Beautiful Backgrounds for Acrylic Painting & Mixed Media | Jennifer Keller | Skillshare
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Beautiful Backgrounds for Acrylic Painting & Mixed Media

teacher avatar Jennifer Keller, Express Yourself with Creative Confidence!

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.

      Introduction

      2:12

    • 2.

      Materials

      2:23

    • 3.

      Multicolor Mixing

      3:34

    • 4.

      Drips and Splatter

      4:46

    • 5.

      Gradient

      3:35

    • 6.

      Stenciling

      7:36

    • 7.

      Collage

      5:37

    • 8.

      Acrylic Texture

      7:31

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About This Class

When learning to make art, most people focus on the subject of their pieces. But one of the most overlooked and most important components of a good work of art is the unsung hero, the background.


My name is Jennifer Laurel Keller. I’m an artist and instructor with over 20 years working in the arts. One thing I notice when working with students is that many people either treat backgrounds as an afterthought, or they overwork them and they turn out too busy, which distracts the viewer.


So, in this class, Beautiful Backgrounds for Acrylic Painting and Mixed Media, I share lots of techniques, which I combine on three different canvases to create lush, attractive backgrounds. Each technique is interchangeable and you can layer them in any combination that you choose to fit your personal style.
You’ll learn about mixing colors on the canvas, contrast, drips, splatter, gradients, stencils, collage, semi-transparent layers, and quick stamping, so that you can let go, get in the flow, and make juicy, textured backgrounds that will draw in your audience.


This class is right for you if you’ve felt like something has been missing in your art. Maybe you’ve thought about trying more textured backgrounds but found it a little scary. Once you see how easy these techniques are, you’ll be ready to jump in and have fun. In the end, you’ll have several backgrounds, ready to go, so that when inspiration strikes you’ll be ready. So are you ready to play? I’ll see you in class!

Meet Your Teacher

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Jennifer Keller

Express Yourself with Creative Confidence!

Teacher

I believe that art is magic. By creating, we mix our inner souls with the outer world to make beauty.

My name is Jennifer Laurel Keller. I'm an artist and an instructor, but what I really do is help people release their blocks and express themselves with creative confidence.

I've worked in the arts for over 20 years as a frame designer, art gallery manager, vintage furniture and home decor dealer, art supply sales associate, and finally as an art instructor.

I love teaching so much. Seeing students light up when they begin to gain confidence in their abilities is so incredibly rewarding and I'm so lucky to be a part of that process. I'm really happy to be able to connect with people all over the world who love being artsy, as well.

