Sunday, November 2, 2008

Painter or Mixed-Media Artist?

Loughcrew Hillside, Ireland
computer-altered photo

Inspired by an exhibit of computer-manipulated photos, I spent one weekend last month altering some of my travel photos (see above).

This weekend, however, I experimented with materials quite unfamiliar to me, just because it sounded like a challenge. Some were complete failures, some not-so-bad.

Which brings me to a question I often ask myself—am I a painter or a mixed media artist?

Whenever I venture in more “crafty” things, I feel like I’m floundering. I greatly admire those artists who work in mixed media. Not only do they have to know techniques with one material, but several. And have to know how to blend them together to make a satisfying whole. Not an easy accomplishment!

One of my favorite art magazines is actually a mixed-media craft magazine. Some suggestion in a book or article can spark an idea in a different direction. I get a lot of inspiration from crafts and most ideas in my notebook do not involve sketches for paintings.

But I wonder if mixed-media informs or dilutes my art? It can take a long time away from painting. I remember how long I struggled to create a workable design for an everlasting, hand-made calendar I envisioned. Countless sketches and notes and experiments and failures occurred until I wood-burned some cubes and wire-bound a set of my paintings to flip weekly.

Often, I am intrigued by and challenged to create in 3-D. Yet, for me, such art requires planning and sorting and preparing whereas painting is more spontaneous and joyful and experimental. Mixed media, or anything other than painting, often feels too detailed, too regimented, reminding me too much of my daytime job. Since I have to be so precise and logical at work, I embrace being wild and intuitive in my paintings. If a project gets too bogged down, I can loose interest quickly.

So, I’m back where I started. Still fascinated by switching media and still somewhat baffled and frustrated with it. How do you resolve being pulled away from your primary art form? How do you limit yourself-- or do you?


  1. I am tossed about by the variety of art forms like the sparkles of stars on an ocean.

    My husband advised I should "pick a lane and stay in it". But I just can't.

    I love mixed media, it means there are no rules.

    I do worry that others will not think of me as an artist. I worry about that alot.

    But I guess if it means I have to keep the day job as HR Manager in order to let my heart sing, then I suppose "so be it".

    I really would like to make more of my living from art, so I continue to torment myself with the questions....

    Am I an artist?
    Is Mixed Media considered art?

    I'd love to learn more about what you think and what your experience with this topic has led you to believe.

  2. Welcome, Paulanm!

    I definitely think mixed media is art! But I don't classify myself as true mixed media artist but rather a painter who likes to dabble in different media. Mixed media often requires a Jacqueline-Of-All-Trades and I lack a lot of skill and knowledge and experience and, frankly, patience to do a lot of experimenting outside of painting! I love receiving "Cloth Paper Scissors" in the mail, enjoy reading mixed-media books, get ideas for projects, but am often stuck since I lack a working knowledge of, say, sewing and don't want to invest in buying a machine or learning to sew. I sense that being a mixed-media artist can easily eat up a lot of money and space. There are almost too many choices and that confounds me.

    This topic isn't exhausted by any means--the struggle and search goes on.

    Let us continue the discussion!