Starting with mixed media art – creativity is at everyone’s fingertips
Mixed Media Art is a creative outlet that is accessible to everyone, regardless of your skill level as an artist and what materials you have on hand. Although there are many techniques and skills that you will develop as you progress, all you need to start is the desire to create something.
What is mixed media art?
“Mixed media art” is a broad definition that encompasses many arts and crafts, including handmade cards, collages, altered objects (such as books or boxes), book making, and art journaling to name a few. Even scrapbooking can fall into this category; you use papers and photos and other pieces – therefore you use “mixed media”.
What do I need to get started?
The great thing about creating a piece of mixed media art is the flexibility to start with the things around you. To get started, you need a substrate or base. This could be a nice piece of paper or cardboard, a sketchbook, a box of cereal, or anything else you have on hand. Next, you’ll need something to stick with – glue sticks are a good place to start. Colored papers, photos and anything else that catches your eye can be stuck on the base. This is the collage part of the mixed media art genre.
If you are more interested in painting or drawing, then when you have a base or substrate you will need something to mark with, whether it be pencils, paints, crayons, markers or crayons. All of these things can be used in different ways to achieve different effects. And they can be used in combination or separately. Of course, since we’re aiming for “mixed” media, then the more different tools you’ve used, the more mixed they’ll be.
Another attractive feature of Mixed Media Art is that you don’t need any fine art or drawing skills. That doesn’t mean you’re excluded from mixed media art if you have these skills, but it does open up a world of creativity for the rest of us who like to make things but “can’t paint.” Getting started is as easy as using a pencil, scissors and glue. These skills will expand and develop with practice. More sophisticated paint mixing skills and developing your “artist’s eye” will emerge as you expand your own creativity. Specific skills for certain media or types of art will emerge as you move into those fields. As with many things in life, the techniques and teachers will appear when you are ready.
Where do you suggest I start?
Let’s start with a simple project using materials that are not too expensive. It’s hard for some people to get started if we feel like we’re “wasting” our stuff while trying something new. With simple starter materials, those new to mixed media projects can jump in without worrying about this aspect.
Find an old cereal box, carefully cut along the creases and cut off the ends of the tabs so that you are left with a good sized flat piece of cardboard. Place it on a flat surface, with the inner, unprinted side facing you. Dig out your paints and paint brushes and pick two or three colors that appeal to you. If you are not confident that it combs the colors, choose one color with three different shades. Then get to drawing! You don’t need a pallet; either squeeze some paint straight onto the surface or squeeze some upwards that can be picked up on the brush. Don’t be shy – create swirls, lines and curves. Just get a good coat of paint around the piece of cardboard. It doesn’t have to be completely covered. Let it dry for a bit, then add the next color. After drying, repeat with the third color. Allow the piece to dry completely. If it bends a little, put it under a heavy book and it will straighten out again.
By waiting for each layer to dry, each color will have its own space and won’t blend with the other colors. I often work from the lightest color to the darkest, using less paint on each layer. But there are no rights or wrongs in this process; just go with what you like.
Now collect your pieces. Often a mixed media piece will contain an image, a few words or text, and a few pretty things or embellishments. Place them on top of your piece and feel how your pieces sit and blend with the other pieces. Try moving some parts to overlap other elements. When you are happy with the arrangement, start gluing layers down. Remember to start with the lowest parts first. After all parts are glued, let dry.
And now you’ve done it – you’ve created your first piece of mixed media art! Make it the first of many!
You will only get better with more practice. So, happy creating!
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