I invite you to vis... See full profile

Level: All Levels

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Transcripts

1. Introduction: When learning to make, our most people focus on the subject of their pieces. But one of the most overlooked and most important components of a good work of art is the unsung hero, the background. My name is Jennifer Laurel Keller and I'm an artist and instructor with over 20 years working in the arts. And one thing that I noticed when working with students is that many people either treat backgrounds as an afterthought or they overwork them and they turn out too busy, which distracts the viewer. And I used to be in the same boat. I didn't realize that it was my backgrounds that were falling flat. But eventually after lots of trial and error, I found that layering and texture are key because an interesting background will support your work, gave your focal points a space to live in and help tie the pieces together so that it makes sense. So in this class, beautiful backgrounds for acrylic painting and mixed media. I share lots of techniques which I combine on three different canvases to create lush, attractive backgrounds. Each technique is interchangeable and you can layer them in any combination that you choose to fit your personal style. You'll learn about mixing colors on the canvas, contrast, drips, splatter, gradients, stencils, collage, semi-transparent layers, and quick stamping so that you can let go, get in the flow and make juicy textured backgrounds that will draw in your audience. This class is right for you. If you felt like something has been missing in your art, maybe you've thought about trying more textured backgrounds, but found it a little scary. Once you see how easy these techniques are, you'll be ready to jump in and have fun. In the end, you'll have several backgrounds ready to go, so that when inspiration strikes, you'll be ready. So are you ready to play? I'll see you in class. 2. Materials: Hello and welcome to the Materials lesson. So I started out this class by just sewing or in other words, priming six canvases. I only use three in the class, but I had already painted on these canvases. So I just used a gesso primer and I covered up some old paintings, but I just want to get them to a solid white background so that we can follow along together. And you can also see that this is an option for you if you want to cover up something else with a new background, but I assume you're going to use fresh canvases. I just like to save money. Alright, so the first thing I have after the canvas is a palette. And I use a glass palette with the edges taped off. And then I use a razor blade to clean it off. I have a pint of water or to a paint rag. I have my acrylic paints ready to go. I end up using just a simple color palette for this. I definitely want white out to lighten it up, but I also use teal and chromium oxide grain. And I have some brushes. I use the biggest one out of this, these two actually. And this is a one inch wide, bright brush or flat brush. Sometimes they're called stroke rushes, but it's flat one-way and narrow the other. And this is a good size for the canvases that I'm using. I also have a pallet knife for different texture. I'm gonna use matte medium for adhering paper down to the canvas for the collage section. And I poured out into this little squeeze bottle to help me manage it on the palate a little bit easier. And then I have paper scraps. I just want to have a variety of things available for one layer of a background. And then I have some stencils. I have one that's more like a Mandela and then another one that's floral. And I have a stencil ing brush. You don't need this. You could use a Makeup sponge or regular sponge or a regular brush. So that's everything up. Next we're going to be doing some multi-color mixing on the canvas. So I will see you there. 3. Multicolor Mixing: Hello and welcome to the multi-color mixing lesson. And as you can see, this is what we will end up with at the end of this lesson. And I've just got two different colors, plus white. I've got teal, chromium oxide green and titanium white here. And we're going to mix them on the canvas so that we have a soft mixed colorful background. I've got a ten by ten canvas. And there, as I mentioned in the materials lessons, there was a painting behind this and I just sewed over it. So you can see some of the raised area of the paint still, and I'm gonna put that towards the bottom. But you probably have a regular Canvas that has an opinion on yet, but it is an option to do it that way. So I've got my teal chromium oxide green and titanium white. And I'm going to pour a little bit out on the canvas and you don't need a ton. This is an, a big canvas that I'm doing. And you can do this at any size you want. But I just need a little bit out and I can always pour more out. If I run out. And I'm going to grab my brush and I'm going to put it into the water, just kinda activate it. And then I'm gonna take my paint rag and squeeze out all of the excess water so that it's not super trippy. And then I'm going to tap into the side of that teal paint. I'm not overloading my brush just a little bit now. And I'm gonna softly brush it onto the canvas in different directions on changing the angle of the brush. There, I'm picking up more and I'm just covering up some of the area next to that with some white and you can see how they blend together on the canvas. And I really recommend using brushstrokes in various directions or else your canvas is going to start to look like it's following the arc of your arm and it'll just look like this diagonal, like Arch. And I think that kind of as a tell-tale sign of, you know, just not as much