This piece was originally created for the Powertex UK Design Team a few years ago. I’m sharing it as an example of how to create a textured background for a strong focal piece, like the clay cow skull in this mixed media art.

Cow skull focal piece with textured background

Materials used

  • MDF 25 cm base frame
  • Cow Skull and Flowers Mould
  • Ivory Powertex Universal Medium
  • Stone Art
  • Easy Structure
  • Paperdecoration
  • Acrylic inks in Aqua and Egg Yolk
  • Copper Penny Metallic Acrylic Ink

Materials used all from Powertex UK.

How to create a textured background for a focal piece

I put together the mdf base using Ivory Powertex to paint and glue the pieces together. Next I spread Easy Structure paste unevenly over the surfaces.

A plastic palette knife or old plastic card works well for this.

Apply Easy Structure unevenly

My tips for a background texture

There’s no need to try too hard to create texture, let the Easy Structure paste do the work. As it’s a heavy paste you can use just a little.

Scrape it over the surface without fussing too much. If you’ve got a tatty palette knife or plastic card that’s rough with old paint, even better! This will create even more texture.

In this piece I want to create tiny textures to contrast with the large elements. Do this with thin layers, rough edged tools and work quickly.

I like to add a small amount to my knife at a time and you can even leave some places without the paste on it. I’m not coating it too thick or it takes a long time to dry, just 1-3mm is plenty.

If the paste is getting hard to move, spray with water.

You can speed up the drying with a hairdryer if you like.

Creating my layering pieces with Stone Art clay

I make up my other pieces while that’s drying. The cow skull and flowers are created with Stone Art clay.

Pour out 3 or 4 tablespoons of Ivory Powertex into a container and add Stone Art powder a little at a time. Mix it together until you have a dough-like clay that you can roll in your hands. This will be about half Powertex, half Stone Art.

Press the clay into the moulds and pop them out before the clay is dry. I can still reshape the pieces at this point. Turn the horns forwards and make sure the flowers are flat.

Paperdecoration ad Stone art clay pieces

Prepare clay and Paperdecoration

I used some large pieces of Paperdecoration to add layers, it needs to hang over the edges of the raised centre. Coat this with Ivory Powertex and lie it flat to dry on a craft mat, to harden in this flat shape.

Adding colour with acrylic inks

When the Easy Structure is dry I spray generously with the acrylic inks.

Spraying them into each other while they are wet, allows them to blend and mix in the textures. It’s fun to let the inks run and drip and puddle on the surface. They may dry lighter, so you can repeat this step until you’re happy with the colour.

See how adding Yellow into the wet Aqua ink has made green areas.

Powertex acrylic inks

Blend acrylic inks on the surface

The shallow but uneven textures can look really deep when the inks are sprayed. Ink pools in the hollows of the textures to add shadows and depth.

I also added tiny pieces of Paperdecoration for extra texture, glued into place with Powertex and sprayed with inks.

While this dries, I paint up my pieces. Copper Penny ink for the Paperdecoration and flowers and Aqua ink for the skull.

Copper penny ink

Paint with Copper Penny ink

Layer up your pieces

Layering them up is the next step using Ivory Powertex as glue. If your pieces don’t have much contact and won’t hold, use small pieces of kitchen paper wet with Powertex, to make sticky pads to hold them in place.

Cow skull and flowers art by Kore Sage

Cow Skull on textured background

Add your main elements where you like on the base. In this piece I have used a symmetrical layout with a large central focal point.

Add some finishing touches with Copper Penny ink to create highlights. The blue and copper is a gorgeous colour combination and the vibrant inks made this one easy and fun.

Try a simple composition with a textured background and a large focal point

In this mixed media art, the background is interesting and keeps your eye moving around the whole piece. The focal point is strong and large which contrasts with the tiny textures in the background.

Try choosing a large focal point in your mixed media art and create a textured background for it. 

If you’re new to Powertex you might find this article about Powertex helpful or read about some Powertex project ideas for beginners.