mixed media background tutorial

when life hands you a bad day…make something and turn it into an awesome one!

just a few personal problems that had me a little down and out this morning…but a bunch of art ideas that were bursting at the seams and ready to get cracking!

something i was really big into a few years ago, was “mail art.” there are a couple of online communities for artists that make and trade art through the mail. you can trade things you’ve already created and need a good home, you can work out a trade for specific types of art you may be looking for, or you can sign up for predetermined “swaps,” that are usually run by a “host” and have a larger amount of participation. well, mail art is what really exposed me to mixed media and a ton of different styles, and got me to thinking, hey, i already have most of these supplies, and i think i can do that too!

i think i tried to do too much too soon though, because i quickly got burnt out. it’s a lot of organization to keep track of what swaps you signed up for, what you still need to make, who you have to send it to and by what date. each swap comes with it’s own set of rules and requirements and for awhile i think it took the fun out of it for me. i made a few close friends and would communicate with them on a regular basis and found that i was only wanting to trade art with them or “collect” art in their style. at times i really wanted to just keep what i had created instead of sending it off to someone else, or would get screwed over by someone that didn’t fulfill their end of the trade or put in their best effort. well, that’s not the point of mail art at all, so i had to take a step back for awhile and do my own thing.

buying a house came with responsibilities, working several jobs at once, i just didn’t really have the time or desire to do it anymore. however, lately i have been itching to get back into it, and signed up for just a swap or two to test the waters and get my feet wet.

one of the things i signed up for is a “JAM,” which i have never done before. there are three people involved. the first person makes only the background and mails it off to the second person. the second person makes the main image and mails it off to the last person. finally, the third person puts on the finishing touches and ties it all together and mails it back to the first two people so they have one to keep as well. so it’s a collaborative group effort to create one work of art. (well actually three, because everyone gets one, but three of the same. lol hope this makes sense!)

so, i’ve always been one of those petty people that never wanted anyone to “copy” me, even when, ESPECIALLY IF, they used the stupid phrase that “imitation is the best form of flattery.” poo. that being said, i never really want to “share my techniques or style,” but as i’ve matured as an artist, i have to learn humility and also realize that i wouldn’t have gotten where i am today (not saying much) without the help, guidance, tutorials, etc. of artists before me. therefore, i want to share how i made the backgrounds for my “JAM” swap…

the theme is zetti birds. i love using birds in art! however, i am not an expert in the style of zetti. knowing this, i asked if i could please be the first person in the process. wish granted.

before i begin, remember that the key to mixed media art is LAYERS. you must be patient and allow it to all come together in stages. it’s a process, you can’t slap some stuff together and call it a day. you have to really allow the layers to create the feel you want for the rest of the piece.

i failed to mention that we would be making postcards. the standard size is 4 X 6, so i started with a kraft paper background, which i love. it’s very neutral and versatile. first i added a shred of torn text from an old book page. then i added a sliver of patterned scrapbook paper, and under that a piece of washi tape with a grid design on it. after that, i used hot pink paint to stamp a dotted square in the bottom right corner. over the text, i used my new martha stewart adhesive stencils that i’m pretty stoked about, to make a black leaf and berry type design. under that i used and alphabet stamp to make a line of letters. finally, i used two more stamps to add more text and a number to the top left corner. i kind of like it as is, because i like the contrast of the background with the black and bright colors, however, i had to remember that two more people would be adding to this along the way. stage one complete:20130115-140557.jpg

next, i watered down some gesso and added a bit of light blue paint to tone down the intensity of the white gesso. i put a wash of this over everything. once it dried, i used it to put down a piece of crumbled tissue paper, only in the middle of the card. this gives it depth and texture. stage two.20130115-140646.jpg

after that, i wanted to pull some of the colors back through a little. i used yellow to stamp three small mushrooms in the corner. that didn’t work out quite as planned, but sometimes that happens and you’ve just got to roll with it. i used an old canister to make a green ring at the top, and a plain pencil to add another line around it. i used a stencil and some light blue ink to make a cloud over the tissue paper. i used black ink to distress all around the edges of the card, and also a pink chalk stick to create a border. i used black lava gel to add some specks to the top corner, and finally some gold glittery puff paint to add some dots along the border as well. voila!20130115-140708.jpg

i tend to over do art at times. i feel like there’s always something else that can be added. but again, i had to remind myself that this is simply the beginning, and leave room for others to add their bits. as i write this, i almost wish i would’ve created a fourth background just like this, to keep for scrapbooking or journaling. oh well.

as i said before, layers are what makes this fun and interesting to look at. i can still see muted images poking through from when i first started, but they are not overbearing the piece anymore. i hope my group members are pleased, and i will update when i receive my zetti bird postcard returned to me!

hope you enjoyed it and learned something, and as always, i would love to see what you are able to create!

🙂 stina