Home/Tag: acrylic painting

How to: Add An Isolation Coat To Your Mixed Media Painting

How To

I’ve realized in my journey with art that there’s a lot of need for basic information like this one on how to apply an isolation coat, so I’m adding a new series of posts that I’ll contribute to as I learn new things.  I’m calling it: How To: A Series of Helpful Hints.  We could all use a little a help, right?  It’s my hope in this series to pass along some good information in a way that is easy for everyone to understand.

For example: I didn’t even know what an isolation coat was until I spoke to someone at Golden products!  I wanted to find a way to seal my art work that included painting + collaging materials and it seemed like there were a lot of opinions out there.   I wanted certain steps I can take to ensure that my art won’t look crappy after a few years–I don’t want to sell something and have people come back to me disappointed in the quality.

How to add an isolation coat to your mixed media painting. Use this technique to protect your artwork!

Enter: the isolation coat.  This kind of top coat is used to create a barrier between your work and the final top coat, which is often varnishing. (I’ll get to that in another post)

And there are different materials you can use for an isolation coat, mine focuses on what to use for acrylic paints and collage.  As a basic rule,  any work should always be kept out of direct sunlight.  It only speeds up the natural decomposition of things.

Just a word of caution:  If you scan or take pictures of your pieces for reproduction, it’s best to do that first before adding the isolation coat to avoid the shiny glare in pictures.

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So here’s my process:

I took a completely dry and finished painting + cleaned it off with a damp cloth to make sure there’s no dust or other goop lurking on the surface, especially on the collage elements.

How to add and isolation coat

I got my supplies ready:

  • Golden soft gel gloss (any other finish will dull the colors)
  • Distilled water
  • Soft, large brush
  • Palette knife used to stir

How to add and isolation coat

In a glass cup, I combined 2 parts soft gel gloss to 1 part distilled water and then mixed with the knife.  Depending on how many pieces you are coating, you can gauge the amount you need.  The tech guy at Golden said to go by how it feels–not too runny, not too thick–it will all be a personal preference type of consistency.

Once I mixed that together, I started applying the mixture evenly and quickly with the soft brush to the entire piece.  An important thing to remember is finish a section and keep moving; do not go back over it, as tempted as you may be!  It will cause the finish to have an uneven “pulled-look”.

Here is a view of what it looks like while applying, it appears a little cloudy, but don’t panic–as long as you use the gloss finish, it will dry clear:

How to add and isolation coat

You can see the strokes, right?  To a certain extent, that will disappear.  If you have a really soft brush, you won’t see many strokes, if at all.  I learned through this process, and seeing some strokes on the finished piece, that I need a new softer brush!

When it dried, this is what it looked like.  The colors are so bright, right?

How to add and isolation coat

And here’s the side view in the sun to show you what I mean about visible brush strokes:

How to add and isolation coat

This was a great learning process for me!  Even though I feel like the brush I used was a little bit of a fail, it still gave me a beautiful finished product– it’s glossy and it really makes the colors pop off the canvas, not to mention it gives the piece a new layer of protection.  And any unused part of the coat mixture can be used again, if you keep it in a sealed container.

Are you looking to connect with other like-minded creatives?  Join my private Facebook Group Here!






How to: Add An Isolation Coat To Your Mixed Media Painting2018-04-08T20:39:17-04:00

Art In Progress: Love Who You Are

Art In Progress: See how I create Inspirational art for kids + the kid in you. To learn about art technique + my motivation for creating this piece, click through for a peek. See how paintings evolve from start to finish! Original artwork by Stephanie Martel.

I started the background of this piece a while back and had it hanging around my studio until I was inspired to finish it.  That happens a lot–I get on a tear of making a bunch of different backgrounds and then have to circle back and finish each one with the sentiment and character I want.

Sometimes it’s a matter of thinking of just the right saying, other times I find some collage pieces that would be a perfect fit for the colors I used for the background.  I try not to rush it and just go with the flow when inspiration strikes.  That’s why I’m always working on a few pieces at a time!

Here is the first two layers:

Love Who You Are 2

The next layer includes some more colors, filling in some empty areas and adding stamps and accents.  I love the blank space in the middle left, it gives the eyes somewhere to temporarily rest.

Love Who You Are 2

When I was happy with the background vibe, I was ready to create the girl.  I apply a layer of gesso on top of the background so that the colors don’t show through in the face.  If I just paint a face on top, sometimes you can see tones of the background color underneath.

Love Who You Are 3

Next I painted her hair and found her dress.  I like to contrast the colors + styles when I’m collaging; it’s fun to put things together that wouldn’t normally go.

Love Who You Are 4
Here’s a close up of the stamps I use and some of her face details.  *swoon*  I’m falling in love with her.  (That happens a lot.)

