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Mixed Media Art 101
July 25, 2012 8:41 PM   Subscribe

I think I have fallen in love with mixed media arts and crafts! Help me do more of this!

I spent part of last week taking a workshop called "The Art of Happiness". Basically, we played with a large quantity and variety of all kinds of craft supplies, with help from our teacher. There were specific projects she had brought that we could do if we chose, and they mostly seemed a combination of collage (using paper, bits of tissue, cloth, ephemera), gluing things to a base thing, stamping, painting, all kinds of techniques. I played with paper, tissue, cloth, stamps, paint, grommets, matte medium, E6000, and all sorts of other bits and pieces.

I think the term for what we did is "mixed media art". My teacher recommended a magazine called "Cloth, Paper, Scissors" but other than that, I have no resources. Please feed my potential new obsession! My previous crafty background: making jewelry, knitting, and amateur digital photographer. I've got a fair amount of beads and yarn, not so much paper or cloth.

- suppliers - I've got Michaels, AC Moore and Hobby Lobby nearby, but I'm also looking for online suppliers and outside the box ideas for stuff. Cheap paper and cloth suggestions especially appreciated as I'm neither a scrapper nor a sewer.
- terminology - is mixed media art the right term for this? Is there a list of acronyms and insider langauge somewhere? Every hobby has their lingo...
- other magazines (and books) to read, as well as good blogs and other online resources. I'm looking for how-tos as well as inspiration
- organization - it seems like it would be easy to have a big disorganized mess of materials. I'm thinking of a number of small plastic shoeboxes, well labeled

So, how-to and inspiration... I'm looking for all kinds of how-tos. How do I use matte medium (my new best friend in the workshop) and when do I use it instead of something else? What other glues and things are there? What's a good minimum toolkit for making art? Where can I find both ideas for projects (what can I do with the stuff?) and pretty pretty inspiration (look what other people did with their stuff!) What questions do I not know enough to ask?

TL;DR: Basically, I loved my recent mixed media workshop and want to do more of it. Give me Mixed Media 101. Thanks!
posted by booksherpa to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (14 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
 
One phrase that I seem come up in the whole mixed media thing online that may help your searching or finding inspiration is "art journal". Beware that you will see a lot of drawings of girls with big heads and eyes (it seems to be some sort of sick trend) but you can also find a lot of information on materials and things to use.

I've played around with this and I find in the starting out that plastic shoe boxes are great. You want something see-through. Watercolour crayons (good ones) are a lot of fun to play with as well as getting into the type where you melt wax crayons on canvas. You get a lot of layering and neat looks done. I've been dying to try a class in it.

Prepare to get messy. You need a lot of rags, and paint brushes of all sizes. As for paper I started out with a simple sketchbook. They make ones that can take marker, or paint. You can ply a lot of acrylics on them (watercolours not so much) and just mess around. I eventually graduated to canvases but I still use sketchbooks a lot.

You can look at this hobby in two ways - Go expensive first off or go cheap and slowly add to your collection. Dollar stores are great for cheap acrylics, rags, cheap canvases, cheap brushes, all sort of stencils where you can build up layers, etc. I went with the cheap option and have been gradually adding small expensive bits as I've drawn an interest in them and find them fun to play around with. I have quite a few friends that have to have the best of every supply and shell out hundreds of dollars on stuff that they just don't use (and frankly my dollar store stuff can make the same marks).

Before you shell out big money for things head to youtube and search for mixed media/art journal videos. There is a whole group of people doing reviews (there also a bunch of videos on basic supplies that people use and I know I've seen a bunch for using matte medium). There are online courses you can take but they tend to show you how to do it there way (i.e. countless big headed girls with big eyes on small bodies). Also check out flickr for inspiration and even tumblr.

Good luck on your new hobby!
posted by kanata at 8:58 PM on July 25, 2012


pretty pretty inspiration
I commend to you the work of Joseph Cornell.
posted by feral_goldfish at 9:12 PM on July 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Fingers slipped on keyboard. Here be link.
posted by feral_goldfish at 9:13 PM on July 25, 2012


I think you might be interested in altered books and artist trading cards.

On the organization side, you can get plastic stackable "shoeboxes" at Dollar Tree for $1 that are great for storing your smaller crafty stuff. I also have a couple larger boxes from Michael's, I don't know how to describe them exactly...they're like really sturdy paper-type with metal accents. They were a little pricey but they have held up really well (over several moves) and are attractive enough to keep out on a bookshelf. Mine have a sort of vintage candy theme but every season they have something else.
posted by radioamy at 9:15 PM on July 25, 2012


I've only flipped through the magazine while at the craft store, but I've found Cloth Paper Scissors' website a decent jumping-off point to get ideas for mixed media projects. I think they have some free e-books you can download as well.

I am not super in-the-know about the world of mixed media, but in the process of seeking out books on fabric surface design (my nerd-out craft activity), I did recently check out several library books that were very mixed media oriented and gave me good ideas for future projects:
Adventures in Mixed Media
Surface Treatment Workshop
Sew Wild (mostly fabric-oriented projects)
The Art Journal Workshop

Regarding acquiring supplies: I am lucky in that I have a craft supply re-use shop in my town. I also go to Goodwill/other thrift stores, mainly for fabric. Many of those big box craft stores give out mad coupons and have regular sales so you can usually get away with not spending a fortune if you time things right.
posted by medeine at 9:20 PM on July 25, 2012


Pinterest is searchable. Here's the page for mixed media, with lots of great inspiration.
posted by raisingsand at 9:21 PM on July 25, 2012


Create For Less is a nice place to buy supplies that you need in bulk, like adhesives. Dick Blick has great prices, too. Oriental Trading is a goldmine.

