How about some mixed media flower art of daffodils and tulips to brighten your day? In this blog, I document the process I went through when creating a mixed media artwork of some flowers. I’ll explain my thoughts and rationale as I go along. 

Choice of subject 

I don’t know about you, but I am in the mood for flowers again. The winter flowers do their best over the colder months, and we are all grateful for them. However, Winter is a time for us and nature to look inwards and work on restorative, healing activities.

And now I am itching for some warmer weather and a chance to be more productive and creative. There has been some promise of Springlike weather here in the UK in March, but I’m not sure we’re quite there yet*.

*Literally as I write this, the weather has just decided that gale force winds and window-battering rain is the order of the day. Hmm.

Come on… Let the Spring begin! (I’ve seen this quoted somewhere recently…!?).

To try and summon this seasonal shift, I looked back through some photos I took last Spring (I am particularly excited to see the new additions to my spring bulb border this year!). This photo caught my attention:

A photograph of Spring tulips and daffodils, used as inspiration for the mixed media flower artwork by Ruth Burton artist.

Partly, because tulips are one of my favourite flowers (and harvest mice inside tulips are one of my favourite animal-flower combinations – google it). But also, because the colours are so vibrant and happy, and I think we are all longing for some colour in our gardens or frequented nature areas. It was already a winner then.

And I used this photo as a very loose starting point to get me in the mood – just some initial inspiration for my mixed media flower art.


The word ‘substrate’ in an art context is a fairly new addition to my vocabulary. I tried to look up ‘substrate’ in my Oxford Colour Dictionary (that I’ve had since I was eight) and couldn’t find it exactly. It has ‘substratum’ though (plural ‘substrata’) meaning “underlying layer” – makes sense. In an art context then, the substrate is the base foundation material, for which other materials are added to.

Side point, I also looked up ‘tulip’ (for lols), and no surprises got “bulbous spring-flowering plant with showy cup-shaped flowers”. But then it followed on with ‘tulip-tree’, a “tree with tulip-like flowers”. Wow!? My new favourite tree. Who knew such a wonderful thing existed? And now I must find where these magical trees live!

I digress. Back to the substrate… I have chosen a piece of Windsor & Newton mixed media art paper, size A3. I pencil in a rough sketch for compositional purposes, to see if what I had in my head would work. All of this pencil will get covered up, but it helped make my ideas more tangible.

A pencil outline of the tulips and daffodils, drawn on Windsor & Newton A3 mixed media paper by Ruth Burton artist.

Enhancing the substrate

To make the stark white paper less intimidating, I cover it with scrap papers and fabrics. I’m more interested in the textures and patterns at this point, rather than the colours. This bit is about getting the ball rolling and accessing my ‘inner child’. I use PVA glue as the adhesive, and I try to define the flower shapes with the papers – more for fun, as again much of this layer will be hidden.

Ephemera glued with PVA onto mixed media paper by Ruth Burton artist.

When this has dried, I create some uniformity by applying acrylic paints – allowing some of the interest from the scrap papers to show through:

Acrylic paint applied to the background of the mixed media flower art by Ruth Burton artist.

Stamps and stencils

Using some diamond and rectangle stencils, I create some interesting patterned sections in contrasting purple and blue colours. The surface is quite uneven now so the stencils don’t lay flat, and subsequently the patterns left behind are uneven. I think I prefer this though.

Then I use some homemade stamps to add added some more patterns. When I say ‘homemade stamps’ I mean old plastic bottle tops and bubble wrap that I’ve resisted popping.

Stamps and stencils applied to build texture in a mixed media artwork by Ruth Burton artist.

I use white gesso to flatten and mask the background – to try and create some cohesion. At this point, it is still about creating texture and interest in background. But I don’t want the background colours to be too strong because I want the bulbous showy cup-shaped flowers to be vibrant and stand out.

Developing the flowers

When this is dry, I use my trusty Uni Pin Fineliner pens to define the flower shapes, using my initial pencil sketch photograph as a reference point. I decide to leave out one of the daffodils at the front, because I think this makes more of an impact compositionally.

Keeping the pen strokes loose, I try to practice mindfulness by being in the present moment (more blogs about mindfulness art). Trying to let instinct guide the lines I make, and enjoying the feel of the pen move over the surface.

Pen outline of Spring tulips and daffodils on top of the textured background, by Ruth Burton artist.

The next bit is especially fun, adding the bold reds and yellows of the flower petals, and the green stalks and leaves. I’m just using a variety of brands of acrylic paint to colour in the shapes. It’s so relaxing!

Red and yellow acrylic paint applied to the flower petals and green acrylic paint applied to the stalks, by Ruth Burton artist.

I also add some more white to the background to create contrast against the tulips and daffodils.

After this dries, I add more pen. Some of this pen is to reinforce the black outlines that have been covered slightly by the acrylic paint. But I’m also using both black and white pen to make little shapes, patterns, dots, highlights. Just doodling around where it feels right.

Close up of the black and white pen doodles by Ruth Burton artist.

Unfortunately, the nibs of my narrower Uni Pin Fineliner pens get worn down over all these mixed media textures. Note to self: investigate other black pens for applying to more textured work.

Additional elements

To continue creating visual interest and texture, I add other elements from my arts and crafts collection. Feathers, buttons, tissue paper, little heart-shaped sequins, cut up bits of string and a craft leaf. I keep these elements limited to the lower left corner because otherwise there would just be anarchy, and we have to try maintain some boundaries in life (*wink*). I blend these in with more paint.

Close up of the buttons, feathers, string, sequins and other craft elements added to the mixed media art by Ruth Burton artist.

Finishing touches

Finally, I splatter it with some diluted acrylic paint, concentrating the splats towards the right-hand side. This bit is mainly for fun. In fact, this bit is so much fun that I’m thinking of doing this a lot more in future.

The splatter marks are understated, which is nice. And they are a pale lemon-yellow colour which makes me feel all Eastery.

But anyway, the final piece. My mixed media flower art. Ta da!

A mixed media flower art showing Spring tulips and daffodils by Ruth Burton artist.

Final thoughts

Without building the multiple layers of different textures underneath you wouldn’t get the subtle details coming through. So while earlier layers are almost completely covered up, there are hints that shine through. And you wouldn’t get the same finished look without them.

I hope it gives you a smile anyway. Here’s to seeing some Spring weather soon. Actually, the mini storm has cleared now and there are patches of blue sky and sun appearing.

Let the Spring begin!