Within the Layers: Mixed Media Art from Lisa Cyr’s Online Course

During August, Lisa Cyr taught an online mixed-media workshop based on her book, Experimental Painting, through Artist’s Network University. The course was so popular that it is being offered again in January. You can register for it now! If you want to find out more about the workshop and book, you can scroll down toward the end of this post or click here. But what’s really exciting is that many of Lisa’s students have decided to share their mixed- media art and techniques with us here!

Mixed-media art

Deidra Bell
Break the Silence

Size: 32” T x 9” W

Media: natural wood with bark, Bondo, Raku clay and glaze, silver leaf, gauze fabric and acrylic paint

Surface: wood and Raku clay

Raku firing glaze and clay were used to create the head. The charcoal color of the face came from the carbon in the burning process. I glued two pieces of found natural wood, planed them down and glued them together in a staggered fashion. Afterwards, I applied a thin layer of Bondo (used in auto body restoration) evenly over the wood surface, being careful to sand it with an electrical sander after fifteen minutes. Acrylic paints were added to finish the background. I wire wrapped a flat white stone and glued that to the forehead. Lines of silver leaf were added to the face. Clean gauze was used to glue around the face and over the mouth with the edges left unstitched. Clean gauze and extreme neatness were intentionally used to give the feel of mental oppression and not physical. (Note: Bondo is extremely toxic so proper ventilation and correct mask gear should be worn even outside.)

Mixed-media art

Deidra Bell
Coat of Armor

Size: 32” T x 16” W

Media: Raku clay and glaze, wire, metallic yarn

Surface: Raku clay

In this piece, I used the standard Raku firing process that created the copper metallic flecks in the neck glaze. Carbon from the final burning gave the charcoal color in this face also. I always create holes somewhere in my ceramic pieces not necessarily knowing what they will be used for.  This one had many punched holes assuming there would be some type of headpiece. Wires were pre-cut the same lengths. One to two wires were glued into each of the holes to simulate hair and they were curved forward to surround the face. Yarn was glued to the back of the neck and allowed to fall freely.

Deidra Bell comments about the book and the class:

“Lisa Cyr’s class was the first online class I have ever taken. I’ve searched many years for information that was a TRUE introduction to high quality mixed media techniques.  What I found in this course is that Lisa gives an incredible abundance of unique techniques and clear instructions that could move me forward with developing my own style.  My problem has always been learning how to integrate mixed media techniques with the 3D work that I already do. She walked me through how to start from scratch and build layers as I moved along. I am so excited about what we were introduced to and the fact that there is so much more to learn that I am signing up to take the class again. This time my concentration will be on layering designs directly on the surfaces of my work. I truly value her advice.”

Mixed-media art

Sandy Stafford
He Made Me Do It

Size: 9″ X 13″

Media: Mixed Media; torn paper, gesso, gel medium, rice paper, newspaper, monoprint, handmade papers (tracing paper), acrylic paint, pastel, and vintage scissors

Surface: masonite board

For this piece, I first adhered a monoprint of a figure to the surface and layered torn rice paper and magazine paper  to create interest and texture. I then covered the paper with a peach and yellow ochre mixture. When dry, I sanded the surface slightly and added newspaper and more rice paper with gel medium. I then dry brushed medium orange acrylic paint to the surface. To balance the focal point (figure), I placed vintage scissors to the bottom right of the painting and the quote on the left. I used strips of prepared painted tracing paper to give the illusion of shoulders to the figure and a vertical blue strip pattern in the background to create unity in the painting. At Lisa’s suggestion, I reworked the face because it had a vertical line in the face from the monoprint image. I also added more detail to the face using acrylics and pastel. The original piece was 12″ X 14″ inches and Lisa suggested that I crop the painting to improve the composition.


Sandy Stafford

Size: 12″ X 12″

Media: Mixed Media; gesso, heavy modeling paste, golden fluid acrylic, liquid acrylic, paper collage, letterpress letters,  British coin.

