Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Playful Composition Starters with Martice Smith

Hello there!

Whenever I'm preparing to start a new series of paintings, I like to break my ideas down into thumbnails. I call them playful 'composition starters' because they are made to help me imagine possible ways to develop the flow of a painting. Sometimes, it may even spark an idea for an entire series of paintings! 
Let's play!

  • Stencils: 70s Play, Scribble Scratch, Leafy Doodle Border, and Boho Striped Circle
  • Acrylic paints (I'm using Diarylide Yellow, Bahama Blue, and metallic gold)
  • Black gesso
  • Gelatin plate
  • 140lb sketchbook paper (white card stock is a great alternative)
  • Brayer
  • Paintbrush
  • Paint marker
  • Water-soluble pencil
  • White pen
  • Stamp
  • Paper trimmer or scissors
  • Cosmetic sponge
  • Rag
  • Fixative spray, optional

Watch me create the composition starters with a limited palette and a pop of color. The goal here is to release the pressure of creating a masterpiece, to let go of expectations and have fun with the process. 

I created my first layer as a simple monoprint using one stencil (Scribble Scratch) and metallic gold paint.

The second layer was created the same way, but this time I used 70s Play. It's a mask from my 'Graphic Mod' collection of stencils and masks!

The perfect selection to create that bold, graphic look for this painting. (To learn more about what inspired this design, please check out all three designs here.) 

Next, I used an oval-tipped brush to apply some black gesso. Loosely painting over the top of the last layer gives a sense of movement and visual interest. I can never resist adding splatters and drips! Now, the painting is starting to get that grungy, graffiti vibe I love.

Watch my technique in the video!

A peek under the mask...look at that yummy texture! 

Next, I added my stylized handwriting and a few doodles. I used a water-soluble pencil, a Uniball white pen, and a yellow Posca paint marker. 

Next, I cut the paper down into four, 4x6 inch rectangles.

Let's brighten things up a bit! As I was thinking of the color to add as my focal point, I noticed the beautiful turquoise color on my paper cutter. BINGO! We'll use that color!

I painted on that luscious turquoise with a cosmetic sponge. I just LOVE how it makes the stencil design POP out from the rest of the colors.

Tip: To get a nice, crisp stencil image (without the paint seeping underneath the stencil) dab off the excess paint from the sponge onto a piece of scrap paper.

When you're ready to paint, use an up and down pouncing motion. You can get a glimpse at how clean the lines are here, with the Leafy Doodle Border and the Boho Striped Circle stencils...

As a finishing touch, I used a cute butterfly stamp to soften the design and include a layer of whimsy and charm.

Thanks for stopping by and creating with me today! You can find more of my art on Instagram @MarticeSmithArt


  1. I am not a fan of yellow but by gosh you made my heart swoon with the black and yellow combo. that pop of turquoise was inspired. what a great composition starter. In my mind it's way beyond a starter I'd call it finished.

  2. I really love what you've done here, especially the way you used the 70s Pop stencil with the wet wipe and your signature writing. The video really showed your technique nicely.

  3. Wow! This is gorgeous! I love these colors together.

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  5. I really enjoy your process; I adore when it done kind of group or familly of cards


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