Techniques and Tips

Demo: Dimensional Substrates and Treated Surfaces

Demo: Dimensional Substrates and Treated Surfaces

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There’s a rich array of media available to creatives today, offering a wide range of possibilities for exploration and experimentation. Artists are breaking from conventional approaches, exploring alternative materials and techniques to jump-start their process and approach.

In this demonstration from my book Art Revolution, I use multiple substrates, collage, assemblage, embossing and debossing relief treatments and lushly painted patinas to draw the viewer into the piece. The finished work, The Courageous (above; mixed media, 30-1/4″x19″x2-1/2″) has been chosen to be amongst the Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art (Spectrum 16) for 2009.

1 Preparing the Panels
A Masonite panel is attached to a poplar framework using wood glue and screws that are recessed on top. Wood filler that is sanded down helps to smooth out the surface. The panel is covered with Bookbinder’s PVA glue using a flat bristle brush. Starting from the middle, linen canvas is rolled over the glued surface in sections. A brayer is used on top to eliminate any air bubbles. When the canvas is fully attached, it is covered with wax paper and heavy books are placed on top to assist in the adhesion process. In addition, a rigid hardwood panel is also covered with canvas using the same process.

2 Securing the Canvas
To complete both dimensional panels, the sides are glued, wrapped using canvas pliers and adhered to the back temporarily with heavy-duty staples. Once the glue is dry, the staples are pulled out and replaced with small steel tacks.

3 Establishing the Values
A fully rendered value drawing of the lion is executed on the canvas-covered hardwood panel using a technical pencil and powdered graphite. Various round and flat bristle brushes are used to apply the powdered graphite to the canvas surface. A kneaded eraser and an adjustable eraser are used for lifting. When completed, the entire piece is sprayed several times with a photo lacquer using protective gear outside.

4 Creating an Aged Look
To create a weathered look, acrylic matte gel medium is applied to the canvas using a palette knife. It seals the surface, adds texture and dries clear.

5 Applying the Color
Sap Green oil paint is applied onto the textured surface with a cotton cloth in a circular fashion. Areas of light are removed with cotton swabs. When dry, the entire piece is sealed with a photo lacquer, using proper protective gear outside.

6 Applying Washes and Lifting Color
Pencil is used to mark the area where the smaller hardwood panel will be positioned on the larger substrate. Acrylic paint is thinned with water, applied to the canvas and immediately lifted out with a heavy-duty paper towel that has been randomly creased and folded. A piece of handmade paper that has been embedded with leaves is also used for lifting color. The process is repeated several times to build up the color. Transparent acrylic washes from the same color palette are added to the lion painting to unify the two pieces.

7 Treating and Adhering Collage Elements
Colored papers, in an array of finishes and textures, typographic elements and ephemera are ripped, cut, riveted and punched to create visual interest. The elements are applied to the canvas surface using PVA glue and a flat bristle brush. Painter’s tape is used to temporarily hold the pieces in place. Once they are glued into position, wax paper is placed on top and a brayer is used to remove excess glue and air bubbles. When the glue is dry, acrylic matte medium is brushed on top to seal the surface.

8 Debossing the Surface
Modeling paste mixed with gesso is applied throughout the composition using a palette knife. While still wet, the surface is debossed in an irregular fashion using heavy-duty lace with a stiff backing. The collage and modeling paste surfaces are painted with acrylic thinned with water and lifted out in areas using paper towels, handmade paper and sponges, leaving interesting patterns onto the layered surfaces.

9 Printing With Natural Objects
Several freshly-cut sprigs from various bushes are painted with a deep burgundy acrylic and laid down onto the surface of both panels. Gold acrylic paint is dripped on top and spread with a roller. The sprigs are removed before the paint dries, leaving an interesting organic impression.

10 Incorporating Typography
A typographic design is created on the computer and printed out on paper.Chalk is applied to the back for transferring purposes. By tracing over the outlines with a ballpoint pen, the lettering is transferred to the surface and painted in with gold acrylic using a paint brush.

11 Adding Paint Details
To both substrates, acrylic paint is opaquely applied using a brush and a palette knife for more dramatic mark-making. The sides are also painted to continue the image. Oil paint thinned with Liquin is used for rendering areas of detail.

12 Attaching Add-Ons
An antique metal door knocker and drawer handle are lightly sponged with copper acrylic paint and added to the panel as accents. The add-ons are secured from the back with flat screws that have been recessed into the panel. The two panels are put together using screws in the back. Sticks, wrapped with gold thread, are also added to the composition using a hot glue gun.

The book Art Revolution is at the forefront in exploring innovative mixed-media art that unites the disciplines of two-dimensional, three-dimensional, digital and new media art in inventive combinations. Throughout this highly visual book, insightful and thought-provoking profiles of leading artists and illustrators accompany stellar, multi-media work. In addition, exciting splash spreads feature demonstrations and behind-the-scene looks at groundbreaking artists at work, shedding light on signature processes and techniques. For artists who are looking for an edge, wanting to push their work further, this book will be a valuable asset and ongoing source of inspiration.

Featured Artists: Marshall Arisman, Brad Holland, Dave McKean, Barron Storey, David Mack, Kazuhiko Sano, Fred Otnes, Michael Mew, Kathleen Conover, Rudy Gutierrez, Lynne Foster, Lisa L. Cyr, Cynthia von Buhler, Robert Maloney, Susan Leopold, AE Ryan, Matt Manley, Stephanie Dalton Cowan, Richard Tuschman, Dorothy Simpson Krause and Camille Utterback.

This article is excerpted from Art Revolution (c) 2009 by artist and writer Lisa L. Cyr ( and is used with permission of North Light Books, an imprint of F+W Media Inc. Starting July 2009, this book will be available through your local bookseller or may be obtained online at and Cyr also offers a related traveling lecture, Reinterpret, Reinvent and Redefine, to interested organizations and universities. Visit for details. Cyr also invites you to visit her Facebook page and her blog.


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