freebie art

Freebie: 7 Secrets to Creating Mixed Media Art to Save You Time and Frustration (and Help You Create)!

Artist Jaime Leigh
Artist Jaime Leigh

Hi! My name is Jaime and I’ve been a Mixed Media Artist for 10 years.

I created this art freebie because when I first started doing mixed media art, I had lots of questions, but no answers!

It took me years of trial and error and hunting down info before I felt like I knew what I was doing.

I want to save you the time, hassle, stress, frustration and anxiety that comes with wanting to be creative but not knowing how to go about it.

If you’ve ever wanted to be creative and make art – even if you’ve never done mixed media art before- (or the last time you remember creating art with abandon was when you drew and colored as a kid), I promise you will have fun and finish what you start with my freebie: 7 Secrets to Creating Mixed Media Art to Save You Time and Frustration and Help You Create!.

These are the things I only wished I knew when I was starting out as a mixed media artist!

Before we get started, you may be wondering, “What exactly IS mixed media art?”

Glad you asked! According to Tate.org.uk, “Mixed Media is a term used to describe artworks composed from a combination of different media or materials.” Taken further, the definition of mixed media covers many arts and crafts, including collage, assemblage (both 2D and 3D), altered objects, including books and boxes, handmade greeting cards, artist trading cards (ATCs) and tags, art journaling and book making,” according to mixedmediaart.net. “The “mixed media” used includes paints, papers and board of all descriptions, glues, buttons, fabrics, found objects, photos, metal bits, fibres, things from nature, inks, pencils, crayons, markers, pastels and polymer clays.”

Making mixed media art means combining any of the above materials together onto a surface, whether it be paper, canvas, wood, fabric, or something else. If you’re creative and love art – and want to create in a way that is fun and stress-free – you’re gonna love mixed media art.

So there you have it! I hope you’re ready! I’m stoked to share the top 7 secrets I discovered on my OWN path to achieving my dream of being an artist. Okay, on to the freebie!

Let’s start with Freebie Secret #1!

Freebie Secret #1: Mixed Media Art Can be Done WITHOUT Years of Art School or Boatloads of Expensive Supplies!

close up of hand over white background
Photo by Lum3n on Pexels.com

Y’all, when I first started doing mixed media art, I was a single mom with a full time job and an extremely tight budget. Like, I had to decide if I was gonna buy art supplies or groceries kind of tight. (I chose groceries, of course). That meant I had to be very creative with my supplies because I could not afford to run right out and buy all the cool art stuff I really wanted!

Also, I could never afford to “go to art school” or take local art classes either. If you can afford to do that and you want to, great! You will learn a ton and steadily improve as an artist. But if you don’t have the time or money, that’s okay! You do not need to worry about art school, fancy supplies, or the art scene to get started with mixed media art.

All you need is the want to create and someone to help you figure it all out. (That’s me. I’m someone! :-))

Try This: Think about supplies you have in and around your home. Start gathering a little collection and keep it in one place. A shoebox, organizer tray, plastic tote: whatever you have that will hold your stash! What items can you find? Think about fun items in nature (leaves, seashells, pretty stones, dried flowers, tree bark, butterfly wings) or odds and ends inside your house (different papers, old book pages, magazine cutouts, metal objects, buttons, ribbon, fabric – the list is kinda endless once you get going!)

Freebie Secret #2: You Do NOT Need to be Amazing at Drawing!

close up of hand holding pencil over white background
Photo by Lum3n on Pexels.com

For many years, I was ashamed of my ability (or non-ability) to draw. I thought to be a real artist, you had to know how to draw hyper-realistically.

In mixed media art (and many other kinds of art), this simply isn’t true!

Sure, you want to practice drawing and learn tips, tricks, and techniques as you go. BUT! You do not need to draw perfect to get started!

** whispers ** In fact, you don’t need to know how to draw at all at the beginning!

That’s right, you heard me! There are so many ways you can create using mixed media art without drawing a single thing!

For example:

  • Use photographs or copies of photographs & glue them down. (Want to know what glue to use? Click here!)
  • Maps, book pages, or even old letters and writing. (Or your own writing, of course).
  • Use fabrics or patterns.
  • Print fonts off your computer and trace or copy and glue them.
  • Collage together cutouts from magazines.
  • Use a lightbox (I have YouTube videos showing how to do this Using My Lightbox Video and Using My Lightbox Video Part 1).
  • To take the pressure away from drawing perfectly, draw your own little patterns to use as a focal point or draw a drawing with your non-dominant hand.
  • Make your art abstract.
  • Try intuitive art. This is a process that lets you create images in your art using layers of paint, other media and what feels right for you. 

