Taking the Mixed-Media Challenge!

A guest post by Lisa L. Cyr (www.cyrstudio.com)

During my recent visit to Southern Utah University (SUU), the illustration and fine art students were asked to work outside their comfort zones and embark on a mixed-media journey. Over a  two-day workshop, the students learned exploratory methodologies, techniques and approaches in mixed-media art. Through demonstrations and hands-on guidance, the students walked away with an extensive array of visually-stimulating possibilities to explore and incorporate into their own vision. Both two-dimensional and three-dimensional cutting-edge, mixed-media techniques were covered. “At Southern Utah University, we take a very traditional path to developing art skills. Lisa brought in a completely different approach with her experimental painting workshop,” shares art and illustration professor Ron Spears. “Students were challenged to expand their creativity and to think about materials in a new way. I couldn’t have been more excited to see the students embrace this challenge and run with their creativity, even well after the workshops had ended. Lisa engaged the students and ignited that spark of inspiration all artists need.”

Take a look at the amazing mixed-media work created by the illustration and fine art students at Southern Utah University.


Artist: Andrew Mitchell
Title: The Incubator
Size: 15.5″ x 39.5″
Media: acrylic, oil and mixed media
Surface: Masonite and illustration board

“I did a small version of this during the workshop and used it as a template for this piece. I spent the first few days attaching the speakers, circuit board and illustration board to my Masonite. Taking apart an old stereo was a lot of work but a lot of fun as it helped me develop my concept. The final day that I had to work on this was spent building up the paint, removing some paint with water to reveal the figure and then rendering the figure in oil,” says illustration major, Andrew Mitchell. “The workshop was a great tool that introduced me to another way of building up my concepts and ideas using a more tactile approach. It took me the first day to loosen up and stop worrying so much about the how and to start focusing on the why. I feel that it’s really easy to throw the kitchen sink at a project like this and what I enjoyed most was the insight Lisa shared on the time and concentration spent on layering ideas and meaning as well as layering matte gel and paint.”


Artist: Brian Heritage
Title: Save Self Live Better
Size: 20″ x 32″
Media: oil, acrylic and ink
Surface: Masonite

“For this piece, I began by heavily layering and dripping acrylic gesso to create an interesting ground. Then, I started building color and tone with a series of oil washes and glazes. Rather than carefully planning out a gamut map for the piece, I tried to let the colors happen spontaneously, where I was reacting to what was appearing in front of me. Once I had the right mood working, I brought in the figure and then added additional textures by layering ink transfers onto the work. The piece is focused on my relationship to my day job as a retail employee. I wanted the viewer to feel confronted and unsettled as this is a reflection of how I feel every day at work,” offers illustration major Brian Heritage. “There was a very strong creative energy and community during the workshop, and I feel it elevated everyone’s work. I am going to try, in the future, to work in groups or studios instead of locking myself in a room and producing work on my own. I learned a great deal in the two-day workshop, but I think the chief lesson to be had is to be bold and deliberate, not fearing any media or worrying about ruining a piece by making a mark or trying something new out. In truth, as long as you do something, it will only make a piece better in the long run.”


Day one we created multi-layered, multidimensional grounds using illustration board enhanced with various collage techniques and Masonite treated with bas-relief techniques.


Artist: Jordan Green
Title: Venn Diagram #2
Size: 36” x 23”
Media: crackle paste, acrylic paint, molding paste, paper and oil
Surface: Particle Board

“I established a base texture with acrylic paint and inscribed some circles with a large compass. Around the circles, I applied liquid latex as a resist and painted different colors. Not happy with the first run, I used tape as a resist around the circles a second time and got an effect that was pleasing. Then, I cut out a drawing I had done of myself and, using matte medium, I attached it to the support. I ended up with a textured wrinkling of the paper which I painted with oil paint. I also created a square using crackle paste. I first darkened it with black India ink and then applied dry brush in grey paint with the addition of a few speckles of gold ink as well. I left the portrait with a number of lost and found edges, rendering the face and arms with flesh color. The shirt was allowed to blend in with the overall texture of the piece,” says painting, printmaking and drawing major Jordan Green. “In the workshop, I learned a massive amount about materials. In fact more information than I could process was offered. I focused on a few ideas to work on but it was extremely beneficial to watch everyone incorporate a different approach and method. This informed and fed me with a new understanding and lots of ideas. One of the ideas that I caught onto which was simple and yet revolutionary to me was acquiring textures from common and available items. Using aluminum foil or printing paper to create a debossed or embossed image is something I will use in future works. The most important idea that I will continue to expand on is the various methods of creating textural imagery. It is much more enjoyable to make art with actual three-dimensional textures than to duplicate those same textures on a two-dimensional surface.”


