Starting Out With Mixed Media Art – Creativity is at Everyone’s Fingertips

Mixed Media Art is a creative outlet that is available to everyone, regardless of your artist skill level and what materials you have at hand. While there are many techniques and skills you will develop as you progress, all you need to begin is the desire to create something.

What is Mixed Media Art?

“Mixed media art” is a broad definition that covers many arts and crafts, including handmade cards, collage, altered objects (like books or boxes), book making and art journalling, to name a few. Even scrapbooking can fall under this category; you’re using papers and photos and other bits and pieces – therefore you are using “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 things around you. To get started you need a substrate or base. This could be a nice sheet of paper or cardboard, a sketchbook, a cereal box or anything else that you have at hand. Then you’ll need something to stick with – glue sticks are fine to begin with. Coloured papers, pictures and anything else that grabs your eye can then be stuck onto the base. This is the collage part of the mixed media art genre.

If you are more interested in drawing or painting, then when you have your base or substrate, you’ll need something to make a mark, whether its pencils, paints, crayons, markers or pastels. All of these things can be used in different ways to achieve varied effects. And they can be used in combination or separately. Of course, as we are aiming for “mixed” media, then the more different tools you used the more mixed it will be.

Another attractive feature of Mixed Media Art is that you don’t need fine art or drawing skills. That doesn’t mean you are excluded from mixed media art if you do have these skills, but it opens up a world of creativity for the rest of us who like to make things but “Can’t draw”. To get started is as simple as being able to use a pencil, scissors and glue. These skills will expand and develop with practice. More complicated skills of mixing paints and developing your “artist eye” will happen as you expand your own creativity. Specific skills for particular media or art types will present themselves as you move into these areas. As with many things in life, the techniques and teachers will appear when you are ready.

Where do you suggest I start?

Let’s begin with a simple project, using materials that aren’t too expensive. For some people it’s hard to start if we feel we are “wasting” our things while trying something new. With simple starting materials, those new to mixed media projects can jump in without worrying about this aspect.

Find an old cereal box, cut carefully along the folds and cut off the tab ends, so you are left with a good sized, flat piece of cardboard. Place it on a flat surface, with the inner, non-printed side facing you. Dig out your paints and paint brushes, and choose two or three colours that take your fancy. If you are not confident is combing colours, choose one colour with three different shades. Then get painting! You don’t need a pallet; either squeeze a little paint out straight onto the surface or squeeze a little up that can be taken onto the brush. Don’t feel shy – create swirls and lines and squiggles. Just get a good coverage of paint around the piece of card board. It doesn’t have to be completely covered. Leave that to dry for a bit, then add the next colour. After drying, repeat with the third colour. Leave the piece to dry completely. If it buckles a little, sit it under a heavy book and it will flatten out again.

By waiting for each layer to dry, each colour will get it’s own space and not blend with the other colours. I often work from lightest colour to darkest, using less paint on each layer. But there are no rights or wrongs with this process; just go with what feels good for you.

Now gather up your bits and pieces. Often a mixed media piece will contain an image, some words or text and a few pretty things or embellishments. Lay these out on your piece and get the feel for how your bits sit and mix with the other bits. Try moving some parts to overlap other items. When you are happy with the arrangement, start glueing layers down. Remember to start with the bottom most pieces first. Once all bits are glue down, leave to dry.

And now you have done it – you have 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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