Many people mistake that art only serves aesthetic purposes. Especially with contemporary art, various art movements represent unapologetic sentiments to shed light on problematic social issues. Among the existing art forms, new artists often express their political and social gripes through mixed media art.
Through the years, artists used mixed media art to shock the public. For example, in the 1970s, humongous art installations with three-dimensional elements started the trend of using architectural structures to make visual art an experience rather than something only to be stared at. Although some consider mixed media art as glorified arts and crafts projects, the fact remains that it contributed an added dimension to what art truly means.
What is mixed media art?
Mixed media is a variant of visual art that utilizes an assortment of mediums or materials to create a unified output. Compared to other art forms, it is typical for mixed media art to exist outside of paper, cloth, or wood. Many contemporaneous ones are visible in more functional areas, like architecture.
The birth of mixed media as an art form started in 1912, pioneered by the likes of Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque. Since then, it has reinvented media art and reminded creators that art could spring from even the most unexpected combinations. Because of the uniqueness and creativity that mixed media offers, it remains to be a relevant visual art form today.
Mixed media art vs. multimedia art
It is not uncommon, even among artists, to mistake mixed media art for multimedia art or vice versa. While their names sound similar, these art forms represent two different media.
Learn what sets mixed media art and multimedia art from each other. See the details below for a quick comparison:
To create a mixed media art piece, artists have to use different materials on top of each other and combine several techniques to complete unified visual arts. In comparison, multimedia art is more intricate because it involves the usage of other media and production processes. A completed multimedia art combines multi-sensory elements like sounds, lights, and movements to establish an art piece.
Strictly speaking, mixed media art is limited only to visual arts and, often, immobile. However, multimedia art can be more interactive as spectators can feel the effects of its components through multiple body senses.
A head-turning example of mixed media art is the journals David Fullarton prepared. Fullarton combines texts with imagery by pasting scraps into journal pages to narrate a particular story. His works show how chaotic but purposeful mixed media art can be.
For multimedia art, it is relevant to look into online media. Artworks like brand logos, infographics, website design, music videos, and animated films can easily fall into this category.
5 types of mixed media art
Putting varied materials into one artwork is the defining concept of mixed media art. While the general creative process is similar, the results can differ and perpetuate unique messages.
Over the years, mixed media art deviated into several forms that people love and celebrate. Here are five of the most recognizable types of mixed media art:
1. Mixed media altered books
There was a time when parchment was a scarce commodity, so monks repurposed book pages by cleaning old writings and scribing new passages after. Later known as a palimpsest, this repeated use of parchment led to the preservation of older manuscripts because the previous markings were still visible behind the new prints. This practice then inspired artists to treat old books as a canvas and convey a new message by attaching materials to form a new page.
2. Mixed media collage
One of the most recognizable examples of mixed media art is a collage. An art collage is an assortment of materials, like magazine scraps, photographs, and fabrics, attached to a blank canvas to create a new image. In collaging, you strictly use paper-based products such as photographs, construction papers, and newspaper clippings. Because of its simplicity, it is one of the easiest and most replicable forms of mixed media art.
3. Mixed media assemblage
Some artists are fond of collecting bits and bobs and later using them to create unique and whimsical art pieces. Assemblage is an art style whereby one assembles a dimensional and textured image by stacking and attaching random items altogether. Assemblages and collages may resemble each other to some extent, but although assemblages often use mediums not directly related to each other, the finished artwork remains cohesive.
4. Mixed media installation art
Installation art is a visual art where artists utilize space as a potential canvas and build three-dimensional structures. The artists aim to transform the area and create an environment by installing varied materials, often in ways they are not meant to be used. Since the installations fill an entire room or gallery, spectators become drawn to fully engage with parts of the artwork as they explore every segment.
5. Mixed media sculpture
Mixed media sculptures are no different from other sculptures since they remain as art pieces that physically manifests height, weight, and width. What separates mixed media sculptures from others is their use of different materials, especially mediums not considered typical sculpture bases like stone, clay, and wood. Incorporating varied components into one sculpture helps the final product look more detailed and life-like.
