In this 3T Art Blog, we’re going to have a look at Mixed Media Art. It’s a category of art that has many facets. Endless mediums and objects can be used to create outstanding art pieces. We’ll have a look at Mixed Media’s beginnings, through the past century, to how we perceive it today. And, I’m going to introduce you to Mahtab Abdollahi, an artist who’s an expert when it comes to Mixed Media Art.
Brief History of Mixed Media Art
Mixed Media Art, and what we understand it to be, would not exist without the invention of Cubism. Did you know that artists Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque are responsible for co-inventing Cubism in 1908? Yes, it’s true. This venture created the concept of Modern Art and the Mixed Media Art forms we know today.
Cubism can be defined as ‘a revolutionary new approach to representing reality’. Different views of the same still life subjects are brought together creating an abstract painting that appears to be fragmented.
Pablo Picasso, “Girl with a Mandolin,” 1910
Georges Braque, “Violin and Candlestick”, 1910
By 1910, Cubism was well established. Though it was actually Braque who began the art of Collage Cubism, it was Picasso who created the first artwork that was considered to be true Mixed Media Art.
His 1912 Collage, ‘Still Life with Chair Caning’, includes materials such as paper, cloth and real wood caning, along with other found objects like a rope border around the wood panel the collage was created on.
Before we go any further, I should mention that Collage and Mixed Media themselves are not new inventions, but the way they’re used now, as art, is very different from the way they’ve been used over the centuries.
Collage techniques were first explored in China around 200 BCE, when paper was first invented, being part of the paper making process. By the 10th century, Japanese calligraphers were gluing fine sheets of paper together to use for their written text and poetry.
Medieval Europe saw Collage by the 13th century, and during the 15th and 16th centuries, Collage evolved into more of a Mixed Media. Artists applied gold leaf to panels in Gothic cathedrals and affixed gemstones and precious metals to decorate religious images and icons.
By the 18th century, the use of Collage and Mixed Media had turned more toward visual art. Artists like 77 year old Mary Delany, and those in her social circle, were using collage techniques such as decoupage. Botanicals were a popular subject and were created using tissue paper, coloured paper and hand colouration.
Artist: Mary Delany – Paper Mosaic
By the 1920’s, Dada artists had embraced what Picasso and Brague had started but with a few modifications. They experimented with Collage using a wide array of iconic images like reinterpreted portraits and fantasy figures to create works that collapsed the boundaries between the ‘high’ and ‘low’ culture that existed. Their work centered on political activism, irrationality and anti-bourgeois ideals.
Dadaists were also known to bring many more types of materials into their Collage work than the Cubists did. Items such as magazine clippings, 3D trinkets, and seemingly worthless objects like used tickets and candy wrappers became part of their artwork. This changed the perceptions of traditional art even more and they were credited with the invention of the Photomontage.
Photomontage by Grete Stern, 1950
Surrealist artists were also inspired and added their own twist to Mixed Media Art. They relied more on the subconscious to create Collages using photos, illustrations, paint and coloured papers. Their work was based on scenes from their own imaginations with many artworks looking like they’d come straight out of a dream.
Source: My Modern Met - Joseph Cornell, ‘Untitled’
(Celestial Fantasy with Tamara Toumanova)' (1940)
Today, we consider Collage a technique that fits into the Mixed Media Art category.
Mixed Media Art can be defined as ‘artwork created by an artist using more than one art medium or material’. This can include fabric, wood, papers, paints and found objects such as old keys, watch parts, bottle caps or anything else you find interesting.
Source: Art Creations by Vicky
The use of Mixed Media with Collage Cubism helped develop more open attitudes toward the art mediums that were used by artists. It wasn’t just watercolour and oil paint anymore. Essentially, art had become something that an artist could create using any combination of things.
One last note, don’t confuse Mixed Media Art with Multimedia Art. It’s an easy thing to do but there are differences between the two. Mixed Media art is considered specifically visual art. On the other hand, Multimedia Art is a combination of visual, auditory and kinesthetic forms of art such as sound, dance, music, literature, interactivity and drama.
