A few months ago I started a series of mini-lessons in basics of mixed-media. All about supplies, tools and techniques. I called these lessons Studio Basics and published them on weekly basis on my Instagram feed.
In the first part I went through mediums, tools and substrates. Every week I was publishing a lesson in my Stories and the feedback I got from my followers blew my mind. Lots of people loved it and sent me messages about how much they've learnt.
Today I am getting ready for a brand new lesson and opening of part 2. First I'll be talking about artist quality acrylic paints. I am moving the whole series to Everything Art Instagram. Watch our Stories on Fridays to learn about the basics of mixed-media.
A day or two before each lesson I ask my followers to share their questions about each specific product. Then during the lesson I answer them and I have to say this is my favourite bit! Today I want to share with you some of the most commonly asked questions about products used in mixed-media. And my answers too, of course :) Here we go!
About gel medium:
Q: Which gel medium is best to use as a glue?
A: It depends on what you want to glue. But for sure, gel medium can be a fantastic glue. I have to admit that I prefer to use my PVA glue instead of gel medium for glueing my collage papers. I find gel mediums too “wet”, while PVA glue is something I am very used to, spreads perfectly and I have no reason to use anything else for papers. If you want to glue some heavier elements down and you don’t mind a bit of a “mess” around it then definitely go for a heavy, thick, buttery gel medium. It will be perfect!
Q: Is gel medium only for finishing? Can I draw on top of it?
A: You can use gel medium in many ways, not only as a sealing, finishing layer. You can draw on top of it with some permanent markers, oil pastels, wax sticks or pens. Pencils, dry pastels, charcoal won’t work. Imagine that a layer of gel medium is almost like a plastic sheet. It will resist most of the drawing tools.
Q: Can you mix gel medium with acrylic paints?
A: Yes! I definitely mix it with acrylic paint when I want to make it more transparent. I love subtle, transparent layers of acrylic and that dreamy effect. But more often, I mix my acrylics with a bit of retarder. It also gives transparency but additionally makes my acrylics dry slower. This gives me more time to work with my colour mixes, and it also gives me that special, more sticky texture.
Q: How to prevent sticky pages?
A: If you work with acrylics that have a glossy finish or if you apply a layer of gel medium to seal your art journal pages, then you will probably notice that after it’s all dry, the pages are sticky. Most important - don’t use a heating gun to dry your last layer. This always makes it more sticky. You could apply a tiny bit of cold wax on top of your work (just rub it in using a cotton pad). You can also put a waxy tissue between your pages and keep it there. I reuse all the pretty tissues that Beauty Pie people pack my face moisturisers in. ;)
About Modelling Paste:
Q: Does it take long to dry?
A: It depends on how thickly you use it. If your layer is thick then yes, it takes a few hours to dry completely. It's best if you can leave it overnight. But there's a product called light modelling paste. Light paste is airy, similar to cake frosting and dries much quicker. It's also a little whiter than plain modelling paste.
Q: What's the difference between modelling paste and gel medium?
A: Pastes differ from most gels in that they are opaque and may contain natural substances (Liquitex mentions marble dust on their website, how posh!) or other fillers resulting in a white or clay-tone finish with a variety of textures and properties. Gels dry clear, pastes dry white (or milky). With gel medium, you get different options - thick, thin, medium etc. Modelling paste is ALWAYS very thick, holds a peak and doesn't flop :) Another difference between modelling paste and thick gel is that modelling paste is slightly flexible after drying. Gel medium feels harder after drying.
Q: Is there one that doesn't dry up at the container half-empty point? A: I have at least ten half-empty jars of modelling pastes from different manufacturers. Some of them are my workshops leftovers so they are over four years old and none of them is dry, all of them are like new. I would suggest making sure that once you finish working, you clean the rim with a piece of cloth, apply a little vaseline on it and screw the lid back on very tightly. If you are doing all this and your paste still dries, then I would contact the manufacturer right away.
Q: Best way to clean modelling paste off stencils? A: First I do the same as with cleaning paintbrushes: I like to wipe it with a piece of cloth or paper towel first, to get most of the paste off. Then I put my stencil in the sink with a little bit of water and wash it with a toothbrush. A toothbrush is good at getting into all the little nooks and gaps of a stencil.
And some more...
Q: Is there a difference between plastic and metal palette knifes? A: Yes! Huge! At least if it’s for applying paint, applying mediums, mixing colours, then don’t even waste your time on plastic palette knifes. There are also better, and worse quality metal palette knifes. Once again I would say buy best you can afford because the difference in the spring, in the way it feels is massive. A good metal palette knife will do exactly what you want it to do, and it will feel A.M.A.Z.I.N.G. And if you take good care of it, it will last you forever.
Q: Is it worth spending more money on better quality paintbrushes?
A: If brushes are your primary tool, then always buy best you can afford. Here's what I've learnt: I can get away with poorer brushes when I am making simple, abstract marks and simple patches of colour. But when it comes to more precise work (even my messy and rough portraits!), cheap paintbrush just won't do. It's awfully frustrating to have a poor quality brush when you want to do some detail.
Q: Why do some paintbrushes have long handles?
A: Paintbrushes come with short and long handles. Short handles are for painting on flat surfaces when you sat down, for example. Long handles are best for painting on canvas when you are standing up at your easel so that you can stand further away and see it all in its whole glory.
Q: What paper is best for pencils, pen and markers? A: I would choose smooth paper for drawing, writing and scribbling. All hot-pressed (smooth) watercolour papers will work brilliant. But a smooth sketching pad can also do the job (unless you are using alcohol markers, they will bleed through your thin sketching paper a lot).
Don't forget to follow Everything Art on Instagram for weekly mini-lesson in basics of mixed-media.
And if you feel hungry for more, then I want to tell you that Studio Basics series is only a small side-effect of what me and Jamie have been working on recently. Soon we will be releasing a whole big course in basics of supplies, tools and techniques. Perfect for all beginners and those of you who need a confidence boost. Stay tuned :)