This piece was originally created for the Powertex UK Design Team and was featured on the Hochanda shows for September. 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 for a Design Team Challenge.

How to create a textured background for a focal piece

I built the frame using Ivory Powertex to paint and glue the pieces together. There’s no need to wait to let this dry as I want lots of texture in the background. A plastic palette knife or old plastic card works well for spreading Easy Structure over the surface of the frame. I spread the paste unevenly and always from top to bottom on the whole surface.

Apply Easy Structure unevenly

My tips for a background texture

It’s easy to try too hard to create the texture but let the 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 and if you’ve got a tatty palette knife or plastic card that’s rough with old paint, even better! I like to add about 1-2 teaspoons 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. You can speed up the drying with a hairdryer if you like. There’s plenty of time to move the paste around but if it starts to harden, spray it with water.

Creating my layering pieces

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.

Use the clay in 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. I want it to harden in this flat shape.

Adding acrylic inks

When the Easy Structure was dry I sprayed 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

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

Cow skull and flowers art by Kore Sage

Cow Skull on textured background by Kore Sage

Add some finishing touches with Copper Penny ink to highlight your focal point. The background is interesting and keeps your eye moving around the whole piece. The focal point here is strong and large which contrasts with the tiny textures in the background.

Blue and Copper is a classic colour combination and the vibrant inks made this one easy and fun. Try using 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.