I like the idea of mixed media artwork, but so much of it starts to look the same because they’re all following the same instructors. The circles created by bubble wrap have gone from a cool idea to a cliché. I have the same problem with using stamps and pre-printed pages. So this is my primer for creating my own pages.
I begin by taping four sheets of 9″x12″ mixed media paper to my tabletop in such a way they become 18″x24″. I could use 18″x24″ but I’m going to be scanning the paper and the 9″x12″ is closer to fitting my scanner without having to cut them. I then pull out acrylic paints and/or inks of complementary colors and just play. The colors and tools really depend on my mood, which is part of what makes it original. Then I scan them into Photoshop and that’s where they take on a whole new life.
The sample I’m going to be working with was created by rolling gray paint onto a floor tile and pulling a monoprint with a brayer. I used the gray paint on other pages and then rolled the excess paint onto the monoprint, which gave me a mixed background. I should have scanned it at this point so I could print it out and embellish the foreground differently.
But for this one, I taped the page into a cheap, flexible, aluminum baking pan. I mixed a couple colors of fluid acrylic in bowls. And I dipped marbles in the paint, which I then rolled onto the page and flexed the pan until the marble wasn’t giving up any more paint. To get the shading, I mixed the paints into each other.
Scan the page when it’s dry and figure out a system for naming. Mine isn’t that original, I take the work from one day and save it as Series #, then with a number to match the scans.
In Photoshop I have a couple of adjustments I make. The first one I like is to invert the image (command-I on a Mac). The easiest explanation for what is happening is the colors are changed to what is on the opposite spectrum of the color wheel. What is red becomes green (blue and yellow) and what is orange (red and yellow) becomes blue with all the shades in between. Because the background was gray, it remained mostly gray except the white areas became black and the darker areas became the lighter areas. I save this and add “invert” to the file name.
I’m going to explain two processes with this next sample. First, the toning change. I do what’s called an autotone (command-shift-L), which sometimes just brightens up an image but other times creates something completely new. The flatter the colors in the original image, the more dramatic the change will be. I’ve had some that looked like a single color that end up being really dramatic. I do this to both the basic and the inverted file and add “autotune” to the file name.
The second thing I do, is I mirror the image. I do this by selecting all (command-A), copying (command-C) and then expanding the canvas size (under Image menu) to double the original width. Make sure you shift the image to one side so the other side is blank or white. Then I flip the image horizontally, which is under Image menu, Image Rotation. Once it’s flipped I paste the original copied image (command-V), which will autocreate a layer. I drag it into place and zoom into the image to make sure the edges match up. Then flatten the image, which is under the Layer menu. I do this with each variation and save the different sizes in different folders.
I also expand the image and flip vertically (remember to shift to the top or bottom). I can then reduce the size of the file to the original file size and I have a seamless repeating pattern at 1/4 of the size of the original artwork. The really cool thing about this for me, is that I printed these onto fabric through Spoonflower and created outfits from the fabric for the Wearable Arts Extravaganza. Just make sure there aren’t any remnants of white along the edge of your file.
There is one last adjustment that I wanted to mention, solarize. The darker image (far left) is the original file solarized, which created a rainbow of color that wasn’t in the original at all. I’m really not sure what solarize is meant to do, but it’s nowhere near the original. The image on the immediate left has then been autotuned, which is a drastic improvement.
I print my images onto mixed media paper and spray with a fixative. The nice thing about this process is from one painted page, I have several varieties I can print when I want them.