Art Process – mixing media

Burning Bush (study); 2015; 13.25' x 11'; acrylic.

Burning Bush (study); 2015; 13.25′ x 11′; acrylic.

I learned to paint in my teenage years using watercolor. I invested income from summer jobs into private lessons with a local artist, renowned watercolorist Claudette Beddingfield. I fell in love with watercolor’s fluidity, spontaneity, and transparency.

In college I discovered the power of line as it whispers and shouts, hints and exclaims. Combining watercolor with graphite and charcoal became a natural progression.

In the last couple of years, I have been exploring another medium – acrylic. Increasingly, I appreciate its textural qualities, as well as the opacity that allows me to add back in lights. I recently painted Burning Bush, above, in pure acrylic, allowing the paint to teach me what it could do as I experimented.

For my recent piece Sparks, I began with a black pastel drawing, then layered watercolor over resist, then acrylic. From there I freely and intuitively mixed media, exploiting the transparency of watercolor and the opacity of acrylic, sometimes drawing back into the acrylic with the end of my paintbrush while it was still wet to reveal the dry watercolor layer beneath.

Sparks; 2015; 21.25" x 29.25"; mixed media: watercolor, acrylic, ink, pastel.

Sparks; 2015; 21.25″ x 29.25″; mixed media: watercolor, acrylic, ink, pastel.

For Prayer for Courage, I started with an acrylic monotype. I painted sheer black on plexi-glass, and then used pieces of cut cardboard and ends of paintbrushes to draw into the wet paint; and then pressed paper to the plate, transferring a black and white image. From there I intuitively and spontaneously layered watercolor and more acrylic, allowing each layer to dry before adding additional paint.

Prayer For Courage; 2015; 11" x 15"; mixed media: watercolor & acrylic

Prayer For Courage; 2015; 11″ x 15″; mixed media: watercolor & acrylic

I worked with a similar process recently for this piece:  Fly Away (click to view larger):

I constantly wrestle between control and spontaneity, emotional expression and calculated technique. I’m enjoying the freedom of acrylic to simply express, then go back in and re-work sections. I also find that I can explore a subject in acrylic, and then utilize my discoveries for a more carefully planned watercolor, like for Tulips.

Last year I entered a state level watercolor exhibit, and my pieces were not accepted. I wondered if part of the reason was that they were predominantly, but not purely, watercolor. I received the rejection as a challenge and created a few pure watercolor paintings. I entered two in the Pikes Peak Watercolor Society International Watermedia Exhibit and will find out in late April if they are accepted.

My true passion, though, I must admit, is exploring the strengths of various media on one sheet of paper. I thrive on unpredictability and experimentation:  whispering to the paper, and allowing it to sing back to me.

Please visit my Etsy store Fragments of Light to view originals and fine art prints available for purchase. 

11 thoughts on “Art Process – mixing media

  1. Hi Colleen,

    Thank you so much for sharing your process as you continue to explore and refine, and define your techniques!

    I really enjoyed seeing some of your progressive step pictures as the final piece takes shape, because it gave me insight into the recent process I have discovered:

    For me, using the iPad and touchscreen to make that first Happy Fish has been a very scaled-down version of the same type of experimenting with adding layers of color over an initial sketch. There are different ways of layering color, changing the opacity, transparency and even the additive or subtractive methods of blending colors, so in a small way, obviously with a far less tactile quality, I could really relate to what you were saying.


    • I love the way you describe your process, and I love the results even more! Technology opens up so many possibilities for creative people. I hope you keep pushing the boundaries of the medium and share the outcomes with me!


  2. Colleen,

    How fascinating and interesting to read about your creative process! And I agree with you—the mixed media is powerful and beautiful, and I like how you bring out the strengths of various techniques.

    Joy to you!


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