Small Experiments with Mini Mixed Media Canvases

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This article is written by Anjuli Johnson

Working with paper clay

As a self taught artist, constant learning and experimentation are a necessity for me to become the accomplished artist I dream of becoming.  It’s not enough for me to stick to one or two tried and true techniques- I feel the need to try nearly everything I see.  I’m sure I’m not the only one who would confess to a room full of craft supplies, waiting to be used for the first time.  There are even more supplies I have used in certain ways, that are just begging for a new technique to revamp their usefulness.

Working on a big project to figure out the best way to use these things is not usually the best approach, however.  At least, it’s not for me, an artist who frantically moves from one medium to the next in a mad rush to try and learn as much as possible.  One day at AC Moore, I found packages of tiny little canvases and easels- 2-3 inches, rectangular and square, and from that moment my ability to experiment with new supplies quickly and artfully was increased by 10.

Working with wire

I’ve learned things about so many mediums by working on my mini’s first- paper clay, ink, multiple ways to paint with acrylics, collage, modeling paste, gel medium, and lots of other things.  Not every art experiment would be good on a mini canvas, but they have been such a great thing for me in almost every aspect of my art.  They are tiny and it doesn’t take me days to finish a piece- no matter what I try, I can have several done in a single evening.  Because they are tiny, I don’t sweat too much if what I try turns out to be terrible.  I’ll recycle it if I can, or just move on- no sweat.  I don’t waste expensive materials on a piece that I might ruin through my inexperience.  They are easy to store in my tiny apartment- they don’t take up tons of already used wall space, which is a big plus.

Adding elements to texture paste

So the up side to my experiments on mini mixed media canvases is pretty limitless… and they are so fun when they turn out well.

Of course, I would love to hear how you learn to work with new materials.  What processes/routines do you have that help you grow as an artist?

Practicing collage work


Author bio: Anjuli Johnson is a Mixed Media Artist form Raleigh, NC.  She began her art career as a scrapbooker, and it’s been an evolutionary process ever since.  She loves all things mixed media- paper, paint, pens, wire, gears, clay… the list goes on and on.  She is constantly trying to push through her fears to discover and develop her talents, meet new people, and learn from those around her.  To see more of Anjuli’s art and techniques, check out her website at  and like her Facebook page.



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Painted Background on Canvas

Here is a step by step guide to creating the background used on this Mixed Media Collage on a 4″ x 4″ mini canvas.


The mini canvas was bought from an arts supply store for less than $1. The two paints chosen are a purple and a bright maroon (Chromacryl Students Acrylic – Violet and Jo Sonjas Artist Gouache – Red Violet).


The purple paint was used first, starting from the top left hand corner and the bottom right corner, slowly working with a barely damp brush and moving the paint inwards.


To further fade the paint, a slight amount of water was added to the brush and the paint was watered down along the middle. Then with some paper towel, a small amount of paint was blotted off. Repeating this process improved the fading of the paint. When you are happy with the effect, allow that layer of paint to dry (a heat gun helps to speed the process along).

The maroon paint was then added in a similar way – apply the paint along the middle, the add a wetter brush to thin it out and blend it back into the purple paint. Blot with paper towel. Allow to dry.


Now we are ready to add some visual texture to the canvas. As this surface is tricky to stamp onto directly, the stamping is done onto tissue paper, then added to the canvas. Stamping needs to be done with an ink that won’t run when wet. Staz-On is a great ink to use in this application (Tsukineko StazOn Solvent Inkpad, Jet Black) Pigment inks are water based and will not work for this technique.


Take the stamped tissue paper and tear out the piece you want to add. Tearing the edges gives a feathered edge that blends into the background better than straight, cut edges. A vanish was used to adhere the tissue paper to the canvas. Gel medium or a runny glue will also work. Carefully apply the glue or vanish onto the back of the tissue paper and give it a few moments to soak in. Also apply a layer of glue onto the canvas. Very carefully lay the wet tissue paper onto the canvas. Smooth out the tissue paper with your finger nail, to remove any bubbles or excessive glue. Be very careful here or the tissue paper will tear. This does add an interesting effect and won’t completely ruin your canvas,but it is very annoying. Set aside to fully dry. Allow to air dry and resist the temptation to use your heat gun.


Now your canvas is ready to decorate.


Happy creating!


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