6. Mixed media wet and dry media
Wet and dry media are two different art forms; the former uses liquid materials like inks and acrylic paints, while the latter uses charcoal, pencil, and other tools not requiring solvents to activate. Mixing wet and dry media into one art form creates a dramatic effect that plays into the contrasts and hues. A classic example of mixing wet and dry media happens when artists layer pencil drawings on top of a dried-down watercolor painting.
Examples of mixed media artwork
If you are a mixed media artist, exploring the works of veteran artists will help you gain inspiration and get through a mental block. Viewing the visual elements and different materials used in past mixed media can trigger one’s motivation to create something as great.
Figuring out which art pieces to study? Start with the works of these geniuses:
1. “Bottle of Vieux Marc, Glass, Guitar, and Newspaper” by Pablo Picasso
The Spanish art wonder Pablo Ruiz Picasso is among the most revered mixed media artists. His collage entitled “Bottle of Vieux Marc, Glass, Guitar, and Newspaper” is a small papier collé made up of white, gray, and black colored papers. The juxtaposed positioning of the paper formations abstractly depicts figures of a guitar, glass, and bottle of wine.
2. “Tea Time in New Haven, Enugu” by Njideka Akunyili Crosby
Njideka Akunyili Crosby is a Nigerian visual artist known for multicultural works that mix American and African influences. One of Crosby’s most celebrated works, “Tea Time in New Haven, Enugu,” is a collage and a wet and dry art made of acrylic paint, color pencils, charcoal, and Xerox transfers. This art piece has strong women and ethnic empowerment messaging.
3. “The Fall of Icarus” by Henri Matisse
Henri Matisse is a visual artist hailing from France. During his final years, Matisse devoted his craft to collaging white paper and gouache. His work named “The Fall of Icarus” is a collage of gouache with cut and pasted figures that resemble a man and sparks of flames.
4. “Still Life #30” by Tom Wesselman
As a visual artist, Tom Wesselmann is considered an important driver of American pop culture during his generation. His work, “Still Life #30,” is a collage of printed advertisements, stamped metal, and other assortments of plastic products on an oil, enamel, and synthetic polymer paint background. The use of bold and bright colors makes the artwork even more eye-catching.
5. “Just what is it that makes today’s homes so different, so appealing?” by Richard Hamilton
Richard Hamilton is an English painter and collage artist. One of his most iconic works was “Just what is it that makes today’s homes so different, so appealing?” This collage features a midcentury living room resided by a male bodybuilder and a female starlet with cut-out images of consumer products scattered around.
What materials do you need to make mixed media art?
There is no definite rule when it comes to creating mixed media art. Regarding materials, artists are free to choose what to use so long as the output remains visual to be considered mixed media and art, not multimedia art.
It is a staple for some artists to use unconventional art mediums for their mixed media artworks. If you are starting a mixed media art project and still wondering what to choose, here are suggestions:
- small accessories like beads, sequins, and charms
- paint, whether acrylic, oil-based or watercolor
- washi tapes
- newspaper and magazine clippings
- random objects like foreign coins or beach pebbles
What skills do you need to be a mixed media artist?
Anyone can be a mixed media artist. However, one should be willing to create art pieces more than mastering some skills because everyone can practice styles and techniques. No one is not creative enough to be a mixed media artist.
There is no skill threshold for aspiring mixed media artists. Although that is the case, it would be helpful to possess some characteristics to make artists’ lives easier. Consider learning these skills while creating mixed media art:
- imagination skills
- composition skills
- aesthetic skills
- hand dexterity
- mastery of color theory
- editing skills
- depth perception
- knowledge about the materials
- analytic skills
- organizational skills
- time management
Expand your mixed media art knowledge
Mixed media art continues to grow as modern art innovates itself. Keep up with changes, trends, and new mixed media techniques by attending classes and training regarding said matters.