Monday, February 19, 2018

Gwen's Gems: Glam up your Grunge!

Hi all, it's Gwen back again with this month's edition of Gwen's Gems! Usually when I go to start work on the project for each month's post, I have some general idea of what I want to do - a piece of inspiration, a project type... something. This month? Zilch. Nada. Nothing. So what do I do when that happens? In this case I grabbed a canvas - 12" x 24" x 1" and just started collaging and painting and following my instincts to see where they would take me. Not too far into it, I started to have a vision of where I thought I would go. The canvas, however, had other ideas. Fortunately I listened and just went along with what it was telling me, because I really like the results!

I took some photos of my progress along the way so that you can see how the whole thing evolved from start to finish.

To begin with, I took my canvas and pulled out some paintable textured wallpaper and a few colors of Matisse background paints (basically colored gesso,) and since at this point I had no idea what I where I was going to go next, I just collaged on torn scraps of the wallpaper and then painted over top, blending as I went.

Still unsure of where things were going, I decided to add more texture by stenciling and then heat embossing some words and marks. I used the Unfinished stencil by Seth Apter (his designs are in my pile of go-to stencils whenever I want to add texture and / or text,) and stenciled with embossing ink and then heat embossed with Patina Oxide Baked Texture embossing powder.

From there I decided to collage some papers in place to start creating a foundation for the focal point of the piece... whatever that ended up being. I pulled some of my hand-printed and painted papers out of my file and just started arranging and gluing them down with gel medium. There's stenciling all over these - here you can see my Art Deco Sun Medallion stencil and my Art Deco Sunburst Background stencil along with some hints of the 4x4 from the May 2016 StencilClub kit by Terri Stegmiller, as well as the 9x12 from the January 2014 collection by Jessica Sporn.

Next I thought it would be cool to use some textured acrylic skins. I created a solid clear skin first - working on a silicon mat makes it really easy, then I stenciled on top with texture paste. In this case I used some gold embossing paste from Ranger / Wendy Vecchi and some light molding paste. I didn't know exactly what I was going to do with them - just vague ideas, so I made a variety with my Decorative 6-Petal Flower Stencil and Screen, my Decorative Medallion stencil, and my Ornamental Peacock Feathers stencil.

When the texture paste was dry, I thought it would be good to add in some color. A lot of my work lately has ended up really dark and grungy, so I wanted to mix it up a bit! (You saw the finished piece... the canvas had other thoughts on this matter!) To do that, I got out some Pebeo paints - Vitrail and Moon, in shades of red, orange, turquoise, and green. I just painted those on and then outlined them with a Pebeo relief paste. (Just FYI, these types of glass paints also make fabulous skins on their own, without the texture paste or acrylic skin base!)

I left those to dry overnight and then came back and peeled them off (cutting between sections,) and voila! Textured stained glass skins! I used some gloss medium to start adding these onto the canvas.

It was bright and colorful for a few minutes there, until my instincts were telling me to pull out the paints and start integrating them more into the background. So that's what I did next.

I kept adding layers of paint until I was happy with the depth I was starting to see - you can get a good sense of how that was looking from this close-up:

I added a bit more paint - mostly dry brushing along the tops of the textured areas, and also a brown glaze to add even more depth.

At this point I really felt like I needed to do something that would extend the linear direction of my collaged section in some way, but I didn't want to do that with actual lines or more collage of any type, so I auditioned a few stencils and ended up using Seth's Techno Insiders Circle Stencil along with more gold texture paste to make it more of a cruciform arrangement. Of course, I couldn't resist adding a little rhinestone into the center of each one... I need at least a little bling!

You may also see some new colors showing up above; I had walked away from this piece for several hours and then came back determined to bring in some color somehow. I looked at it, and the canvas said to me, "add pink." Whaaaat? Don't get me wrong... pink is a lovely color. I just don't really use it all that often. But the canvas (aka my gut) had spoken, so I added some pink-ish paints and brought in more with the sequins on one of the embellished sari scraps that I was layering on top for more texture, color, and a fair amount of glam.

I set the piece out of the way on the floor to dry and switched over to work on something else, but as I kept glancing over at it, I felt like those linear lines I'd created with the circles needed to be reinforced even more somehow, and then it came to me... paint splatters! I grabbed my Fineliner bottle with gold paint in it, got down on the floor, and started adding drips and splats all over the the area where I felt it needed it. I was super happy with the results. (It was also a lot of fun.)

Of course, when that was dry, I felt like there needed to be more variety in the size of the circles - they were a bit too uniform and it felt too abrupt going from the collaged area to the smaller circles - it needed to step down more gradually. So after thinking for a moment, I pulled out my Decorative medallion stencil, centered it over top of one of the stenciled circles, and then carefully added more texture paste, matching it up with the existing lines so that it looked like it was all one design.

While that was drying, I started collecting elements to use for my focal point - this is when you can really start to bring that glam to your grunge! Since I was apparently using pink, I pulled out some flowers that I'd made from glass and pink gemstone beads mixed with metal findings and assembled with wire. I also took a Spellbinders diecut frame and a chipboard frame from my stash and painted them both to look like rusted metal, then added some pink glitter glue to the chipboard frame. I found a decorative metal circle, aged it with alcohol inks and Staz-On inks, then glued a piece of mica to the back of the center hole followed by a tiny vintage photo. I was ready to assemble!

I layered all of the pieces over the background and glued them in place with E-6000, then left it to dry overnight.

With that, I was finished! This was absolutely not the bright and colorful piece I'd been planning to make, but I was happy that I followed my instincts and ended up with something totally unexpected and yet completely right. And of course, I still have plenty of glam layered over all that grunge!

Here are a few close-up photos so that you can better see some of the details of the finished piece: 

That's it for now... I hope you enjoyed this month's project! If you try making your own stenciled skins at home, I'd love to see how you use them!

Until next time, happy stenciling!


  1. Wow, what a lot of layers and transitions! Love the finished piece, especially the contrast between the rusty items and the pink gem flower

    1. Thanks so much Linda! Adding that contrast with new, blingy items and the rust and aged parts is one of my favorite things to do... so glad you like it as well!

  2. I love how layered this piece is and how you have no fear in covering up something and, in the process, making it even better.

    1. Thank you Seth! For some reason I've never had too much difficulty covering things up... I think it's because there's so much freedom in giving yourself permission to start fresh on every layer and just go with whatever your intuition tells you. And it's fun. :)

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  4. Hi, Gwen! Beautiful piece! One question for you: what did you use for the clear base layer for your skins? Thanks--and thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks so much! The clear base on my skins was just gloss medium (Golden used to call it polymer medium, and I think Liquitex Pouring Medium is pretty much the same thing.)

  5. Love, LOVE how this turned out and really enjoyed seeing your process. Thanks for sharing it.

    1. Thank you so much - I'm so glad that you enjoyed it!


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