Mixed Media Collage as a Foundation for Encaustic Painting

Facing a Blank Canvas

As a self-taught mixed media artist, I often reflect back on my earlier works to analyze the approach and results. It helps me to understand my own methodologies and common practice. I think back to some of my very first mixed media classes and remember being in that place of ultimate confusion when it came time to start a painting. What to paint? How to paint it? It all seemed like the weight of the world was resting on my shoulders and I had three hours to prove myself!

Building up and excavating collage layers

Mixed Media Collage layers as a foundation for encaustic paintingSo that I wouldn’t embarrass myself, I would begin by collaging some random paper on a board or canvas. When it appeared that I didn’t have any rhyme or reason to this “work of art”, I would begin to paint over it covering all of the collage in its entirety. It did seem safe but also a little bit like a waste of time. Why had I bothered to collage? I did get some layers and some texture but all of the pattern, colour, and imagery were gone. So, I decided to sand some of the paint off. Wow! As a result, I got even more texture as bits of paper ripped and tore off. Layers of text and colours popped through and I liked what I saw.

This prompted me to think, if I like two layers, imagine how much I’d enjoy this if I continued with more layers? So, out came a bit more collage, then more paint. I experimented with using baby wipes in between the layers instead of always the sandpaper. Sandpaper, as it turned out, is for heavy removal and distressing, the baby wipes however offered a more subtle excavation. The more I played, the more distressed and beautiful my paintings would become. I would enjoy the richness and the history the layers had offered.

I Believe in Backgrounds

Christina Lovisa Mixed Media Collage background layersOne of the reasons we enjoy time-weathered paint finishes and surfaces today is because of the layers that give only a glimpse into the slices of time provided by each one. Each layer was created by someone who was attempting to cover up and beautify what time and the elements were slowly working away at destroying. There is history in that and that is something we can appreciate.

As I look back into all of my artworks, since the beginning, it occurs to me that I believe in backgrounds. These relics and excavations are the backbone of each and every painting I’ve made. Not all of the background remains visible anymore but I do know that they all share a history. A history in the layers and the traditions I’ve set for my own work.

I used to paint primarily in acrylics in my mixed media paintings. Today I generally use non-acrylic based paints so that I can add encaustic wax on top—as seen in my book Two Worlds Collide.

My Two World’s Collide background recipe

The recipe below is for a background made for an encaustic/mixed media friendly painting.

Materials:

  • Wood panel or wooden substrate.
  • Collage papers in all textures, colours, patters and paper types.
  • Matte finish Mod Podge or cellulose glue (wallpaper paste).
  • Milk paints or mineral paints (available commercially as Chalk Paints).
  • Sandpaper
  • Baby Wipes

Process:

  1. Rip papers into various size pieces. Make a pile beside you
  2. Using a 1-2” flat brush for acrylics, lightly coat with Mod Podge the back of a piece of paper as well as the board surface you are adhering it to. “Collage” the piece down using your fingers or a plastic
    “credit card” to make sure the two surfaces are stuck together
  3. Keep overlapping and covering all surfaces of the board
  4. Dry the paper a little with a heat gun on low
  5. Paint over the entire surface using a non-acrylic Milk Paint or Chalk Paint in a light colour –
    preferably white
  6. Dry the paint with a heat gun on low
  7. Sand and distress the surface using course-grit sandpaper
  8. Add a bit more collage randomly or in response to the first layers
  9. Add more paint in a different colour
  10. This time, try sanding a little and using the baby wipes to gently “eat through” the paint in
    some areas. It is a more gentle paint-removal technique

Repeat these steps as many times as desired until the perfect aged background is achieved. Your background is ready to apply a layer of well-fused clear encaustic medium to the surface and then continue to treat it as an encaustic painting.

Who’s with me?

Do you love to create collage layers and texture? Let’s talk about it in the comment section below.

