What is mixed media? How do I make mixed media art? Is it the same as multimedia art? This quick guide has everything you need to know about this visual art form for beginners and more.
At its core, mixed media is a type of visual art that mixes (hence the word ‘mixed’) various mediums in one piece of artwork. If your artwork uses more than one creative medium (think: ink, watercolors, alcohol markers, acrylic ink, oil, colored pencils, crayons, etc.) and incorporates different art mediums and forms (think: assemblage and collage), then you have a mixed media artwork right there.
With this type of visual art, the sky is the limit. Artists prefer it because it gives their artwork a different level of creativity and added dimension. With this art form, you can break boundaries and look at everything around you as a potential canvas. You can paint a stamped image with watercolors and heat-emboss it, add sculpture to a painting, put together paper scraps and draw or paint over them, create an altered book with pieces of cloth, paper, and wood - the opportunity is truly endless when it comes to this revolutionary art form.
A Brief Look Into the History of Mixed Media
Throughout history, ceremonial and aesthetic objects have been found to include daily and common materials. These objects, however, were not produced as artwork and served a different social purpose. The great Pablo Picasso’s “Still Life with Chair Caning” back in May 1912 was considered the first example of modern mixed media collage. This was an “assemblage of oil paint, oilcloth, pasted paper, as well as rope, turning it into a low-relief, three-dimensional work.” However, it was Braque who created the first collages made solely out of paper when he used wood-grained wallpaper in a series of charcoal drawings.
According to Berta Art, the history of mixed media began back in the 20th century when “artists looking for a substitute for what they saw as hidebound academicism started including things and pictures that were not regarded as art materials in their works.”
The growth and popularity of this art form throughout the 20th century can be attributed to influential movements such as Cubism and Dada and famous artists adopting it, such as Henri Matisse, Joseph Cornell, Jean Dubuffet, and Ellsworth Kelly. In the 1920s, German dada artist Kurt Schwitters “fixed everyday found papers and things of all types to canvas, paper, and board supports, giving them another and most likely more remarkable life. His artwork, which depicted an array of personal expressions, gave life to mixed media collage and assemblage back then. This also led to the development of different types of mixed media art, such as installation art and wet and dry mixed media techniques.
Industry Updates and Trends
From simple pieces of cloth and paper to zippers and slices of bologna - mixed media artists have come a long way. The beauty of mixed media artwork in contemporary art is the fact that anything goes! It takes so many forms and gives a whole new dimension to an artist’s artwork. The liberty of expression allows for different art mediums - whether traditional or non-traditional. This continuously evolving art form doesn’t just focus on the product; it also emphasizes the process.
Thanks to modern technology and the advent of the Internet, different types of mixed media art quickly made their way into mainstream society. From iconic collages and assemblages to thought-provoking installation art, mixed media art is all around us these days. Here are some of the most iconic and popular ones.
- Yayoi Kusama’s series of “Infinity Rooms.” Her breakthrough “Infinity Mirror Room - Phalli’s Field in 1965, which used mirrors as walls, was able to “translate the repetition of her earlier artworks into an art installation, a seemingly endless room carpeted with polka-dotted fabric phallic structures,” according to Magazine Artland.
- UK interdisciplinary artist Martha Haversham is well-known for combining parts of the figure with found objects. In one of her famous artworks, she reimagined garlic skin into dainty and puffy white dress sleeves.
- Poetic mixed media artist Holly Harrison’s collage on canvas includes personal and unique materials, such as drawings by her daughter and old canvas paintings by her husband.
- “We Make Carpets” is a group of three designers who create carpets from found objects such as pencils, balloons, forks, etc., which are arranged in intricate patterns.
- Abstract landscape painter David Wightman’s textured mixed media paintings are truly phenomenal. The surprising texture of his artwork is because he paints with acrylic paint over textured wallpaper. To create depth, he layers and overlaps blocks of flat colors.
- Nigeria-born artist Njideka Akunyili Crosby combines mixed media collage and painting on her artwork. She aims to bring her two worlds (Nigeria and the U.S.) together in her work.
What Is the Difference Between Mixed Media and Multimedia?
Both artworks are a type of visual art, but there is a distinct difference between the range of materials used for each. Whereas mixed media artwork utilizes a combination of various art mediums, multimedia art combines visual and non-visual elements such as “recorded sound, literature, drama, dance, motion graphics, music, or interactivity.”
Mixed Media in Paper Crafting
The beauty of mixed media is that it has become more accessible and less intimidating for beginners. Compared to other art forms, the availability of different art mediums and the creative freedom made it possible for both experienced and budding artists to create their own mixed media paintings and art.
Mixed media techniques have been widely used in a variety of arts and crafts, including paper crafting. Collage and wet and dry mixed media are easily incorporated in paper crafts such as scrapbook albums, decoupage, art journal, traveler’s notebook, Project Life, DIY home decor, and even handmade cards. With this art form being flexible, paper crafters are more inclined to experiment with various mediums and materials, such as newspaper clippings, magazine cut-outs, torn fabric, stickers, sequins, beads, and more.
Mixed media art journal has become trendy in recent years, catching the attention of both older and younger demographic. This is due to the creative freedom that art journaling gives them. Art journaling is not just putting words and adding colors to a page; it involves connecting with your creative spirit, reimagining bits around you, and experimenting with a wide variety of mediums. It takes a lot of creativity and inspiration to turn anything into a canvas.
