When it comes to art, sometimes it helps to just stop thinking rationally at all, which is how I came up with the idea of a huge seashell with a girl on top of it. This isn't a project to imitate step-by-step - you'll want to come up with your own irrational art idea - but the various mixed media techniques we'll explore in this project can help you get there.
Working with smooth gessobord, we'll transfer an image using gampi paper, add texture to the smooth board with modeling paste, and add dimensionality with sea-themed objects inside small boxes. For more tutorials and mixed media techniques, see make52 .
Step 1: What You Need
For the painting and background:
gessobord (Ampersand Art; available from Blick Art Materials)
acrylic paints, brushes, and palette
For the image transfer:
gampi paper (available from FineArtStore or Flax in the San Francisco Bay area)
workable fixative (Krylon)
gloss polymer medium (Golden)
For the mixed media elements:
light modeling paste (Liquitex)
small unfinished wooden boxes (available at craft stores)
craft glue (Mod Podge or Aleene's Tacky Glue)
embellishments: rocks, seashells, yarn
pigment powder (Perfect Pearls)
Start by gathering the items you'll be using, and placing them on the board in roughly the position you want. Here, I have a paper poseable figure and a smaller printed version of the nautilus shell.
Next, we'll work with an image transfer technique: transfer using gampi paper, which is a very lightweight paper that seems to melt right onto the surface you adhere it to. This technique creates a perfect inkjet image transfer; I learned this from Darlene McElvoy and Sandra Wilson's Image Transfer Workshop book.
Cut your gampi paper to slightly smaller than the size of a sheet of printer paper and scotch-tape it to the edges. I printed out half the seashell on one page and half on the other so that the image would be larger.
Spray the image with a coat of workable fixative, which allows you to then work with it, paint over it, and protect it. I'm chemically sensitive, so I use a heavy-duty face mask and spray it either in the garage or outdoors. Let the image dry and the fumes disperse.
Step 4: Add Texture and Paint
The nice thing about painting on smooth board is that you can add your own texture using modeling paste, rather than being limited to the texture of canvas. I wanted the seashell to pop out of the background, so I applied a few coats of modeling paste in the shape of the seashell, letting each coat dry overnight before applying the next coat.
Next, rough in the background colors using acrylic paints. I started with light watery washes of transparent colors for the ocean and sky, and then built them up in several different sessions, adding more color and texture. Once the background was painted, I cut the seashell image out and affixed it to the seashell-shaped area of modeling paste with polymer medium, which is a very thin acrylic medium. The paper is so thin that any color added to the background will show through, so I kept the modeling paste background white.
Step 5: Finishing Steps
When I was happy with the placement of the boxes, I painted them with gesso to prime them, let them dry, then glued them to the board with Mod Podge collage glue.
To add more interest to the composition, I added diagonal lines for the waves and the sandbar. After posing the figure on the shell and affixing her with earthquake putty, some multicolored slubbed yarn became her hair. And inside the boxes you'll find a fossil ammonite and a sparkly rock, purchased several years ago from Jackalope in Santa Fe.
The painting needed a little something extra to add interest to the water and sky. Mixing pigment powder with water and brushing it on in spots on the sky, sea, and sandbar added some shine and echoed the sparkles in the rock.
I wanted to create something that made me smile; something I'd enjoy looking at. Something you've just gotta do something a little crazy.