Mixed media rust and Powertex
Mixed media artists love rust effects for their organic textures and colours that look great whether applied to details or whole projects. There are lots of products available for creating rust effects, applying actual rust or even for using rusted objects to dye papers and fabrics. However products usually fall into two categories. Products that give a rust effect and those that are creating actual rust!
Rust effect compared to real rust
Rust effect products can create wonderful textures and even coloured rust in an instant. It’s quick and easy to apply, allows for fast results and is largely easy to control. It may also be lighter which might be good for your project. However, it also lacks the natural and organic textures of real rust, the colours tend to be more artistic than realistic because it’s an “effect”. If you need a fix of rust, with out of the jar options in your project then rust effect products are for you.
Creating actual rust on a project is obviously the real deal. It looks authentic, has natural, organic textures and colours and still has a range of applications. It also has a degree of unpredictability and it takes a little patience but the magic is in the chemistry. Creating real rust is great for artists who enjoy the process and the surprises of experimental materials. It’s possible to have some control over the results but the rewards are in the natural process of the rust forming. If diving into the process and surprising results are your thing, then real rust is for you.
Your personal style and available time will probably determine which you prefer. I am a geeky chemist at my art table! I love to see how different products react together. Making rust, experimenting and letting my projects develop slowly works well for me when life is busy and I’m taking small chunks of time to make art. So both have their advantages but personally I’m a real rust girl! I love to experiment with different uses and I’m a big fan of the Happy Accident.
Rusty fabric scraps
Ok I want to go the Real Rust route. What now?
When I became a Powertex tutor, I discovered Rusty Powder. It was unlike any product I’d used before and I went on to develop a whole series of paintings around this one product!
You may find other products to create real rust for your projects. You may even choose to make your own rust. I’m going to write a little about how I use Rusty Powder.
Powertex Rusty Powder
Powertex Rusty Powder is more or less, rust in a jar. It’s heavy because it’s metal based. It needs to be mixed with a product to allow it to adhere and also vinegar to form the rust. How your rust looks will depend a lot on what you mix it with and the amount of vinegar you use. Your rusty recipe will determine the colour of your rust and the texture. If you layer your rust with other products you will change it even further. Because you’re mixing it with Powertex it can be applied to almost any surface. I love to transform fabric and cardboard scraps into rusty embellishments or sculpt it onto canvases.
Rusty Recipes – an introduction
Mixing up your Rusty Powder is easy when you know how and it’s fun. Like when you used to mix up recipes as a child with mud or sand and water!
Binder – Add something to “glue” your rust. Try Transparent, Ivory or even coloured Powertex (more on this later). Easy structure paste also works well for a thicker paste. I try to add no more than 60% Rusty Powder.
Vinegar – Use distilled or even white wine vinegar. Add a little neat vinegar to your Rusty Powder/binder mixture to kickstart the rusting. If I make up a 30-50 mls of rusty mixture I add 1-2 teaspoons of vinegar because I like that result. You can use more or less but be careful not to make your mixture too runny!
Textures – Add 3d sand, balls or fibers to your rust mixture before applying to your project to alter the finish. 3d sand works well for thickening a runny mixture.
Application – Apply the mixture with plastic tools which can be easily cleaned.
Process – Mix up a small spray bottle with vinegar and water. I keep the vinegar at about 30%. Spray the mixture once applied and then leave it overnight. The rust will begin to form over the next few hours and at 12 to 24 hours you can wet the project again with the spray mixture. This can be repeated as many times as you like but after a day I find I don’t get much change.
I don’t like the results! What can I do?
Well nothing is final with Powertex! However, it’s unlikely you will be able to remove the rust once it’s formed. If your rust is not a colour you like it’s easy to fix. I recommend painting over the rust either with Ivory or Black Powertex to give you base colour without losing your textures. Mix up your Rusty Powder again but keep the mixture thin and just paint it over your dry Powertex. Adjust your mixture or vinegar sprays for a different result. If the texture is not right for you, simply mix up the texture you want to use over the top. This can be a texture paste to smooth it out or adding 3d sand and balls for more texture.
Some of my best rusty results have come from layering up different mixtures because I wasn’t happy with something so just keep going!
I’ll be writing some more articles about how I use Rusty Powder in my work and sharing some of my rusty recipes. If you have any questions about using Rusty Powder in your project why not get in touch and I’ll see if I can help.