The video below shows a fun and easy mixed media abstract art journal using the following mediums and supplies:
- Clear acrylic stamps
- Pigment ink
- Embossing ink
- Glue pen
- Watercolor brush markers
- Embossing paste
- Embossing powder
- Stencil (any stencil design will do)
- Fine liner pen set
Do you need more mixed media art journal ideas? This blog post shows another quick and easy idea of applying mixed media techniques on your art journal page. Here are the supplies that you’ll need to recreate this project:
- Dark cardstock
- White ink spray
- Metallic shimmer ink spray (feel free to choose any color)
- Stencil (any stencil design will do, but floral stencils look fantastic!)
Different Types of Mixed Media Art
The accessibility and convenience of mixed media art supplies make this art form popular and preferred by artists and hobbyists. As discussed earlier, it doesn’t limit the artist’s tools and creativity. To put it simply, this type of art breaks the boundaries between a wide range of art forms. As time goes by, the mediums that mixed media artists use have grown exponentially and included everything from conventional, everyday items to non-conventional ones. Remember how artist Martha Haversham amusingly used garlic skin?
With modern technology (and artists’ creativity), different types of mixed media art came about. While collage and assemblage have been around since the 1920s, the other types gained popularity soon after. Each of these uses a variety of mediums and techniques. While some are more popular than others, they are special and unique in their own way.
What Are the 6 Major Types of Mixed Media?
Derived from the French word “coller,” which means “to glue,” collage is arguably the most popular and well-known type of mixed media art technique. It is probably the easiest and simplest too. Do you remember creating collages for a school project when you were young?
The origin and early forms of collage were traced back to more than a century, only making its “dramatic reappearance in the early 20th century.” However, Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso coined the term “Papier collé” in the early 20th century, turning collage into a distinct type of modern art.
What is in a mixed media art collage?
- Magazine clippings
- Newspaper clippings
- Pieces of fabric
- Strips of colored papers
- Snippets of other artwork or texts
- Other found objects
These are all glued to a piece of paper or canvas. That’s what makes collages super fun and easy because you’re literally just sticking random things together. The part where you try to turn it into one cohesive artwork is where your creativity comes in.
Although this art form’s origin was traced back to the cubist constructions of Pablo Picasso, between 1912 to 1914, the source of the word itself, in its artistic sense, can be traced to the artist Jean Dubuffet back in the 1950s. He titled his artwork “Assemblages D’empreintes,” which was a series of collages of butterfly wings. It was believed, though, that artists Marcel Duchamp, Pablo Picasso, and others “had been working with found objects for many years before Dubuffet.” (Wikipedia)
An assemblage is basically a collage with three-dimensional elements incorporated into it to tell a story. While found objects are usually utilized in assemblages, there is no limit to the materials that artists use.
Whether it’s simply drawing on a book page or adding some text next to the printed words, an altered book is basically created by adding a creative twist to a book to change its form or “alter” its original appearance. A book may be painted on, used as a collage, or turned into an art journal.
According to Wikipedia, an altered book artist usually takes a book (old, new, recycled, or multiple) and does any (or a combination) of the following:
- Cut page/s
- Tear page/s
- Glue page/s,
- Adds (something) to its page/s
- Create pop-ups,
- Stamp on it using rubber or clear stamps
- Add pockets and niches (for tags, rocks, ephemera, or other 3D items)
- Change the shape of the book
- Use more than one book to create one artwork
Mixed Media Sculpture
While most would be surprised to see sculpture as a mixed media art technique, there is an excellent reason why this is included on this list. This is because the base material that an artist chooses would be different from the other materials and elements added to their mixed media sculpture later on. The new elements could be to add color, shape, or pattern.
As discussed earlier, installation art gained popularity in the 1970s, but it could be traced back to the 1950s. Constructed in museums, galleries, exhibition spaces, and other public and private spaces, installation art can be permanent or temporary and are often site-specific. The goal is to “transform the perception of a space.” These are three-dimensional artworks, which are sometimes interactive. While it utilizes everyday objects with “evocative” qualities, it has been known to incorporate modern media forms such as “video, sound, performance, immersive virtual reality, and the internet.”
Wet and Dry Mixed Media
As the name suggests, this mixed media art technique uses both wet elements such as paints and inks and dry elements such as pencils, crayons, pens, and charcoal. The combination of inherently differing mediums makes this another creative way to level up your artwork.
Here is an example of a simple but stunning handmade card where Lydia created her own wet and dry mixed media artwork. She stamped her image using pigment ink (wet medium) on colored cardstock and colored in the image using her colored pencil (dry medium). It was such a simple technique that gave a unique and beautiful result.
Here are three more examples of wet and dry mixed media art that you can quickly try at home.
- Mixed media art journal with tie-dye design
- Easy pencil-colored handmade card
- Using fine liner pens in a mixed media art journal
Are You Ready to Create Your Own Mixed Media Artwork?
There is always a fear of mixing and matching various elements and mediums, especially if these elements are not usually combined. With mixed media, anything goes! Conventional and conservative artwork has no place here. It is more rebellious and revolutionary than other types of visual art. Whether you’re into exciting mixed media sculpture, creative installation art, or just a basic mixed media art journal, the important thing is to be as creative as you want. Discover new mediums that you can combine, experiment with a wide range of elements. Most importantly, personalize your artwork and let your imagination run wild!