Space Needle mixed Media collage SeattleI have been thinking recently about how mixed media in particular benefits from layers whether they are applied or applied and then uncovered or discovered. There is something wonderful about covering and then uncovering something whether it’s accidental or planned and sometimes I feel like some of my most successful work has been with layers that I have covered with just a little bit of gesso or gesso watered down, especially bits of old novel text or newsprint. This closeup of the top section of my Seattle Space Needle is an excellent example where I wanted some of the newsprint to show up- as it was the April 17, 2012 issue of The Seattle Times newspaper and there was an article celebrating the Space Needle’s 50th Anniversary and I created two pieces to celebrate the anniversary.

There are cases where I use old text in a more subtle way, because I like the little bits of text, but I don’t necessarily want them to be readable. The text created texture in the background, just like I could have done some shading with a pencil or pen and ink in order to create a darker spot on the substrate. But it’s also a bit more than that – there is a mystery to the text as the gesso and paint is layered over it, a mysterious effect that I think will continue to be elevated as we continue into this high tech, technological society. The physical beauty and mystery of these words on paper, half-hidden in gorgeous soft blue paint are just background and yet sometimes they are my most favorite parts of a piece of art.

collage class Seattle closeup novel text and decorative paperPerhaps it’s also it little bit the deconstruction that I love as I layer the bit of paper. It reminds me of being a child and doing simple cut and paste of papers and pasting letters (I have always loved letters and how they are placed on the page – they are the reason I studied graphic design in college). With collage there’s a subtle balance at play that I love between the dark and light values within the bits of text as well as the decorative papers and paint layers that really creates magic. I know I’ve talked about magic in art before, but there is something that happens magically as the paint, gesso, gel, text, decorative papers and paints come together. Two students in a class could be using the same exact decorative papers and the same colors of paint, but the end result will always be different as different magic happens perhaps fueled by varying amounts of paint/gesso/gel, but I like to think that it is perhaps a different amount of magic that happens in the layers.


mixed media technique dry brushing three colorsThere’s something wonderful about layers whether you are layering paint, acrylic gels or papers – it all comes together to make interesting magic in one piece of artwork. But let’s break it down to individual techniques that make up all those luscious layers in a mixed media art project, starting with simple techniques using just paint. For all of these examples I started with sturdy watercolor paper – Arches Aquarelle hot press, but you can use thinner drawing paper or even cardboard you dig out of your recycle bin, just prime it first with some white gesso.

You can create simple but interesting layers using dry brushed paint. Start with a yellow layer of paint (I like using Golden heavy body acrylics) ,working without much water and using a sort of junky brush, (as it helps to already have some splayed fibers) then work in a light green and magenta layer. If you allow the paint to dry between each layer then they will remain distinctively separate. You can also do a variation of this technique by doing two colors, leaving white space and then doing the final color as more of a wash with lots of water to fill in the white gaps on the paper.

mixed media technique inscribed gesso, paint washesFor another technique you can start by brushing white gesso quickly over the surface (I used Daniel Smith White Gesso) and use a toothpick, bamboo skewer, sharpened pencil or tip of a paintbrush or other stylus tool to scribble, draw, write or otherwise inscribe into the gesso while it’s still wet. This is a fun way to add just a little bit of texture which works nicely, especially for a background area. You can also easily paint over with fresh gesso or water and a brush, if you don’t like your pattern or if the gesso dried too quickly before you were able to make your texture. Once the gesso is fully dry you can layer paint or paint washes over the top and into the scribbles you’ve created. Having a paper towel or soft cloth handy, you can regulate how dark your paint colors are and how deep they go into the grooves of your pattern, in this case I used a Burnt Umber and Quinacridone Nickel Azo Gold to create an old antique coloring that is warm and interesting.

You can also do the same inscribing method as you layer color over the top of a painting. Think about how you can paint the base coat a light color like a yellow, and then layer over the top a darker color like a blue or green – then when you inscribe with your tool the yellow layer begins to peek through. You can also create a finer version of this technique by using heavy grit sandpaper. This method works well when I work on wood panels, but you can also use sandpaper on sturdy paper or mat board if that is the substrate you are using.

mixed media technique rubber stampsWhile you can use a rubber stamp to create a pattern on paper (with a permanent stamp pad) and collage into your art, using commercial rubber stamps or one’s you’ve made yourself – you can also stamp into wet gesso or wet acrylic soft gel to create some texture. This technique requires that you work quickly to clean off the rubber stamp with soap and water so that the gel or gesso doesn’t dry on your stamp. Start with spreading gesso in an area the size of your stamp and while gesso is still wet stamp into it and then clean off your stamp. Let the art dry, and then layer on some color. Depending on how thick your gesso or gel (I use Golden Acrylic Soft Gel Matte) is this will take some time to dry and the thickness of the resulting stamp will be more or less subtle when you add some color. Some really mysterious effects can result.