Artist: Rylie Savage
Title: The Sun Maid
Size: 6.5″ x 19″
Media: acrylic, gold marker and colored pencils
Surface: illustration board

“When Lisa came to do the workshops with us, I was so excited to see what she was going to teach us. I knew that she worked with lots of different mediums so I was sure that it would be something that I had never tried before, and I was blown away. The workshops were awesome! I learned to use a lot of new stuff to create amazing three-dimensional paintings that I don’t think that I would have ever tried if I hadn’t gone to the workshops. I had no idea what I was doing half the time, but Lisa was so good about coming over to help out. In the end, my pieces turned out to be something that I was very happy with. The process of getting them there was just flat out fun,” shares illustration major Rylie Savage. “I knew that I wanted to create something that was uniquely mine, incorporating what Lisa taught us with it. I loved the textural techniques, especially when we began to put paint down on them. It was beautiful how the paint caught on the jagged edges of the surface, bringing the piece to life. I found that I was finding new ways to incorporate my own style. I am very inspired by natural themes, and a lot of the textures that I discovered help bring that to life in my pieces that I did for the workshop. I don’t know that I’d say that I had a predefined process in mind before I got there except to go and let Lisa teach me what to do. I have to say that I am glad I did. I tried not to let my natural way of thinking get in the way too much and just enjoyed the art of exploration!”


Artist: Rachel Ross
Title: Scoliosis
Size: 16″ x 23″
Media: acrylic, burlap, cheesecloth, inkjet transfer, silver dollars, feathers and digital
Surface: Board

“My initial thought was to create an angelic figure with a ghost-like inkjet transfer (drawn digitally) set against a pale but heavily textural background. The collage elements—cheese cloth, burlap, silver dollars and feathers—were intended to create a strong contrast with the minimal figure and background. I was fascinated by the textural processes we were taught for creating surfaces and wanted to experiment with it further. Though in the workshop, we worked largely with the application of rich, layered color. I was intrigued by the idea of pushing that layered color back into the crevasses by topping the paint with layers of white and allowing only a hint to show through. Later on in the piece, the collage elements of the feathers and silver dollars presented an interesting challenge, but worked out with more success than I could have hoped,” says illustration major Rachel Ross. “The workshop was immensely useful, even for students who didn’t directly identify with the style. The greatest purpose it served was to open our eyes to the experimental possibilities of painting. Though all of us learned the exact same processes in the short workshop, each of us emerged with a piece that was radically different from all the rest. Wherever our individual styles take us from here, we have all come away with a fresh perspective that will undoubtedly charge our future bodies of work with a fresh, innovative spin.”


Day two we worked on mixed-media painting techniques, infusing color and pattern into the multidimensional grounds created on the first day.


Artist: McKenna Horman
Title: The Crane Wife
Size: 19″ x 16″
Media: acrylic, burlap, cheesecloth and molding paste
Surface: Masonite

“The first thing I did was create textures on the board by using gesso, burlap and molding paste. I also laid down some cheesecloth to give the illusion of three-dimensional fabric. After that was dry, I went over the entire thing with washes of paint, rubbing away at it to bring out the colors underneath. Last of all, I painted in the crane and the loom over the top,” shares illustration major McKenna Horman. “I learned many techniques at the workshop that I will definitely use again. I loved the idea of using molding paste to add texture by pressing things into it while it was still wet. I haven’t worked in collage much but I learned how to use different materials to give my painting the feel I want.”


