All mixed up

Q. I’m planning a mixed-media painting in which I’d like to use as many different media as possible. What support should I use, how should I prepare the surface, and should I use the media in any specific order to make sure the piece remains stable over time?

A. If you want to ensure the stability of the picture, you need to use a rigid support—a hardboard panel, for instance. If you want to paint on paper, cotton duck, or linen, be sure to mount or stretch the support over a rigid substrate, like plywood.

It would also be a good idea to use a primer/ground combination over the support surface: Apply at least four coats of a good brand of acrylic dispersion primer made by Golden, Liquitex, or Winsor & Newton. You might want to use the most absorbent type of this ground you can find.

It’s hard to say in what order the materials should be applied, but generally I’d advise you to use the quicker-drying, water-thinned materials first and the slower drying paints last. Here’s what I might try, should I be so inclined (and I’m not), from the ground up: pencil, a bit of charcoal, watercolor, gouache, an acrylic dispersion paint, a touch of egg tempera, a dash of encaustic, oil paint, and, finally, accent marks in pastel.

Why would I not be inclined to do this? It’s simple: The more complicated a painting’s structure becomes, the more likely there will be some physical damage to it as a result of conflicting stresses in the various paint films. A rigid support will lessen this possibility, but not entirely eliminate it. As an experimental exercise, however, your proposal sounds like fun.

Gallery owner and art consultant Paul Dorrell lives in Kansas City, Missouri, and is the author of Living the Artist’s Life (Hillstead Publishing).

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