Mixed Media Painting

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Art Glossary: What is Mixed Media?

Detail from a mixed media painting using ink, pastel, and pencil.
Detail from a mixed media painting using ink, pastel, and pencil. Photo ©2011 Marion Boddy-Evans. Licensed to About.com, Inc.

A mixed media painting is one which combines different painting and drawing materials and methods, rather than only one medium. Any materials can be used, including collage items such as pages from magazines, newspaper, photographs, fabric, soil, or packaging. Or a mixed media piece can be as 'simple' as using two mediums, such as acrylic paints with pastel on top.

Mixed media isn't a 20th-century phenomenon, although in previous centuries artists were less experimental in what they used. For example, gold leaf was often added to church paintings; Leonardo da Vinci mixed pastels with other drawing media; William Blake used watercolor washes to his prints; Edgar Degas combined pastels with charcoal and printing inks.

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Mixed Media Painting Projects

Mixed media painting using ink and oil pastel.
Mixed media painting by Marion Boddy-Evans using Inktense Blocks and Sennelier Oil Pastels. Size: A2. You can see how I've used oil pastel as the last layer to add lines, redefining shapes and to create visual interest through linear mark making. Photo ©2011 Marion Boddy-Evans. Licensed to About.com, Inc.

The theme of the current Mixed Media Project is Quality of Line and Layering, challenging you to combine a wet and a dry medium in one painting, focusing on mark-making with lines (rather than blocks of color or tone) and encouraging you to work in layers, adding on top without every completely hiding what's underneath.

Subject and Size: Whatever you feel like, big or small.

Mediums: Whatever you wish, but one must be wet and one dry. More than two mediums may be used. Mixing different brands of the same type of paint doesn't count as mixed media.

Something that you can turn from a dry into a wet medium by adding water or solvent, e.g. watercolor pencils, counts as one medium not two for the purposes of this project. Watercolor paint (wet) and watercolor pencil (dry) is okay, but the paint must come from tube or pans not the pencils (i.e. applied in bigger quantities than you can easily lift from a pencil).

Collage items count as "dry". If you use pencil, it must be an integral part of the painting not merely the initial sketch to establish the composition.

Using oil pastels and oil paint sticks on top of oil paint counts, though paintsticks must be used differently to how you apply paint with a brush.

Suggested Art Supplies for This Project:
Have a look in your art supplies box and see what there is you haven't used for a while. That'll be perfect for this project!
• Your usual paints and brushes.
• Heavy-weight paper which will stand up to some abuse, I mean reworking.
• Oil pastels  which can be used over acrylics, watercolors, and oil paint.
• Hard pastel sticks for sgraffito into still-wet paint.
• Soft pastels to add over watercolor or matte acrylic (glossy acrylic may to smooth a surface for it to stick onto), and work into still-wet paint.
• Charcoal  for working underneath, on top and into paint. If you don't like dark and messy, perhaps not the best choice for you.
• Inktense blocks and pencils which are like watercolor pencils but insoluble once dry.
• Watercolor pencils and crayons
• Waterproof pen
• Oil sticks