If you are feeling creatively blocked or stagnant, I highly encourage the daily practice of working in a mixed-media sketchbook. When you allow yourself to play with paint and drawing materials or write freeform, you open the door for insight to enter, breathing new life into your work and process!

Sketchbook cover and custom bookmarker

Onto the cover of an ordinary sketchbook or journal, apply matte gel medium evenly across the front, back and spine. While it is still wet, deboss some of your favorite textures directly into the surface, making a unique imprint.

Once the surface has dried overnight, apply several acrylic washes using various blotting techniques to infuse pattern. To reveal the tactile surface, employ a fan brush and metallic acrylic paint, using a dry brush technique. The bookmark is made from handmade paper that is imbued with natural fibers. An embossed metal tip-in is placed on top as an accent.

For my sketchbook shown above, I also added a metal assemblage accent to the surface, giving it an intriguing focal point that has a meaningful message. When I open the sketchbook, I open the door to discovery.

Sketchbook with paper clay sculptural accent

Cover wrapped with metallic tape and accented with debossed molding paste and self-drying clay.

Lost in Fear Sketchbook Detail

In addition, you can use custom sculptural accents on your covers. The sketchbooks featured above use paper clay and molding paste as well as self-drying clay. The interior front cover featured below uses layers of molding paste applied with custom die-cut stencils that I created.

Sketchbook Interior Front Cover Detail created with molding paste and custom stencils that I designed and cut using a small die-cutting machine.

Exploring alternative formats, custom tip-ins, gate folds and die-cut borders is a creative way to challenge yourself in the sketchbook. In the illustration below, I show the use of an alternative format that employs die-cutting, a custom tip-in and a handmade bookmark. The sketchbook art is produced using a plethora of mixed-media techniques, including texturing, dripping, collage, spraying, dissolving, palette knife, marbling and sponging just to name a few. A bookmark accent folds in half and is placed in the sketchbook, marking the page through the use of a magnet in the back.

Embossing metal, making handmade paper, exploring collage techniques, embossing and debossing surfaces and many, many other exciting techniques are demonstrated throughout my mixed-media books Experimental Painting and Art Revolution. I also have an upcoming lecture called Experimental Painting: Inspirational Approaches in Mixed Media Art where I will show both two and three dimensional techniques!

Sketchbook Series: Juliette’s Song
11″ x 22 3/4”
sequential mixed-media gatefold series on paper

To store your custom sketchbook, decorate and embellish a slipcase or box. The example shown below features eachniques such as resists, gesso texturing and the creation of a unique assemblage accent using self-drying clay.

Custom painted slipcase with clay accent

The work featured below are pages from my various sketchbooks. I never throw away paint at the end of the day. Instead, I use the leftover paint to create color field paintings in my sketchbooks. Many of these are created with a razorblade that I use to scrape up leftover paint at the end of the day! You can check out more work from my mixed-media sketchbooks HERE.

Sketchbook spread in mixed media

Sketchbook detail in mixed media

Sketchbook detail in mixed media

Sketchbook detail in mixed media

If you are interested in learning more about working in experimental mixed-media techniques, check out my online workshops below! If you would like to be notified for future workshops, sign up for my mail list HERE!

Instructor: Lisa L. Cyr

This video-driven workshop explores bas-relief techniques onto the painted surface. Students will have private access to four high-definition videos through online streaming. In the first video, the artist demonstrates working in various gel and fluid mediums to build texture onto the painted surface. She also shows how to employ pastes, lava gel, gel pens, matter painting and crackle texture to the dimensional surface in layers. In the second video, the artist demonstrates the sculptural application of various cloth and trim to the working surface to create a unique topography. In addition, she will show how bas-relief techniques can be used to make a custom collagraph plate for embossing watercolor paper that can later be painted in acrylics. In the third video, the artist employs assemblage accents, creates flexible accents from molds, incorporates unique sculptural details and applies custom textures onto the surfaces of a unique construct. The final video in the series demonstrates how to create unique faux finishes onto assemblage accents.

In addition to the unique video access, Live Group Chats with the artist will be conducted every other Saturday to discuss each participant’s work that has been created in relief, as a result of the insights and techniques gained from watching the videos!

Required: Computer with video and audio, access to the web and a gmail account


Saturday sessions
8 weeks: Jan 16 to March 6
Live Group Chats: 10:00am to 12:30 EST online video conferencing, every other Saturday
(4 Videos and 4 Live Chats)

I also have two other online workshops that may be of interest. Check them out!

Instructor: Lisa L. Cyr

Throughout the online class, artists will work in the comfort of their own studios on mixed-media painting and drawing projects at a pace they feel comfortable with. The instructor will provide weekly assistance and guidance through live group chats. Discussions regarding artistic growth and development, nurturing the creative spirit, developing personal content, embracing a multidisciplinary mindset and creating message-driven art will also be included as a way to assist artists on their own creative path.

In addition, this exciting online workshop will provide private access to the instructor’s Mixed Media Masterclass blog, which covers a variety of topics from professional business development and promotional strategies to studio practices, experimental and traditional painting techniques as well as a vast array of inspirational artistic resources. This online workshop is for intermediate and advanced artists.

Required: Computer with video and audio, access to the web and a gmail account


Saturday sessions
8 weeks: Jan 16 to March 6, 2021
Live Group Chats: 1:00pm to 2:30pm EST online online video conferencing

WITHIN THE LAYERS: Collage Techniques for the Mixed Media Artist (ONLINE)
Instructor: Lisa L. Cyr

In this video-driven online workshop, learn how to employ mixed-media collage techniques to enhance the painted surface. From gluing, sealing, tearing, scoring, punching, die-cutting and custom inlays to wrinkling, creasing, burning, peeling-back, stitching, weaving, embossing and debossing handmade, custom treated and machine-made papers, foils and ephemera, an exciting array of innovative collage techniques will be explored. Students will have private access to high-definition videos through online streaming. Live Group Chats will be conducted every other Saturday to discuss each participant’s work that has been created using mixed-media collage techniques.

Required: Computer with video and audio, access to the web and a gmail account


Saturday sessions
8 weeks: Jan 16 to March 6, 2021

Live Chats: 10:00am to 12:30 every other Saturday. All other dates are video-driven with blog support.    (4 Videos and 4 Live Chats)


Copyright 2020 Lisa L. Cyr, CYR STUDIO LLC