Mixed Media Techniques: Art for All Ages

Somebody is painting some picture with paintbrush, isolated on wDo you find that restricting yourself to just one artistic medium stifles your creativity? Maybe mixed media is the way to fully express your artistic vision. Mixed media art is basically any form of art created using more than one medium.

Is it Mixed Media or Multimedia?

Mixed media art and multimedia art may sound like the same thing but in fact the two are quite different. While mixed media art uses multiple media types to create art, multimedia art adds in video, audio, dance, literature, and other types of “art” to create a single work.

Types of Mixed Media Art

Although mixed media is a wide and varied field to say the least, there are several well-known types with which an artist or art collector should be familiar.

Sculpture

Sculpture does not have to be a mixed media art form but oftentimes it is because many mediums can be incorporated into a single piece. While the main medium of a sculpture may be clay, the artist can choose to add wire, wood, glass, or even found objects. The additions of these other types of medium can take a sculpture from “average” to a unique and inventive piece of art.

Collage

A collage is any work of art that is created by gluing or otherwise attaching objects to a base. The base can be canvas, wood, stone, paper, or anything the artist wants to use. In collage the medium attached to the base is usually paper or fabric.

Assemblage

Like collage, assemblage is an art form that is created by attaching objects to a base. The difference is that in assemblage the objects attached to the base can be anything that inspires the artist. This type of art can blur the lines between sculpture and painting.

Altered Books

Altered books are just what the name implies. An artist will take an old or new book and use it as a base for their art. This art can take the form of collage, painting, tearing, or cutting which gives the book a new appearance and function. This type of art can also sometimes be considered as a multimedia art form since the literature of the book becomes part of the art itself.

Wet and Dry Media

The combination of painting and drawing in the same work of art is a popular form of mixed media art. The trick to mixing different types of painting and drawing is to know which types will work well together. Oil based paints can give a charcoal drawing a pop of color that draws the eye and adds interest to an otherwise black and white piece.  Resist is a type of painting that uses the properties of oil and water to create a unique effect. Layering water colors and oil based paints causes the water to resist the oil and create a different look.

Mixed Media Techniques

Now that you are familiar with some of the types of mixed media, let’s look at some of the techniques used to create these works of art.

Mixed Media Techniques for Collage

Rice paper and gel medium present an excellent opportunity to preserve many different objects while creating a beautiful piece of art. Leaves, flowers, feathers, pieces of paper, and bits of fabric can all be used in this simple technique. When the gel medium dries the rice paper becomes transparent and encases the items you used to create the collage.

Consider thinking outside the box on the selection of a base for your collage. Stone or ceramic tiles that are commonly used in kitchens or bathrooms can make interesting bases. The “wrong” side of a travertine tile makes a lovely natural base for alcohol inks, acrylic paints, glass powders and other interesting bits. Try using stamps that you already have or make your own. Small found objects can be glued on to add interest or tell a story.

Collage is an excellent technique for people that love to scrapbook as well. You can add pieces of paper such as concert or movie tickets. Pieces of fabric from special dresses, such as a wedding dress or prom dress could be added to a collage that is part of a scrapbook project. This is a good way to transform memories to art and make them last for generations to come.

Mixed Media Techniques for Sculpture

Mixed media techniques for sculpture do not need to be overly technical or require well-honed artistic talent. You can use bread dough to fashion letters, allow them to dry and decorate them with paint, and glitter. Then you can glue those letters to a picture frame that has been decorated along the same theme. This simple three dimensional project makes a great personalized gift or a fun project to do with kids when the summer “I’m bored” hits.

Look around you and incorporate items into your sculpture projects that would not usually be considered as art. Electronic components from damaged computers, interesting bits of broken glass or ceramics, a beautiful sea shell, any or all of these might find a place in a mixed media sculpture. Sometimes this type of sculpture is presented as installation art. This type of art seeks to transform the viewer’s perception of a particular space by using common manmade items and or natural items in new and unusual ways.  Installation art can be permanent or temporary. Temporary installation art will either be dismantled by the artist or nature depending on the situation. The impermanence of this type of art adds to its’ beauty.

Mixed Media Techniques for Altered Books

When considering an altered book mixed media project, start with the book. It needs to be a hard back book. Soft cover books are generally glue bound and tend to fall apart with very little provocation. Used book sales at your local library or yard sales are good places to find old, hard cover books cheap. Now that you have your book, what are you going to do with it? The first step is to prepare your pages.

Most books have relatively thin pages that will not withstand much “work” being done to them without disintegrating.  To give the pages some extra stability you can glue several of them together. Gel medium works well as page glue and it dries clear. How many pages you glue together and in what order is entirely up to you. Sometimes you can find kids’ books that have thick pages which don’t really need any extra preparation.

Now it is time to get seriously artistic! Let your imagination run free! You can paint the pages, make a collage, cut holes in one page that show through pictures on another page. You can decorate the cover, cut the center out of all the pages and create a book/box. There really is no limit except your own creativity. Another idea for altered books is to personalize the cover and prepare the pages in such a way that you can then use the book as a journal or scrapbook. This project makes a great gift for a special friend, family member or loved one.

Mixed media techniques can be utilized by anyone to take an artistic idea to the next level of creativity. You can start by experimenting with collage techniques as these are relatively simple and do not require much in the way of special supplies or equipment. Don’t stop there though! Branch out and try your new mixed media techniques with sculpture that expresses your creativity in a new and exciting way!  Consider an altered book project as a gift for a special person in your life. Mixed media techniques are an endless source for artistic and creative inspiration.