfer the drawing to my prepared support, in this case a canvas.


I start work on the background first. On the computer, I have already eliminated extra background objects and changed the colour of the background to one that would suit the rest of the objects as a whole. After the background is blocked in, I start to block in areas of flat colour thinking about a colour scheme that will tie everything together and keep the busy composition from becoming too confusing.  I decide to limit my palette to the primary colours, plus white and paynes grey.  I sometimes use paynes grey instead of black because it makes nice cool greys which in this case contrasts well with all the warm red in the painting.  I then start working on the mixer adding details with glazing and scumbling.


Detail – I work on the background items first and then do foreground items – notice how the large brush in behind the blue one is almost completed and detail is started on the ferrule of the blue foreground brush.


The blue brush is now almost done and I continue to work around the painting doing “behind” objects first.  Notice that the checkered cloth in the background is darkened now. I use a glazing medium with the shadow colour to glaze over the background to darken and push it back. This automatically brings the standing white paint tubes and chrome bowl forward.

  Here items in the foreground are completed using the colours that I chose for my colour scheme and not the colours in the original photo.

Last, I finish the reflection in the bowl graying down the colours  slightly so it won't compete with the rest of the image.  I stand the finish piece on an easel and will look at it with a critical eye for a few days.  If everything feels right and nothing in the painting disturbs me, I will then varnish it. In this case I used, matt varnish but I will sometimes use a gloss varnish.