Is Mixed Media Crafts or Fine Art?

This article has been written by Vicki Ross

Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

The sky is the limit for scrapbooking and journaling. I’ve often said that if not for the scrapbooking industry, fine artists would be lacking some of the tools we have today. Manufacturers created design labs to meet the demand for more papers, embellishments, texturing tools, paints, stamps, inks, books, etc. These supplies gradually made their way from the internet to craft and hobby shops…in small enough amounts to not put a strain on anyone’s budget.

Where investing in fine art supplies can easily amount to hundreds of dollars, a small beginning of scrapbooking supplies can be much less. Of course, you can become obsessive/compulsive in collecting either one! For example, fine artists pastels—the kind Degas used—can run $15-18 each…and a color selection of 750+. Major investment. Sure, there are all kinds of variations, from student grade and mid-range artists grade, all prices, all qualities. This is an extreme example, just to make the point.

Whatever kind of creative outlet you choose today…if you trace their lineage back through history you’ll find it!

  • Markers with permanent ink—compare to ancient Sumi painting
  • GelliPlate—monoprinting without the press. Edgar Degas famously used monoprints as the base for his pastels
  • Collage—this term was coined by both Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso in the beginning of the 20th century. Just think what they might have accomplished with all the supplies currently available in today’s marketplace.
  • Encaustic—one of the newest darlings on the art scene, can be used with embellishments, collage, fiber, papers, and textured or glossy surfaces. Companies have developed single color bars and pans for ease of use. New? Nope…some of the earliest Greek art was encaustic and survives today. Now, we don’t have to work days to prepare our wax and colors! Have you noticed wax products in the Ranger line?

2nd century EgyptianEncaustic on wood

Portrait of a Boy, Roman period, 2nd centuryEgyptian,Encaustic on wood, Metropolitan Museum of Art

  • Acrylic Paint—developed in the 1930’s, and refined continuously, it is readily available in many qualities and for many uses beyond fine art and crafts.
  • Acrylic Mediums—Degas invented his own recipe for a fixative on pastels. It is today being marketed under the name SpectraFix and is a casein (milk) based formula.

Pastel on paper

Three Ballet Dancers, One with Dark Crimson Waist” 
Degas1899; Pastel on paper, Barnes Foundation

  • Oil—used to require careful mixing by chemists, and prepared by apprentices in the studios. Each day the paint had to be prepared and used the same day. Early tubes involved syringes and pig bladders, then it became feasible to paint out of doors in oil.
  • Tools—while it is nice (good organization required) to have bright, shiny tools of any mark-making kind, be creative! You can make embossed patterns with mixtures of cornstarch and ModPodge—Pattern Rollers with Toot-di-doos (toilet paper rolls) and acrylic mediums—sticks from the yard—sand from the beach—old paintings recycled for collage pieces—makeup brushes and sponges for blending—textured paper towel for subtle repeat pattern. Anything that will make a mark can be used!
  • Zentangles—check out M.C. Escher’s work. I tried the tangles recently because all the marketing made the technique appealing.

Think outside the box! Be proud if you are a ‘crafter’…we all are! Fine Artists, thank crafters, after all, their demand helped create and bring back old techniques. No matter how intricate or simple your work, show pride in it. Research it online and you will more than likely find an old master who made his primitive tools and materials to create whatever he could dream!

Exploration by Vicki Ross

Author bio:

Vicki Ross is focused on sharing her journey to art and how life events can shape us through creativity. Vicki has always been involved deeply in the creative arts, from professional soft crafts publications (knitting/crochet/needlework) to French Hand-sewing, stenciling to macramé, oil painting to encaustics. Whatever your leaning, she believes in the healing power of creating.

You can see more of Vicki’s work at VickiRossArt or via blog posts at Axully – Solid. Useful. Beautiful



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Crafting time and still no ideas?

Do you find that on occasions you have time for crafting and no ideas or inspiration? Here are a few ideas to get you going:

– Pull out that sketch book or art journal and revisit your previous sketches and ideas

– Pull out a coloured box of small pieces of paper and sort through them – bringing different colours together will grab our attention and spark our creativity

– Start on a small project – like greeting cards or ATCs

– Choose a drawer or box you haven’t looked in for a while and look through it; you may find something found or bought long ago that you had forgotten

– Pull out your UFO box (UnFinished Objects) and see what can be finished or transformed into something new.

We would love to hear how you spark your creativity ~ leave us a comment!

mixed media gothic arch art

Happy creating!

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Use your crafting time effectively – Pages ready to go

Trying to fit mixed media art into our everyday activities can be challenging – there will always be other things vying for our attention… but when we do finally get that scrap of time together – or even find ourselves with a few unexpected hours ahead of us – how do we use that time effectively? This series of articles will look at tips to help you hit the ground running when you have that crafting time.

Part 4 – Journal Page Ready to Go

Needing to start from scratch with a journalling page or altered book when you have time can also be daunting or frustrating. If you need a background and then need to wait for the paint to dry, time can quickly slipped by and inspiration with it. Having two (or more) altered books or journals on the go can help.

Mixed Media Art

By having two books, you can be working in one while the other is drying. Get into the habit of guessing a page at the end of your crafting session. Then the layout is ready to go when you are.

Mixed Media Art Journal

While the gesso is out, also add a layer to a few pieces of cereal box cardboard.

Mixed Media Art

Once the backgrounds are ready, you can jump head first into the fun part as soon as your crafting time starts. Now you can create  your layout with adding colour and papers and images and journalling.

Happy creating!



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Cherpful Mixed Media Birds

I had the delight of looking through Abigail Patner Glassenberg’s The Artful Bird last weekend. It is full of cute patterns and birds in all poses.

Mixed Media Art creations

The book includes 19 patterns to make a variety of birds, from graceful swans to cheeky penguins. The basic bird-making techniques are useful to help understand the proportions of a bird and the step by step pictures show how to make the wire framework, right through to the options for adding feathers and stuffing the little creatures successfully.

And although this book is primarily for sewers, there are a few patterns that can be adapted to mixed media creations. Certainly well worth a look!



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