How-to Blog: Mix the Messy & Precise

One of my favorite ways to connect with others, is to create a custom painting, or commission, of their vision. Combining their inspiration and ideas, with my growing expertise on the materials to follow through and bring it to life. 

My second favorite way to connect, is to educate and teach them about my process for you to experiment yourself - please try this one out and let me know how it goes!

Here are some process images and video of a recent commission that started as a beautiful, colorful mess. 

How the Composition was Decided: 

I recently had the honor of creating an energetic mandala piece, the customer's initial idea was combining two paintings that I have already created.  We combined the colors and style of an abstract ocean coral image and the full mandala of the world painting. What transpired was more than I could have hoped for and I would love to continue to practice and explore this style more. 

The 9 Step Process:  

To get the flowing effect of the paints mixing together, I used fluid acrylics, with some glazing liquid, and a spray bottle.  (See process images below)

One key is creating this painting on a "Gessobord," not a canvas. The board has a hardness that can withstand liquid substances but remain flat, with a smooth white surface that really lets the color move and shine.    

    ---> I hadn't used this product in the 24inch size yet and I am swooning. I NEED to continue ordering these. They are remarkable! 

1. First, I mixed my colors in separate containers, each with a little bit of water and a little glazing liquid for a brighter shiny finish     

    ---> 5 small plastic dishes or jars of: teal + florescent blue / violet + florescent blue + a drop of white / magenta + florescent pink + a drop of white / gold + water / rose gold + water

2. Then, I laid the board flat and started putting colors in general areas that I wanted them with a brush. 

3. After I brushed the paint around, I sprayed the board with water, more water if I wanted the colors to move more. 

4. When an array of colors were covering the board, I used the gold & rose gold (also mixed with a few spoons of water). Soak the brush, then use your finger to flick the liquid off of the brush onto the board full of color... less precise, just splattering it.   

    ---> The gold flecks with the water created little pools and areas of white, moving the color and interacting with it (as you can see all of the white "holes" on the images below). 

5. Blow on the flowing paint, let it move, or soak some of it up with paper towel where you may or may not want it. Meant to be messy and abstract but you may want to strike a balance or add more color to an area that blended together and no longer looks as saturated. I added more drops of the florescent colors directly to the painting if the darker color took over. 

6. Let it dry flat. For a few hours or a full day approx. 

Now the wonderfully fun and messy part is over and adding some precision in drawing a mandala is totally optional - I think the abstract image itself would still look awesome. 

7. Draw the mandala with pencil, using paper cut out shapes to trace and measure sizes for more accuracy. I used to free-hand these but dammmmn that wasted a lot of time and patience! Layer by layer it comes to life, adding more shapes and lines.   

    ---> I used both ivory and gold, as the ivory added a nice highlight to the gold and it would not have shown up as brightly with gold alone. 

8. I painted the lotus with the same acrylic paints, gold, white, and purple.

9. Finally, after a day or of drying time, I lightly sprayed the piece with final varnish, in a gloss finish. Very lightly because some paint pens react negatively to this and will bleed or change color (the ivory became a bit see-through and I had to go over the Ivory pen in a few places). 


  • #1 -> "Ampersand Gessobord," from Blick online, with the best prices -> Here's a link 
  • Paints: Golden Fluid Acrylic Paints (in Quinacridone Magenta, Teal, & Dioxazine Purple) and Golden High Flow Paints (in Florescent Pink and Florescent Blue) I mixed the blue with the teal, a little blue with the purple, and the pink with the magenta - then also dripped the florescent tones right on the board. 
  • Gold & Rose Gold Paints, I used Craftsmart's Multi Surface Premium Ultra Bright Metallic Paint (from Michaels)
  • Golden brand Gloss Glazing Liquid (may not be necessary, water works just fine, it just amps up the saturation of the color and brightness). 
  • Paint Pens: Uni Posca - Ivory Pen (bullet shaped .0-1.3mm) and Gold Pen Bullet Shaped (.7mm). 
  • Grumbacher Final Varnish, gloss spray, varnish that is labeled for "oil and acrylics."  

And there you have it!