The Joys of Teaching Mixed Media: Part 2

Author: Arkansas Arts CenterFiled under: Adult Classes, Education, Museum SchoolLeave a Comment

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By Laura Raborn

Laura Raborn teaches a three-day mixed media workshop at the Arkansas Arts Center Museum School. The following is an excerpt from Laura’s blog about what students can expect to learn in her class. Click here to view the full entry.

In the last post, I described a workshop I periodically teach at the Arkansas Arts Center. The focus of that article shifted from the purpose and joy of teaching to a specific technique from the workshop: The use of stencils and stamps. This second post of the series focuses on a technique we explore in class called image transfer. As with most art materials, there are countless ways to use this technique and, of course, reasons abound.Blog - Mixed Media 3

Here is what you need: any type of gel medium (as long as the words “gel medium” are in the name of the product), a paint brush (a 1″ flat bristle brush works well) and an image you want to transfer onto your work surface. This technique works on paper, canvas, wood panels, lamp shades, fabric…just about any surface with a little tooth to it. As far as the image options to transfer, you can use photos and text from magazines, newspaper or your printer. Thick paper such as photos from a calendar are difficult and processed photography does not release the ink well. As you will see, we will rub off the paper as a final step and thick paper is much more laborious. So, magazine, newspaper and images on printer paper work well.

For this example, let’s say you are working on a paper surface and using magazines for your image source. Once you have your image cut out, apply a liberal amount of gel medium to your paper surface (this is the surface RECEIVING the ink from your image), slightly dampen the surface of the image you want to apply, and press it face down on the paper. Apply pressure in the middle of the image and gently smooth out the air bubbles, pushing them outward toward the edges. Wherever there are air bubbles, the ink will not adhere to your paper surface. A roller or brayer works well to remove air bubbles and helps press the image ink into your paper surface which will be a new home for the ink.

Apply a liberal amount of gel medium to the receiving surface. Press your magazine image face down into the layer of gel medium and gently push out air bubbles using your finger or a brayer. Remove excess gel medium with a damp paper towel.

Blog - Mixed Media 4Some people let the image dry for a few hours and have success with the transfer. However, many artists (myself included) insist that waiting 24 hours for the image to dry and set increases the success rate. So, put the piece aside and work on something else until tomorrow!

The next day, apply water to the transfer and don’t be stingy—it will not hurt your artwork. The more water, the more it assists in breaking down the paper pulp. Using fine grain sandpaper, gently sand the back of the image transfer paper. Once you have the paper roughed up, apply more water. If it gets lots of pulp balls, just clean the surface with a damp paper towel and apply more water. Using your fingers, gently rub the paper pulp and wipe it away. Some paper is more stubborn (aka high quality) than others and the amount of time on this step can vary greatly. Be sure not to sand too hard or rub too vigorously or you might remove some of the ink that you are trying to transfer.

Let the water soak in and lightly sand the back of the transfer. Do not over sand or you might accidentally remove the ink. Once the pulp is roughed up, use wet fingers and remove layers of the pulp by rubbing the transfer in a circular motion.

There are many reasons and uses for image transfer. Like collage, transferring commercially produced imagery contrasts drawn line and paint. Unlike collage, transferred images attach seamlessly to the paper (or canvas or whatever you are working on) so the image integrates with other areas of the composition. Instead of looking added on top or glued on, the transferred photo or text appears to be embedded into the design. This is particularly effective when building a surface with layers under as well as over the image transfer.

Speaking of appropriating imagery, next up in this mixed media series: collage.

Ready to try a class? Registration is open NOW for the winter quarter which begins January 4. Click here to view the vast array of available classes for all levels of experience. 

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