Love Who You Are 5
Love Who You Are 6

And here she is all done!   I named her Olivia, which is my sister’s name, because I thought about her a lot when I was painting this one.

Love Who You Are

This print available in my shop here.

We’re all a work in progress, so no matter where you are in your life, love who you are.





Art In Progress: Love Who You Are2018-03-29T20:23:11-04:00

Art In Progress: Kindness Is The Way

Art In Progress: See how I create Inspirational art for kids + the kid in you. To learn about art technique + my motivation for creating this piece, click through for a peek. See how paintings evolve from start to finish! Original artwork by Stephanie Martel.


I’ve been thinking about kindness a lot lately, especially around the holidays; my personal mantra has always been ‘kindness, regardless’ because, well, you never know what people are going through/feeling on the inside and it actually takes very little effort to be kind.  The world can be tough, and I don’t want to add to anyone’s suffering.

And yet still, I have my moments of forgetting the mantra (oops).  Even though there are times I’m not so great to myself or others, somehow I always come back to this thought as my touchstone.   I find that if I ultimately stay focused on kindness, it gets me where I need to go.

So I was really psyched when the sentiment of this piece popped in my head as I was painting.  I think it had to do with the soothing colors + the gentle overall tone–it was fun to experiment along the way.  And this painting was a great learning experience for me–the process gave me the faith + confidence to stick with my gut until it felt right, even when I got frustrated for not getting there sooner.

Here is the first pass through where I’m just getting some colors, textures and layers down.  At this point, I try to stay loose and enjoy the free-style painting:

Kindness is the way 1

I added in some lines and stamping, just to mix it up a little.

Kindness is the way 2

Then I felt like the girl was ready to appear–I experimented and used gesso for the first layer of her face, just to see how it made a difference.  I usually  paint with a flesh color right on top of the other layers. (Turns out this was a great idea!)

Kindness is the way 3

I added her dress, feeling tentative about the colors of it but went with it for the moment.  Again, checking in with my gut.

Kindness is the way 4

When I added her face and hair, it dawned on me that the dress was all wrong.  I was feeling my way through the process–rationale doesn’t have a huge role in my decision making while painting.  I try to stick to how it feels, no matter what.

Kindness is the way 5

So after I added the butterfly and leaves to her hair, I tore off the dress and used some turpentine to remove it from the canvas.  This isn’t a fun process because it’s stinky and can stretch the canvas a little, but it was well worth it.

Kindness is the way 6

Once I went with the different color dress, it all fell into place.  I loved the way it looked!

Kindness is the way 7

Here’s a close up of her sweet face with the sentiment: the gesso helped to make it a true flesh color.

Kindness is the way 8

And here’s the finished product:

kindness is the way final

 You can find prints of Kindness Is The Way  in my shop here.

We all need kindness in our life, friends.






Art In Progress: Kindness Is The Way2018-03-29T20:23:13-04:00

Art In Progress: Be Gentle With Yourself

Art In Progress: See how I create Inspirational art for kids + the kid in you. To learn about art technique + my motivation for creating this piece, click through for a peek. See how paintings evolve from start to finish! Original artwork by Stephanie Martel.

This week I’m highlighting a piece I called ‘Be Gentle With Yourself’.  When I started this one, I wanted to create something with a little bit of a lighter feel because sometimes the colors can get so intense on the canvas when I’m painting!  I wanted to create a background that was a little calmer and more soothing.

Here is the first layer:

Be gentle

I liked where the background was going and decided to place the girl into it right away.  As I was flipping through papers to use, I saw the pattern of her dress and immediately loved it!  I added the ‘belt’ details, complimenting some of the colors of the background to bring it together.

Be gentle

(Sorry this first one is blurry–not sure what happened when I took the picture, but you get the idea.)  She is coming along with her pretty hair and hooded lids…

Be gentle

Be gentle

Next, I added in the sentiment and the two little love birds.  For some reason, birds seem gentle to me–maybe it’s how fragile and small they are?  I was on a walk with Chris not too long ago and there was a finch calmly hanging out on the sidewalk as we strolled by.  I reached down and pet her, then she flew away–that gentleness of her trust stayed with me for days.

Be gentle

In all,  I think I succeeded in keeping this one pretty simple; sometimes it feels good to strip it down to basics.  The calm vibe of this sweet girl (her name is Bella) is just what I was looking for.  You can find her in the shop here!






Art in progress banner


Art In Progress: Be Gentle With Yourself2018-03-29T20:23:13-04:00

How I Started Painting {And Pictures From My Gallery Opening.}

Wow, wow, wow.  Friends, this past weekend was so monumental for me!  I am part of an art show at a local gallery and showing my art totally put things into perspective.  It felt so right.