of a professional look. So try and keep your brush going in different directions. And it also helps with getting the paint into all of the weave of the canvas and also just getting a nice blending effect on your canvas. It's going to start to look kind of misty or foggy, just really nice and soft. And the thing that I especially want here is not a lot of contrast. So I'm using white in my mix quite a bit to bring up the light in the paint. And I want to give it that nice soft looks on. The reason why I don't want a lot of contrast is because your focal point can get lost in a background that has too much contrast, too much light and dark. And it also just gives it a nice soft look so that your focal point stands out. So there we have the finished background. And I'm going to work over the top of this in the next lesson. So this is just one component that you can mix with others. But up next we're going to do drips and splattered. So I will see you there. 4. Drips and Splatter: Hello and welcome to the drips ends bladders lesson. And as you can see in this lesson, this is our finished piece. And I've added some drips and slaughters over the top of our last lessons work, where we did the soft multicolor mixing. So one layer in all of these lessons, you will notice there's one layer that's kind of solid and it covers the whole background. And then there's another layer over the top that adds textures. So this is a really fun textured lesson. Let's get into it. I have my multicolored canvas here and I'm going to put it over my paint rag, especially over the bottom or I want the bottom of it over the paint reg especially. And I'm going to, I had paint in my brush already and I've depicted in my water. And I'm just going to mix in a little bit more pigment and then dip it in the water again so that it's really dripping. I'm going to hold the canvas up at an angle and then can a squeegee that wet paint across the top. The more water you put in, the more transparent it's going to be. And then we can just kind of cycle around our colors and my colours are all kind of cool. Here's the teal and you can go over the top of a place that you've already done one color and the two colors will mix together, which is really fun. And all the drips fall down the canvas and onto my paint rag. So here's some more green. And you just want to play with how much pigment and how much water are in your mix. When colors are next to each other on the color wheel or on the rainbow, they're going to mix really nicely together. They're not going to interfere or make your canvas muddy. And I have a lot more information about color in one of my other classes called color quest, if you want to learn more about that. So there I did one right in the middle of the canvas instead of dragging the brush over the top of the edge. And I'm just going to hold that way up so that the drips kind of absorb into my rag and don't they'll just take less time to dry that way. So you can rinse out your brush all the way and then do a solid color. I'm gonna do just white now. And so dipping the brush into the water with pain already on it. And that was a little thicks on going back for more water. And there you can see that now we have a variation with that white bring more light into the canvas. And here are some drips. So I've got some paint mixed up on my brush, dip it in the water and then just drizzle it over the canvas. And we can do more white dipping into the water after the brushes loaded and then getting a nice Encke, consistency with some white spot are there. And you can do as much or as little as you want. You can play with just water. If you have wet paint on your canvas, you can play around with just water and it will lift up some of that background color, which can be really fun to reveal a something different under the paint if you kinda wash it away if it's wet. But for this lesson, just playing around with mixing color on the palette, dipping it into the water. And then you can use your finger to kind of flick the flick of the paint onto the canvas. And then just play around with how many drips you want until you're out. A nice, happy place. If you go too far with this and it starts to become a wet mess on your canvas. You could always just let it dry and take some of it away with a new layer of paint there, you can use brushwork over the top of this. And we're just going for a neat texture with more of a runny finish. So that was fun. Up next we're going to work on a gradient, and I will see you there. 5. Gradient: Hello and welcome to the gradient lesson. And as you can see, our canvas is going to get a new coat of paint. I'm going to start off with a new canvas in this lesson. And what a gradient is, is when one color blends into the next and then blends into the next in a smooth transition. So it was not a sudden sharp contrast of two colours next to each other. It's when they blend smoothly into each other. So let's have a look at this process. So I've got my canvas, I've got my brush in the water, so I'm just going rinse that out really well. We're going to work with a little bit of color and a lot of white paint to start. So I'm going right into the white and there's a little teeny weeny bit of Teal and here just a tap really. And just mixing that up very, very light because typically light is lighter at the top, so the light comes down from the sky. So I've just got a very faint teal here with a lot of white and I am going across. And then we can choose which direction we wanna go in. I just picked up some green on my brush really quick. And then I can do this kind of wiggly brush movement across and then pull. And that's gonna give you a nice mix on the canvas. It doesn't have to be perfect. It