Lesson Plan: Photo Transfer - Social Comment -Mixed Media

Photo Transfer Mixed Media

Submitted by: Pam Wellington, Boiling Springs H. S., Boiling Springs, PA
UNIT: Painting - Mixed Media - Robert Rauschenberg - Social Comment
Lesson: Photo Transfer Mixed Media Painting - Art with a message
Grade Level: High School (these are Art I examples - adaptable to middle school)

Alternate lesson: Expressionism - Mixed Media with collage



Artists such as Robert Rauschenberg. and many other contemporary artists use mixed-media to create expressive, unique and dramatic paintings which explore themes that are important to them either politically, socially, morally, or emotionally. Telling a story with paint is called "Narrative Art." These works make a social statement, define someone’s morality, and can even become rather preachy. Many strive to communicate important messages to society at large. Many of these types of paintings can be visually shocking and not necessarily "pretty". A very popular means of expression currently is for artists to use text, photography, and "appropriated" images to make a painting. Appropriation refers to the use of someone else’s art in their work. It is common for the artist to quote a famous painting as part of a new painting.


student sample

2-D Art I- Photo Transfer Mixed-Media Painting


You will be creating a mixed-media painting on a theme of your choosing. By using carefully chosen images, text, color, and painted images, you can create an interesting painting that expresses a political, social, moral, or cultural issue that is of importance to you personally. By selecting a theme about which you feel passionate, you can create powerful images.


Step 1: Select a theme.

Select a few photos that are about your theme. Photos must be clear, preferably in black and white or high contrast color, and large enough to photocopy. Please!! No tiny images, blurred images, or low contrast photos.


Your photos will be photocopied. You may use the same image more than once, repeat and change the scale of the image. One or two really good images are much better than a lot of ordinary images.


Step 2: Do a rough draft of your painting. You must create a clear focus. You must select a limited color scheme that illustrates the theme. For instance: if this has something to do with a dark or sad issue, use dark or muted color.

You must have a rough draft of the composition.


Use narrative images in paint. Include images that you paint or draw into the composition which tell a story and illustrate your theme.


Text can be used, but do not LABEL. Allow the viewer to figure out the theme and message from the images.


Step 3: Composition is very important to this assignment. Decide whether it will be symmetrical, a-symmetrical, or radial. Create a visual focus that leads the eye to the most important part of the painting. Fill the space in an interesting way. Mixed media means that you can use paint, photos, words, painted images and drawing. All sorts of drawing media can be used: Colored Pencils.., Pastels., Oil Pastels., Charcoal., India ink.. Even collaged things are allowed.


The photos must become part of the painting. By layering paint and doing many layers of transparent paint, you cause the photos to become part of a painting. The photos must look like they are floating up from the paint. All borders and cut edges must not be seen. Allow the paint to go right onto the photos. Stain and paint the photos. Just make sure you do not cause the photos to completely disappear.


photo transfer student samplestudent sample


Photocopy Transfer Process:

  1. Select photographs that are clear and have good contrast.

  2. Photocopy the photograph (enlarge or reduce if necessary)

  3. Apply clear Acrylic Gloss Medium. to the surface of the canvas and to the surface of the photocopy to be transferred.

  4. Apply the photocopy to the canvas face down.

  5. Using a fairly heavy piece of cardboard, rub the surface from the middle of the image, out toward the edges. Excess medium will come out the edges. Press gently and remove all excess glue from surface of canvas.

  6. Rub the surface of the photocopy gently with fingers which have been slightly moistened with a little water.

  7. Wait for a few minutes - allow to dry.

  8. Test the transfer by gently lifting the paper on a corner. If all of the ink is on the Canvas. it has transferred. If some of the ink is still lifting off onto the paper, stop and wait another few minutes and try again.

  9. Gently lift and peel the paper off the Canvas.. A thin film of paper will remain on the Canvas..

  10. Rub the surface gently with moistened fingers. The paper will begin to pill off. Continue rubbing until all of the paper film is removed and the only thing left on the surface is ink. The surface will feel smooth and there will be no white film remaining.

