Usually, in Living with Art, I focus on 1) affordable ways to display art (behold! a frame built from natural peanut butter, used matches, and teenage angst!), or 2) unexpected places to work art into your decor (hint: YOU CAN PAINT ON EVERYTHING). Since people seem most interested in posts where I make the art that will be on display, I decided to focus on the creative process today, and specifically, on making a masterboard.
What’s a masterboard? I’m betting you know exactly what it is; you just use another name. Lots of people think of a masterboard as a great big multi-layered background that you cut up to make smaller pieces: postcards (4″x6″), ATCs (3.5″x2.5″), inchies (1″x1″), chunkies (4″x4″), and other forms of mailart with fun names. I prefer to think of it as a piece in its own right, but that’s probably just a weird personal problem.
A spectacular masterboard not only makes for a cool, multi-layered background, but also inspires you to do innovative work in the foreground.
Put another way, an interesting background can inspire you to do things you wouldn’t have thought to do otherwise!
Here are some tips for making your masterboard spectacular!
- Choose durable paper. I recommend affordable watercolor paper, or at the minimum, mixed media paper. Basic card stock may not stand up to multiple washes or sprays, while drawing paper sometimes faints at the sight of water. Seriously. I’ve seen it happen.
- Select a limited color palette appropriate for the theme. For my masterboard, for example, I limited myself to a palette of rich, deep reds, blacks, and browns with hints of orange, initially achieved with acrylic washes (i.e. watered down acrylic paint). Not coincidentally, this relatively dark palette works great for my Halloween theme.
- Experiment! Making a masterboard is a joyous, intuitive, liberating experience, as well as a great excuse to play around with new media. If something dreadful happens, mistakes can be covered up with additional layers. Fabulous developments can also become lost in the mist, but if you miss them, just add them back in later!
- Vary the design from place to place. It’s not necessary – or even necessarily wise – to make the design the same all over the masterboard.
- Add contrasting elements. Like any Halloween monster, my dark masterboard could use some light and some warmth.
Similarly, of course, bright pieces can benefit from the introduction of darker elements.
- Work the edges. Applying the same treatment to all four edges of the board helps to unify the piece.
- Cut – quickly! It’s easy to fall in love with a masterboard. The best way to avoid an unhealthy attachment is to cut, cut, cut!
- Connect each foreground and each background. While the masterboard itself develops from an intuitive process, you want to put on your old, trusty thinking cap when you start working on your focal point, which should be conceived, colored, and lit with intention so that your foreground and background appear connected and integrated.
9. Make adjustments. After placing the foreground image, take a few seconds to assess the piece. Do the colors cohere? Is there sufficient variation and visual interest? Did things get covered up that you want to reintroduce?
10. Work the edges again. Now that the piece is finished, give those last, unifying touches on the edges using ink, paint, or a marker.
I followed the same process for my remaining cards and produced these pieces from my masterboard:
Feel like making a masterboard? Link it up so we can all see!