Artist: Elizabeth Boucher
Title: Guardian Keeper
Size: 19.5″ x 1″
Media: acrylic, oil, white charcoal pencil and other mixed media
Surface: Masonite

“I started this artwork by layering on gesso textures to Masonite board. I then added layers of white lace and netting with matte medium, setting the lace and netting down with a layer of molding paste. Once dry, I did a life drawing of a girl who I turned into a mermaid character. I scanned and printed my image out, transferring it to my board. I used big brushes to push paint into the lace and heavy texture, incorporating many layers of earth tones along with brilliant copper and gold. Creating the glow was really fun,” shares illustration and studio arts major Elizabeth Boucher. “I had decided that this was an underwater fantasy theme and worked on the netting which transformed into a water dragon. It was a challenge to make it pop from the texture so you could see its form. I painted the mermaid’s jewelry and staff with gel medium and molding paste to create an embossed look. I found it to be fun to trace over things with the gel medium and watch it catch the light. I added a few other sea pictures, penciling them in with a white charcoal pencil and painting them with acrylics. The final stage was applying oil paint to create more depth and rich colors. It was a lot of fun and I sure enjoyed using Lisa Cyr’s method.”


Artist: Zane B. Anderson
Title: Conception
Size: 12″ x 14.25″
Media: acrylic, crayon, plaster, gesso, charcoal, collage and other mixed media
Surface: wood panel

“I started this painting by putting gesso on the board with my hands to give it an organic texture right off the bat. After pasting down different layers of burlap and tissue paper, I collaged in bits of old paper scraps. I also attached some hardware that I have collected over the years such as brass rivets, an aluminum oil tube, a number two tab from a clock, an old linoleum relief cut I made and a rusted water handle with a night and day clock face ornament attached to it. I painted with acrylics to accentuate the variety of textures. Using a stencil, I added in some symbols. I also cut out the profile of a women in latex with a gas mask and air hose which attached to a valve. The last touch was gluing the old red washer where the eye hold in the gas mask should be. An interesting series of numbers is at the bottom left. These numbers are important to me,” shares art major Zane B. Anderson. “During the workshop, I learned many techniques that I did not know existed. It was also inspiring to see so many different people creating assemblage work. Lisa Cyr’s workshop has made me excited about creating artwork again.”


Artist: Brice Gielgens
Title: Breakdown Study #1
Size: 9.5” x 15”
Media: acrylic, laser jet print, ephemera, tissue, lace, gel medium, typewriter paper and illustration board cut-outs
Surface: illustration Board

“I took my initial pieces of illustration board and created a weighted, asymmetric composition. Once I was happy with the balance, I scored and removed pieces from my smaller boards to a more concentrated composition. Before gluing them down, I took old comic books, pieced them apart, and stitched them together with typewriter paper. After gluing everything down with matte medium and archival PVA glue, I did an acrylic gel transfer of a laser jet print. Now, having three layers of complementary compositions, I painted, buffed and dry-brushed layers of acrylic paint until I landed on the final image,” says illustration major Brice Gielgens. “The two-day workshop was very insightful for me in learning more acute techniques in mixed media. I have had previous experience in many of the techniques used in the workshop, but I had never successfully been able to make a continuous piece using all of them at once. This workshop definitely opened more creative outlets for my future illustrations and I am forever grateful.”


Artist: Ann Middleton
Title: Self Portrait
Size: 18″ x 24″
Media: molding paste, acrylic, gold leaf and found objects
Surface: Masonite

“In creating this piece, I used a lot of molding paste to build up the texture. Around the edges, I used a butter knife with small teeth to create a pattern. Burlap and lace were layered and then I painted my image on top. I laid lace over the image and applied more molding paste on top using a stencil. When it all dried, I dry brushed it with gold acrylic, applied gold leaf and drawer pulls as assemblage accents,” shares studio arts and illustration major Ann Middleton. “From the workshop, I was very happy to learn about how different elements and mediums can work together. It helped me understand that it wasn’t hard to change something if I didn’t like the direction my piece was going. I kept at it until I was satisfied. I’m pretty sure every time someone turned around, the piece had changed in some way!”


