How to use mixed media in Painting

How to use mixed media in Painting

Using mixed media means to combine different types of media in one complete artwork. Because of the different physical and chemical compositions of the various media, great care must be taken so that the final work is structurally stable. Although modern art no longer places great emphasis on permanence, no one wants to spend time on a work of art, only to have it disintegrate the next day

One has to be careful when introducing mixed media into a painting. First of all, the introduction and choice of media depends on the original painting medium in which you are working. If your choice of paint is acrylic, then you will have fewer problems than, for example, working in oil paints. This article will concentrate on mixed media and acrylic paints.

Mixed media in acrylics:

Acrylic is a synthetic paint that dries rapidly to form a resilient plastic layer. Acrylic is also an extremely good adhesive. These two aspects, the quick drying time and its natural adhesion, make it a prime candidate for mixed media. Think of acrylics as a layer of colored plastic, each adhering tenaciously to the layer below. If you place a piece of paper into wet acrylic, this paper will quickly become embedded into the layer of paint. These paints are also transparent and can be used as glazes or semi-transparent layers over embedded material like cloth and paper.

Acrylics can be easily mixed with watercolors, as both are water-based paints. Acrylics can also use all watercolor techniques. On the other hand, they also have the ability to be used thickly or impasto, like oil paints. Acrylics cannot be mixed with oil paints. Oil and water will not mix. However, one of the central ways in which oil and acrylics are used together is by applying oil paints over a dry acrylic painting. As long as the acrylic is completely dry there will be no negative reaction with the layer of oil paint.

The surface or ground:

The surface that you will construct or create for your mixed media painting can vary from flimsy paper to hardboard, wood and steel. This all depends on which media you decide to “ mix”. The media you use can vary form other types of paint and drawing material, to light or heavy papers and even to heavy sculptural pieces that are included in the artwork. The rule is simply that the heavier the envisaged painting, the heavier and sturdier your support should be.

What materials or media can one mix with acrylic paints?

The central idea behind mixed media is not only to combine different types of painting elements, but also to introduce as wide a range of other media as possible so as to extend the imaginative range of the work of art.
Pastels and charcoal are the most popular media to include with acrylic paints. For example, you can begin a painting with pastel or charcoal and develop the painting further with acrylic paints. In fact, with this combination one can add both the pastel and acrylic at different times or simultaneously. Here is an example that you might like to try.

Begin painting by drawing on paper in charcoal. Take a simple object for your model e.g. a flower or a leaf. Once you have sketched this, begin with washes of acrylic over the drawing. Make sure that your acrylic washes are very diluted so that the drawing shows through the paint. Start developing your painting in acrylic. Once the rough painting of the flower or leaf has been established, take out your charcoal pencil or stick and work into the wet paint. This creates another effect and you can emphasize lines and edges at this stage. Continue to develop the painting in this way until you have become used to the combinations and effects of the combined media.

Adding different media:

One of the most often seen combinations in mixed media is paint and paper combined. Exotic papers and various textures are often combined with acrylic paints for purposes of texture and form. Because of the acrylic adhesiveness, even hard cardboard or heavier objects can be included in a painting. Continuing with the flower or leaf painting suggested above, cut out some paper shapes to represent the flower or leaf.

Create a wash and cover your painting again with a semi-transparent layer of acrylic paint. While the paint is still wet, place the paper cutouts into the layer of paint. Once the paint dries these images will be firmly embedded as part of the painting. You can now work on these images using your charcoal or pastel sticks. Once again you can wash over the painting with light acrylic. What is taking place is a combination of different media– acrylic, charcoal, pastel, and paper– to make a single unified work of art.

Another interesting variation is to place sketches and drawings into a painting that have been created. I have often found that part of a sketch that I have drawn, seems appropriate to a painting in progress. I have then cut out this area and pasted it into a painting using acrylic paint and acrylic medium. Once these elements are fully integrated into the painting through the use of acrylic washes, they become a part of the whole.

An interesting aspect of acrylic painting that can be explored is its ability to make transferences from other images. As acrylic is a form of plastic and because it ahs adhesive powers, it can be used to transfer a colored image form a magazine or any other printed material. This method works in the following way. Take any magazine and select an image you would like to include in your painting.

Take some acrylic medium and paint lightly over this image. You must use acrylic medium or gel for this procedure, and not ordinary acrylic paint. Acrylic medium is transparent and this quality is essential for the present procedure. Once the first layer of the acrylic medium has dried, you can apply another layer. Build up at least five to eight layers in this way. Once the acrylic is completely dry, take the image and place it in a tub of lukewarm water. After an hour or so the paper will become soft and can be removed with a slight rubbing action with the finger.

The acrylic has hardened into a layer of clear plastic, but it has also “sucked” out the color form the paper image so that you now have a plastic replica of the original image. This image is on pure acrylic and can be added with ease to your acrylic painting. This image will now integrate with the whole painting and can be worked over with more acrylic paint.


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