Erika Allison's Artastic Blog

Breaking the rules… or not

Mixed Media – What?, Why?

Posted Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

What is mixed media? Very simple – more than one medium used in a single work. It can be any medium you like to work in, PLUS another, or several other, media. The first I was aware of mixed media was many years ago, as a student. It seemed to refer to using pen and ink in a watercolor. It seemed to me that it was used to “save” a less than stellar watercolor. Some dark india ink lines here and there, perhaps outlining something in the painting, brought out what was missed in the handling of the watercolor. That was then. Now, I like to think that mixed media is far more exciting than that…and not a saver of a loser painting. It creates excitement in a painting because it’s often the unexpected.

My “main” medium at the moment is oils. I love the feel of oils, the smell, the textures that can be created with the oils. I like painting on a hard surface. It allows for lots of punishment, as well as the ability to have found objects attached. You can nail or screw found objects. You can glue materials or found objects. You can cut uneven edges. You don’t have to use a frame.

I like experimenting with the mixed media. What do you NOT expect to find in an oil painting? Maybe colored pencil. Maybe paper. You’re limited only by your imagination. Sometimes, you find really interesting results. And, sometimes, not. But, you only find those exciting results by trying things.

The end result of a mixed media painting should be a GOOD PAINTING. The mixed media should not be the star. It should be a supporting actor, so to speak. It’s only one part of the finished work. It should add to the painting, enrich it, make it more interesting than if it had not been used. But, you still need that all-important COMPOSITION!


"Artists Asking Permission"

I’ve been enjoying using watercolors in my exploration of mixed media. It has different possibilities. I love paper. And, I love watercolor. I love the luminosity of the colors and the expressiveness of the “happy accidents” that we love to find in a watercolor (assuming it’s not a portrait!). It’s fun to think of what doesn’t belong in a watercolor…and wonder about the possibilities. I have to say that the availability of so many new watercolor pencils and crayons really sparked my interest. I have several brands of both. Each seems slightly different. You get different results, depending on how you use them. If you use them on wet paper you get different results than if you use them on dry paper and then wet it or spray it.

I discovered several years ago that black acrylic gesso was available. I thought, “How cool!” Then, I thought – well, you paint over gesso. It’s just a means of sealing a painting surface. So, you wouldn’t see it. Why use black gesso? Next thought: what would happen if I used it on paper? Could it be used in a watercolor? Not likely that the watercolor paints themselves would do much over black. But, what about those watercolor pencils? Crayons? How would they look? It was a starting point for me in using watercolor in mixed media.

Actually, everything you try is a starting point. And, then, you go from there. What will the results be this time?


"Awaiting the Harvest"

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