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.




City Geometry and Sgraffito


acrylic on w/c paper, 10 X 11″

City geometry: squares, cubes and intersecting lines. Steps, ladders, grids to organize the chaos of lives sewn together in the string of subway stops. The conveyer belt of lives ascending and descending stairs, elevators, buses, trains. Individuals wandering the same routes each day even as the wide world awaits visitors.

Put it down.  Scrape it out. Sgraffito, a painting technique of scratching into the top layer of paint to reveal areas of the surface underneath. Can you guess where I did that in this painting?


Here’s another demo for the Monday Muse class. Start with a black shape on the white paper.  Let it dry and then paint over it with heavy body paint and scrape out shapes to reveal black or white. If you do more layers, you can get kaleidoscopic effects, which is what happened in class. I still want to try one where I scribble, scribble, scribble! Even the word sounds more like sgraffito.