Monday, September 30, 2013

How to Make "Stained Glass" Mosaic Cards

Last week I decided to play with some old magazine pages, using them to make note cards that ended up looking like stained glass mosaics. The combination of patterns and colors on these cards somehow reminds me of the glass seen in cathedral windows.

I started by tearing color photos out of some old magazines, then stamped designs over the photos using  rubber stamps and permanent ink. After the ink was completely dry I cut the photos into pieces of varying sizes to create "tiles.". Then I measured a piece of colored cardstock to fit the front of a blank Strathmore note card, available at most arts and crafts stores. I trimmed the cardstock so that it was slightly smaller than the face of the note card so there would be some visual contrast at the card's edges.
One of several designs I created, prior to being adhered to the blank note cards

Next, I arranged the "tiles" on the cardstock. When I found a composition I liked, I used an Elmer's glue stick to glue them into place. (I prefer the Elmer's brand because it glides on very smoothly, making it easy to get good, even coverage with the glue.) Once all the pieces were stuck down on the cardstock, I placed a clean sheet of wax paper over it and rolled a rubber brayer over the wax paper. Then I removed the wax paper and adhered the cardstock to the front of the note card. The result: a colorful handmade card perfect for sending to that special friend or relative!

All text and images on this page ©2013 Lynn Edwards

Thursday, September 12, 2013

How to Use MDF for Painting, Mixed Media or Collage

As artists, we're always looking for good painting surfaces. Have you tried MDF yet?

The Pro's:

Medium Density Fiberboard, aka MDF, makes a fine substrate, or support, for painting as well as mixed media and collage. Its nice smooth surface lets you push paint around with ease. It also makes gluing down collage papers a snap because -- unlike canvas -- there's no "give" to it. Any air bubbles trapped beneath the paper disappear under the pressure of a brayer. Dimensional objects can be affixed securely to MDF with an appropriate adhesive.

MDF is wonderfully inexpensive. You can usually find 4x8 foot sheets of it at most home improvement centers for less than $25 each. Some also sell MDF half-panels, which are easier to handle and transport. If you've got access to a power saw you can cut it down to support-size pieces yourself, or you can pay the home improvement center to cut it up for you. Either way, one MDF panel can yield dozens of good supports for art making at very low cost.

The Cons:

MDF does have its drawbacks, though. For one thing, it's heavy. Small 8x8" pieces, such as those Corinthian II or Sojourn, shown below, were created on, weigh about 1.6 pounds apiece. That's considerably more than a cradled wood support the same size, and much, much more than a stretched canvas weighs. Its weight therefore makes MDF impractical for large works. The largest MDF panel I care to work on is 14x14".
Corinthian II, 8x8" mixed media and collage on MDF
Although MDF can be found in quarter-inch and half-inch thick sheets, which are lighter, the most commonly available MDF is closer to an inch thick. 

How to Hang It:

The bigger and heavier the MDF support, the more essential it will be to use a weight-appropriate hanging system. You simply cannot hang weighty MDF pieces with flimsy metal wall hooks. It's a safety issue. For a 14x14" piece of art I use two heavy duty wall hangers. Also, I wire the piece with heavy duty picture wire attached to heavy duty D-rings, which are screwed into the back, not nailed on.

MDF's other drawback is that the edges are not as smooth as its surface. If you want something that's nice and smooth all the way around, you'll have to do a little extra work. One solution is to don a mask and sand the edges. Even then you won't get the same smoothness as the surface, so you may want to take it a step further by applying wood filler to the edges, letting it dry thoroughly, then sanding again. Or, for a rustic look, you can skip the sanding and filling altogether and just paint the edges as they are. (Use an old, worn bristle brush for this.)  Another option --my preference -- is to collage painted paper onto the sides, as I've done with Sojourn, shown here:

Sojourn, 8x8" mixed media and collage on MDF
Strips of artist's tissue paper were glued to the sides to give Sojourn a finished, textural look. The tissue paper was gessoed, then painted, then cut into strips and adhered with soft gel medium.

How to Prep MDF:

Because MDF is a wood product, I always apply a couple coats of Golden's GAC 100 to its surface, back and sides before gessoing or doing anything else. GAC 100 is a sealer that keeps impurities in the wood from migrating up through the paint layers. It dries clear. Once the GAC is thoroughly dry, you're good to go for gessoing, painting, collaging or whatever.

Don't be tempted to skip the sealing part. Unsealed MDF is very susceptible to damage from water and other liquids. Sealing it helps protect it from moisture and allows you to use this sturdy, affordable substrate to create artwork that, given its heft, should endure for a very long time.

Questions? Comments? Just scroll down to share your views.

All text and images ©2013 Lynn Edwards   

Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Color of Cool: September's Smithsonian Magazine

September's Smithsonian arrived in the mail this week. Wow, what a fascinating issue for artists or anyone who's drawn to learning about color! There's an amazing story about a 1600 year old Roman chalice that changes colors -- it goes from pale green to bright red -- thanks to the early Romans' use of nanotechnology. (Yes, you read that right: nanotechnology.)

There's another story on poison frogs whose colors rival those of neon signs. And a piece on an inventive British artist, Jaz Parkinson, who creates "color charts" that correspond to the number of times a book or play refers to a color. Who knew Stephen Crane's The Red Badge of Courage could be so visually compelling?

To blow your mind, take a look at the photos featured on page 15. They're from a series of art installations called the RGB project by Carnovsky (a duo from Milan).  These artists use colored filters on LEDs to conceal and reveal imagery in their striking murals.

There's also an excellent in-depth article about the always-colorful David Hockney, a not-to-be-missed read that will have you mesmerized. Plus curious tidbits that tie into the question of what color to paint a room. (Hint: don't use purple if you suffer from insomnia.) Actually, this issue is so loaded with topics and insights we artists can appreciate there are just too many to name. Locate a copy, pour yourself a big glass of iced tea, settle into a comfy chair and enjoy!