How Did They Get It To Look Like That?

Have you ever looked at an abstract art piece or oil painting genre scene or pastel seascape and wonder, how'd they do that?! Chances are the answer lies somewhere in mixed media. Art that tends to defy our eyes does so for a reason–it isn't conforming to a set of rules based on its materiality. Instead, artists blend media and materials to produce effects that aren't by-the-book traditional.

Phoenix by Chie Fueki, 2003, mixed media on mulberry paper, 60 x 84.
Phoenix by Chie Fueki, 2003, mixed media on mulberry paper, 60 x 84.

First of all, in mixed media art, colors are often very bold. You can combine the intense hues of watercolors with pastels, which have a rich look and feel to them. Or you can create an ink drawing and layer marks made with oil sticks over top of it. The contrast of the rich black pen strokes and the slick passages of oil are quite strong.

The surface of a mixed media painting can also be a lot more interesting because there are a variety of materials and techniques used atop it. A paintbrush loaded with pigment makes quite a different mark than a drawing made with a fine graphite pencil or piece of charcoal. Laying down mixed media collage materials immediately adds interest to a surface, and these inclusions can be as subtle or as in-your-face as you want to make them.

There are a few guidelines for mixed media art. Oil paints tend not to play well with others, so they should often be the last medium applied to a surface. And if you are exploring mixed media artwork, bear in mind that a plan of action is a good idea so you can maintain the integrity of the surface. For example, you don't want to pile on the paint, collage materials, and more on a single flimsy piece of paper. Make sure you start with a surface that will hold up to all that you want to do to it.

Double Pyramid by David Huffman, 2009, mixed media on canvas, 72 x 60.
Double Pyramid by David Huffman, 2009,
mixed media on canvas, 72 x 60.

In the spirit of mixing media, the editors of American Artist have created several new eBooks that have just come available. To be sure the first one that caught my eye was Create Dynamic Paintings with Mixed Media. It is just up my alley in terms of scope and the freedom to play with different media in one work. Enjoy!

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Courtney Jordan

About Courtney Jordan

  Courtney is the editor of Artist Daily. For her, art is one of life’s essentials and a career mainstay. She’s pursued academic studies of the Old Masters of Spain and Italy as well as museum curatorial experience, writing and reporting on arts and culture as a magazine staffer, and acquiring and editing architecture and cultural history books. She hopes to recommit herself to more studio time, too, working in mixed media.   

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