Mixed Media Art Techniques and Essentials
What is mixed media? The simple answer is that mixed-media art happens when an artist uses more than one medium in a piece of art. Paper with paint, encaustic paint with fiber, paper and stitch—the list goes on. In fact, mixed-media art techniques are only limited to the artist's imagination and supplies.
To most mixed-media artists, more is more. They like to create textured backgrounds with lots of depth, layering paint, pastels, gel medium, and paper, adding focal points with images, found objects, and more.
In Cloth Paper Scissors magazine, we explore mixed-media art techniques, offer mixed-media tutorials, and give you the inside track on mixed-media supplies and how to use them. The only thing you really need to get started is a sense of adventure and a desire to play.
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Mixed media art is a surprisingly fun and invigorating process, especially with guidance from expert Beryl Taylor. You'll learn how to turn paper, stitch, fabric, and embellishments into creative pieces of art with these mixed-media tutorials.
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The human figure is a wonderful focal point for art. Around us every day, and what better way to learn about mixed media than with this common subject. Learn how to take techniques, mixed-media supplies, and your imagination and make mixed-media people!
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Take your skills a step further with this second installation all about making mixed-media people. Focusing on stitch, assemblage and collage, these mixed-media tutorials will have you making a new crowd of art.
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Mixed-Media Supplies and Terms
You can create a mixed-media art project with as few materials as paper, glue, and paint. Or you can add (or substitute) fabric, fibers, metal, found objects, encaustic wax, papier-mâché, and so on. The list below includes some of the mixed-media supplies and terms used in many mixed-media tutorials.
Alcohol inks: Fast-drying, transparent dye inks specially formulated to create a colorful effects on glossy paper, metal, shrink plastic, glass, and other slick surfaces.
Bone folder: A tool for marking, scoring, or creasing paper or fabric.
Brayer: A hand roller used in printmaking techniques to spread ink or to offset an image from a plate to paper.
Dry brush: A painting technique where a little bit of paint is put on a dry brush to produce a broken, scratchy effect.
Ephemera: Vintage or antiquarian paper items other than books, such as postcards, photographs, greeting cards, decorative cutouts, paper dolls, signs, and so on.
Fixative: A spray acrylic that keeps the medium (paint, ink, pastel, etc.) from smudging.
Fluid acrylic paint: A type of acrylic paint that is fluid relative to a heavy-body acrylic paint, with the same intensity of color.
Found objects: Items (usually discarded or found in nature) that you can use as a tool or as part of the artwork itself, such as buttons, small pieces of hardware, bottle caps, bubble wrap, and so on.
Gel medium: An acrylic polymer medium that can accept color media and other additives, such as glitter or fine beads, to create texture when applied to a surface.
Gel pens: Gel-inked ballpoint pens that come in many different sizes and in a huge variety of colors.
Gesso: A thick, chalky mixture that can be painted onto paper or fabric to provide a rough-textured base surface.
Heat gun: This tool blows hot air in a focused direction in order to melt, heat set, or burn fibers, powders, and other materials.
Matte medium: Acrylic polymer medium that can be used to extend paints, increase translucency, and decrease gloss.
Lutradur®: This is a polyester fabric-like material that has a wide variety of applications. It can be drawn or painted on to create a colored surface that still filters light. It is quite sturdy and can be cut into without fraying, and heat set up to 400 degrees
Photo transfer: Photographic images transferred onto fabric using photo transfer paper.
Pigment inks: These inks typically come in vibrant colors. They are quite thick in consistency and dry slowly; for this reason they are excellent for use with embossing powders and rubberstamping.
PVA glue: A general purpose white glue that dries fast and clear.
Transfer: Applying inkjet or toner copy images to fabric using different media, such as water, polymers, and other media.
Underpainting: The initial or lowest layers of paint put down in a painting before the detail of the painting is put down.
Walnut ink: Made from walnuts, this very dark ink can be used to “age” papers and other materials and to tone down bright colors.
Water-soluble pastels (crayons): Sticks of color that draw like a crayon but that turn paint-like when water is applied.
Source: The Cloth Paper Scissors Book by Barbara Delaney, Interweave, 2011
Starting to Play with Mixed-Media Art Techniques
A good place to start playing with mixed-media techniques is by creating backgrounds with paint. Diana Trout shows how to create interesting patterns on your background papers by using simple color-lifting techniques. The papers then serve as backgrounds for additional painting, writing, and stitching.
Color-lifting Techniques for Mixed Media
On a piece of heavy watercolor paper (such as 140 lb.), put down a wet wash of color using watercolor paint or watered-down acrylic paint, and create patterns by lifting the wet color with a damp brush or found items. Here are some ideas:
- Foam stamps (handmade with fun foam or purchased) work well to lift color. Simply press the stamp in the wet wash, lift, blot the stamp on toweling (or into your journal), and repeat.
- Try misting the watercolor wash with alcohol or drop alcohol from a brush.
- Use matchbox covers to lift color. Just slide out the little drawer of matches and press the edge of the cover into your wet wash. Blot and repeat to create a pattern.
- Using the same idea, cut a cardboard cereal box (or similar) into strips and then make a circle or square shape. Use a piece of tape to hold the shape together. Press the end of your shape into the wet wash, blot, and repeat to create a pattern. You can make many different shapes this way, so experiment.
by Diana Trout, Cloth Paper Scissors January/February 2010
Now that your questions about "What is mixed media?" have been answered,
you're ready to start creating your very own designs!
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