Surface: Gallery wrap canvas

For this piece, I first added an extra heavily brushed coat of gesso for the first layer of texture. I then added a thick layer of heavy gel medium, using palette knives and my fingers. I allowed this to dry overnight, then used fluid acrylic to paint the surface. I allowed that to dry overnight to make sure all of the paint was dry. I then used the sepia and abstractly added dark marks to the canvas. When I turned the canvas, I saw a bird in the abstraction and decided to develop it. I first added an embossed stamping of my hand cut linoleum angel. I then used liquid acrylic to draw and paint the bird with a very gestural approach. To balance the focal point, I added the word “Flight” and a coin. Lisa advised that I rework the letters of the word “flight” so I added letterpress letters to the surface. She also suggested I use a much more muted coin so I decided upon the vintage British coin. After Lisa reviewed this piece, she also suggested that I detail and make the head of the eagle much more realistic. That was again outside my comfort zone, as most of my pieces are more symbolic versus realistic. But I really like the result.

In this piece I learned to trust my instincts and also ask for the advice of peers. I was unsure how to “finish” this piece and was given very sound suggestions. Lisa also informed me to be wary of using very heavy texture on canvas as the weight may cause the canvas to sag and the texture to crack, and fortunately this did not happen.

Sandy Stafford comments about the book and the class:

This is the first time I have used masonite board as a support. I traditionally work with heavy watercolor paper or canvas. It was out of my comfort zone to use such a smooth surface as masonite board, but I like the control it offers as well as strength for collage and heavy texture. I  learned to create the painted tracing paper in Lisa’s book. It is one of my favorite techniques from this class. I love how smoothly it adheres to the surface and the transparent quality it lends to the art work.  Through group critique and discussion boards in the class, I was able to network with other artists and gain insight from them and learn a variety of processes for my artwork.

One String Missing

Lucia K. Wolfer
One String Missing

Size: 16” X 20”

Media: Mixed Media

Materials: ephemera, lace, decorative accents, pinking shears, textured paper, die-cut paper, ribbon, torn paper, combing tool, fixative, printer paper, acrylic paints, ink, modeling paste, gesso, crackle paste,  self leveling clear gel, glass beads gel, acrylic matte medium, soft gel (matte), clear tar gel, isopropyl alcohol

Surface:  Clay board Panel

The techniques used for the background included: collage, dripping, scraping, sponging, peeling back, painting knife, blotting, lifting, dissolving, patinas, sgraffito, all created while listening to instrumental music. For the figure I used an original drawing created with my non-dominant hand upside down, pen and ink, markers. Ink jet xerography was used to print.

Lucia K. Wolfer comments about the book and the class:

Lisa Cyr’s online class was, for me, an exciting adventure in inspiration! As a participant in her class, I acquired an increased awareness of a plethora of endless possibilities regarding alternative choices in materials, tools and techniques. This not only augments my creativity, but allows me to have more freedom in my artistic expression. Through her class and accompanying book, Experimental Painting, I learned much more about pushing the boundaries of conventional thinking as it relates to art. Her suggestions of incorporating music and inspirations from one’s own poetry and journaling pages help to infuse an enhanced personal touch into my creations. I also enjoyed creating my own altered tools and the usage of multidimensional substrates. Finally, Lisa is a role model for professionalism, which is not only reflected in her works of art but in her presentations. This quality inspires me to strive to elevate my own artistic endeavors.


Betty Anne Coulter

Size: 5″ x 5″ x 1″

Media: Mixed: acrylic paint, matte medium (as an adhesive), plastic fabric, cheese cloth and oil pastel.

