All images and content copyright Patricia M. Heimerl. All rights reserved.

Lace strips were used as the pattern pieces. This is a negative image.
Maple leaves were used as the pattern pieces. This one has both a negative and a positive impression. After drying, I applied acrylic washes.
Spackle and Gesso Bas Relief
This is a technique that I learned from Marlana Stoddard-Hayes in her "From Bud to Seed" workshop at the Sitka Center for Art and Ecology. I have taken this workshop twice now because I enjoy Marlana's approach to teaching. She's very open and generous in sharing techniques and processes, and she embodies the idea of honesty in one's artwork. And, it's a lot of fun. Here we go:
1. Be sure to wear gloves.

2. Make up a mixture of spackle and gesso. The first time I tried this, I mixed it 50/50, but it came out too thin and I had to add more spackle until it felt right. I suggest you first try 1 part gesso to 3 parts spackle, and go from there. I also suggest you start out mixing up a small amount until you've figured out the right ratio. You're aiming for something thick enough to hold some shape, yet thin enough to work through the window screening.

3. Position your pattern piece on the rigid surface and place the window screening over it. Since the pattern left will be a negative space, the screening needs to overlap your pattern piece a bit for the shape to show up.

4. Using your palette knife, scoop up some of the spackle/gesso mixture and plop it onto the screen. Carefully work the mixture through the screen, covering the entire pattern piece plus an inch, or as far as you want, beyond. You can build up as thick a layer as you'd like.

5. Carefully remove the screening and pattern piece and let your piece air dry.

6. If you would like to make a positive impression, turn the now spackle-covered pattern piece spackle-side down on the same or another rigid support, place a clean piece of screening over it, and gently press it down with your fingers.

7. Carefully remove the screening and pattern piece and allow to air dry.

Your piece can now be painted and embellished, and additional layers of this technique applied, as long as you work with water-based materials. Once you add oil, you won't be able to go back to spackle or gesso.
* Rigid support, such as luan, plywood, masonite, etc.
* Spackle - available from hardware and paint stores
* Window screening - available at hardware stores
* Gesso - available from art stores
* Mixing stick
* Palette knife
* Gloves
* Container with a tight lid to store the mixture. I used a large yogurt container.
* Materials to use for bas relief shapes and textures (pattern pieces): leaves, ferns, stencils, lace,
  shapes cut from fabric, leather, paper, etc.
Materials
Fern, positive impressions with acrylic wash
Gingko leaves, positive impression with ink, tea bags, and acrylic paint