doesn't have to look like a robot, did it? This is, we want your artists touch here, so don't feel like it has to be a 100% smooth, but for the most part we want a nice smooth transitions. So another way to do this, go across, across, work your way up and then pick up some of that paint and then pull it back down. So I'll show you how that goes again, here's some more green on my brush. I'm gonna get it mixed from side to side on the canvas, applied evenly from side to side, and then work my way up with these horizontal brushstrokes, pick up some of that lighter green and then pull it back down. And we get a nice blend that way so you can see some of the brushstrokes and that's fine. Here's some teal on the brush, I apply it under the green. And then we cross over the line, working that pain into the canvas and then going up into the green, picking up that one. Yeah. Little bit agreeing on my brush. Work it up and then work it down. Here's a little bit more teal. So every time I add tilde or my brush, there's going to be less of the other colours present in the mix because of the ratio of paint on the bristles. And let's go in for a more pure teal here down. Getting it all nicely worked into the canvas. If you have to do some little brush strokes to just kinda push it in and use dry spots, that's fine. And then doing a cross across an up, getting up into the green area. And that looks pretty good. We've got a nice gentle transition coming through. So over the top of this we're going to work on a little stencils things. So I will see you there. 6. Stenciling: Hello and welcome to the stencil in lesson. And as you can see in this lesson, we do some really fun stents. Ling, You can use store bought stencils. You can use your own DIY stencils if you know how to cut into something sturdy enough with an exact DO knife and do some patterns that would be really fun, but I just use store bought for this lesson. So let's have a closer look. So I have my canvas with a gradient on it. I have a floral and my Mandela. So I'm gonna choose this one for now and I have my stencil brush, it has a really flat bottom on it. And you don't have to have this. You can use a sponge or another brush. So I am going to place this tensile where I wanted to go and pick up a very small amount of paint onto the bottom portion of my brush. It's really just the bottom that I'm concerned about covering. And I'm gonna show you a few ways to apply throughout this lesson. So the first one is dabbing or pouncing the brush into this tensile, getting it through the central and onto the background of the canvas. And you can do different mixtures of colours with within one stencil. They can be right next to each other and then they kind of blend through the stencil, which can be fun to give it a little variation. So I'm just pouncing around and getting it applied in an area that I want to have coverage. And I can go all over this stencil unused the entire portion of it because it actually covers my whole canvas. And that would be lovely and fine, but I'm going to mix it up just a little bit. So here I'm revealing what I did. And it's hard to get the stencil back down to where it was. So I'm just going to kind of do my best and works the corner a little bit. And i'm not concerned about these continuing on and connecting in the middle. I'm just using different elements of this design in different places on the canvas. So it's a little bit easier when you're not concerned about it all being one cohesive element because then if you move or your hand slips, it's not the end of the world. So there I have another portion painted over and I'm going to add a little bit more paint to my palette. Don't wanna run out and you don't want to have to worry about getting every last drop off of your palette, just add more paint. And now I'm using just white over the stencil. And I'm further down on the canvas. So there's actually going to be more contrast here because the light white paint is over the darker area of my canvas. But there's still not a lot of contrast in the background. So like I said before, the less contrast you have, the more confusing in busy your background is going to be and the more your focal points are going to stand out over your background. And so now I've started a different application. I started brushing it on instead of pouncing. So that's a second way that you can apply it. And it just kinda depends on what feels right to you in the moment. You can try pouncing or brushing it on in one direction. But the key is you don't want to overload your brush. If you put too much paint on your brush, you can roll it back off onto your palate. And you only want like a 50% loaded brush for this so that you don't get groups and gobs going under the tensile. Ok, so now here we have a flower. I think these are all succulents actually on this stencil. So there we have that very cute. And now I'm going to start to layer my stencils over one another a little bit. So I'm just picking different portions of the canvas and allowing it to just kind of float around. Here I have teal and I'm brushing the paint over the top. And then you can just kind of also go for big brush strokes. You don't have to get them in each little portion of the stencils. And there you can see some of it's stamped back on, which is fine. It's just going to give it more texture. Let's pick another succulent. So I like that one. They're very cute. And let's mix up my colors a little bit. So here's some more green. And I'm just going to use that with a little bit of white so that I have even less contrast. And for this one, I start to do a circular brushstroke. And I think this might be my favorite. So it went on really smooth. It see how