Surface: Canvas

The techniques I used in the this piece were collage and glazing with layers of acrylic paints. Since I was recycling some paintings for this project that were not successful, my first step was to cover the canvas in gesso. Once it had dried, I added the cheesecloth and the plastic fabric with matte medium. I like to pull the cheese cloth apart and almost shred it so that grid-like structure to the fabric becomes irregular. The plastic fabric is the material that wraps lumber for shipping. I was attracted to how the regular structure of this fabric contracted with the texture of the cheesecloth. I coated the fabrics with another coat of matte medium to seal the surface. I painted the surface with layers of washes of acrylic paint. I built the color in layers using mixtures of Quinacridone Magenta, Payne’s Gray, Micaceous Iron Oxide and a final wash of Mars black. I rubbed off excess paint between layers, allowing the paint to settle into crevices in the fabric.  When I was satisfied with the color, I rubbed a gold oil pastel over areas of the surface that I wanted to emphasize. I buffed the gold with a paper towel and added more until I was happy with the image. This work is part of a triptych inspired by the song, “Only,” by Nine Inch Nails.

Betty Anne Coulter comments about the book and the class:

As a high school art teacher, I’m a strong believer in lifelong learning. I describe myself as an infinitely curious person. I was excited to take this course and learn some new techniques that I could use in my teaching and in my own work. Although I was familiar with some materials and techniques, some were new to me. I learned the most from the critiques of my work. I feel that input from other artists help you grow as artist and helps you clarify your goals and vision for your art. Mixed media is a very exciting area of the visual arts because you have to integrate art materials and skills, problem solve and be creative.  In my opinion, there really isn’t a better way to spend my free time.

Then and Now

Laura De La Maza
Then and Now

Size: 10″ x 10″

Media: Mixed media : acrylics, transfers created with CitraSolv, watercolors on tissue paper, wire and metal

Surface: packing material.

I used a variety of techniques to build this image. The shape intrigued me so, I prepared the surface by applying gesso then acrylics. From this base, I then created a variety of textures with torn papers of magazine photo transfers using CitraSolv. Other textures were created with tissue papers to which liquid watercolors had been applied. I also tore these into a variety of shapes and sizes and applied them  throughout the image using matte gel medium. The acrylic metallic gold was rubbed on  top of the piece to complement the metal pieces in the center. The red piece is a discarded part from an old DVD which I painted. The center coil is metallic copper from a jewelry piece. I randomly added more acrylic paint to the grooves and indentations of the image, resulting in a finished product reminiscent of an indigenous piece from Central America.

Over the Top

Laura De La Maza
Over the Top

Size: 11″X  14″

Media: Mixed Media: watercolors, wire, photograph

Surface: Watercolor paper  mounted on foamcore

The techniques used to create this piece involved building up layers from a base begun with an application of  liquid watercolors on the first layer, which is an 11″x14″ piece of watercolor paper. To create textures and interesting shapes, I used table salt on top of the watercolors. A wet-on-wet technique was used to apply the watercolor using a spray bottle of water. The second layer also uses watercolor, but on tissue paper. Matte gel medium was used to adhere the tissue paper to create the texture. This was then layered over a smaller piece of foamcore and adhered to the first layer. The final layer is a torn piece of a photograph of a woman from an ad in a publication. This was draped over the edge of the second layer to produce a 3D effect. The metal spirals at the woman’s hands were created with wire.

Laura De La Maza’s comments about the book and the class:

It was helpful to have feedback from the other participants as well as the instructor. The result was that changes or modifications could be made to improve one’s artwork. This is the first time I have taken an online art class. It was also the first time I have taken a class for no credit. It was a pleasure to produce art without pressure. My interest in mixed media art has greatly increased.

Warm Sun

Mary Ann Hanlon
Warm Sun

Size: 10×10 inches

Media: white gesso, sculpting putty, acrylic paint, matte medium

Surface: small piece of drywall (since I was just practicing technique)

I was thinking of how to experiment with the sculpting putty. I tried to put a thin layer on a board with a ruler. Then, I used a toothpick to draw my doodle. I had to change my doodle style before I finished because the putty was starting to dry and I couldn’t be as detailed as I wanted. After the piece dried for a day, I sanded the rough edges and applied a wash of burnt sienna and yellow. The next day, I applied matte medium and did a few more washes. I originally was thinking of painting a large head of a sunflower on the background, but now I just like it the way it is.

