A painting on t-shirt fabric with blue, purple, pink, orange, and gold lines and shapes layered on top of each other.

Create your own mixed-media fantastical landscape!

We want to see your creations! Share on social media @hirshhorn with #HirshhornInsideOut.

Time: 60 minutes +
Skill Level: Intermediate
Topic: Imagination


A painting with a red background and layered images with blue and green swirls, red lines, stair shapes, blue mountains and ink details.

Jiha Moon, Styx, 2005. Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, Gift of Mario Cáder-Frech and Robert Wennett, 2006.

Look closely. What do you see?

What do you think is happening? Does this work remind you of any places you’ve been?

You probably noticed the painting’s very colorful composition and bold red lines. The canvas is filled with swirling shapes in various shades of orange, red, yellow, aqua, and bright blue.

From bottom to top, different imagery creates the feeling of separate but connected spaces. The spaces feel both real and fantastical!

Measurement lines like those on a ruler run along the bottom edge of the painting. A small red square with Korean characters depicting the artist’s name, Jiha Moon, is at the bottom right. Rising up from the bottom, green and blue cloud-like swirls create the feeling of waves or clouds. Red lines and vertical stair shapes rise into an orange-pink sky. Over the sky, a wash of watery-blue and jagged black lines give the impression of mountains.

The artist, Jiha Moon, mixes representation (artmaking style that depicts the subject similarly to the way it would look in real life) and abstraction (artmaking style that does not depict the subject the way it would look in real life) in this work.

This artwork’s colorful composition and moving lines give the feeling of an exciting story. If the artist is telling a story, what do you think the story might be about? 

Moon titled this artwork Styx. The river Styx was a place in ancient Greek mythology that divided the human world from the underworld, where dead souls or ghosts lived. In the artist’s own words, “[Styx] is about the painting process and lets the painting create its own narrative [story]. I thought about Styx as an ‘in-between place.’”

An in-between place is somewhere in the middle of two places. When we think of “in-between places,” we think of being on a bridge connecting two pieces of land or being on a plane traveling through the sky and looking down at the ground below. What in-between places can you imagine?

Jiha Moon (b. 1973) is a South Korean artist, currently living in Atlanta, Georgia. She began  making art as a child, and even won an award for an artwork she made in elementary school! She completed two arts degrees from Korean universities, and then traveled to the United States to continue her arts education in Baltimore and at the University of Iowa. Moon makes paintings, ceramics, and mixed media works inspired by her international identity. In her work, she uses symbols from American and Korean cultures and art history including cartoons, fortune cookies, labels in markets, and images found in internet searches. A symbol is something used to represent something else, such as a peach, which Moon often uses. A peach is a symbol of Georgia (where she lives now) because it is the official state fruit of Georgia and is even featured on some Georgia license plates. In Korea, peaches are a symbol of happiness. Moon uses peaches as a reference to her life in Georgia as well as her Korean heritage. Moon keeps hundreds of her collected items in her art studios, drawing from them to make her art. She currently lives, makes art, and teaches in Atlanta, Georgia.


Styx is a work on paper but Moon frequently creates mixed media artworks on silk.
That means she uses different mark-making materials—such as paint and watercolor—together on silk fabric.

For this project, take inspiration from her process using silk fabric to create your own mixed media artwork on an old t-shirt!

Note: This project involves several steps that include drying times- if your young artists grow impatient during drying, feel free to practice making marks, mixing colors, or tell stories about the River Styx, Atlantis, and other inbetween fantastical places.

  1. Gather materials. You’ll need:
    • an old white t-shirt, cut into a large rectangle (save your scraps!)
    • A rectangular piece of flat cardboard, cut slightly smaller than the t-shirt (adults should pre-cut for children under age eight)
    • Glue*
    • Markers and pens
    • Paint
    • Water
    • Paintbrush
    • Newspaper or an old sheet to protect your work area
    • Optional tools: Pipettes, water dropper, or baster
      A piece of square cardboard, a white t-shirt, scissors, markers, glue stick, paint brushes, and a cardboard palette with pink, purple, blue, and yellow paint.
      * Stick glue, school glue, or hot glue will all work with varying results. Stick glue applies smoothly, but requires a thick layer. Hot glue may leak through the fabric or create lumps, but has the best long term hold. An adult should always supervise hot glue gun use.
  2. Make a sketch of an “in-between” place. Artist Jiha Moon describes Styx as being a place between the real world and the underworld. Close your eyes and imagine an “in-between place.” You might imagine a real place, a fantasy world, or something that mixes both. We imagined being inside a submarine and looking out into a fantastical ocean with beautiful coral.
    A sketch on a white piece of paper with an orange and pink at the bottom, hot pink blobs, purple lines, and a large blue shape in the middle on a light blue background.
  3. Prepare your canvas. Coat the surface of your cardboard in glue and add your t-shirt surface. Lay the fabric on your work surface and center the cardboard, glue-side down, in the middle. Press firmly and allow to dry.
    Hands holding cardboard and a glue stick applying glue to the cardboard.Hands pressing the glue coated side of the cardboard down firmly on top of the t-shirt canvas.
  4. Fold excess fabric over the back, and glue down. Apply glue on one edge of the cardboard. Carefully fold the exposed fabric over onto the glue and press down. Hold it in place for at least ten seconds. Repeat on the opposite side until all excess fabric is glued down and the fabric is set.
  5. Begin painting your background. The background is the part of an artwork that looks like it is the farthest away from the viewer — or is not part of the main subject of the work. Think about the colors you want to use, and where you want to put them on your canvas. Experiment with your materials. We added water to our acrylic paint to create a lighter color for our purple and pink background. Paint your background layer and let it dry.
    A hand holding a paintbrush applying pink paint to the t-shirt canvas. Beside the hand Is a cardboard palette.
  6. Experiment with mark making. While you wait for your canvas to dry, use some scrap fabric to explore mark marking. Try making lines, blobs, or spreading color with different mediums like paint and marker! How does a line of paint look compared to a marker line? Once you feel confident with your materials, continue working on your canvas.
    Two pieces of scrap t-shirt fabric lie beside each other on a white background. The one on the left has a small wash of blue with yellow marker lines and pink paint lines. The one on the right has a light blue paint background with purple dot marks all over.
  7. Add layers. Look back at Styx to see how Moon layered acrylic paint and ink. What effects do you want to create with your layers? We chose to pour a watercolor layer on top of our other paint layers to create a large blue organic shape.
    You might:

    • Add water to your paint to create a wash-like effect
    • Brush-on brightly colored shapes
    • Build up thick layers of paint that come off the fabric
      Continue to add layers, remembering to give your paint time to dry between each layer.
      A painting on t-shirt fabric with blue, purple, pink, orange, and gold lines and shapes. Beside the painting is a paint brush and marker.
  8. Add finer details. Use your markers, pens, and paint to add details such as lines and drawings to your fantastical landscape. Continue adding layers and details until your fantastical in-between place feels complete!
    Two hands holding the canvas and a marker adding wavy lines to the painting on t-shirt fabric with blue, purple, pink, orange, and gold lines and shapes.
  9. Title your work! We named our creation Vestiges of Atlantis after the myth of the lost underwater city of Atlantis.
    A painting on t-shirt fabric with blue, purple, pink, orange, and gold lines and shapes layered on top of each other.