There’s this children’s book. It’s called The Dot. It’s all about how Vashti thinks she can’t draw. She’s encouraged by her art teacher to just start with a little mark. Vashti’s dot opens up a world of creativity for her. It’s just a kids book, but it speaks to me. It’s given me a bit of inspiration to go down this road experimenting in a new medium – mixed media.

When I’d decided to ‘get into’ photography, I’d already been shooting for almost 20 years. I’d naturally gotten to the ‘not terrible’ stage just from that repetitive practice. I have never been good at drawing; that was for my mum and brother. Whenever I wanted to ‘get into’ it, I was starting at zero.

I have this little rule. Some people don’t like it. If, after one try (maybe two), I’m not good at something, or can’t see the potential in something, I’m not going to continue with it. It seems a bit harsh, because you can’t be good at something right away. It’s not like I need to find a hobby – I have so many of them (and so little time… and money!) that I’m just not interested in pursuing something I need to put that much work into.

Mixed media has been different.

An Introduction to Mixed Media

I blame Twitch.

Last year I was watching a watercolour artist create an amazing portrait. I was intrigued. I’ve seen watercolour paintings of course, but until that stream I could never separate the great watercolour works I’d seen with those paint blocks we used in elementary school (which I realize now may have been tempera paint, but whatever). I started to think… maybe I would be interested in trying that. But I’d heard it wasn’t an easy medium to jump into, so… I didn’t.

A couple of months later, I came across a mixed media artist. I was sold. Again, it wasn’t the first time I had seen the style, but this time something clicked. The only thing I can think of is that interest in watercolour was still ruminating in the back of my mind.

Could I use these mediums in my photography?

Explorations in Mixed Media

I immediately had visions of mixed media artwork incorporating my photography; imagined watercoloured backgrounds and mats to accent framed photographs.

I decided to jump into this new medium, singing up for a year long, online mixed media course and buying entirely too many art supplies for someone just starting out with a hobby. (The problem with mixed media is that you need more than one medium!)

My experiments have had mixed results but, unlike all the other times I tried traditional art, I can see the potential in it and I’ve stuck with it for a few months so far.

Results

As I said, I’ve had mixed results, but I’m not deterred yet! I have pieces that I’m proud of, even if I don’t think they’re ‘good’. I’ve learned some things along the way.

The Wanderlust course is a weekly lesson/prompt that fits with that month’s theme. It’s definitely more of an art class using a mix of mediums, more than a class in the mixed media style. And although many of the lessons don’t really fit my end goal, I’m learning different techniques and getting ideas along the way. I’ve learned where I want to spend my time getting better.

Although I really want to be able to create pictures and use realism, I’m not good at it, and I would prefer to spend my time improving in the collage style so I can eventually try those photography experiments. When it comes to creating paintings of “things”, I need to stick to a more abstract or cartoony style. But I might play with florals a bit more…

I’ve learned what mediums I like (watercolours and soft pastels; acrylics have their uses) and don’t like (oil pastels). Coffee and fountain pen ink are fun to paint with, and I want to try painting with red wine soon! I’ve been having fun with these playing card ‘sketch cards’ and have large (kid-sized) puzzle pieces that I’ll start playing with, too.

But that main goal of incorporating mixed media into my photography? I’m not there yet. I think I need some more time playing around with the mediums and the class before I move on to those experiments. I hope to have a piece I’m pleased with by August. We’ll see.

Do you have any tips for someone who’s kind of bad at art but is getting into watercolour, pastels and mixed media anyway? :)

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