little contrast that is. The colors are different but the lightness and that is actually quite similar. So it didn't stand out that much. Let's see how that same color looks over the top of the canvas, where it's really light. That's downs out a lot more. Let's add a little bit more white now, picking another spot and brushing that on a little bit lighter green now. And against that white, it's going to be really soft and faint. And I think it looks really cute, layered over that teal stencil from before. Let's try that light green over the darker green on the canvas now. And that looks so sweet. I love it. All right, now let's try this live. And I'm going to pick up a little bit of that light green and a little bit of the light teal. So it's got all three colours in it, the white, the green, and the teal. And it's all just kind of trial and error to see how much layering you wanna do, how much white you want to add to make it lighter. And make sure you do some width the stencils going off to the side because that's going to give it more depth as well. Because it'll make it seem like the, those elements are going outside of that field of vision. Kind of like looking through a window. Not everything's squished into the center of the window. When you look out of it. Things are cropped off and it's the same with art. These are cute. Now I have a light teal. Let's see how this goes. I love pulling it off and seeing how it turns out. And let's do just a little portion of this one hanging over the edge. I love it. So I'm gonna take my stencil brush and put it in the water so the acrylic paint doesn't dry in it and hardened my brush. And there we have the finished piece, just lots of layers of botanically and a few decorative elements. So up next we're going to work on a collage layer and I can't wait to show you. I will see you there. 7. Collage: Hello and welcome to the collage lessons. So I've got a brand new Canvas and we're gonna do some collaging over the top. So I'm going to find some papers that are all kind of light in color for this because I want my focal point to show up over the top. And again, this can be used by itself or in combination with any of the other techniques that I showed you in the class. So you could do some acrylic paint over the top of this stencils drips, however, you wanna do it. So I've got some nice patterns here. Nothing that I'm really concerned about keeping visible because we're gonna do other layers over the top of this and it's just the background. So I'm gonna take some acrylic medium, put it out onto my canvas, and I put a good amount down. I'm gonna rinse my brush really well. And if there's a little bit of color left on there, that's okay. And I am going to take my papers. I'm going to rip off any white margins or anything I don't want on there. I like a ripped edge. If you want to use scissors, that's fine too. And this is a two-sided paper so I can use both sides and have more variety. I'd like to line up straight edges with the edge of the canvas because it just kinda saves time to get some nice edges down. And I'm going to apply the acrylic medium a good amount down. You can always lift up a corner if it doesn't go all the way to the edge. And then I am going to smooth it out with the acrylic medium on my brush, still just a seal it in so I put a good amount down. And the thicker the paper or the more you're going to want. And then just smooth it out. And if not all of it is adhered down, you can lift it up and sneak a little bit more medium in around the edges. And so what I'm going for here is a balance. So if I have a paper that's one color on one side, I'd like to balance it out with another similar paper or the same paper on a different part of the canvas so that the composition of this background will be balanced. Sometimes you have papers that you only have one of and that's fine. It's not something that anyone's going to notice that much because it is the background. And a lot of these will get covered up with your focal points. And this is a really good method to use with mixed media. So I often will continue this method over the top with using other papers, other focal points such as people or butterflies, whatever your artwork is about, you can keep using this method by brushing on acrylic medium and layering over your background with more papers. If you're painting over a collaged background, you might want to leave part of it smooth. So you might want to leave out some area behind what you're going to paint. So for instance, if I was going to paint a face over the top of this and I didn't want any of the ridges of the paper to show. I would just leave a section of the canvas empty of the background. But some people like to paint over the top of a collage background and have the patterns of the papers showing through what they're painting. So it could be a portrait and you could have some of the maps showing through the skin of the portrait and it would be really interesting. So it just depends on how you want to layer and what you're comfortable with and what you've learned about before. I have other classes about layering with collage in I have a class called Lego and layer. So you might wanna check that out if you're interested in learning more about this process. But it's a really fun way to use up some decorative papers and not have to worry too much about painting at all. You're just gluing with acrylic medium. Now tissue papers are really fun. I love a tissue paper that has a light pattern on it. White tissue paper when you put it down with acrylic medium over something that has patterns in it. It will just kind of melt away and reveal what is underneath it. And also add a little bit of pattern and texture