  11. You can choose to seal the surface with gloss medium, but it is not necessary.

    Give your students a small photocopy and a piece of Drawing Paper. and have them practice transferring once before transferring to a canvas with Saral Transfer Paper..

    Any text or image that the student wants to be transferred without being reversed, needs to copied onto a transparency and reversed. Reversed images and backwards words will transfer right way around, just like any printing process.

    Encourage students to stand to work. When fingers get sore, an eraser will also work to remove paper from the surface.

    I use the photocopied photos as a ground surface or under painting for a painting which will go on top. Photocopies can be transferred onto almost any surface.

Tips from Pam:

You do not have to wait a whole day to peel. Depending upon how dry the air is in the room you are working, it could be ready to peel in 5 minutes, or as long as 30. Just very carefully pull up a corner that doesn't have anything really important. If there is no ink left on the paper and the ink is totally transferred onto the canvas, then you are ready to peel everything. One reason I can think of for it taking so long to dry is simply too much medium or too much water. Make sure you are pulling the squeegee to remove the excess medium out. I use a plastic squeegee tool, but a piece of stiff cardboard will work. Just GENTLY press from the center of the transfer out to the edges to press out excess glue and swipe off with a damp sponge or cloth. Make sure you are not adding water to the paper.


Process using Liquitex (any gloss medium can be used):
http://www.liquitex.com/techniques/transfer.cfm (Archive)



Assessment Worksheet / Photo Transfer Mixed-media Painting

The following statements are skills and processes that you are to demonstrate on your painting.  Read the statement, look at your own work as objectively as possible, and assign points for each standard, depending upon how well you did. 0=failed 1=below standard 2=approaching standard 3=standard 4=exceeds standard/extra credit.


Theme:  0 1 2 3 4

1. You have a theme that is political, social, moral, religious, or cultural. 1. ____________

2. You have a theme, which is relevant to your life and significant to you. 2. ____________

3. Your theme is visually obvious to the viewer; clear in its meaning. 3. ____________



4. You have a rough draft or series of roughs that work out the arrangement of elements within the picture plane in an interesting way.          4. ___________

5. You have created a focus in your composition. 5. ____________

6. The entire space is filled in an interesting way. 6. ____________

7. Your composition is symmetrical, a-symmetrical, or radial. 7. ____________

8. The photographs are placed in an arrangement to create focus and to illustrate the
theme. 8. ____________


Transfer process:

9. The photographs selected are clear and easy to see and illustrate your theme.
9. ___________

10. The photos have been transferred successfully to the surface of the canvas
10. ___________


Color choices:

11. You have carefully selected a color scheme with helps to illustrate the theme and are limited. 11. __________

12. Explain your color choices: what color arrangement did you choose?
What emotional content? 12. __________


Painting technique:

13. The paint is applied in many layers of transparent glazes to stain the photos and create depth. 13. __________

14. Tape is used to mask out areas, is done many times to create depth & highlight important areas. 14. __________

15. Paint is applied thickly with a brush in some areas and covers the entire surface.
15. __________
16. The edges of the photos are no longer obvious but are covered with paint so that the
photos appear to float up out of the paint and become a part of the painting.


Mixed media:

17. Did you use other media? What other media did you use? Circle the ones used: pencil, ink, pastel, oil pastel, charcoal, collage elements.


18. 1=very simple 2=simple 3=complex 4=very complex 18. _________



19. Attention to details, finished look, effort. 19. _________

20. For 10 points: In a paragraph, discuss your theme. Answer the following questions in complete sentences:

a. What is your theme?
b. What did you express to the viewer regarding your own feelings about the theme?
c. What emotions do the colors express?
d. Where and what is the visual focus of the composition?
e. Is your painting successful? Explain why or why not.


Jasper Johns Racing Thoughts, 1983

Close-up of "Racing Thoughts" http://www.artchive.com/artchive/J/johns/racing.jpg.html

See Pam Wellington's painting using these techniques | More of Pam's paintings



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