I've decided to post a weekly tutorial, sharing what I've gleaned from others over the past couple of years. Today I'll talk about creating what I call a 'complex background'--this will give you a quick, easy background, great for ATCs or postcards or even larger art.
Step One: Find and prepare substrate. In this case, I used a discarded Apple Jacks box. I primed it with cheap white house primer, using a little roller. I keep the whole setup in a plastic bag in the studio so that it's ready when I want to use it.
Step Two: Glue down some text. I used pages from an old dictionary that was falling apart. The easiest way I've found to apply this is using an old credit card. I dip the card into my glue (Golden's Soft Gel Gloss), spread it thinly, place the paper down, and run the edge of the card over the top (this squeezes out all the extra glue).
Step Three: Give the whole thing a watery wash of gesso. Using a paper towel or baby wipe, blot the gesso off a little bit in some places.
Step Four: Find a couple of stamps and stamp randomly across the surface. I try to use at least one 'soft-edged' stamp (in this case, the berry stamp) along with stamps that have more angular edges. You''re trying to break up the edges of the text here, so the more random, the better. I like to use Staz-On Ink, as it stamps on anything and doesn't smear.
Step Five: Add some color. Here I chose a light golden yellow. I used a dry brush and sort of flip-flopped it around, trying to cover the white areas, some of the text, and some of the stamping. Blot or rub with a towel if desired.
Step Six: Dry brush again. This time, I used a slightly darker gold color on one side of the brush and white craft paint on the other side. Again, flip-flop the brush (it's actually got a name: scumbling). Feel free to blot with a towel again, if you'd like.
Step Seven: Overstamp with white or cream. In this case, I used a foam stamp, but purposedly did not put paint along the square edges of the stamp so that it had a rougher look..
Step Eight: Dry brush over any harsh edges left from your white stamping. You're done--all you have to decide now is what size to trim it!
I trimmed this cereal box into 24 ATCs that are all prepped and ready to add a central image and/or words. This saves tons of time when you're mass-producing--I did Christmas cards using this approach, and it was quick! The key to saving time is to cut AFTER you're done doing all the gluing, stamping, and painting.