Posts Tagged ‘mixedmedia’



Over the Holidays, I have been drawn to abstract painting so have been doing lots of research about the techniques, tools and materials people use.

Unlike the ‘pure’ rules and dogma surrounding traditional watercolour painting, it seems that with Mixed Media painting has no such rules, and anything seems to go. So you can stick stuff on and use all manner of household stuff and cheap tools from DIY stores to get the effect you like, it’s all very liberating !

‘BACK FROM THE EDGE’ for instance was painted using Coffee Granules then spraying with water. The coffee gives an interesting texture to the painting and dries to a lovely glossy shine !


So these are my first couple of attempts at all things big bright and bold !

I plan on developing this blog as this journey unfolds, so keep checking back, these are small canvas’s using the materials (Gouache) that are at hand.


‘Back from the Edge’

abstract-3I realise that it is quite a departure from my usual style, but would love some feedback and opinions. It sure was great fun to do. I figure that if I don’t like the results, I can simply paint over it again, and it will just add another interesting layer to the canvas.

‘CONFUSION’ was created by building layers of texture, using drywall (scrim tape) then overpainting with gesso, then letting everything dry overnight, before attacking it with my brightest paints and a pallete knife.


Here were my canvas’s prepared and ready for colour


Now I can’t wait to paint them bigger !

Morning Sail from Sozopol


The reason this painting came about was that a Gallery owner near my Studio, in Sozopol asked me to paint bigger, and it was an area I was considering anyway, so was happy about the request.

The mixed media (goache, acrylic and watercolour) on stretched linen canvas was an intimidating 200cm wide x 90cm I applied two coats of White Gesso the previous day and let it dry overnight.

It was the first time I had painted so large, so I chose a familiar subject I had painted many times in watercolour, the view of Burgas Bay, with the Stara Planina mountain range in the background, and Sozopol and it’s Islands in the foreground. The viewpoint is from my original studio in Paradise Bay.

I knew that because of the large are of sky and water, preparation would be important so I mixed up large pots of fairly liquid Cobalt Blue and White Goache. I chose Goache as I like to use my watercolour lifting off technique for the reflections in the water and for the clouds in the sky. The whole of these areas were painted very quickly in about 20 minutes, and was done in one ‘hit’….. very scary !

I had a smaller canvas prepared, and painted that too, so I could have a dummy run at each stage before turning my attention to the big one.


I had sketched the scene lightly using a 4b graphite pencil.

My girlfriend helped me pour the two colours onto first the sky area. I had the canvas tipped on an angle to give a little movement as I painted. It was a very hot day and I knew I had minutes to paint these large areas so speed was of the essence. It was also essential to know when to stop so the painting was clean, and not muddy, so no fiddling…..



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Using the same techniques I use in my watercolour painting, ie painting the furthest things away first I lifted out clouds using tissue and a moist brush. It was important to wipe out where I wanted the reflections in the water, and I made sure these areas were wiped vertically right back to the white canvas. The number of ‘planes’ in this painting were the sky, the distant mountains, the Islands, and finally the foreground headland. As I wanted lots of distance, or recession in my painting to capture the vastness of Burgas Bay (it’s about 15 miles as the crow flies to the distant mountains) It was important that I didn’t paint too dark too soon, and wanted to capture a perfect summers day.

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Using a mixture of Caput Mortem and Cobalt Blue, mixed with a little Light Red Oxide Goache I painted the distant mountains (known locally as the Blue Mountains) The light in the painting was coming from the right, so I used sloping brush strokes following the contours of the hills. As you can see I carefully cut around the distant towns of Pomorie, Nessebar and Sunny Beach, and did the same around the Island and Lighthouse. As a newbie to Mixed Media painting am not sure this is necessary but I knew that the ‘lights’ in the painting would be important.

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I painted the shadow side of the distant hotels using the same mix as the mountains. I then strengthened this mix and painted rocks on the islands, and added some detail to the distant water, and some darker lines for the reflections.


I then used various earth colours and cool greens to paint the islands, indicating some distant trees and bushes. I painted the lighthouse sharply ensuring that the shadows were on the left hand side. Doing this ensured that the lighthouse counterchanged with the distant mountain range. I even included a couple of seagulls over the roof !

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Was to warm and darken all of my colours to paint all the buildings on the foreground headland, ensuring that all the shadow sides were on the left. This took about two days work. I also ensured that the brights here particularly the greens really pinged !


Once everything was painted I then added some reflections in the water, and suggested some movement in the foreground.

The painting was exhibited at the Bisserra Gallery in Sozopol


It was then featured as the showcase at my first exhibition ‘An Englishman Abroad’  in Sofia and subsequently sold and is now in a private collection in Germany

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I hope you enjoyed this short tutorial and story of my painting.

Please feel free to share or comment



My personal Art Journey by Martin Stephenson


As a child I could always be found with a pencil in my hand, but I guess my first real influences were the ‘modern poster culture’ artists like Andy Warhol. His paintings of toothpaste tubes and cans of drink found me copying his pictures and putting my own ‘take’ on them with things I found around the house. His multi-coloured images of Marylyn Monroe also got my interest.


