How To Create Mixed Media Paintings
What is Mixed Media?
In the last couple of years I have been venturing into creating mixed media paintings – in fact in the true sense I have been using mixed media for a lot longer as I have often used things like gold leaf, string and sand in my paintings. Mixed media can include a lot of things but in my mind it is really anything other than paint!
There are also other art materials such as gesso and structure gel that you can use to enhance your paintings but for the benefit of this article I am including such things as paper, foodstuffs, hardware items etc
I will go through each item in the order that I would likely use it in a painting. Most of my paintings are abstract in nature and so I can use mixed media to create various abstract ideas.
Adding Media to the Base of the Painting
If you have read my other articles you will know that I use a lot of texture in my paintings and in fact I make my own texture most of the time. There are many things that you can add to this texture as a base for your paintings and the list is almost endless so I will suggest just a few:
Plastic Items: I have a stock of things that I have bought mostly at hardware stores to add to my texture, the one I have particularly at the moment that I will use in one of my future paintings is tile spacers – I can see that I could make really interesting patterns with these and if they are put into my texture they will dry hard and I can paint over them. Other items you could use are small plastic figures (you may want to either enclose these in texture or add them later if they are already painted).
Paper: You can add some tissue paper to your texture base or perhaps add corrugated cardboard on top of the texture.
Grains: You could add substances that come in small grain format to your texture for example sand, crushed shells, or rice. Mix these in with the texture and apply to the canvas.
Other items to add to texture could be string, nails, screws, shells, glass beads, fine shingle or very small stones. You can either mix these in with your texture or else place them on wet texture that you have already put on the canvas.
Decoupage Glue from Amazon
Adding Items on Top of the Painting
When adding items on top of the painting I always try to make sure I have done as much of the actual painting as possible. In particular I am talking about adding any paper items (pictures of relevant things) onto the painting in the fashion of a collage. The worst thing is if you add the picture and you realise you want to do more painting or add different colours and you have to work round it.
So, there are a couple of things that you can add in terms of pictures: you can add photographs of your own. I often do this and find the best way is to print them on plain paper. I also might manipulate the photograph so that it has a tint to it that matches the colour scheme of the painting, then it looks more part of it. Another thing I like to add is newspaper clippings. You can add these in the same way as paper although you need to be careful of the back of the newspaper showing through to the front. You could also add things like old sheet music and old maps to your paintings. You can usually get hold of old sheet music and maps on ebay or else in charity shops.
Once you have the items that you want to add, put the painting down flat and position the items where you might like them to go. Move them around until you get a composition that you are happy with. There are a number of substances that you can use to apply the paper items onto the canvas: pva glue, paint but my preferred medium is decoupage medium which is made for that purpose.
Applying Decoupage items
Apply the decoupage medium to the back of the paper and stick it to the painted canvas. One you have all the items stuck down then you need to really paint around them so that they are incorporated into the painting. Paint round the edges so that they are not so stark and also you can apply a glaze on top to hide the items a bit and camouflage them (if that is the effect you want).
As well as applying paper items to your canvas you could also use marker pens to draw or write on your canvas. A sharpie will be permanent and you can even glaze over it a bit to disguise it. I have used poems or wordings that I have made up myself or also used a thick marker to draw on more noticeable words. Sometimes I will cut a template out and use this to put in some markings.
Other Suggestions for Mixed Media
You can actually use pretty much anything you like but here are some other things that you can use in mixed media paintings:
Stamps - postage stamps, green shield stamps or any other stamps you can get hold of!
Coins - maybe old ones that aren't worth anything any more or small denomination coins.
Printed paper - you can either use paper that has already been printed - thin papers work the best - or you can print onto plain paper for example by cutting out patterns.
Buttons - add texture and colour and cheap to get hold of.
Beads - flat backed beads work well on paintings.
Gold (and other) Leaf Sheets From Amazon
Applying Gold Leaf
Gold leaf can be added to paintings by using gold size or indeed by using other means! Apply whichever sticky medium you choose and then wait for it to become tacky before applying the gold leaf.
Often on the bottle this says wait for 40 minutes but I have found that it is tacky after about 15 – but that may depend on atmospheric conditions. Applying gold leaf can be quite tricky and I recommend that if you have not done it before, try it on a test canvas first as once it is on it is very difficult to get off so you want to get it right!
Once you have left the gold leaf and size to fully dry then cover it with a coat of goldfinger varnish which will protect it from tarnishing over time.
You can also get silver and copper leaf for different effects.
Mixed Media is Fun
So, here are a few ideas for using mixed media/collage in your paintings, the main thing is to try different things, experiment and see what happens. It can be fun to use different items in your paintings and they can build up on a theme that you might have.