Transforming old drawings using mixed media (1)

I have long admired mixed media pages but I have never really been happy with my own efforts.  In the last week of the Polishing Kourse (Sketchbook Skool), our tutor was Juliana Coles. Our homework was to take a drawing that we didn’t like and to transform it through layering.  The essential stages were …

  • writing – responding to a prompt
  • emphasising / selecting words from our text 
  • painting in acrylic or gouache 
  • adding collage
  • mark-making (e.g. writing, stenciling, drawing, stamping…)
  • reconciliation (finding ways to connect layers, finding personal meaning in a piece)

This was so much fun and once I had begun, it was just intuitive  – try this, try that. I began with a pencil “portrait” drawn a few weeks ago, which I didn’t like. 

As a first step, I outlined the figure in black acrylic ink, painted the hair with blue ink, painted the face and wrote a text on the left hand page that responded to the question “why do I draw?”. I then gessoed (see note on gesso below) over the text and carved lines through it. I added some lines to the opposite page with a broad spatula with a toothed edge, as well as a few gold stars.

I wanted to “lose” the text as well as some of the intensitivity of the colour and so masked the lines….

…. and then added more gesso which I rubbed into the surface with a paper towel to allow some of the colour through but more subdued. I did not like the face and hair so used more gold stars, this time as stencils and gessoed over them, removing them quickly before the paint dried.

Finally I stamped over the image with a homemade stamp and  added a few stencilled words from my original text and stamped a few circles of different sizes. This left me with the problem of the head which the process had emphasized more than concealed.  I looked through my collage collection and found a face from a magazine, which I had already separated into its features.  This seemed to work with the other elements of the image and eliminated the dominance of blue hair. A little warm yellow paint was added to brighten and balance the red.

The red is more dominant than I would usually choose but when we become absorbed in process we make decisions more intuitively and we may never have imagined the outcome!  This exercise has taught me something about working in layers and enabled flow such I could let go of the end result.  I am pleased with the final image.  

That’s it…. for now!  But maybe the process never ends…

Regarding gesso: I have taken to using paint used to create a base for household emulsion paint rather than gesso, it is a type of acrylic paint and so brushes can be cleaned in water. It is thicker (can be thinned with water) and also cheaper than gesso.


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