About Christina Lovisa

Christina Lovisa is a self-taught contemporary, mixed media artist and instructor from Ottawa, Ontario. Working in a broad range of mediums, from encaustic (beeswax) to acrylic paints and mixed-media sculpture, she produces a varied range of artworks. Her client list includes Cirque du Soleil and the Michael Jackson Estate.

Visit My Website
View All Posts

12 thoughts on “Mixed Media Collage as a Foundation for Encaustic Painting


  1. Greetings Christina. Thanks for this posting. Do you ever use Mod podge or Elmers glue to collage over encaustic? I heat the surface with a few heat gun passes, apply the paper, cloth, lace, tissue paper using glue. Next more encaustic layers…once hardened, I do some excavations.
    I don’t know how “archival ‘ these works are, but I advise my buyers to use caution regarding heat, sun and give buffing instructions.
    So far, so good. I am Dee in Johannesburg, Michigan.

    1. Christina Lovisa

      HI Dee – Thanks for your reply and comments. This is a good really good question you ask – do I use glue to adhere elements on top of the encaustic wax? The short answer is yes but I don’t use ModPodge or Elmer’s glue. To understand the longevity and the archival quality of this process we have to first ask ourselves what we are trying to achieve. This is the long answer. Glue is there only to hold the elements in place and to prevent the wax from trying to excrete them. Since the glue will not actually bond to the wax, we let it dry and then it creates a layer which we then sandwich in between more wax medium – none of which have fused to the previous layer. This is part that is a problem for me. I try to achieve the same principle of holding elements in place while using products which have a better chance at not peeling away from the wax. I use a cellulose based glue -wallpaper paste. You purchase this as powder at hardware stores and just mix a little at a time. It is cost effective and serves my purposes better than glue. Since it does not contain acrylic or plastic of any kind, in my experience the sandwiched layers of encaustic medium and mixed media elements, are better embedded, fused and incorporated into a more stable painting.
      I hope that helps and gives you something new to try. Happy art-making!


      1. I will get some wall paper glue. Thanks Christina. So far, none of my glued collage elements have escaped. I use wood burning tools as well as a heat gun. When I work on a piece I actually sit on my butt in a very comfortable chair next to 4 Walnut Hallow burning pens with varoius tips and an Optima Wood burner. I apply encaustic medium and paint one drop at a time. I am able to fuse this way. I coat each entire layer with R&F medium and the heat gun.
        Gee, now i know why a work on 10 pieces at a time! I put many hours into the process. Gotta love the process. Dee


  2. Hi can you give me a brand name for a non acrylic chalk paint. I can only seem to find acrylic. Thank you!
    Brenda
    .

    1. Christina Lovisa

      Great question Brenda – “chalk” paints are made up of a few basic ingredients; water, lime, pigment and magnesium (chalk). Acrylic medium is a type of “glue” that all chalk paints have added to allow the paint to stick to the surface its being applied to so primer isn’t necessary. The amount of adhesive in each chalk paint is how I compare the usefulness as a brand for encaustic collage. You want to use brands that have very little adhesive in it. Annie Sloan, VanGogh and VM&D (Vintage Market and Design), are super “chalky” and as a result work really well under the encaustic. The brands that I would stay clear of are the ones that contain latex – usually any paint brand that has added “gypsum” to give it the matte finish, including Rustoleum and Chalked (found in hardware stores). I would also avoid the recipe for DIY chalk paint that starts with latex house paint as a base.
      If you want a completely plastic free paint, then I would chose the milk paint option which has casein in it that acts as a binder. I love the brand The Real Milk Paint co.
      I hope that clarifies things a little.


  3. You’ve inspired me! I’m new to encaustics and I love it . Thank you for sharing your process.


  4. Hi Christina, not having luck with the chalk paint supplier in Ontario. But I did find Lee Vally tools have milk paint powder. I just want white, would this be a good option?


  5. I am new to encaustic work and did not know that acrylics should not be used. Why is that? Is it because they can melt? I would think the wax would melt before anything acrylic would melt.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *