I attended my first mixed media workshop today. It was presented by Ross den Otter, who is a well known photographer and mixed media artist here in Vancouver. I had heard favourable comments on his workshops, so when this demonstration workshop popped up in my mailbox a couple of weeks ago, I immediately signed up for it.
My mind was a total blank slate. I really did not have a clue what to expect. The audience was very mixed – quite a few little old ladies scrambling over each other to get a front row seat, which really had me shaking my head, because the class is presented very much like cooking classes – there is an angled mirror on the wall behind the instructor so everyone can see no matter where they sit. I later realised that these were the “arty ladies” and not the photography crowd as they were asking questions such as “what do you mean by composition?”
Den Otter began by showing the class the preferred panels he uses. Interestingly enough he prefer to use the exhibition panels which are perfectly sized for his larger work only and tends to use the buzz panels which are slightly off in size as water does not affect them as much.
He then stepped us through his process of applying lightweight modelling paste (apparently this is like household polyfilla which we use to fill in cracks on our walls) to the panel. This first layer is extremely important as it lays down the foundation for the texture for the final product. Once that layer is dry a layer of Gesso is applied to the panel. The Gesso is like a layer of goop and this is applied with a foam brush and allowed to dry. Then a layer of acrylic gloss medium is applied to the panel with a small paint roller.
Ross advised us to print our photos on cheap copy paper, using a laserjet printer as the laserjet photos transfer better than inkjet photos, which will just run. A thin layer of the gloss medium is applied to the surface of the photograph and then the photograph and panel are put together. He also cautioned us that if the photograph has any text a mirror image will have to be used as the photo is placed face down on the panel. Once the photo is on the panel one has to carefully smooth the paper out to get rid of any air bubbles. As part of the paper is wet it is advisable to create small tears around the edges of the paper so that the paper isn’t stretched and this helps the paper relax. Rather like scoring a pork chop to prevent it curling up when cooking it! Again another drying process.
Once dry, one takes a wet sponge, squeezes water over the panel and proceeds to rub the paper off the panel gently. It is advisable to pile the paper off from the centre and work outwards using your fingers, so that one can feel when all the paper has been removed.
Using a fine sandpaper one then sands off the edges around the panel. Then there is another drying time. Den Otter sometimes puts his work in his oven at this stage at a very low temperature for about 20 – 30 minutes. The oven drying process ensures a very even drying process. A hairdryer can also be used, but he cautioned that if using a hairdryer, one should be aware that the drying process will dry in layers starting from the outside and working inwards and can create a totally different type of texture to the panel.
Once dry, another layer of gloss medium is applied with a foam brush over the whole surface. Another drying period for about 30 – 40 minutes follows.
Finally he uses a damp sponge and adds a very small dollop of student grade acrylic paint to it. He likes using a raw umber colour on his works as he prefers muted tones, but any colour would work at this stage. He then rubs the paint over the whole panel and then takes another very slightly damp sponge and wipes off the paints in the areas where he wants to retain highlights. He lets it dry a little and then repeats the process. Finally he applies paint to the sides of the panel.
I found this workshop very interesting (patience and waiting is a huge part of this process) and I think I will definitely try this technique, probably more for my own experimentation rather than for an assignment as it might be a bit cumbersome to ship for assessment, but you never know …
Ross den Otter: Photographer / Mixed Media Artist [vidcast, online] Opus Art Supplies 27/10/2015. 6 mins 25 secs https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=86BPogzO5fE (accessed 06/12/2015)