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Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Mixed Media -- Mixed Bag

The term mixed media means using more than one type of paint, substance, or paper on a single piece of artwork. I don’t know if this is a trend, a fad, or a permanent part of the art experience. I have tried it myself with “mixed” emotions. True, it’s fun and creative, but will it last the test of time, i.e. public opinion and longevity?

I do know that when black gesso is applied to a panel or canvas, the light is trapped and doesn’t radiate outward. I discovered this on a piece that didn’t seem to have a sharp focus when I tried to enhance it in my photo program. I didn’t get the glow that I normally see from a white canvas.
It’s true that acrylics or oils placed on black gesso “pops” and glows at the start, but loses that lightness when photographed. My painting “Egret Reflections” was started with a black gesso background. I sketched my design on the canvas using white carbon paper, and applied a light coat of linseed oil over the canvas before applying oils.

I was pleased with my first application of oil paint and how it seemed to really zing. But it did lose some light properties in the photographing process.

“Hibiscus Glory” was a commissioned painting. The client requested a black background as she had seen a painting of a huge flower in the Florida Keys that she liked, and wanted a smaller version (and less expensive). We used her yellow hibiscus plant as a model.


On this painting, knowing that the flower would lose its glow if I used black in the background, I sketched my drawing on the white canvas, and applied black gesso to the background. I did fill in the drawing with acrylics first, putting yellow behind the flower so the yellow glow would come through the finished flower. This procedure qualified for the designation of “mixed media.”

I enhanced the background somewhat; black gesso loses its sheen over time. I’m not as fond of using it unless it is mixed with other acrylic paints to give it more depth and variation. When using both acrylics and oil, you must remember that acrylics go under and oil on top (never the reverse!) A wipe of linseed oil over the acrylics helps the oil paint adhere to the canvas.

What are your experiences with mixed media or black gesso? Love to hear from you!