Playing With Mixed Media

July 24, 2017 , In: Design Challenge, Fiber, Mixed Media, Tutorials

If you are a regular follower here at Art Elements you know that we have been doing a “Keep Our Sanity” challenge among our members here for quite a few months. It’s not mandatory to join in, just something fun to stay focused on the creative process & maintain our sanity!  I view it as a way to stretch my imagination and try out new techniques. Or in this most recent challenge it was a chance for me to get back to something I used to do WAY before I started beading-mixed media paintings.

The challenge-Prehistoric Art. My inspiration-cave paintings of Lascaux (above painting) Here’s my process:

I began with a heavy weight decorator fabric in a color similar to what I wanted the overall image to look like. I just poured some gesso on the fabric and spread it around with a fancy spreader (an old hotel room keycard). It creates a very light coat of gesso that allows a smidge of fabric color & design to show through. Let dry.

Quinacridone Nickel Azo Gold added around edges of fabric

Then I used my absolute favorite paint color-quinacridone nickel azo gold (above)to make a wash of paint and smear it around the edges of the fabric and even sponge some color here and there on the gesso. Once that dried, I tore a piece of cream colored tissue paper, crumpled it then glued it down with some gel medium over the gessoed area,lightly smoothing it out. (below) I  didn’t want to flatten it too much I wanted creases and wrinkles in there to create texture. Then I lightly covered the tissue paper with gel medium.  It tore in areas but no worries it created more texture!

Crumpled tissue paper glued down on fabric

Light coat of gesso on top of tissue paper

I didn’t want to copy the inspiration painting exactly so I added my own version of mark making in the center of the piece. I have a supply of paper towels that I have ‘painted, dyed & rusted’. Which means when I am painting or dyeing fabrics or rusting fabrics, I keep paper towels nearby to soak up spills, wipe my hands (I use my fingers a lot when I paint) and I have wrapped paper towels in with fabric and rusty objects to dye them.I keep all the ‘used’ paper towels to recycle for other projects.

Paper towels are great for adding an extra layer of texture in a project. After all, they are a fibrous paper. I have tried many brands but my fave is VIVA. They resemble fabric more so than the other brands and they are smooth rather than have a pebbly texture or design.


So here’s my rusty piece of paper towel that was perfect for using in this piece. The rusty objects left nice markings and fit right in for this cave painting. I forgot to photograph the entire towel before tearing out the section that I wanted to use.

Since this paper towel was sitting in water logged fabric with rusty objects for several days, it was a tad brittle in the heavily rusted areas as well as really thin around the edges. I didn’t want to risk tearing it while trying to glue it down so I ironed some fusible webbing to the back and then ironed it in place on the fabric. It fuses wonderfully!

Next, I painted some fusible webbing with ink(below).  You can use acrylic ink or alcohol ink, regular acrylic paint or fabric paint. The fusible webbing creates more texture due to the nature of the adhesive. Just paint the webbing, let dry and peel off the painted webbing and tear into various size strips to fuse down on your painting….

This fusible webbing appears more uniform in color while still on the paper backing. Once you peel it off it becomes more transparent.

Webbing fused down in various areas. WARNING: Always use a piece of parchment paper between the webbing and your iron! You do not want the adhesive to gum up your iron. But if you do get some on your iron there’s a handy little product made by Dritz called Iron Off.

For the actual drawings on the cave wall I used my General’s Sketch & Wash pencil (below). These are great little sketching pencils because they act like watercolor pencils.

My favorite sketching pencil!

Draw your design then using a wet paintbrush you can smear the design and create some shadows with the brush. It really softens up the pencil strokes.

After I got my designs sketched I went back with more of the quinacridone nickel azo gold to smear a little more in areas that needed it, as well as used the pencil/wet paintbrush to add more shadows in areas.

After adding more quinacridone nickel azo gold and close up of textures.

Once I was satisfied with the overall look I decided it needed to be mounted on a canvas. I had a canvas already painted that I didn’t like so I tried it on that. The background was dark but too distracting as it was a mottled/sponged background. So I decided to check my stash of rusty fabrics. I found a piece of rust dyed linen which has a nice aged texture/finish to glue to the painted canvas. I spread some fabric glue over the canvas then ironed the fabric onto the canvas. Voila! The iron helps seal/set the glue almost instantly.

Ironing the fabric to the painted canvas

Then I used a small amount of fabric glue around the edges of the ‘cave painting’  and covered the ‘cave painting’ with parchment paper before lightly ironing to set the glue. I decided to add a bit more insurance by using a wooden bead and waxed linen thread to secure each corner of the piece onto the canvas.

Bead & waxed linen stitched through canvas to secure corners. Also a really good close up of the painted fusible webbing.

Finished ‘Cave Painting’ mounted on linen over painted canvas. There is a teeny bit of dark painted canvas peeking out around the edges of the linen

So that was my process for creating an aged, textured cave painting.  Hope you are inspired to play around with some of these techniques. It’s fun to mix it up and try new things!


Cathy Spivey Mendola

Cathy Spivey Mendola has been creative her entire life. After a short career in the medical profession she became a stay-at-home mom which allowed her to dabble in various arts and crafts. Many years and mediums later she has finally found her passion-bead embroidered jewelry. When she needs a break from jewelry she creates bead embellished art quilts and wall hangings.
  1. Reply

    I have to admit, that I love to see the process of how a piece was created. I just love (and have to steal 😉 ) your idea with the fusible webbing for brittle paper, I would have never thought of that!

  2. Reply

    Brilliant! I loved reading about your technique. And stunning results!

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