I have heaps of old cork backed coasters and placemats that I can't bear to throw out. With these two coasters, I experimented with modelling paste that I bought recently. For the one on the left, I applied the modelling paste (it is like a very thick white Gesso) around the border, and painted the whole coaster with acrylic paint when the paste was dry. Then I brushed the border with gold acrylic paint to jazz it up a bit before I glued the chicken motif on it.
For the elephant one, I tinted the modelling paste with acrylic paint first, using a light brown, and applied that to the border. Again I brushed it with gold to jazz it up a bit because it looked dull. Both methods of using the modelling paste are acceptable, but you have to be careful tinting it with colours because it can look overpowering if you use too much. I'm not going to do anything with these, they are purely experimental.
Once I'd played around a bit with modelling paste and paint, I decided to use one of the canvases I've been buying up cheap at opshops etc. First of all, I coated this one with gesso. I wanted to use this napkin from Japan as it is the only one I had left from the packet. It had a scallopped edge, so I had to lay it on the canvas, draw a light outline around it, and put it aside. (It is not advisable to glue paper napkins over the modelling paste, although it can be done with a special technique)
Next I tinted the modelling paste with blue acrylic paint. I thought it would be okay, but I used way too much blue, and it came out a lot darker than I intended. I waited a day or two, then decided to glue my napkin to the canvas. That was achieved without problems, but I thought the blue surround was too overpowering. So I used silver acrylic paint and brushed a border around the edge of the napkin, then brushed it lightly across the blue, so the high bits of the modelling paste have a silver sheen. I'm still not happy with it, and would love to receive suggestions from anyone reading this!
This is the book that I have been basing some of my ideas on. It doesn't use paper napkins in all it's projects, but a lot of them are, and there is heaps of helpful information about things like the modelling paste, which I'd never heard of before.