See how many things you can do without frustrating yourself by trying to make a perfect drawing and either spending forever on it or abandoning the project completely?

Artist’s tip: You may want to learn to draw really well. That’s awesome! It will take time and practice but you can definitely get there. Whether you use online information and videos or enroll in a drawing class, learning the basics of drawing will never hurt and can only make you a better artist!

But if you’ve been frustrated by drawing in the past and feel anxious about being able to do it perfectly, just know that mixed media art is a perfect style of art for you! Just start where you’re at and use the techniques and tips that feel most comfortable to you. This is supposed to be fun, not painful!

Note: I know you won’t, but please don’t copy other artist’s drawings without their permission to sell or display. You are more than welcome to look at other artists’ work and attempt to emulate their style or way of working for your own personal learning -and in fact, this is a really good way to learn! – as long as you are not passing that off as your own without credit.

Try This: Go through the bullet point list above and pick some things that feel good to you to use in your artwork, or add some ideas of your own. This way, when you start a new piece of art, you’ll already have some ideas for how to add images or interesting items before you start!

Freebie Secret #3: You Can Use Almost Any Art Supplies – As Long as You Know These 2 Important Things!

paints and brushes flat lay

You and I both know there are a gazillion art supplies out there today. You may have used some, you may have used many.

You may even be intimidated by certain art supplies, like I was! For years, I refused to use oil paints because I was scared of them. Now they’re my favorite art supply.

The truth is, when you do mixed media art, you can use almost any supply, even things that are not usually considered art supplies! It’s all good as long as you know these 2 important things:

  • What ORDER to use the supplies
  • How to APPLY the supplies

What Order to Use Supplies

Even though the sky’s the limit, there are still some “rules” about using different supplies together. Just like the old saying about oil and water not mixing, certain art materials don’t play nice if they are used in the incorrect order.

What do I mean? Well, if you try to apply acrylic paint over oil paint, you probably won’t be happy with the outcome. But applying oil over acrylic paint? That’s not a problem!

For another example, let’s say you wanted to make marks on your art with oil pastels. That’s a great thing to do – as long as you use the oil pastels on top of your other materials.

It’s all about what the materials you use are made of, and how they react to each other. You can experiment yourself with your own supplies (like I did when I learned the hard way that certain pens won’t draw on top of paint no matter how hard I pressed!) Or, you could turn to Google and just type in your two supplies and see what comes up. Chances are, there’s a bunch of information on the web about how to use or not use the two together!

Try This: Get a piece of thick drawing paper or a cheap canvas board. Take out some of your supplies and use the surface to do a few experiments. In one section, layer pencils over watercolor. In another, try painting on top of glue to make sure the paint sticks. Or use two different kinds of paint together to see what happens. Put a few dots of ink and spray with a water bottle. Whatever you’re wondering about, try it out for yourself! If you keep a journal or art journal, write down what you found out so you can refer to it later.

How to Apply the Supplies

Just like with applying the mixed media art supplies in the right order, what you use to apply your supplies is also important. There’s nothing worse than finishing a mixed media piece of artwork and having your supplies fall off it!

How do you make sure that doesn’t happen? Make sure you’re using the right materials to apply your art pieces to your surface. For example, I use the following to apply my mixed media:

  • Mod Podge for papers
  • Super Heavy Gel Medium to apply metal pieces, seashells, trinkets, beads, etc. (I also use Super Heavy Gel to stick glitter to).

Once your artwork is finished, you’ll want to seal it to make sure it is protected from the elements (dust, dirt, water, etc). This means using some type of varnish (liquid or spray). I like varnish over other clear mediums because it dries hard and smooth, not sticky or tacky.

Try This: Gather some different surfaces for another little art experiment. (Canvas, paper, a piece of wood, your art journal, etc.) If you have gel medium or glue, try sticking down different items. Does the glue hold? Does the paper wrinkle? Do you like using that product? Find what works for you and your style of art!

Freebie Secret #4: Mixed Media Art is All About LAYERS

abstract abstract painting acrylic acrylic paint

Shrek said it best to Donkey when he said he had layers just like onions. Well, mixed media art is like an onion, too. (Or parfait if you’re like Donkey :-))

Mixed media is all about layers. Layers of supplies, layers of materials. You can arrange and construct them in endless ways.