because the tissue crinkles up a lot. So it's a fun way to add texture with paper instead of just paint. So there you can see the flower is going through that tissue. And there we have it. A lovely collaged background. You could leave it just as is, or take it further like I do in the next lesson. So up next we're going to be working with some acrylic texture and I can't wait to show you. Let's have a look. 8. Acrylic Texture: Hello and welcome to the acrylic texture lessons. So as you can see in this lesson, I have the canvas that I worked on in the last lesson with the collage. And we're going to do some rough, grungy acrylic texture over the top, allowing some of that paper to show through. So I have my collage paper, I've got my palette knife here, and I'm just tapping into a light amount of paint. I'm not really heavily in loading my palette knife. And I'm using the flat side too. Go over the papers and just apply a little bit of paint down. And what this does is just give you a light application with a different texture than a brush does. It's just a little bit more broken up. And you can also use the edge to thin it out, really, really thin so that you can see some of the paint or the collage showing through from the previous layer. And you can work in, in, in different angles, different directions. You can use some of the acrylic medium to make your paint more transparent. It's not just a glue, It's also a medium that you can make into the colors to make them more transparent. And so that's one method you can use for an acrylic texture. And next I'm going to just take my brush, load it about halfway and do a very light layer. I'm not using a lot of pressure on the brush. I'm just painting from the end of the brush and there's not a lot of paint on my brush. And what this is called is a dry brush technique. It's when there's not a lot of glide on the canvas, or in this case the collage underneath. And you're getting a really transparent layer. And so for the collage that's under here, I'm hugging the edges of the paper, so I kinda blurring the lines in between each swatch of paper so that it seems like they're just kinda blending into each other. So I'm taking away the contrast of one paper to another and allowing some areas to be more opaque and some to be more transparent, so it's semi-transparent. Some areas are covered up more than others. And if you want a smoother look, you can use the acrylic medium to get more of a blend. But for this, I'm just kind of, I want to keep it light. I don't want a lot of contrast. I want to mellow out some of the busy-ness of the collage. And we're just going for subtle application. And then I can come back over again with some palette knife work. And you can see it kind of hugs those papers. Really thin application. It's going to cling to the edges. And some of the crinkly texture of that tissue paper. And so you could just work in different colors if you want. Or you could go over this with just white to lighten it up. However you wanna do it. However many colors you want to use is fine. I really like this cool color palette because a lot of focal points are a little bit more. They have a little bit more worms. Maybe you've got a flower that's pink or pretty butterfly or like a Laney or something like that. There's gonna be more warmth and more contrast and darker colors. So I don't wanna go too dark or to contrasted here. And I, I like to keep it cool so that my focal points we'll show up. But again, the more you know about color theory and color mixing, the more you can play around with different different ways to approach a background. There's not one way That's right and one way that's wrong. You can look at different color palettes of other people's art work for inspiration. Pick out color palettes that are already colors that you're going to use for a focal point so that they tie in together really well. And just have fun. So I'm going to rinse off my palette knife and then wipe off any excess. And I'm gonna show you one more textured way to put down some paint, which is with bubble wrap. And this is a fun way to use stamping kind of do it yourself method. So I'm just going to roll up some bubble wrap and then fold it again so that I have a nice size for a stamping that I can hold in my hand with a lot of control. And then with a little bit of paint, I'm just going to coat those bubbles and stamp. And then you get a nice kinda polka dotted cluster on your canvas, which I really love. And most people have bubble wrap hanging around somewhere. And it's just a neat way to bring in a DIY method of stamping. And you can use other stance as well. So there is the finished piece. So we've got palette knife, dry brush, and bubble wrap in this piece, as well as the collage. So I think it turned out really well. And I hope you try this out. Thank you so much for joining me for this class. I thoroughly enjoyed loosening up and making these fun textured backgrounds. If you would like to share your project or would like some feedback, I encourage you to post a picture in the project gallery and let me know about your experience. Also, if you have any questions, I hope you'll ask me in the discussion section. I check skill share a lot and would love to interact with you. And you might help another student who was wondering the same thing. If you enjoyed this class, please consider following me for future updates on new classes that I offer. And I also have several other painting and mixed media classes which are ready and waiting for you to explore on my teacher profile page. And remember, Art is meant to be fun. So if you show up in practice with an open mind, you'll learn something new every time. Happy creating much love. Yes.