Types of Mixed Media Art
As artists, we have a curiosity about us that leads to experimentation with different mediums. We’re always looking for interesting and innovative ways to present our message to the viewer through the masterpieces we create.
When it comes to Mixed Media Art, there are infinite ways to do just that, but there are a few common ways to create artwork using different methods and mediums that we should have a look at.
Wet and Dry:
This is possibly the most popular way for artists to create Mixed Media artwork. By combining a wet medium like paint to a dry medium like charcoal or pastels, two complete opposites, you can create some very interesting effects.
The surface you chose to work on will also add to the look of the final piece. For example, if you decide you use an illustration board with a smooth surface, you’ll end up with a piece that has little texture compared to that of a 300lb rough watercolour paper.
Source: Create Mixed Media - Cat, Inner Smile, 12x8” mixed media
(oil, charcoal and soft pastel on linen) Artist: Yael Maimon
Collage is something we’ve probably all done at one point in our lives, even if it was when we were in grade school. I remember art classes at school spent looking through magazines to find images I liked, then cutting them out and pasting them onto a paper surface.
The word collage comes from the French ‘coller’, which means to glue or to stick something together. It’s considered a 2D art form using magazine and newspaper clippings as well as things like handmade papers, photos, text, paint, ribbons and other found objects that are then glued to a surface made of paper or canvas.
The exciting thing about creating a Collage with different papers is that you don’t need to cut each piece out. Tearing paper is a unique and popular way of creating pieces for your Collage. You can also wrinkle paper or fold it in interesting way before applying it.
Source: Pinterest, by Karla Schuster
Collage is an expansive category and can itself be separated into groupings like wood, decoupage, photomontage, digital, 3D, mosaic and more recently eCollage which is created using computer tools.
Assemblage is similar to Collage but includes elements that are 3D and often tell a story. They can be created to hang on a wall or be free-standing. Found objects that are natural and man-made are typically used such as metal pieces, cardboard and wood boxes, plastic bottles, game pieces, jewellery, buttons and wire.
3D collage on canvas, by Stephanie Kilgast via Instagram @petitplat
When an artist creates a sculpture using more than one material it’s categorized as Mixed Media Art. These sculptures can be small or very large, such as installations. Many times an artist begins their sculpture with a base material like clay, wire, metal or wood, then begins to add found materials like glass, plastic, other metals and paint to give their sculpture the elements of colour, shape and texture. The artist may also use embroidering, carving or even crochet to flesh out their message.
Iberian Lynx. Lisboa +21 in Lisbon, Portugal, 2019
One last type of Mixed Media Art we’re going to look at are Altered Books. They’re exactly what the name implies; old books that are often no longer needed being turned into works of art or personal journals using Mixed Media techniques such as collage, painting and stamping. Their popularity has been increasing over the years as a valid art form and it’s even possible to take workshops based on this technique.
Source: Anna-Karin, Layers of Ink
Altering and reusing books is not a new concept. It’s been around for a long time. When parchment was scarce, monks would scrape off old writings and prepare the parchment so it could be written on again. This process is known as palimpsest, which refers to old writing being removed but with traces of the earlier writing still being visible. Images were treated differently, most times saved from the original manuscripts and reused with new text to go with them.
Palimpsest is an appropriate term to use for today’s Altered Books too. One of the things to keep in mind when altering a books it that you still want to see some of the old text or images in your new work of art. Saving important passages, words or images that have a specific meaning is something to consider.
Altered Books can actually be considered to be Multimedia Art pieces since they’re not only visual but kinesthetic as well. And, it just may be possible to add an auditory component to it. Wouldn’t that be fun!
3T Art Blog Guest Artist
Mahtab Abdollahi – Mixed Media Artist
I’d like to introduce you to an artist I’ve known for a few years. Her name is Mahtab Abdollahi.
No matter what medium Mahtab works in, her art is always vibrant, graceful and inspiring. Today, we’re going to have a look at her Mixed Media Art pieces. I’m sure you’ll see what I mean once you’ve met her and have had a look at some of her work.