The best part is, you can decide what you want your art to look and feel like. Very textured layers of thick paint, objects and paper? Absolutely. Thin, glazed layers built up over and over again? That works, too.

Layers can be flat or sculpted or assembled. There really are no hard and fast rules here. That’s what’s so freeing and creative about mixed media art.

Just remember what I mentioned in Secret # 3: Pay attention to the supplies used and what order you layer your supplies and you should be good to go.

Try This: One of the fun things about mixed media art is that you can bring out the focus of your artwork using layers. Let’s say you start with paint, then add paper, ink and handwritten parts with crayon or pen. You can then go over certain parts of your art again to spotlight certain words or phrases and those become the focus of that painting.

Freebie Secret #5: You’ll Find Your Style As You Create Art

Photo by Ankhesenamun on Unsplash

Finding your style as an artist can be tricky.

When you’re first starting out, you’re just trying to learn and practice. It’s hard to know what your style is because you are influenced by many artists and styles.

I worried about finding my style for years. I honestly felt at one point that I would never have a style that felt like my own! Dramatic? Maybe. But it was really frustrating!

The truth is, you have to make art to figure out what you like or don’t like. What you want your art to say. The feelings you want to come out in your art. Or even if you just want your art to convey to other people: “this is fun!”

The more art you make, the better idea you will have about your own particular style. Don’t despair if it takes a long time and you have to try lots of different things before you discover your own style. That’s normal.

I know it’s like telling someone not to think about a pink elephant (you are right now, aren’t you?), but try your best not to get too caught up in finding your style if it stresses you out. Just try different techniques and materials and have fun learning and creating.

Try This: Find 5 modern artists (Instagram is great for this) and 5 artists from history whose art you really like. What is it about those 10 artists’ work that you like? Colors, feelings, the message, the materials they used . . . ? Try to find a couple things that draw you to others work and see if those same types of things show up in your work. It might just set you on the path to finding your own style!

Freebie Secret #6: You’re Not Required to Stick to Just One Thing

object collection

There are mixed media artists who work in journals. There are mixed media artists who work digitally. Some do sculpture or assemblage (basically 3D art). Others only do abstracts.

And then there are those who are jacks of all trades and do a little of everything.

To do mixed media art, you don’t have to stick to just one thing. If you are a person who likes variety or who easily gets bored doing the same tedious thing over and over, mixed media’s got you covered.

Want to work in your journal one day and make little clay figures to attach to a rustic piece of found wood the next? Go for it. Mixed media is about exploring as much as it is about creating, so don’t feel boxed in or like you have to pick just one thing to focus on.

Try This: I wrote a blog post a while back on several different types of Mixed Media Art. If you’d like to get an idea of which ones sound fun for you, check out Different Styles of Mixed Media Art.

Freebie Secret #7: Art Inspiration is Everywhere!

using art to cope woman painting

It’s really hard to have “blank page syndrome” with mixed media art because inspiration literally is everywhere.

Here are some places I’ve gotten ideas for my art:

  • Song lyrics
  • Movies
  • Books
  • Nature
  • Writing and art prompts
  • Photos
  • A certain color I liked
  • A found object
  • Pinterest
  • A word or phrase I thought was interesting

If you are having trouble coming up with artwork ideas, try the list above to start. You can also make art about a certain feeling you want to show, a theme or idea you want to focus on, or even a certain product that you’d like to use.

There is one catch to Freebie Secret #7, though. Once you start coming up with ideas, you might find it hard to stop! I sometimes have to write down painting ideas or make a little drawing of a new painting idea so I can come back to it later, because I have so many paintings already going.

Try This: Think about some things that inspire you if you’re stuck for “what to paint.” A favorite quote? Textures that you like? A memory or old photo? Make a list in your art journal or store it with your art supplies. Then, when you have time to create, the list is handy and you can choose something to get you started creating.

I hope you found this mixed media art secrets freebie useful! But wait! There’s more! (I know, don’t I sound like the Shamwow Infomercial guy?? Seriously, though, if you’re looking for more information and inspiration on mixed media art, head on over to my blog. I have posts about supplies & materials, art tutorials, and more!

Thanks for reading my freebie! If you have any feedback or specific questions you’d like me to answer, feel free to email me at jaime@jaimeleighwrites.com! I will reply personally and possibly create a blog post to answer the question.

Have fun creating!

Talk to me, Goose!