gloss medium

Gloss Medium and Passion Vining

We wrapped up another 6-week series of Tuesday Muse Group this week with a lesson I haven’t taught for years – painting on a glossy surface.

First you coat the paper with a couple layers of gloss medium and let them dry. What you get is a surface with a shiny plastic-y surface which makes for some particularly odd effects when you paint your acrylics on.

I like to use fluid acrylics and wet the surface lightly in places so that the paint starts to move and colors blend. If you spritz the paint lightly with alcohol just before it dries, you get even more surprises as the alcohol pushes the paint around some more.

I can’t quite remember when the floral garland here grew the native face and then the feather? headdress appeared. There’s always a matter of brain off-line and resulting hallucination involved. The passion vine flower came into the picture as it resembled the flowers outside on my studio wall that lure the butterflies and mess with the mind of visiting artists as well.


acrylic and collage on acrylic gloss medium coated w/c paper, 10 X 11″

a native plunges ahead on the trail of passion’s twining

clad in fragrance of meadows and dark sky

of floral garland and warrior headdress

         . . .destination unknown

        (and unnecessary)

For more painting on gloss, you might want to visit another lesson on my blog and try it out.



This word sgraffito is so Italian that I want to kiss my fingertips as I say it. It’s dictionary meaning is: a technique of ornamentation in which a surface layer of paint, plaster, slip, etc. is incised to reveal a ground of contrasting color.


fluid acrylic mixed with gloss medium, on gessoed w/c paper

For this demo I started with a few drops of green acrylic mixed with the gloss medium to make it more transparent. While it was wet I scraped (with a rubber color shaper) back to the white paper in undulating designs. When those green shapes were dry, I repeated those steps with the gold and red. The resulting design would make a lovely summer table cloth, don’t you think?

So for the next one I took on the challenge of staying simple while also going in the directions of a piece of art that has something, however modest, to say.


I used the same palette and sgraffito technique here with a touch of collage. It looked quite messy and gloppy. “So Bad It’s Good” but not really. As we always do in Muse Group, I did a free write which revealed the idea of the tropical bird, who flew in to take his perch afterward. He was very noisy, squawking into my ear “What’s your problem anyway?!”

Sgraffito is the technique you employ when you get that urge to scribble. You know, on those days when “Pretty” doesn’t feel right, and you’re a bit or a lot agitated?

In our Muse Group “laboratory” we discovered that it works best when you mix your fluid acrylics (just a few drops) with pouring medium or gloss medium because they are transparent and not as likely to glob up or get muddy.

So go for it. Sgraffito up a storm and maybe play some Italian opera to get in the mood.



Painting on Gloss


inks and gesso and white Sharpie Paint Pen on w/c paper coated with gloss medium

It bubbles up, all unruliness and glory. . .

The impulse is not the master of the outcome.  It is merely the little finger that pushes the stick out from under the rock that topples the boulder that rolls crashing down the incline, that raises dust and debris in its colorful wake. . .that innocent little finger that understands none of this, but offers itself at just that moment when the mountain is ready to move and paint a new beginning to a marvelous story, which has never been told before.

I think of myself as this little finger at times, the mountain at other times, and on rare occasions, the master of outcome.  In fact we are all of the above.

Many years ago I took a workshop with Marilyn Hughey Phillis.  She initiated me into the world of fluid acrylics  and abstraction. We were instructed to bring paper that had been coated with 3 layers of gloss medium.  Remembering this I tried it out with the Monday Afternoon Muses recently.

When paint hits the glossy surface it flows, it skates lightly, it responds uniquely.  Painting on a glossy surface does not necessarily result in shiny paintings, but it extends the dynamics of fluid acrylics and inks into new territories.  In the painting above I used a brush only to paint wet shapes onto the surface and otherwise used a dropper to apply inks and my fingers to blend them with the gesso to create subdued passages.  A spray of alcohol into wet ink created the circle shapes on the bottom and the white dots in the black on the top were total serendipity (meaning I have no idea how that happened).


Another one painted on a gloss medium surface and spritzed with alcohol just before it dried.  I have a third sheet of paper with a glossy surface that is calling out to me to do another!  Want to try it?