As is usually the case with my artwork, it all began with an experiment.

For years I’ve been practicing a technique using plastic wrap and watercolors, itself the result of experimentation. This combination creates a beautiful and unique finish, that I enjoy and am so comfortable with. But getting so comfortable with any artistic process always makes me think, “what can I add to mix it up?”

What could I do to mix this process up and change the artwork into something fresh and exciting? Texture was at the front of my mind, so I got out the cheesecloth and started my first experiment.  

Hoping for the best, I stapled the cheesecloth to a sheet of plastic wrap, just adding that texture to my previous successful technique. Using watercolor paper and liquid watercolors, I began my usual method of dripping the paint on the paper and then applied the plastic wrap/cheesecloth. After placing it, I began to squish and wrinkle the wrap, trying to achieve an interesting texture where the cloth touched the paint.

Several hours later, after the paint had dried, I removed the plastic wrap/cheesecloth and discovered it had made some cool, crisscross, textural images but didn’t have that fluidity that came with the previous, plastic wrap only, process. Overall, I found the result on the paper underwhelming.

But wait! Although the surface of the painting was not amazing, the cheesecloth definitely was. It had a spectacular, bright, multicolor tie-dyed look, and I couldn’t wait to use it. It also matched another “unsuccessful” watercolor painting trial I had done earlier. Now a new, and inventive, mixed media journey began.

Cutting small pieces of the colored cheesecloth, I pinched and placed them over this trial. It was a balancing act finding the right area to add the textured cloth, as well as the most interesting shapes. I wanted to keep it as natural as possible. When satisfied, I used white glue to fix these pieces, these organic forms, to the watercolor painting below.

Once I felt there was a good balance, I let the glue dry and then added a spray fixative to keep the cheesecloth pieces three dimensional. The raised pieces added so much interest and diversity, I couldn’t let them wilt or flatten.

The piece I did in the time-lapse video above used another “unsuccessful” watercolor trial, this one using Kosher salt and plastic wrap (I told you, I am always experimenting!). It has a different look, darker with speckles, but matched the cheesecloth perfectly, so I used the same cheesecloth from the first mixed media piece.

I also chose to photograph these pieces using natural light. The shadows created by the cheesecloth created some extra interest and added to the beauty of these pieces.

This is truly a prime example of so many things I try to teach my students. Never give up. Use what is around you. “Unsuccessful” isn’t a final state if you stretch your mind and make something new. My goal is to help you expand your imagination, refine your skills, and build your confidence. You can get there with practice, practice, practice!