DIY Mixed-Media Owl Art


Using the textures and paints of Tommy Art, artist Melody Howe created a unique dimensional owl portrait. After experimenting with the product on this project, she shares what she learned about its qualities for mixed-media.


I’m Melody Howe, an illustrator who usually works with watercolor and gouache paint. I recently had the opportunity to experiment with a line of Italian paints called Tommy Art. The DIY System is more than paint, offering many different types of textures, waxes, and coatings that can produce different effects when combined. You can use them for almost any project you can imagine. This makes them really exciting for exploring new mediums. 

Step one: Sculpting with styrofoam 

For example, in creating this mixed-media owl portrait, I had to think about how I could incorporate materials I would normally never use a piece of art. For this project I used chunks of styrofoam cut and shaped with an exacto knife to create the more pronounced texture on the lower ‘crystal-like’ sections. This was by far the most difficult part of the project and if I were to do it again, I would search for another way to create that look. Styrofoam crumbles away so easily, which makes it hard to get exact or straight lines. 

Step two: Painting the sketch


I started the process by sketching an outline based on a reference photo, and then, using the chalk colors, painted a base coat focusing on the face and ears. I used a metallic paint for the eyes to create that life-like intensity that owls have. After that I started working on the feather texture. It’s hard enough to make feathers look realistic on the page, but I was pleased with how easy it was using a few different paint brushes to get that unique feather-like texture with the rock paste and then covering it with chalk color.

Step three: Rock paste and final details

After gluing the cut pieces of styrofoam to the page using BETTER, I started layering rock paste over it to match the feather texture. After the rock paste had dried, I gave it all a once-over using the chalk colors to complete the feathering effect and then added purple highlights to complement the brilliant eyes. 

Part of what I love about exploring a new medium is how all of my experiments and mistakes lead me in cool and unexpected directions that I wouldn’t have found using my usual materials. A lot of the time, the art I create and what I’ve accomplished really surprises me.