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In the Studio This Week – Creative Slump, Mixed Media Portrait, and Metal Leaf

In the studio this week, I spent most of the time working on several layers to develop a mixed media portrait. This will be the first in a series in what I hope will define my artistic voice. I have been in a creative slump! I also visited the Tempe Festival of the Arts and saw an artist there that worked with gold leaf, something I’ve dabbled with in the past. I ended up purchasing one of her paintings and was inspired to try using gold leaf in my art again.

Creative Slump

I have been in a bit of a creative slump. I finished all the Mastery Program lessons and am in to the phase of portfolio production. What that means is I should have found my artistic voice by now, have at least 20 references from relating to my voice, and be turning out two gallery-ready paintings a week!

Sad to say, but maybe no surprise, I am not there. I’m still struggling with my voice and the process to develop reference photos requires at least a basic knowledge of photo editing. I have been cramming about an hour or day to learn Affinity Photo. It’s been a frustrating process. I have ideas swirling in my head but pulling them together in one reference hasn’t come to fruition.

Mixed Media Portrait

Part of the portfolio production calls for churning out a variety of canvases, leaning towards the very large size. I have done some large paintings but feel overwhelmed to start on the expensive canvases I bought for this purpose.

I have been using spare canvases to drip excess paint on and had one sitting in my studio. This one is a reasonable size, 12” x 16.” I had added some spray paint and stencils over the initial background of acrylic washes.

Canvas painted with acrylic washes in blues and violets with stencil additions randomly placed.

I had this sitting on my easel and looked at it daily for inspiration. I added some spray paint colors and shapes hoping to ee something develop. I began to see an outline of a face and traced it out using thin acrylic paint.

Sketch of a woman's portrait done on a mixed media background.

I started adding thin washes of hair color and flesh tones and let it drip down the surface. I added more definition to the facial features. She’s beginning to look scary!

Reel showing varieous stages of the development of a portrait using mixed media techniques.

I decided to add some collage elements, a choice I regretted later. I added more eye color and let it drip. I thought it looked like she was crying. My husband thought she was bleeding blue blood.

Portrait of a woman with collage elements to define her neck and shoulder.

I had a concept of leaving part of the portrait in the washed out look and developing the other side with opaque acrylic. I started in with the opaque and this is what happened:

Mixed media portrait of a mature woman.

I had this vision for a series of paintings of mature women who were still beautiful. I developed this further and added grapes to the side of the face to form a concept of women being like fine wine – they aren’t their best until they reach a certain maturity.

Portrait of a mature woman standing by a bunch of grapes.

I had some feedback from the Mastery Program coaching group I’m in and adopted their suggestions. I added darker color behind the woman, ran the grapes and hair off the canvas, and lowered the ear.

Portrait of a mature woman standing by a bunch of grapes.

I didn’t like the large clump of grapes, so I added some leaves to break it up.

Portrait of a mature woman standing by a bunch of grapes.

I finished (?) with some oil paint in select areas to add depth. I like her. What do you think? Is my concept of painting mature women marketable?

Final portrait of a mature woman with grapes

Metal Leaf

We had a short trip planned to the Phoenix area to celebrate my birthday. This was a milestone birthday for me and my oldest friend, from first grade, came and celebrated with me. She brought cake and candles, and they sang “Happy Birthday!” I’m wearing my favorite Frida Kahlo bucket hat.

Photograph of the author celebrating her birthday

One of my favorite art shows is held this time of year in Tempe, Arizona. We spent the day walking around. I like to see what other artists are doing and I get inspiration and probably too many new ideas. One artist I saw painted on top of metal leaf and it reminded me that I know how to do that. Here are some paintings I did several years ago using acrylic paint, texture paste, and paint skins over metal leaf. I then covered the whole canvas with epoxy resin.

Painting of a Rufous Hummingbird painted on gold leaf.
Painting of a female hummingbird painted on gold leaf.
Painting of a male and female hummingbird painted on gold leaf.


I’ve been so busy cranking out art for the last six months that it became exhausting and I lost my motivation and inspiration. Thankfully, I gave myself some time off and the inspiration is coming back. The thought of developing a marketable portfolio is daunting and I worry if I have it in me to see the Mastery Program through to completion.

Thank you for continuing to follow my progress.

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