A mixed media painting is a work of art that incorporates more than one medium in the visual arts. A collage containing paint, seashells, and bird feathers is an example of mixed media. Mixing oil, watercolor, and acrylic paints in a single painting is a common technique used painters. Any combination can be used, with only the artists’ imagination and available materials limiting the possibilities.
The origins of mixed media painting can be traced back to the late Victorian era, known as “La Belle Epoque,” which spanned roughly 1870 to 1914. This literally translates to “the beautiful age” or “the gilded age” in French. Rapid advances in science and technology, as well as loosening social mores, encouraged artists of the time to venture into uncharted territory in terms of creative expression. As a result, the arts underwent significant changes. New, progressive styles like Impressionism and Art Nouveau began to make their way into the mainstream from the underground avant-garde.
The use of mixed media was a major emerging trend in early twentieth-century art. Cubist collage was first used painters like Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque around 1911, according to art historians like Clement Greenberg. “Still Life with Chair Caning,” Picasso’s first mixed media piece, was created in 1912. To simulate chair caning on the canvas, this daring work used oil, oilcloth, and paste paper. Artists were now depicting objects three-dimensionally from various angles and points of view, breaking away from centuries of painting tradition.
Combining paint with other paper media, such as pen-and-ink drawings, is another variation of modern mixed media painting. Today’s artists can also combine traditional printmaking techniques with digital photography or graphics thanks to technological advancements. Mixed media painting inspired multimedia art, which is a related form. Multimedia art differs from mixed media art in that it allows for the use of nonvisual elements. Combining recorded music, dance, and spoken word poetry into a single work is one example.
In most cases, mixed media is created in layers. Each layer is chosen with care, and enough time is allowed for each layer to dry properly. Bottle caps, matchbooks, and rocks are all examples of found objects that can be used for effect. Jewelry, mismatched buttons, pencils, cereal boxes, bolts, screws, and nails can all add visual interest and color. When used in a mixed media painting, these seemingly insignificant elements can take on new meaning. This technique gives the work even more texture and depth.