A mixed media painting is one which combines different painting and drawing materials and methods, rather than only one medium. Any materials can be used, including collage items such as pages from magazines, newspaper, photographs, fabric, soil, or packaging. Or a mixed media piece can be as ‘simple’ as using two mediums, such as acrylic paints with pastel on top.
Mixed media isn’t a 20th-century phenomenon, although in previous centuries artists were less experimental in what they used.
For example, gold leaf was often added to church paintings; Leonardo da Vinci mixed pastels with other drawing media; William Blake used watercolor washes to his prints; Edgar Degas combined pastels with charcoal and printing inks.
There is an important distinction between “mixed-media” artworks and “multimedia art”. Mixed media tends to refer to a work of visual art that combines various traditionally distinct visual art media. For example, a work on canvas that combines paint, ink, and collage could properly be called a “mixed media” work, but not a work of “multimedia art.” The term multimedia art implies a broader scope than mixed media, combining visual art with non-visual elements (such as recorded sound, for example) or with elements of the other arts (such as literature, drama, dance, motion graphics, music, or interactivity).
When creating a painted or photographed work using mixed media it is important to choose the layers carefully and allow enough drying time between the layers to ensure the final work will have structural integrity. If many different media are used it is equally important to choose a sturdy foundation upon which the different layers are imposed.
Many effects can be achieved by using mixed media. Found objects can be used in conjunction with traditional artist media to attain a wide range of self-expression.
Some children’s picture books also utilize mixed media illustrations. For example, Nachts by Wolf Erlbruch.