Exploring Mixed-Media Painting Techniques

Lisa L. Cyr

The Visionary, a mixed media painting by Lisa L. Cyr

The Visionary
14” x 11”
mixed media on board

​Featured in:
Infected By Art Volume 6 (Hermes Press)
AcrylicWorks 6: Creative Energy (North Light Books)
Society of Illustrators NYC Stevan Dohanos 2021 Award Honorable Mention

The mixed-media painting speaks to an artist’s ability to see beyond limits and boundaries. The grasshopper, known to be a free-spirited leaper that is in tune with the vibration of life, is featured in the mind’s eye of the figure. It serves as a reminder for us to listen carefully to our inner voice, take a leap of faith and trust where the work wants to take us in order to discover our true potential.

Be Inspired

For me, the creative process begins with an inspired idea that comes from my ongoing work in my sketchbooks and journals. Once I have a direction, I begin to focus on how to bring my concepts into the painted environment. When it comes to mixed-media painting, I primarily work in acrylics and polymer-based mediums, gels and pastes, often altering and adding to the mixtures to create a custom effect. Because of the flexibility they offer the painted ground, I am able to create in layers. Lushly painted passages, expressive mark-making and intriguing textures can be built up quickly, creating a visually-compelling environment in which to evolve a more realized subject. Working in mixed media allows me to experiment, explore and play with an ever-evolving range of creative possibilities.

To create a weathered look, acrylic matte gel medium is applied to the canvas using a palette knife. It seals the surface, adds texture and dries clear. Paint is applied onto the textured surface with a cotton cloth in a circular fashion. Areas of light are removed with cotton swabs. When dry, the entire piece is sealed.

Lisa Cyr painting demonstration with palette knife

Painting Materials: Using a painting knife, I can create texture and optical color mixtures that transition the surface from one area to the next.

The Courageous mixed media painting by Lisa L. Cyr

The Courageous
30.25″ x 19” x 2.5”
Acrylic, oil pastels, collage & assemblage on canvas over masonite & board with wooden framework

Featured in:
Art Revolution (North Light Books)
Experimental Painting (North Light Books)
Spectrum 16: The Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art
Artist’s and Graphic Designer’s Market (North Light Books)

Exploratory Process to Create Mixed Media Art

Over the years, I have experimented extensively with an array of acrylic paint viscosities and have developed ways in which to use their inherent properties to my advantage. I love their ability to move as fast as my mind and brush, dynamically flowing across the surface in completely unexpected and imaginative ways. Having knowledge of the various acrylic paints, medium and paste properties reveals so many interesting processes and approaches.

Although many of the paint manufacturers develop similar acrylic paint colors as well as mediums and additives, they are not exactly the same. When it comes to exploring alternative techniques to apply and manipulate paints, pastes and mediums, I have used sponges, squeegees, trowels, putty knives, pastry decorating utensils, combs, toothbrushes, eyedroppers, sticks, straws, basting syringes and plastic bottles with various applicators, just to name a few. I have also invented many of my own tools and techniques!

Mademoiselle du Carnaval by Mixed Media Painter Lisa L Cyr

Mademoiselle du Carnaval
12″ x 9” x 1”
acrylic & mixed media on paper over cradled masonite panel

Featured in:
Infected by Art Volume 5 (Hermes Press)
Acrylic Artist Magazine (F+W Media)
AcrylicWorks 3: The Best in Acrylic Painting (North Light Books)

Lisa L. Cyr drawing of Carnival detail

Shown is a work-in-process detail of my drip technique where I actively draw with fluid media. The mixed-media painting was inspired by the ethereal sounds of The Carnival, a circus opera by Chloé Charody and Sonja Schebeck. In my mind, a female figure, conveying an almost transcendent, dream-like quality, emerged. A visual amalgamation of the real, ideal and spiritual all in one being, the figure became a symbolic manifestation of a young woman’s spiritual awakening. A complete step-by-step demonstration of this work was featured in Acrylic Artist Magazine in an article entitled Arabesque: The Dance of the Drawn, Dripped and Painted Line.

Building the Surface for Mixed Media Artwork

As an artist, I am drawn to the way a layered aesthetic can create a visually dynamic, tactile environment. I work in layers, in both the physical grounds that I build and the materials I apply on top, pushing the picture plane forward into the third dimension. Mixed media collage techniques using handmade and commercially available papers in an array of finishes and textures that are ripped, cut and punched are just some of the ways I build my unique surfaces.

I work in a push-pull process, where I put things onto the surface only to later scrape, scratch and peel back into it, arriving at an environment that ignites my imagination. In addition, I will often insert boxes, apply imaginary windows, create unique frames and add assemblage accents which can dramatically alter the reading of a piece when viewed.

A Blind Eye 

Painting Media: 6″ x 4″ acrylic & mixed media on paper

The work was created for a traveling exhibition entitled Postcards for a Greener Earth with the Society of Illustrators in New York City. The piece was about turning a blind eye to the global destruction and ongoing devastation of our planet Earth. What we eat, breathe and drink is what we will ultimately become. The custom framing that surrounds the art is accented with sculptural elements that I created using acrylic polymer.

The Warrior
24″ x 12” x 2” (art)
48″ x 25” x 6” (frame)
acrylic, oil, collage bas-relief & assemblage on masonite & board with wooden construct

Featured in:
Infected By Art Volume 9 (Hermes Press)

Work as Play

To keep my process fresh, I experiment every day, exploring new materials and processes. As an artist, the act of play is an integral part of my creative process. There are happy accidents that happen that I could not have predicted and I love to use what I have discovered in more formal works. With our focus on the journey and not the destination, artists enter into a world of discovery and invention. When you begin to play, you open the door for the imagination to take flight.

9.75” x 6.5” acrylic & mixed media on illustration board

The piece is about releasing resistance to change and embracing one’s own transformation, clearing space in the mind for what is to come. Within the transcendent water realm, a female figure appears behind a jewel-covered mask with an abstract interpretation of a beetle in its midst. Symbolizing the rhythmic flow of life and the willingness to surrender, the beetle totem acts as a spiritual guide.

Looking for Inspiration?

Explore the dynamic world of mixed-media art during an exciting 5-week workshop with accomplished artist, author and educator Lisa L. Cyr, entitled Experimental Mixed Media Painting Techniques. You can learn more about this learn-by-doing course here. The workshop is for artists of all levels who are interested in working with different materials and knowing how the power of mixed-media can add that magical, transforming element to their work!

Lisa L. Cyr artist headshot

Lisa L. Cyr

Illustrator, Painter & Author

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