A more simpler less messy effect can be created using rubber stamps and clear or white embossing powder to create a “resist” area on your paper. Once the embossing powder has been fully heated with a heat embossing gun you can apply a layer or two of paint for some lovely effects.

You can experiment with scrap papers and make some of these patterns and then the next time you are creating a piece of art you can collage some of them into your art, or better yet, use them as a layer as you are creating your artwork.

Enjoy making art!

black and white patterns birds love homeA few months ago I wrote about the color beige and how much so much of home decor is leaning toward this color or lack of color. Although my agent is quick to point out that we need to be careful of that kind of beige that when printed looks like a bandaid – ivory go for more ivory. It goes with everything. The same can be said of black and white.

There’s nothing new about black and white. It’s been in design and home decor and everyday life from the beginning of time. For years I have adopted the classic fashion trend of wearing black, for its slimming qualities as well as its ability to be cleaned much more easily than it’s opposite – white. The combination of black and white has been avoided in horizontal stripes by women of a certain age and width, but I’ve been noticing it’s comeback in simple t-shirts for Spring and Summer. And the classic French boating shirt with horizontal black stripes on a cream colored shirt is back again. Maybe it’s back every Spring and I just never noticed it.

Black and White Birds 8x20 love FINAL LO RESIt’s the patterns that I’m attracted to lately, whether in color or black and white – florals, stripes, leaves, dots. There is just something to the effect of dark on light and light on dark. The simplicity that pairs beautifully with this simple typewriter font I’ve been designing with lately – a break from my usual calligraphy – but a necessity.

I am also enjoying a layering technique where I am using rubber stamps to layer with white gesso over simple black gesso. These are simple materials that I always have. Sometimes you can’t go wrong with basics in art supplies. Young artists shouldn’t feel stressed about having to purchase a ton of art supplies. White gesso, black gesso and basic paper are sometimes all you need to get started with making some great art. I like to use bristol board or even just white cardstock from an office supply store, but the fabulousness of gesso is that you can grab cardboard (cereal boxes, packaging, paper bags) and add some white gesso and start from there.

black and white birds, happy, branch, floral patternsThis bird series is mostly hand-stamped, hand-cut papers collaged together, but some little bits of “collage” came together in Photoshop, it almost always does. So yes, one of the best tools are my scanner, computer and Photoshop Elements software. I brush gesso on some scrap paper and stamp onto my artwork. Sometimes the scrap paper or cardboard ends up being a great piece of artwork as well, like the background behind these birds – painted with several layers of paint and gesso and while everything is still wet, I stamp into the surface. It becomes a way to take off some of the gesso and show the subtle colors underneath. I also love working with acrylic gel medium and stamps as well. There is something wonderful about subtle patterns in paint that reminds me of old brick buildings where you can see the faded lettering of an old ad or company sign.

black and white birds tree branch patterned

I think there is a sweetness in my art lately that doesn’t shy away from simple designs, but with an underlying decoration that has been my love seen childhood. It’s something that adds just that little bit of elegance to designs that otherwise might be only suitable for a child’s room. I hope that these new pieces become designs that would work for many households – for a tablecloth, tea towel, cutting board, notebook, or wall decor. For those home decorators who want a bit of art to add to their perfectly staged home that doesn’t overwhelm, but has that certain elegance that is as classic as black and white.

January 2014 from HandwrittenLife.com

I’m working on a variety of projects right now, but mostly in the full swing of a series of murals for the YMCA of greater Seattle for their My Story, My Stand project.  I was thinking recently how much in love I am with trees in various forms and managed to get a few into the first series of paintings for YMCA’s Metrocenter.

I think trees have always appeared in my work even from the very beginning when I started with crayons and watercolors, encouraged by my parents at a very young age – painting happy landscapes with trees, sunshine, clouds and very green grass. I am still painting those imaginary landscapes with my own little trees, very blue skies and very green grass.