Growing up, I was always a little artistic;  I used to draw + make dioramas quietly in my room– it was a way I could relax from the busy-ness of grade school + my large family.  In 3rd grade I won the art contest for my drawing of “what my family means to me” (It was a drawing of us eating Sunday dinner together in the dining room and my dad still has it framed + hung there to this day).

I was always trying to figure out something new to try, artistically.

The creating continued in high school where I would collage with my buds on poster board on the weekends until three in the morning.  We were obsessed with cutting out the right words + images from magazines to show how we were feeling at the time (or how we wanted to feel).  Little did I know, I was actually creating a vision board.

Throughout college and after, I continued to dabble in sketching and painting, but nothing of a consistent, concrete nature.  I would just pick it up now and again when I had some time.

Prep for the show

Fast forward to a couple of years ago when I started taking a local abstract painting class.  It was my first formal art class as an adult and I wasn’t sure what to expect, I just knew I needed to try it.  Would I like it?  Would I be any good at it?  Would I be able to express what was deep in my heart that motivated me to go there in the first place?

Turns out I was pretty bad when I started painting in that abstract class; I felt clumsy and misunderstood.  What I was painting was not jiving with what I wanted to paint.  Looking back, I realize I was painting in a way that would help me fit in–it was awkward to try something new as an adult and I was trying to paint like the other students (and how my teacher told me to).

But painting like everyone else felt wrong.  I wasn’t enjoying it and it quickly began to feel like a task rather than a release.  So I gave myself a pep talk, “Steph you’re here to have fun–to explore the deep desire in your heart to create.  Listening to others and their direction is not going to get you there, so let’s start doing it your way.”  After I admitted painting for them and not me was not going to get me where I wanted to go, everything changed.

I started exploring my own style, my own voice.  Even though it looked very different from my classmates.

And then the girls were born.

Me + my work

This past Sunday when I was standing in front of a wall full of my creations thinking about my rocky start, I was so grateful that I followed my heart + kept trying.  I knew that I needed to express myself through painting and collage, but I wasn’t sure how to do it or where it would lead me.  It was a humbling reminder that a lot of life happens just by showing up and being willing.  This art journey I’m on is so very fulfilling + make me so so happy when I’m immersed in it.

Me + Chris

Me + My Honey

me + my muses

My nieces (and muses)

So I encourage all of you out there reading this to listen to that little whisper inside your heart that’s calling you to do something.  We all have those whispers. Take a mini step today towards that thing, even if it’s just writing it down or saying it out loud.

My 2 hour class each week over the past few years led to this gallery show.  I couldn’t have seen this on my first night of painting in class, but inch by inch, I made a dream come true–and you can too.

PS: Want to see some of the girls in the show?  Look here and here and here.

How I Started Painting {And Pictures From My Gallery Opening.}2018-03-29T20:23:14-04:00

Art In Progress: Be Kind To Yourself

Art In Progress: See how I create Inspirational art for kids + the kid in you. To learn about art technique + my motivation for creating this piece, click through for a peek. See how paintings evolve from start to finish! Original artwork by Stephanie Martel.

This piece is my recent favorite.  I think because I experimented with some different color combinations and in the end it came out quite different than when I started.  I didn’t totally love it and then…wham!  It worked out.  That’s always a good feeling.

Here’s the first pass through–just a simple throw on of some paint.  I just try to get the brush moving and forget about expectations; letting go is so important in this first phase.  I try to follow the flow and have fun.

Be Kind To Yourself 1

I had sketched out a few objects that kind of called to me in the moment–a lotus-type flower, a feather and wheel-like objects.  Can you see them?  I’m not sure where the inspiration came from for those particular things, I just try to go with what feels good.  It’s like my subconscious is talking to me through my brush.

Be Kind To Yourself 2

As I keep layering colors, it warms up the original palette.  It’s a good reminder that things evolve and change as we go.

Be Kind To Yourself 3

The girl was added during this next phase.  I was trying to resist the urge to overdo the background with colors, so I forced myself to stop; I wanted to focus more on the feel and warmth of the piece.

Be Kind To Yourself 5

As you can see, I changed her dress a little.  Hello collage!  I didn’t love the sash, so I tried something else.  I’m always open to changing + moving + switching it up so that I don’t get too rigid in my ways.    It’s easy to get attached early in the process, but I find when I do that, it jams me up creatively.

The softness of her eyes inspired the sentiment for me.  I just think it’s so important to be reminded: we all need to be kind, especially to ourselves.

Be Kind To Yourself 6

I added in some accents: feathers in her hair, flowers and a little stamping.

Be Kind To Yourself 7

I love how she turned out! I may add some small collage pieces around the border and accents to her hair, but I’m going to live with it like this for a bit.  In the meantime, I’m going to hang her up and listen to her sweet wisdom.

Prints now available in the shop.


Art In Progress: Be Kind To Yourself2018-03-29T20:23:15-04:00
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