Mahtab has always had an interest in art. When asked why she creates art, her answer came easily.
‘I love to paint. I love mixing colours. I feel there is something inside me. I have to study myself. I need to find out about it and get it out.’
Blue Dream, 10x10”, Mixed Media
Being a full-time artist is relatively new for Mahtab. She took the leap four years ago and hasn’t looked back. Before then, she worked as a graphic designer until her daughter was born in 2010, then she did freelance design work for private clients. She enjoyed her design work but was very happy to switch back to Fine Art.
Celebration, 30x30”, Mixed Media
Mahtab’s art education is well rounded. She has a Bachelor of Art in Fine Art, from the Alzahra University in Tehran/Iran (1988) and a Masters of Art in Illustration from the Art University in Tehran/Iran (2003). After arriving in Canada, Mahtab continued her art education with a Graphic Design Diploma from George Brown College in Toronto (2006 – 2009) and she also studied The Art of Type at OCAD University, Continuing Education, in Toronto (2011).
Her favourite mediums to create art with share a common thread.
‘I do mixed media, acrylic and watercolour. I love any medium with water!’
Alive, 12x12” Mixed Media
Most artists have a favourite colour palette they like to work with. Mahtab says she likes all colours but she guesses that blue and red are the colours that she likes to use the most often.
As for inspiration, Mahtab has a few things to draw from.
‘My inspiration is nature, love and other artists’ amazing artwork.’
Hope, 12x12” Mixed Media
Over the years, Mahtab’s work has been noticed. In 2018, she was awarded first place at Art Aurora in the Mixed Media category. She’s also received an Honourable Mention from the Newmarket Municipal Offices for Newmarket Heritage (2014) and she was on the Dean’s Honour List at George Brown College; Winter 2007, Winter 2008, as well as in Spring 2009. She’s also had her work published in George Brown College’s Annual Students book and in the Annual Painting collection in Iran. Early on, she was awarded two gold coins in a Youth Art Festival.
Mahtab is currently a member of the Newmarket Group of Artists and the Ontario Society of Artists. She teaches private art classes at the Newmarket Seniors’ Meeting Place located in Newmarket’s Old Town Hall.
Born Free, 8x8”, Mixed Media on board
When asked about her process, Mahtab was happy to share her steps in creating her Mixed Media art work titled ‘Gigi’.
‘First, I play randomly on my canvas. Add, subtract colours, and create textures. Sometimes, I glue on papers that have pattern or use tissue paper. Added material gives depth and layers to the painting. I use anything that can create textures and make the background exciting and ready for work. The possibilities are endless; the recycle bin is my treasure box!’
‘Then, I do the drawing. Based on the drawing, I cover some paints or add more. I will sketch some other simple shapes.’
‘All of the process is like a puzzle and I don’t know the result myself. The painting directs me to decide what the next step is.’
‘Sometimes, I achieve the result fast, sometimes it takes longer. Sometimes, I have to put it aside and then go back to it later.’
Gigi – finished piece
Before we wrap up our artist interview with Mahtab, I’d like to show you a few more of her wonderful Mixed Media Art pieces!
Cherries Celebration, 30x30”, Mixed Media
A Woman, 8x8”, Mixed Media
Poppy Field 5, 12x12”, Mixed Media
Fate, 10x10”, Mixed Media
Infinity, 30x30”, Mixed Media
You can see more of Mahtab’s work on her website at: www.mahtababdollahi.com
If you’re interested in purchasing a painting or have Mahtab create a commission piece for you, contact her directly at: firstname.lastname@example.org
And, you can find her on Instagram @Mahtab_Abdollahi
There are so many ways to create Mixed Media Art. I think the Altered Books are my favourite. How about you? Which type of Mixed Media appeals to you the most? And, can you imagine yourself creating an amazing Mixed Media piece or Collage using interesting things you have around the house? I bet you can! Let me know what you’re planning. Leave a comment or send me an email at EvaFolksArt@gmail.com. I’d be happy to share it on the 3T Art Blog Facebook page!
Until next time.
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