Mixed Media Underpainting in 3 Easy Steps

In her most recent book, The Creative Edge, artist Mary Todd Beam shows you how to expand your creative horizons by accepting, and even embracing, the surprises inherent in the creative process.

One way to loosen creative boundaries is to create a textured underpainting by applying a white acrylic gel or medium over a white surface. You won’t know exactly what the underpainting will look like until you start painting. This element of surprise encourages you to be open to a variety of possibilities. Here, Beam used Light Molding Paste, an acrylic medium that provides a wonderfully absorbent surface. Can also carve into this medium to create interesting peaks and valleys. This is a great way to achieve new and varied results without changing your style.

Watercolor Paint: Alizarin Crimson, Azo Yellow, Burnt Umber, Ultramarine Blue
Surface: Illustration board
Brushes: 3-inch (76mm) housepainting brush
Other: Light Molding Paste, multipurpose plastic trowel, plastic spoon

1 Create a Textural Surface
Scoop Light Molding Paste onto the illustration board with a plastic spoon. Spread the Light Molding Paste with the plastic trowel, using the different edges of the trowel to create a unique textured surface and let this dry. Have fun with it, and you’ll see what develops as you apply the paint.

2 Add Watercolors
Thin the watercolors with water, pick up a little bit of each color on a 3-inch (76mm) flat brush then apply the paint to the surface. Pick up more color as necessary and let the colors mix themselves. You’ll create something different each time your brush hits the surface. Think of it as a strata design, as if you’re seeing different layers of earth.

3 Spatter
Pick up some more paint and spatter it onto the surface. This might suggest rocks. Let the colors mix and mingle on the surface and see what happens. Let this dry completely before building subsequent layers.

You can also wash acrylics over a Light Molding Paste surface instead of watercolor. Another option would be to add salt to the thick areas of Light Molding Paste, then apply the watercolors for more texture surprises.

Sunset at Sea
Acrylic on tissue paper over board
17" x 30" (76cm x 43cm)
Mary Todd Beam

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