“Meet the Maker” – My Mixed Media Artistic Journey

“Meet the Maker” is a theme which is common around the Internet; it is a chance for artists, crafters and artisans to tell their story and the inspiration for their handcrafted work. So I am sharing the tale of my creative journey and describing in more detail the world of mixed media. Here goes!

Early Days

To start, I have always been creative and found enjoyment in a variety of creative pursuits from drawing and painting to crafting and photography. A talented writer from an early age, I was involved in school newspapers in elementary, high school and college. Being very practical about the need to pursue a degree which would enable me to earn a living (and to be honest, discouraged by family from artistic careers), I studied communications and graphic design. In the decades since, I worked in all types of communications jobs – reporter, editor, PR person, web designer/producer, marketing and social media. There is some creativity in those occupations for sure, but ultimately, they are “work for hire.” The point is meeting the clients needs and collecting the paycheck (to put it honestly.)

Exploring Mixed Media

About a dozen or so years ago, I decided to return to my more artistic roots, and began taking classes (online and in-person) and making Altered Books. If you are not familiar with the idea, they are described in Wikipedia below:

“An altered book is a form of mixed media artwork that changes a book from its original form into a different form, altering its appearance and/or meaning. An altered book artist takes a book (old, new, recycled or multiple) and modifies it in any of various ways, such as cutting, tearing or folding, or embedding objects.”

Being a “words” person, I love books and truly dove into the freedom of doing what I wanted, exploring paints, glues and adding various ephemera. The other aspect of creativity using “in real life” supplies and getting gluey and messy is that one is released from staring at a screen and clenching a computer mouse for hours. By the way, “altered” can apply to more than books – everything from lunch boxes to jewelry can be changed and embellished.

And so, this art form launched my creative journey.

Tree Collage by CMIller

Mixed media is defined by the use of multiple mediums – paint, ink, pens, collage and multiple, often layered textured techniques – such as stamping, stenciling, using spray paints. Works can include a curated assortment of materials, drawing from an eclectic array of sources. Among the materials are papers and ephemera, fibers, fabric remnants, aged book pages, metal bits and even delicately preserved botanicals such as flowers or leaves. Some use materials from thrift shops, garage sales, or the recycling bin. Anything goes really! All the elements contribute their distinct attributes to the final composition.

Beginnings – Early in the 20th century, the first application of mixed media techniques was done by abstract artists Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque when they pasted paper including newspaper pages into their works on canvas. Since those early times, many artists have taken off with the idea of breaking out of the two-dimensional representative canvas and used many inventive techniques and produced wonderful outcomes.

What do I love about mixed media? More than just the paints, papers or methods the artist uses, mixed media is a genre that is free from a restrictive “rules” mentality.  I really resonate with creating in response to one’s current feelings and not following a specific “school” or way of doing things.

Mixed media art celebrates artistic freedom and experimentation, offering limitless space for creativity. Its fusion of diverse materials and techniques captivates artists and art enthusiasts alike, reminding us that art knows no limits and has infinite possibilities for creative expression.

Diving into Mixed Media

Inspired by my initial experiences, I began researching all forms of mixed media and taking classes and attending Mixed Media conferences. These are large groups of artists (or wannabe artists) who come together for a few days or a weekend to take classes from experienced instructors, swap/buy materials and tools, and encourage one another in this quirky corner of creativity.

Cheery Chicken! by CMiller

These explorations, local classes and my personal research led to working with many types of media – printmaking (collagraph, block printing, gel press); fabric and textiles (dolls, wire and fiber sculpture, Shibori dyeing, meditative stitching), and finally collage and painting and handmade artists’ books.

Working in, exploring, experimenting with various types of media is one of the many steps on my artistic journey and the process of learning and exploration is very valuable.

The mindset for mixed media is different from some other art pursuits. One of the key tenants of this type of art is “create without thinking” which means that one doesn’t plan a specific outcome but rather responds to each layer, each color or line, and adds to it or takes it away as the piece develops.

There are many more “guidelines” for mixed media, and I will do a future post on those.

Finding Studio Space

In 2021, as we were getting Covid shots, two things happened – I outgrew my home studio AND I wanted to get out of my house. I rented a spacious studio in the cute river town of Lambertville and set up my first “out of home” studio for my art and social media work. I was still working part-time in social media; however, the need to spend more of my time immersed in art was apparent. Of course, I was still masking in common areas of the building, and avoiding people, as we had variant surges and the need to get more vaccines was apparent.

All was going well until September 2021, when the building that contains my studio was ruined by Hurricane Ida. (Not river flooding, but flash flooding caused by rain and two creeks subsequently overflowing.) I have blogged about the flood here. So, I was back in my home studio for a couple of months and after the landlord had renovated, I set up shop again in the beginning of ’22.

Looking Ahead

Since then, I have enjoyed inviting guests for open studios and been part of a few shows and community events. A place for all my supplies and artworks is so special! I am grateful to be back in my space!

This spring, I focused on mixed media works on canvas. I was especially inspired by florals and botanicals. I redesigned my website (this one!) and you can explore the types of work I am focusing on now.

Be well and be creative!

You might be interested in …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *