I absolutely love exploring alternative forms of art making. In recent times, I’ve been working with custom, hand-embossed paper and then painting into the surface. Using watercolor paper, an embossing tool and custom collagraph plates that I make, I am able to emboss the surface with a unique topography that is not only visually interesting but also meaningful to the overall concept.

Bonsai at the Edge is a multi-paneled, mixed-media and custom paper embossed painting about self-reflection and contemplation. In the triptych painting, I wanted to capture an emotion that was relevant to what society is going through right now. As a culture, we seem to be at a crossroads and our choices moving forward will have a monumental impact in terms of what the future will hold.

In many cultures, the bonsai tree is known to evoke harmony and balance. Often used for meditation practice, the spiritual bonsai tree sits at the edge of a cliff: a crossroads of sorts. One can choose to be in the moment with a keen focus on the sun of infinite hope or one can be consumed with the past, spiraling into the chaos that lurks below.

The two side panels that flank the triptych painting symbolize the doors we choose to enter and exit through in life. Throughout the mixed-media embossed painting, leaves are used as symbols of change. In the cliff, the embossed leaves blow across the surface to convey the uncertainty that life brings. The leaves that are on the side panels are layered in a pattern throughout, symbolizing the many changes that life has presented to us over the years. The raised leaves on either side of the doors are more stable, serving as the handles we grab onto in life.

Bonsai at the Edge by Lisa L. Cyr
9 1/4″ by 7 1/2″ mixed-media on paper
Private Collection


Rhythms: The Ocean Tides is a mixed-media painting that communicates serenity through rhythm and flow. The ocean tides flow in and out, creating a rhythm that beats in harmony with other natural elements. The musical orchestration of the sea creates sounds that encourage us to look inward, focusing on our innate sense of rhythm. Our breath, our beating heart and the blood that runs through our veins all work in tandem: a rhythmic dance that is uniquely our own.

Rhythms: The Ocean Tides by Lisa L. Cyr
11.25″ x 7″
mixed media on custom embossed paper and wood


Detail View of Inner Panel. The smallest elongated, vertical art shows a crashing wave (all hand embossed). The background is also embossed with decorative details, symbolic of rolling waves. The inner panel art is mounted on board.

Throughout the custom embossed, tactile painting, abstract waves organically flow rhythmically across the surface. To evoke the sandy texture of the shore, actual California beach sand was used in the embossing process as a custom collagraph plate.

The color palette, shimmery blues and golden tones, were abstracted from the iridescent colors seen in sea shells. Grinded by the waves to small sand particles, these bits of life long past remind us that everything is part of the process: a united part of a bigger whole. Everything is connected.

Rhythms: The Ocean Tides detail view. The embossed paper makes for wonderful symbolic waves. I was able to achieve this look using a custom collagraph plate that I made and ran the plate and paper through a press without any inking. The raw paper makes for a wonderfully embossed surface to paint on top.

Although most of my work is figurative, I love exploring mindscapes, using custom hand-embossed paper. I find the ability to communicate emotions and the psychological state of mind through picture making to be not only intriguing but highly therapeutic. Working in mixed-media allows me to unite technique, materials and process to communicate a message of healing. You can see more of my mindscape works, through the highlighted link. I have works using a plethora of mixed-media in various sizes!

Hand embossing paper, begins with wetting the surface, this allows the paper to expand and except custom embossing treatments. I particularly like to use watercolor paper over printmaking paper. Although both emboss and deboss beautifully, the watercolor paper will remain embossed and debossed even when I apply lots of acrylic paint on top. Printmaking paper, on the other hand, tends to relax back to its original state when you start will get very wet with acrylics.

To get unique textures into the surface, I create collagraph plates. I have a full step-by-step demonstration in my video series Working in Relief on how I create these plates. Below are two videos. One is the raw embossed paper and the other is a painted detail from the custom embossed piece of art.

If you would like to know more about my work or the concepts behind it, I conduct FREE ONLINE EVENTS.  Each month, I have a new event discussing a different topic. Artists get together from all around the world and we bond in our love for artmaking.  If you are interested, please sign up for my mailing list and you will get a link each month to register for the free events! These events are my way of using art to spark joy in a moment in time that can be very disheartening.

copyright 2022 Lisa L. Cyr, Cyr Studio LLC all rights reserved