My love of music and the Music Press of the day like NME (New Musical Express) and Melody Maker found me scaling up those black and white photos of my Rock Heroes like Dylan and Hendrix to put on my bedroom wall.



Later in life and throughout my teenage years I was an avid student, and spent my free time in the Art section of my local library, amongst those books, and later in art shops I was to discover two artists who were to influence my paintings for years to come. They were John Blockley and Ashley Jackson ( we even named my eldest son Ashley). John was to introduce me to mixed media and ink with all those depictions of Welsh cottages and barren windswept trees, which I tried to emulate. Using sticks, quills and pen nibs was a very liberating experience at the time I recall.


Ashley Jackson, an adopted son of my beloved Yorkshire, was famous for his big dark and moody Northern skies, and was a favourite artist of the then Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson. His paintings of the bleak Yorkshire Moors and wet streets were favourite subject of mine, and early on taught me the importance of skies in paintings. As a beginner artist I know that most are afraid of all that paper to cover, and can without a confident approach be intimidating, especially in my chosen medium then of watercolour (aquarelle).


In the meantime, as most artists do I became a fiddler, drawing in the smallest detail, with very fine Rapidograph pens.

All that was about to change though with my next influence (and probably the most important of them all) English Artist Ron Ranson, through his books ‘The Ron Ranson Technique’ and ‘Fast and Loose’ . I still return to his dog eared books from time to time especially when things get a little ‘tight’ !


In his books, he advocated the use of a limited palette and a ‘hake’ brush, very controversial it seemed to me. He also encouraged his students to stand up to paint and also to start on big sheets of cheap paper, so as to be more free and less intimidating. It took me years to find a good hake (a big Japanese wash brush) that didn’t lose its bristles all over my precious paintings, and just recently I acquired a full set of ‘Ron Ranson hakes’ ironically manufactured in Yorkshire.

In one of Ron’s books I think he also mentioned another artist Edward Seago, who had influenced his own work. His coastal Suffolk boat scenes and fresh big skies were another love of mine.


About the same time, again through his books, I discovered another English water-colourist Rowland Hilder, a traditional watercolour painter and member of the prestigious Royal Watercolour Society (RWS). His Kentish scenes of Oast Houses and the like were much copied by me, and his handling of big skies was a pure joy. I even had the privilege to appear at my first Exhibition at the Winter Gardens in Ilkley in the same room as  full sheet original of a Rowland Hilder painting it was breath-taking.


Fast forward about 40 years, and after personal tragedy, the loss of my younger Sister Julie, I decided to live my life, not waiting for retirement to fulfil my ambition to become an artist. So I ‘ up sticks’ and moved to Bulgaria. So here we are, still trying to emulate my heroes, still trying to avoid overworked muddy paintings. Still a watercolour ‘purist’, still learning my trade, and still trying to be accepted by my peers. I always wanted to have ‘artist’ as my occupation on my passport, but sadly they don’t do that anymore. It was about this time that I tried to recall everything I had read (mainly as my memory was fading, and to remind me in later life) and to write my first book, an e-book called ‘Watercolours for Beginners’.


Through friends Geoff and Cath Taylor, who live in my sleepy Bulgarian Village, and quite by accident, I stumbled into teaching, out of necessity really, which gave me the freedom and time to paint nearly every day. Those early influences of pen and ink and pop art never left me though, and neither did the ‘restrictions’ of pure watercolour. This was all about to change forever though, with the advent of the internet. Suddenly everything was ‘out there’ just click on any artist on google images and you will see what I mean.


Through it I discovered two artists David Poxon, a watercolour artist, who’s depiction of rusty machinery, were a favourite subject matter of mine. But the second was to have the biggest influence of them all. He was an Australian artist called John Lovett who I came across on the internet.


Here was an artist unafraid of dogma and rules. A MIXED MEDIA ARTIST shock horror ! Through his books and DVD at last I was free to do anything I wanted, using anything that came to hand. Strange stuff like Gesso, Acrylic and Goache found me like a kid in a sweet shop, at my local art store in Burgas. Decoupage, Collage it was all there to be discovered and ‘played with’ !



It was a liberating moment watching his youtube video’s before I managed to get my hands on his other stuff, ordering from as far afield as the USA and Australia. Strangely he also uses hakes in his work, just like my first hero, Ron Ranson.


Lots more artists have influenced me along the way and I share some of their work here now including Sargeant, Wyeth, Turner, the list continues to grow…….






I remain, above all an art lover, and like the kids I teach, eyes wide open, I am like a sponge just soaking up all those influences, and continuing to grow

So that’s the story, but hopefully just the start. I have lived in many places, and travelled the World teaching in exotic locations like Vietnam, Cambodia, Bali, Thailand and Malaysia. But my regret was not to have been painting whilst I lived in Beautiful Yorkshire and in Scotland and visiting holiday destinations throughout Europe including Paris and Venice. Now other locations seem to be opening up like Russia, Romania, Turkey and Greece and who knows, maybe my travelling days aren’t over yet, and even though it doesn’t say artist on my passport, who knows where the future will lead me on my fantastic art journey.