Artist: Faith Armstrong
Title: Luster, the Dragon-Fish
Media: acrylic
Surface: illustration board

“I wanted to do a children’s book illustration. Luster is a fish who likes to eat treasure and swallows ships whole. I created the image using the techniques Lisa taught us in her two-day workshop. She showed us a technique of cutting illustration board with a blade, peeling away the layers to create a relief. I created Luster, the Dragon-Fish using two layers. The background is one piece of board and the fish and ship are cut from separate pieces of illustration board and mounted on top. I carved into the illustration board and peeled away the layers to create the textures on the fish and on the boat. I sealed the surface and painted it with acrylic paint. Lisa encouraged us to be creative with the tools we use for texture. I used napkins to blot the sky and a comb to create the texture in the sea,” says illustration and creative writing major Faith Armstrong. “Lisa Cyr’s two-day workshop taught me a great way to create art—intuitively. We built up textures and let them spark further ideas for the piece. It can be scary not knowing the end from the beginning, but it can also be very useful. For example, as an artist, sometimes I hit a creative block when new ideas don’t come to me readily. Those are the perfect opportunities to experiment. Lisa says this is how she generates the backgrounds to her pieces. She does not always know the next step beyond texturing a surface. She takes pieces like these and sets them aside. Later, when she has an idea, it just might fit perfectly with one of the textures she had prepared. In addition, I learned a lot from Lisa Cyr’s lecture, The Art of Promotion. As an artist, I use my imagination to create art. Why not employ that same imagination in how I package and promote it? You can be creative as you want with the shape of your business card. Question the traditional portfolio and find a format that says something about you. Rethink the traditions and make them your own.”


Artist: McCall Smith
Title: Landing Feet First
Size: 11”x14”
Media: acrylic, plaster cloth, PVA glue, printmaking paper and mixed media
Surface: MDF board

“I began with the concept of a tribute to my best friend’s favorite band. The imagery of the bird is the logo of the band Bayside. I outlined it in pencil and proceeded to build it up using plaster cloth. Once the plaster cloth had fully cured, I painted it with black acrylic paint. Each separate color section of the background is a torn piece of printmaking paper painted with off-white acrylic paint, with sections of song lyrics handwritten in archival marker and glued down using archival PVA glue. At the end, the piece was sealed with a spray matte finish,” says illustration major McCall Smith. “I gained a lot of inspiration and knowledge from the two-day workshop. I came away with a desire to build a three-dimensional surface for a painting. The workshop was extremely informative especially in regards to properly applying, gluing and sealing the various surfaces and textures.”


Artist: Jenessa Lingard
Title: Lounging Angel
Size: 16″ x 20″
Media: burlap, lace, cheesecloth, acrylic and oil
Surface: Masonite

“I really wanted the texture of the fabric and background to be evident in the final piece. I applied and buffed out a lot of the paint to get different colors into the various crevices of the fabric. After the background was complete, I used oil paint to create the angel and church, ” shares painting, drawing and printmaking major Jenessa Lingard. “I was really excited to use this process because it allows so much more texture to be used in my painting. In the two-day workshop, I was able to learn techniques that I have been curious about for many years and had never been taught how to do them. The workshop was very fun because we were able to learn Lisa Cyr’s process but also create our own work.”


At the end of day two, I shared my books Experimental Painting and Art Revolution with the students. I also raffled off copies of each book at my lectures entitled The Art of Promotion, Art Revolution: Reinterpret, Reinvent & Redefine, Using New Media in the Classroom Environment: Online and On-Ground and Figure of the Imagination: Using Exploratory Processes to Create Imaginative Works that I also conducted while at Southern Utah University.

Artist Network Online Courses & Webinars by Lisa L. Cyr:    

Creative Explorations in Mixed Media: 2D, 3D and Beyond!

Within the Layers: Inspirational Mixed Media Art Techniques

Transforming the Surface with Mixed Media Painting Techniques Webinar
Tuesday May 7, 2013 1:00pm to 2:00pm EDT

Assemblage Accents Webinar
Tuesday June 4, 2013 1:00pm to 2:00pm EDT

Collage Techniques for the Mixed Media Artist

The recording is available for download

Watch a video on the artist’s work!

Lisa L. Cyr  (www.cyrstudio.com) is an accomplished multidisciplinary artist and author with a content-driven approach. Her highly imaginative, fantasy-inspired works use layers of metaphor and allegory to stimulate curiosity, provoke thought and encourage further inspection. A poetic, rhythmic synthesis of drawing, painting, collage and assemblage, Cyr’s visually tactile, mixed-media work is composed to collectively create a new reality with a more expressive, symbolic arrangement. An artist member of the Society of Illustrators NYC and the International Society of Experimental Artists, Cyr’s work has been featured in numerous magazines, books and online. She has authored seven books on art and design and writes for many of the creative industry’s leading art publications. In addition, Cyr gives workshops across the country and teaches in several of the top MFA graduate programs.

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