Last year I decided I wanted to delve into more textural and sculptural effects for my mixed media work, it has taken until now to gather sufficient supplies to have a range to experiment with, to research and to decide what works for me. I can tell you, it was a minefield initially as there are just so many mediums out there and they all differ with brands too. I also am a bit of an alchemist (especially in the kitchen) so I liked the idea of making my own mediums from the raw minerals etc. To do that, one really needs to go back in history to see how things were done by the masters. Hence, marble powder was on my hit list. That arrived with my order from Germany last week. So I now have modelling pastes, texture pastes, crackle pastes, gesso’s, marble paste and air dried clays. All rather delicious!.
I liked the idea of incorporating plant material and foraged bits and pieces, especially from the beach into my mixed media works so I needed mediums that supported that process and were able to colour well. I am collaborating with my daughter on a new business making carnival hats and masks which meant a lot of research into how the Venetians have crafted their exquisite creations and this is where the marble powder came up. I also looked at making my own clay which I wrote about in a previous post, researching that also led me to the marble powder as an air dried clay ingredient. I don’t have a kiln or the space to start a pottery studio (yet) so it was important to keep it small and manageable.
Gesso is one of those products that varies enormously across brands, I think the first pot I ever bought had a wonderful thick consistency that dried mat and accepted paint beautifully, I’m pretty sure it was Liquitex. Daler Rowney have one a little bit thinner but good too. I tried the Golden one but found it very runny, it dried mat. I also have a black Liquitex which although a bit runny also dried a nice mat finish. I have one other that was a cheap brand but it dried shiny like household white paint with minimal ability to hold texture, it has its uses but not what I wanted. It seems the marble powder can be bought in various grain sizes and that in turn affects the texture of your gesso. It is granular and mat, it can be sanded (using a mask for protection from the silica dust!) and polished so it shines like marble, quite lovely. It can also be added to other mediums to thicken them and add a different texture. In these tests I added marble powder to Marvel PVA glue and applied it it to mixed media board. I mixed some with neon acrylic paste which looks like whipped ice cream and was quite spongy until it dried fully hard. I mixed it with the black gesso, with black lava texture medium and with my Golden crackle paste, all interesting and successful. It lightens most mediums it is added to and dulls any metallic ones, therefore good as a base layer or one that will be painted over. it works well with a clear medium.
I bought several structure pates too, one in a test set of Lascaux with modelling pastes and impasto gels and two Creartec ones in gold and copper from my new German supplier. These are lovely, glossy and luminous. Ideal for textured ceramics too.
The crackle pastes are quite different from each other. The Golden one I tested a few weeks ago and is really good. A light layer produces tiny delicate cracks whereas a thick layer produces bigger meaty cracks that hold the colour well. I now have one from Gerstaecker which is much smoother and again, tiny cracks on a thin layer and more pronounced ones from the thicker layer. All are applied with a palette knife. These are crackle pastes which differ from the craqueleur which is applied in two parts and often raw umber oil paint is used or a wax to darken the cracks. I will look at this later. I used to use it on my picture frames years ago, it produced fabulous aged finishes. There are also other options out there where a background colour is applied, then a layer of PVA and overpainted while still wet with an acrylic colour. The glue shrinks as it dries, pulling the paint apart leaving cracks which reveal the base colour. This can work really well for a an old cracked wood effect but not for these type of cracks. It all depends as to what type of effect you are hoping to achieve.
Modelling pastes come in lots of grain sizes, from smooth and glossy to heavy with quartz sand and crusty like the one I made with marble powder. They can be sanded, carved and mixed with paint. Water soluble too as a most of the mediums I work with. Liquitex are superb, the Lascaux ones are an excellent product, Golden always good products. I use them also for their ability to keep my added objects in place as they have excellent adhesive properties.
I am not affiliated with any of the brands mentioned, these tests are purely for gaining knowledge on how different mediums behave. I hope these tests are useful. Do please leave your comments below and ask questions. Thanks, see you next time with my finished mixed media pieces.