I love mixed media! I’m a mixed media artist! But what does this term ‘mixed media’ really mean? And how do you apply it practically when making art? Keep reading for insights and tips about the how, why and what of mixed media art.
What Is Mixed Media?
Traditionally artists would work in one medium. For example oil paint, egg tempera or collage. Mixed media simply means using any of the above and more but in ONE piece.
Rules? I Don’t Want No Stinking Rules!
One misconception I come across a lot is that mixed media is supposed to have a certain look or style. This is not true. Mixed media comes into existence automatically when you use more than one medium. You’re totally free to do whatever you want!
Then again, being totally free without any ‘rules’ can be rather scary when you’re just getting started.
Mixed Media Tips
Because you have ALL THE SUPPLIES to choose from, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and turn your work into a ‘wtf did I do?’ mess. I wholeheartedly recommend making big messes, but I do want to help you avoid overwhelm, because that feeling is not fun. When you’re getting started pick two things you want to work with primarily on a piece. Keep going with those until you feel compelled to use something else (or maybe you never do, that is fine too!).
Here are some combos to get you started:
-collage papers & acrylic paint
-watercolours & coloured pencils
-watersoluble crayons & stamps
Find out what works (for you!).
Part of this is trial and error and simply trying things (without getting too attached to the outcome). There are certain materials that work well together, and other materials that when used in combination make you tear your hair out!
Here are some tips & common pitfalls to avoid:
-beware of clogging your paint pen tips when working on top of watersoluble crayons
-you CAN mix oil and acrylic, but it’s best to leave the oil based media for the final layers.
-to maintain bright colours and avoid making a muddy mess, ensure you dry your work in between layers
-think outside the box when it comes to application. Sometimes it’s much nicer to use your fingers than a brush. How about a brayer?
-if you want to work on top of your acrylics with pencils, it is helpful to use matte acrylics rather than the more shiny ones (as they dry quite plasticy)
-be aware of media that react/re-activate when wet (e.g. Dylusions sprays, certain inks, watercolours), if you work on top of them you might want to use spray varnish first to avoid things such as green faces (tip suggested by Amber Button)
Let me introduce you to a bit of magic! Gesso is a primer. That means it prepares the surface for whatever you decide to put on top of it. Mixed media work tends to be either wet or heavy, or both. A lot of paper doesn’t stand up to this very well (especially if you like working in journals or altered books), so adding a layer of gesso can really help make your paper suitable.
White gesso is a great primer for using before you start. Clear gesso is awesome for in-between layers if you want to protect a previous layer and create a more workable layer to keep going on top of. For example clear gesso after a layer of collage can help you be able to continue with coloured pencils or crayons.
Of course this is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to mixed media! There are so many possibilities and so many ways of expressing yourself. I’d love to know your favourite ways of mixing your media, please leave a comment below!