We’re thrilled to welcome guest artist Caitlin Dundon to Somerset Place, where she showcases how to layer hand-drawn lettering with collage art.
I am always inspired by nature, especially flowers. From the simplest one-color tulip to the most ornate passion flowers, they fascinate me. And in these wonderful days of spring, with flowers showing their faces everywhere, I begin to dream of flowers, and they work their way into my art.
Creating a mixed-media collage is a wonderful way to make art. I find that it helps me tap into my creativity and quickly pulls me away from staring at a blank canvas or board. I often use floral patterned papers that are available at many scrapbook stores, mix in acrylic paint to add large areas of soft color, and embellish with the texture of household spackle, a rubber stamp, and a personal touch of handwriting.
Tools: heat gun, flat plastic putty knife, pointed pen holder with Nikko G metal nib, acrylic brushes, scissors, PITT artist pen, rubber stamp (with swirl pattern), sandpaper (medium grit and fine), small spray bottle or wet sponge.
I started with an 8” square block of pine, ¾” thick – a piece of scrap wood that a local bookshelf maker sells in bags for a great price. Besides scrap pine boards, I also love artist panels made from plain unfinished birch plywood that have a more professional construction on back, so you can add hooks and wire to allow the piece to lie flat against the wall.
I like to work on wood for a variety of reasons – the surface can be sanded and water added without causing any warping that would happen on paper or mat board. I can paint and repaint over the surface if I decide I don’t like the finished piece. The surface can also be sanded extremely smooth for using calligraphy pens or markers later. The grain of wood often makes a nice addition to the pattern, and in addition, a weathered look can be achieved really easily with a little sanding.
My usual first step with most surfaces is to paint a coating of white gesso to prepare the surface. There’s just something more glowing about the acrylic paints when applied over a white surface. I don’t worry about the brush strokes, even painting in different directions with a smaller brush is fine – one quick coat will do, let it dry and after a light sanding, I am ready to start creating.
I love working with bits and pieces of text from old books. It almost doesn’t matter what book you use, since the pieces might be painted over so much that you don’t see the words, but in this case I wanted the black letters to show up as a form of texture. I start with soft gel medium and a small paint brush. I paint the spot where I am putting the pieces of torn paper and then quickly paint over the top, making sure to get all the edges. Working with small pieces makes it easier to keep from having spots of air or wrinkles. I love the texture of layering pieces on the wood and over each other. Sometimes I like to add just a little bit of dimension to a piece I am working on. In this case, I used several circles cut from thin cardboard or mat board.
One technique I love to do is tear white tissue paper into bits and pieces and adhere it with gel medium– even letting some pieces fold over each other. The transparency and absorbent quality of the tissue creates some interesting effects. I used layered tissue over the edges of the cut circles to soften them, creating a more rounded edge. I decided to add some color to my background “sky” using a blue acrylic paint mixed with some white paint, so it would appear behind the flowers. This is something I also could have done before adding my three circles.
I added a thin earthy yellow paint wash over both the torn bits of book papers with text as well as part of my sky. Adding washes like this adds more depth and variation of color that help tie the piece together. I also added a little touch of bright spring green paint to the “grass” – note how the edges of the bits of paper pick up more of the green. After cutting one leaf, I used it as a template to cut several so they’d be roughly the same size. You can see that before this point in the project, I imagined there to be three flowers, and I even started painting the middle one with white gesso for a different look, but as the piece came together I feel that it might have been a bit too busy. The advantage of painting on wood is that I was able to remove, paint over, and sand the spot where the third flower had been.
I felt that the piece still needed something. I scooped a small layer of household spackle on the right hand corner, spreading it with a small plastic trowel to be just thick enough to be able to rubber stamp into it. This is a process that works with plaster, spackle, joint compound, artist’s modeling paste – anything that starts out soft and then dries hard. These all have different effects and different drying times. I like spackle since it dries fast, but not as fast as plaster. Keep in mind that it is pink when applied and then turns white when dry. There’s about a half hour working time when you can decide if you want to redo your stamp. Get the stamp surface wet first by spraying it with water or squeeze out a sponge so the spackle doesn’t stick to it. I like to use a fingernail brush afterward to clean off any extra spackle that sticks to the stamp. After the spackle has dried, I brush it with a wash of the warm yellow paint and rub it with a cloth so it’s not too heavy.
The final step is to add my own handwriting. I used my pointed pen with white acrylic ink. Once fully dry, the whole piece is varnished with a gloss to protect it for many more springs to come.
ARTIST TIP: Working with a heat gun (the kind sold for rubber stamp embossing) can sometimes help speed up your processes. If you’ve got a good work and creative flow going, you can speed dry an area so you can proceed to the next step of painting a wash of color. But sometimes things like spackle or joint compound take some time to dry, so try working on another piece at the same time so you can alternate projects while one is drying.
Thank you for sharing this insightful project tutorial, Caitlin! Check out Caitlin’s “Family Tree” feature in the May/June 2012 issue of Somerset Studio. To see more of her artistic lettering projects, please visit her website www.oneheartstudio.com.
Posted: Thursday, June 7th, 2012 @ 9:14 am
Categories: Guest Artist, How-To, Somerset Studio.
Tags: Canvas Collage, Guest Artist.
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