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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Acrylic grounds for mixed media

It's really easy for me to fall in love with materials. These past few years I've been dating acrylics. First, it was Tri-Art's gorgeous Artist Acrylic colours that won me over, then their innovative recycled paint Sludge...then I fell madly in love with Dry Media Ground, and now I just can't get enough of Nepheline Gels (the following artwork is graphite, charcoal and pastel on Nepheline Gel Coarse, and it's published in the New Acrylics Essential Sourcebook: Materials, Techniques, and Contemporary Applications for Today's Artist mixed media chapter). Just as I'm known for charcoal, acrylics have now become synonymous with my mixed media works, blurring the line between drawing and painting. Acrylic grounds allow me to create a textured surface that is very exciting and different than just working on common surfaces. And just like paper, I can soften dry media (graphite, charcoal, pastel) to a velvet finish with a brush, and also leave crisp edges, intense with colour or value.

Dry Media Ground is simply perfect, and will always be my true love! When you apply it to a surface, the result is like a very fine sandpaper. If you have ever used a pastel paper or board, that's what I'm talking about - it's the same thing, only it's much more cost effective to buy the Dry Media Ground in a jar and then you can create your own surfaces the way you want them. You can add colour to it or even apply it on top of layers of acrylic paint, creating a new surface of possibilities! On the other hand, Nepheline Gels have a unique granular texture and appearance. It's available in a fine (which is not as fine as dry media ground), a coarse and extra coarse. Just like Dry Media Ground, Nepheline Gel can be mixed with colour or used on it's own, glazed over top of and anything else you can think of....and it's a brilliant surface for graphite, charcoal, pastel and other drawing materials.

Gesso is a common ground for sealing surfaces for painting preparation. I love drawing on Gesso with graphite or charcoal. Gesso is a very dense White, but it is also avail in Black, Burnt Umber or Canvas colours, and even better, Tri-Art recently came out with a Clear Gesso and it's absolutely fabulous for tinting.  I also find it particularly useful when I have a beautiful piece of birch that I want to prepare and yet incorporate the natural wood surface into the art itself. I use to draw right onto wood and yet have found that over time the wood gets oily and stained and dirty, and I can already see that my newer pieces will last longer simply because the wood is primed. On that note, though I am an experimental art materials pixie, I've learned that there are some rules you should follow...there will always be plenty of rules you can still break! A few rules I recommend for all artists: always use good quality materials, take the time to experiment and get to know your materials, and prepare, finish and safely store your art. 

A few secrets to relieve any fear of acrylics and mixed media:
  • all acrylics and mediums are ok to mix. it's recommended to mix artist quality with artist quality/student quality with student quality and so on, but that aside don't hesitate to try new brands. Company's often has a signature colour or product, such as Tri-Art's new Artist Acrylic colour 'Golden Orange' and it's good to step out of your comfort zone even in regards to your favorite brand of paint!
  • acrylics are the most versatile medium out there, and can be used on a variety of surfaces and combined with any dry or water-soluble medium....and you can really open up new worlds by exploring collage and sculptural materials. 
  • Rheni Tauchid's book New Acrylics Essential Sourcebook: Materials, Techniques, and Contemporary Applications for Today's Artist will inspire and is a handy reference with detailed charts on how to prepare your surfaces, using acrylics with other mediums, media and materials.
  • it's ok to fall in love with your materials ...the paint, the canvas, the brushes, the tools... and the play, the journey, the creative process

Creative people are curious, flexible, persistent and independent with a tremendous spirit of adventure and a love of play. ~Henri Matisse


  1. So glad I met you at the Art Expo in Pasadena, Ca.
    You are and inspiration.
    Don't stop doing what you do.
    Art makes the world a better place.

  2. Hey Sharlena,
    So inspirational and educational at the same time.
    Your personality really reflects your work. Love your work!


  3. ty <3 there are no words really to describe how wonderful it is to hear that my passion inspires others ;)