Mary Ann Hanlon comments about the book and the class:

I learned to let things dry before applying the next layer! Seriously, I got a chance to experiment with matte medium and gel medium and to use these materials for sealing my project before adding the next layer. There are so many techniques from the class I still want to try, especially using the stencil and sculpting putty.


Terry Honstead

Size:  16 x 24 x 1 in.

Media: modeling paste, collage, ink, and acrylic

Surface: medium density fiberboard (MDF)

To make this piece, I first had to make a roller to provide the background texture. I used an old mailing tube which had three coats of acrylic gloss gel painted onto it, letting each coat dry before applying the next. Then I applied another coat of the gloss gel and ran it over a piece of lace from  the back of an old lace shirt. I then ran it over some stamps with scroll designs on them, and let it all dry for another day. When that was dry, I put a very thin coat of modeling paste on a board that had been gessoed about three times. Once the modeling paste was in a thin flat layer (which I used a pastry knife to apply), I ran my handmade roller over it several times until I was happy with the texture on the board. Once that dried, I painted the whole thing with Quinacridone Nickel Azo Gold and a little Oxide Violet (both Golden heavy body acrylics). When that was dried, I added copper and bronze, which I watered down so I could get some greens. At that point, it reminded me of one of those old world maps so I decided to draw some lines on the background so it would look even more like one. I wanted it to look like an “old time” treasure map. That was also when I decided to go with a sailing ship theme along with the map. I added collage elements from a napkin. I took the back layers off the napkin and then used matte medium to paint the patterned pieces onto the map. I drew the sailing ship with water soluble crayons and also painted part of it with the oxide violet. The final touch was adding Paynes Gray to the “map” in areas as well as the sides of the board and dots for the ship to make it look like it was following the treasure map. I also put a couple of layers of matte medium over the whole piece to seal it.

Terry Honstead
Handmade Stamp

This is a stamp that I made using a child’s rolling pin and foam squares glued onto it. It has a repeating pattern, so it can be used on any size painting.

Handmade Stamps

Terry Honstead
Handmade Stamps

These are three stamps that I made for debossing into gel medium. The first one is a piece of tissue paper that is crumpled and glued to a piece of  about 2″ x 4″.  It also has a piece of sewing trim with loops glued to the base. The other two were on pieces of scrap wood that I had to which I glued things like watercolor paper that had been punched out, sticks, paper clip, button, gauze, artist fiber papers, pieces of acrylic paint, ribbon, and a part of a broken drier ball. I made one with more prominent ups and downs and the other is a more subtle surface.

Terry Honstead comments about the book and the class:

I learned about texturing my surface with modeling paste by using a handmade roller. I also learned about embossing and debossing and making more of my own tools which I can use in my future work. I started adding more found or “made to look like found” pieces to my work as well as other canvases. I love to experiment and this class showed me that it is OK to continue to play and experiment and not feel like I have to go the conventional route with my paintings.

About the Class

Within the Layers: Inspirational Mixed-Media Techniques

Lisa L. Cyr, Instructor


This online workshop will investigate exploratory methodologies, techniques and approaches in mixed-media art. Throughout the workshop, exciting in-depth demonstrations will be shown, providing an extensive array of visually-stimulating possibilities for artists to explore. Both two-dimensional and three-dimensional techniques will be covered. For artists that are looking to push their work to a new level, this workshop will be a valuable resource and an ongoing source for creative inspiration.

Course registration comes with a digital download of Experimental Painting by artist and author Lisa L. Cyr. To learn more about the book, click here or watch the video below!


•  how to build a tactile working environment utilizing both additive and subtractive processes

•  how to tone the painting surface in imaginative ways

•  how to employ custom tools for signature mark-making


Artists of all levels who are interested in knowing how mixed-media techniques can add that magical, transforming element to their work.

Find out more about the January Course or Register now!

About Lisa L. Cyr, Instructor

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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