Why do you create? What inspires the type of art you make? Why do you make what you do? These questions are at the heart of all creative endeavors whether it is painting, writing, sculpting, or even cooking. I jokingly say that I cook the same way I paint. I try combining different things that I grab out of the pantry.
When I was a kid my grandfather was the cook. He had owned restaurants and he cooked by intuition. He would tell me, “Grab a pinch of this and add a dash of that, then taste it and see what it needs.” It drove me crazy because I didn’t have enough experience or knowledge to know what flavors worked well together, and how to get them to complement each other to result in a magnificent dish. I would measure and try to follow what he made but it never came out as good. I began following recipes and learning the basics of cooking. I even worked in restaurants, but it wasn’t until I had to learn how to make do with a few ingredients that I began to comprehend how flavors and textures could come together to enhance each other. I was living in a log cabin in Colorado, with no running water or electricity, and I had to learn how to cook on a wood-burning stove and make do with food that didn’t need refrigeration. I learned how to improvise. I survived, and my skills at cooking — and art — improved.
When you have had experiences to build on, you gain confidence. I was trained as a traditional oil landscape painter from my great aunt. When I was 7 years old, she began to teach me how to mix oils and paint on site. I would study the paintings at museums and copy the art I saw. The adults let me know that what I was doing was good, and as a child that was encouraging. When I was a teenager, I began to view the world with different eyes. I wanted to paint my new vision and not copy what was already out there. I started to paint mystical landscapes and large murals. I continued to explore and expand my experiences and vision. After living in the log cabin for a year, I decided it was time to go back to school. Following a traditional path never appealed to me, and I soon found that exploring and experimenting held my interest. I continued to try different and unusual mediums and ideas in my art.
Mixed media painting is like cooking.
I have written six books on art techniques and inspiration. When you understand all the possibilities that acrylics, gels, pastes, and mediums offer, your vocabulary is expanded. This knowledge becomes like your cookbooks. One of my favorite books to write was Alternative Surfaces because I really got to play. I would use rocks, concrete, and foam. It was liberating to play like a child again and not worry if it was something that would go into a gallery. Mixed media and exploration can set your work on a new path because you are seeing with fresh eyes. Whether you are a traditional oil painter or an abstract acrylic artist, experimenting with mixed media can be liberating.
Create a book of your favorite recipes. Here is one of mine.
Fluid acrylic paints-3 colors plus white
Mixed media paper cut into four 6” x 6” squares
Spray bottle of water
Spray bottle of isopropyl alcohol 70%
Cover your workspace with plastic and put on your gloves
Mist two of the paper squares with water
Put a couple drops of all the colors, not too much now
Mist with water again and place the other paper pieces on top
Twist, drag and rotate, but don’t over-mix
Pull the papers apart and sprinkle a few drops of alcohol and water on top
Press the pieces together and repeat the movement until you have a nice coverage of colors
You may mist with more water or alcohol as needed
Let dry completely
When dry you may decorate as desired with a Pitt pen or leave as is