My tip for organization is to try sorting your materials by color as opposed to theme.

For inspiration, try signing up for pinterest and browsing mixed media and art journaling boards.
posted by xyzzy at 9:29 PM on July 25, 2012


Manto Fev is a quirky little web store that's been around for a good while and does just that sort of material. Also there are supplies on etsy but the prices can vary wildly.
(Also if you want a big bundle of clean scrap fabric, I have come to terms with my inability to quilt; memail me if you want a box full.)
posted by cobaltnine at 1:41 AM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


As kanata mentions, my recent foray into mixed media art has been through the on-line art journaling community. In some ways, art journaling seems to be a shoot-off of scrapbooking. I'm not interested in scrapbooking (using lots of manufactured stencils, stickers, papers, and so on), so I try to concentrate more on the art side than the journaling side.

I've purchased supplies from Michaels, a local art supply store, Walgreens for crayons, the bookstore of the university I work at, and on-line through Jet Pens, Dick Blick, and ArtSupply.com, which had the best price on the watercolors I wanted. I haven't purchased any ephemera packs yet, but have been considering it. I have used The Graphics Fairy for images that I transfer with gel medium.

Some supplies you can cheap out on, and others are worth going expensive. So far, I've found that watercolor and watercolor pencils are the two supplies where buying the best you can afford really pays off.

I recently found some used copies of the magazine Somerset Studio: the art of paper and mixed-media and it's worth flipping through, though the works are a little toothless for me. The same publisher has a Art Journaling magazine I haven't seen.

I can highly recommend the Daisy Yellow blog - she has a wealth of posts about art journaling, supplies, techniques, and prompts for inspiration. Start with her Art Journaling 101 post. She also has a useful Kick-Start Your Journal series.

So far the papers I use have been newspaper, magazines, catalogs, and inkjet printouts for transfer with gel/matte medium. Nothing expensive or fancy needed. I've also carved my own stamps, purchased watercolor pencils along with watercolors and acrylics, and accumulated a bunch of pens. The Uniball Signo is the best white pen I've found - and that site, Jet Pens, is also great for Sakura Micron pens, as well as all manner of tempting Gellyroll pens.

Another daily read for me is Balzer Designs - she's a little more scrapbooky, but has tons of tutorials, prompts and inspiration to work your way through.

medeine linked to Sew Wild, and the author, Alisa Burke, also has a lovely blog. She's not as mixed-media but I find her very inspiring.

The side-bars on these blogs will also lead you to other resources. I've really gone down the rabbit hole of art journal blogs since March and have picked up tons of ideas and inspiration. See ihanna, Drawn From the Fire, RobenMarie, etc.

Something else of note is that Alisa Burke, Julie Fan-Balzer, and many of the other art journal bloggers also have on-line classes. I've been trying to scrap together the free time to take one of Alisa's on watercolor techniques, and I also want to take this Script School class, since my hand-lettering is horrible and embarrassing.
posted by Squeak Attack at 8:10 AM on July 26, 2012


Mixed media aficionado/artist/sometime teacher here. Nthing Somerset Studio and Cloth Paper Scissors. Look at artists you like in both of those magazines and then see if they have blogs, so you can check out more work of theirs in a style you like. You can also check out their blogrolls for other mixed media artists.

You can also browse the bookstore/library for paper arts books, which have a lot of techniques in them. Authors of note: Claudine Hellmuth, Misty Mawn, Pam Carriker, Sarah Ahearn Bellemare, Diana Trout (I could go on and on...)

A couple of websites, which have a variety of mixed media represented are Create Mixed Media (which is run by a mixed media book publisher) and Crescendoh (which is run by a former editor of Somerset Studio). If you like podcasts, I find Rice Freeman-Zachery has a very good interview podcast with a variety of artists. Her podcast is called Notes from the Voodoo Cafe.

As for materials: gather papers you like, glue them down with a glue stick (it's drier so the papers wrinkle less) or gel medium (Golden Soft Gel is the best stuff, though pricey, use your Michael's 40% off coupon), slather on some paint and draw on the top with a Marker and you are on your way. It is called Mixed Media, so really, whatever you want to do goes. There are no real rules.

Best wishes on your new creative endeavor!
posted by sarajane at 12:35 PM on July 26, 2012


Thank you all! I have a crazy number of links to check out now, and lots of supplier info. Now I just need to create a space to work...
posted by booksherpa at 8:43 AM on July 27, 2012


The space I use to work is in no way fancy or optimal, but it's what I had! I grabbed a small coffee table we have and put it next to our dining room table. I have all my supplies arranged on the coffee table and I work at the dining room table. When it's meal time, the supplies get stacked back on the coffee table.

I'm considering replacing the coffee table with something like this rolling cart, which could be put away in another room if we ever have people over (a rare occurance!)
posted by Squeak Attack at 2:36 PM on July 27, 2012


Well, I'd have to steal the dining room table away from my husband, but I like the rolling cart idea. I have one of these I love; another one could hold paints and adhesives. Really, there's the space, I just have to clear all the clutter from it. I've bought some materials, though (paints, a few wood plaques, some matte medium and other adhesives) so I'm inspired. Plus, my non-color printer did a nice job with a black and white photo, and I've been digging into my husband's quote book collection for more inspiration.
posted by booksherpa at 7:18 PM on July 27, 2012


You can find magazines and other paper at yard sales. You can post in Craigslist/free or freecycle, looking for old photos, zippers, shells, etc. There's a draft industry, and you can buy all sorts of findings, but using found objects stimulates my imagination.
posted by theora55 at 5:12 AM on July 29, 2012


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