Mixed Media: Design a soft, sweet aesthetic with abstract techniques

Janelle Nichol, Self taught artist

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11 Lessons (2h 51m)
    • 1. Intro to Janelle and Course (Little Birdie Mixed Media Canvas)

    • 2. Materials Overview

    • 3. 1st layer of background

    • 4. 2nd layer of background

    • 5. 3rd and final layer for background

    • 6. Learn how to sketch the figure

    • 7. Printing your sketch in the correct size

    • 8. Putting the figure together & applying it to the canvas

    • 9. Painting the hair

    • 10. Shading the Figure

    • 11. Adding Addditional Accents & Final Thoughts


Project Description

Create a mixed media canvas & portray a sense of nature & soft aesthetic using abstract techniques

                                                   Introduction to Course 

If there is a piece in my gallery at JanelleNichol.com that you would like to see me offer a course for, send me a shout-out online using #JanelleNonline (FB, Twitter, Instagram) & let me know what it is!

In the meantime, all you have to do is watch the videos in order and please do read the text that goes along with the lessons, it will give you additional info that may be of help.


                                                       Materials Overview

Because Mixed Media can use so many different techniques and materials compared to a watercolor or acrylic painting, I wanted to discuss them on video as well as provide a list. There may be things I've missed on the video so please do read the list.

Many of these materials are not absolutely necessary. They are just suggestions if you DO want to go out and buy some. Or you may have some of these materials already.

Canvas Stretched canvas or canvas boad. I suggest using standard sizes of 8x10 or 11x14.

Mod Podge Matte (gloss and fabric won't work as well). You can also use any type of decoupage medium. Just make sure it is a good one. I find Mod Podge works great and is less expensive than other brands.


  • Softly colored patterned paper in warm tones of greens, yellows, oranges
  • Yellow cardstock/patterned paper for dress
  • Script/book paper for body


  • Yellow- any opaque paint will do. I used yellow ochre and Folk Art Lemon Custard.
  • Burnt umber, Raw umber, Burnt Sienna or similar colors.
  • Green- various shades of light/medium and dark greens. These will be used for foliage.
  • Here's a great Liquitex set that would have all the colors you need.

*Red/Orange paint for waist, Metallic copper paint (the brands in the general craft section are fine), Medium brown and Leafy green ink sprays.


*Some other tools I LOVE to use for shading are Faber Castell Gelatos and PITT artist Big Brush Pens. If you buy them, this piece needs Nougat (dark brown) in the markers and white and light flesh tone in the Gelatos. 


Texture Tools

  • Bubble wrap
  • Drywall tape
  • Various stamps in script/foliage/flourish patterns
  • Stencils in script/foliage/flourish patterns (it is not necessary to have both stamps and stencils. Just nice to have the options). Links for a few are below.

*you may want to use gold glitter glue for the flourish/branch on the left side of the canvas. I use Scribbles 3D dimensional paint or Stickles but regular craft glitter glue will work great as well.

*you will need something to create the bird. We will either paint it, stamp it, stencil it, or use a rub-on/sticker. Whatever you prefer.

*Suggested but not completely necessary


                                                   Mixed Media Background

 ​Our goal with this particular background is to convey a natural aesthetic. We really want to portray a sweet, peaceful mood and we want the piece to seem like she in the middle of a forest or garden. Maybe an overgrown, covered pathway.

So in this lesson unit, I'm going to show you how to create that background by using the color yellow in abstract ways to give the impression of sunlight streaming through the trees. We will be using various and unique techniques in interesting and unusual ways to create foliage and convey the feeling of an overgrown pathway.

At this point, you can share your canvas online, I would love to see it! Use #JanelleNonline on Instagram and/or Twitter. Each time you upload & update your project in the project gallery and share it online you will get you an entry into a contest where you will win a fabulous prize! 


                                                   Sketching The Figure

In this sketch we want to have a sense of peacefulness. So we will make her still, not walking. To convey that we will have her hands by her side, her legs side-by-side and her head just barely leaning to one side as though she's relaxed and maybe a bit reflective. 

You will observe my process as I take the vision I have in my head and sketch it onto the canvas. I do most of my sketches from scenes in my head and work towards fleshing those out on paper. Rarely are they from photographs or real figures.

Scanning, Transferring and Resizing Your Sketch Tutorial

If you have sketched your own figure, it is now time to share it with the rest of the world! Use #JanelleNonline on Instagram and/or Twitter. 


                               Collaging The Figure and Placing it On The Canvas

Since we are not painting the figure (except for the hair) it is a very different approach we will be taking to include the figure into our canvas. The word collaging may conjure up memories of childhood crafts with scissors and glue but in order for a professional looking final result we will need to take some special considerations. This is not your grandmothers collage!

At this stage you will watch the video and learn how to collage the figure and place it on the canvas.

When you have finished painting the hair and shading the figure , it is once again time to share your beautiful canvas. You know the drill....#JanelleNonline. :) 


                                                  Final Accents and Thoughts

After you have added any final accents you can share your progress in the course gallery here, I am available for any questions you may have and I would love to hear from you.

And now you will finish your canvas completely and upload it in all of it's glory for the rest of us to "ooh & aah" over. #JanelleNonline for Instagram/Twitter and even facebook if you like :). A wonderful prize could be making it's way to you!

If there is a piece of mine that you would love to see me do a class for, please let me know by going to my gallery at JanelleNichol.com & send me a shout out on Instagram, twitter, facebook, wherever you want & let me know. I'm going to be doing a few more of these mixed media collage pieces and I would love to hear what everyone wants :) 

Links for Tutorials and Materials

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