When I teach mixed media collage classes in Seattle (and upcoming Collage Class in Edmonds) I love creating these simple trees that don’t need much reference materials.Tree Collage closeupThey are round trees with simple trunks, in high school I called them my lolly pop trees.

I also love using TAP(Transfer Artist Paper) and using photographs of trees mixed with acrylic paint. Tree Mixed Media Photo Collage Class SeattleThese trees are so different from my playful, imaginary trees but at the same time they seem to exist in some imaginary world themselves. I love the darker place that these trees come from with grittier, scratchier backgrounds and environment. They seem somehow more literary to me. like they should be on the cover of a literary journal and I should start writing free form poetry to accompany them.

Family Tree Collage

How often my own art inspires me to do another form of art -whether it’s writing children’s book stories or full on short fiction. I do believe I have another book inside me, but not sure what form it will take, but most likely it will be a how-to book on mixed media collage techniques. In the meantime, I will continue with my love affair with creating trees in my art.


wine art pinot grigio art for licensingI have been designing artwork with a decidedly beige and white palette, beginning to understand that beige and white are the “colors” that are trending in current home decor market. It does make sense that imagery with a muted palette would fit with more households whether a homeowner designs with beige or with colors. I have begun to fall in love with subtlety – white on white, beige on beige and subtle texture and background patterns.

In my mixed media collage classes I am teaching a lot about texture and the use of gesso as not just a base coat or primer for your canvas, wood or paper that is your substrate – but also as a medium that is used during the creation of your art. White, layer of beige, white, glaze of Golden Indian Yellow or Turquoise and then a touch of white and beige again – it’s my secret formula these days.

wine art Cabernet Sauvignon art for licensingAnd while my main profession for over 17 years has been acalligrapher, I am constantly tapping into my graphic design background  when I create artwork with other fonts, as with this series with my own reworked version of American Typewriter font. I think it’s  throwback to the trend of generic products in the 80s, with a simple white label and Helvetica font for the label of cola, beer, shampoo, etc.

I think there has been a resurgence of simplicity in art – a sort of new minimalism, perhaps brought on by the house staging industry where all good real estate agents and stagers know that a beige house with beige carpets and beige walls is the best and most versatile setting for an easier sale. I also think that as we become more and more technologically centric with hours and hours spent on computers, laptops, ipads, iphones, etc., we will be craving more and more to have plain and simple things around us. After staring at flashing colors and app logos and moving pictures, it is relaxing to come to rest on something soft, quiet and simple.

Wine Art chardonnay wall decor art for licensingAs an artist I know that sometimes I create art that just comes out and essentially is for myself. Sometimes my own desires coincide with what a customer loves and desires as well, but it’s often hit or miss. Creating art specifically with marketability and trends in mind is a bit different, but marrying the sensibility of imagery that I want to create with colors that will sell is a challenge I am enjoying.

Creating beige art might seem like something as simple as painting a background with beige paint, but I think there has to be texture and life in the art. I need to make my own stamp on it – whether that is literally with a rubber stamp (I use my own hand carved stamps and commercial rubber stamps) or with my own hand drawn lines, collage and subtle color layers underneath.

Wine art pinot noir art for licensingThere is something very satisfying about the layering of paint and rubber stamp images and collaged papers. I think it is the closest we can all come to that moment in kindergarten where we are all just playing with paint and paper and sometimes create something that with end up on the refrigerator door, or in this case the beige kitchen wall.

For the Birds

I will be teaching a mixed media collage class with the “Put a Bird on It” theme on September 22nd in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood for eight students at Venue. Inspired by the Portlandia television show, I have geared this single workshop class, as well as the upcoming October/November four-week series I’m teaching at the University of Washington around the simple theme of birds. Choosing a single theme I think helps narrow down the possibilities to allow students to focus on using the materials and exploring their creativity rather than staring at a blank surface and trying to figure out what to create. So many people talk about writer’s block, but you don’t often hear about artist’s block. In my classes – whether I’m teaching calligraphy or collage –  I try to always impart a feeling that you sometimes just need to dive in and see what happens. There are no mistakes in class. It is your opportunity to have fun and explore.

Mixed Media Collage Class SeattleWorking with cutouts of birds from magazines, xeroxes and inket prints of birds from various sources old and new, students learn different methods to work with the imagery, including ways to make even simple cut and paste a bit different than what you might have learned in kindergarten. I love working with decorative papers and using bits and pieces for simple bird shapes where one pattern is the bird’s body and another is the bird’s wing or mixing paint and paper to create different textures. Patterned papers make wonderful leaves in your designs and you don’t necessarily have to start out with green patterned patters. With the wonderful nature of mixed media,  you can add gesso and glazes of acrylic paint and change the color of patterns so that even papers that start out red or purple can be more green and yellow if you want. Really anything goes.

Mixed Media Photo Collage SeattleI think a technique like photo transfers is something akin to magic. Using TAP (Transfer Artist Paper) is so simple and elegant and works so well on fabric and paper (and apparently glass too, but that is not my favorite surface.) It’s such a vast improvement from even the t-shirt transfers I remember doing in the ’80s and ’90s. In the “Dream” piece I transferred the bird onto unfinished wood panel first and then built the piece around it, but I often transfer onto paper or muslin fabric and then collage the transfer into my art. Sometimes I’ll transfer right over acrylic paint on a piece I’ve been working on, although that’s where some mysterious “mistakes” occur. The transfers over acrylic paints and gel mediums creates some different issues since the hot iron will make the paint melt a bit (always use some parchment to protect your iron), allowing for mysterious creations like the samples here of the birds transferred over paint. I also love adding paint over the top of a transferred photo of a bird to make it more of my own creation as you can see in the “Imagine” bird art.

Bird Photo Transfer and Mixed Media Collage Class Seattle

Birds Photo Transfer Closeup

While starting with basic paper collage seems simple enough, there is something wonderful about just layering and covering and glueing that reminds me so much of elementary school art class. The opportunity to play is something that we as adults so often forget to incorporate in our day. Encouraged by naturopaths and acupuncturists I’ve visited over the years it seems that the common prescription that heads many lists besides drinking enough water daily (1/2 your body weight in ounces!), “Play” is always included. And what better way to alleviate stress by making art.

Mixed Media Collage Class with Caitlin Dundon student workI like to remind my students that you don’t always have to have one piece that you are working toward. I heard about a study once with pottery students. One group was told they were required to make one piece of gorgeous pottery at the end of three weeks. Another group was told they were required to make 100 pieces by the end of the three weeks. At the end of the three weeks, the students who struggled to try to make the one perfect piece had mediocre work, but the students who had worked and worked and just were going for quantity and practice made some incredibly gorgeous pieces, several of them. So the lesson is to relax, and create, and create every day – and you can’t help but creating something special.

Mixed Media Collage Photo Transferred Bird Seattle

There was an almost palpable feeling of optimism in the air as I walked the conference floor on the first day of SURTEX 2013, as the artists and agents were preparing themselves for the hopefully oncoming hoards of art buyers and manufactures of all kinds. Having attended a few indoor trade shows (Vegas’ Magic, Seattle Gift Show) and worked as an exhibitor at several over my 16 years in business, I knew what was ahead for them for the three days of this show: long hours, tired feet and a general weariness from having to smile at everyone passing.

SURTEX is advertised as the place to be for for artists, designers and agencies who have art for a multitude of product end-uses: decorative fabrics and textiles, wall coverings, floor covering, stationery, greeting cards,  gift wrap and other paper products, tabletop, giftware, toys, ceramics, packaging and publishing.

SURTEX 2013 Beth Logan Booth

SURTEX 2013 Beth Logan Booth

While it seemed not very crowded and relatively quiet, I’ve been at shows where it is quiet and yet it only takes one big sale to make the show a success. Sometimes you can’t really know what business will come down the road, it’s a lot of advertising. I read once that sometimes you need to be seen three times before a buyer will make the final decision.

If you walk through and ask an exhibitor how they’re doing, you’ll get the practiced reply of “Good!” or “Great!” But sometimes I can tell the difference between the reply that means you are successful (because success breeds more success) versus the more accurate reply  that translates more like, “People have been stopping by and been really interested, but no one has given me a definitive order.” It’s a little like the generic, “How are you doing?” A question that one usually answers, “Good,” whether you are feeling lowsy or not.

I met Tara Reed and saw her wonderful booth and thanked her for her fabulous blog that I try to keep up with, Art Licensing Blog. I saw Lance Klass from Porterfield’s Fine Art Licensing engrossed in a conversation with a client and really wanted to thank him for his nice rejection letters over the years, but I never saw him not busy and I know agents are there to make money and talk to people who will hire their artists.

Roaring Brook Art Company SURTEXT 2013

SURTEX 2013 Roaring Brook Art Company booth

SURTEX 2013 Roaring Brook Art Company Gary Levine and Caitlin Dundon

Gary Levine, agent and Caitlin Dundon, artist

I connected with my agent Gary Levine ofRoaring Brook Art Company, as well as fellow artists: Marie-Elaine Cusson, Cynthia Coulter and  Sarah McAnerny ofTre Sorelle Studios. It was also a pleasure to meet Linda from Roaring Brook as well. The booth look fabulous – it was also very distinctive – showing some end products, not just the flat art that all the rest of the agencies were showing.

Put a Bird on It Mixed Media Collage by Caitlin Dundon Seattle

New Work, “Little Bird Says III: Sing,” by Caitlin Dundon from the Spring Collection of Roaring Brook

SURTEX 2013 Roaring Brook Art Company

SURTEX 2013 Diane Kappa

SURTEX 2013 Diane Kappa booth

I enjoyed wandering around the show – especially seeing the amazing work coming from the real surface designers in the  Atelier section. I was delighted to find Diane Kappa who I knew from the early days ofVenue in Seattle where she first showed her hand painted silk banners and pillows. Even back then I knew her work was beautiful, but that the possibilities of mass production would be much more lucrative than hand sewn, hand painted pillows. Her work continues to be absolutely gorgeous with excellent color combinations and and overall sweetness that is very much Diane.

Orange Twist booth at the National Stationery Show 2013

Orange Twist greeting cards

I also spent a lot of time wandering the aisles of the National Stationery Show and was happy to find some familiar faces there as well. AtOrange Twist Cards I chatted with fellow Seattlelite and designer Claire Jauregui and I spent some time admiring the full display of ilee paper goods by master letterpress artist Busara Teuber. I also introduced myself to Benjamin Paul – another Seattle letterpress designer who’s postcard calendar was one of 2012′s National Stationery Show Best New Product finalist.

I stopped by theCompendium booth (a long-time client) to congratulate them for the six Louie Awards from the Greeting Card Association but didn’t see Kobi Yamada their president and CEO in the booth, just sales people.

I marveled at the sheer numbers of letterpress cards and how

ilee paper goods at National Stationery Show 2013

Busara Tueber of ilee paper goods

hard it is for anyone to really stand out. I love letterpress, but I almost started to get tired of it, and was happy to see photo postcards and silkscreened work. Booth display definitely had an influence, and cute company names, but what drew my attention was the laser cut paper designs.

I enjoyed several of the main floor seminars and then settled in for one of the longer seminars downstairs: Category Spotlight: Tabletop, Home Decor & Gift moderated by Allison Zisko, Managing Editor of HFN magazine, featuring Toni Kemal, Senior Trend Analyst, Lifetime Brands, Ingrid Liss, Creative Director, Demdaco and Sue Todd, President of Magnetworks.

The seminar was a treasure trove of great advice for first time and seasoned artists of licensing do’s and don’t. I love hearing the scoop even when I think I know it. And it was great to see the seminar full of eager artists and designers hanging on their every word. It’s everything that I’ve been learning in the past year or two. Keep files in layers so background can be changed if need be or pieces can be manipulated and added to other components during a manufacturing process to go from tabletop to 3D gifts, etc. That’s something I’ve definitely learned very quickly.

They said there was still a definite trend in woodland creatures, and even owls, but as Sue Todd from Demdaco said, “I don’t want to walk into every booth and see an owl. But still, I might want one owl.”

They also said there’s been a continued repurposing of typography which can only bode well for all of us in the industry who work with lettering, so I still have high hopes that the trend of handwritten script on art will stay strong as I expand my business with more and more beautiful images and look to the next season of design with excitement.

Advice from the panel:

  • Keep artwork files in layers
  • Have high resolution files 300 dpi tiff’s
  • Always submit jpgs that are lo res and small for review
  • Art needs to be commercial
  • Art should be in sets of 2 or 4 of similar style/design
  • Have great art
  • Know yourself/know your art
  • Be on trend, but START new trends
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