why mix media? why not stick to just one as in 'pure' watercolour?

detail of mixed media painting using watercolour, collage and oil pastel. Vivien Blackburn

During the talk I gave at the sketchclub on sketching and sketchbooks, we also talked about using mixed media. Some people beginning painting imagine that if they use for instance, watercolour, then they must use only watercolour - or at the most pen and wash. There is a perception that this is more 'pure'.

In actual fact using a mix of media can mean far more exciting paintings. There isn't any particular merit in keeping a painting purely to one medium - though there's also no rule against it :>D

I love the extra visual language possible by using another medium - the velvety texture of Unison pastels used with watercolour - the range of marks is so much more varied all those lovely things watercolour can do plus the direct bold marks of pastel :>)

mixed media - from Beacon Hill, plein air sketch in watercolour, charcoal pencil and pastel. Vivien Blackburn

This plein air sketch was done on a day of clouds and sunshine - a sudden flash of sun lit up that line of trees and a distant field and I was able to put the glowing colour in with pastels over the darker colour of the paint - a few minutes early they had been dark and gloomy.

detail from a large mixed media painting in oil paint on paper, charcoal and unison pastels. Vivien Blackburn

Not the first mixture you'd think of - but I really liked the way the pastels and charcoal related to the oil paint.

And of course there are the coloured pencil over charcoal experiments I did recently -

detail from recent paintings in the seascapes series with coloured pencil over charcoal

Below is an experiment with an underpainting of the beach at night done in a mix of ultramarine and raw umber acrylic paint with soft colour added with polychromos and Lyra coloured pencils, keeping the underlying blue/brown greys coming through.

detail above ................... and the finished painting below

below: Again sketching plein air on a drizzly, misty day - this one used watercolour, coloured pencil, ink, tippex, chinagraph pencil and oil pastel - and it's only about 6 inches square! I needed to work fast as I was with the family and this mix allowed me to get down what I wanted fast.

Charlestown, Cornwall, mixed media sketch - Vivien Blackburn

I've used coloured pencils along with watercolour for a very long time but only recently started experimenting with using it alongside so many other media - I've recently been discussing with Gayle http://pencilsbrushesdogsandcats.blogspot.com/ the way she uses glazes of acrylic over coloured pencils - something I mean to try out soon :>) - do look at the beautiful results she achieves with this technique.

Do you find that talking about your work to others or on your blog triggers new ideas for paintings? That crop at the start of this post has made me want to do a series of abstracts :>D


http://vivienblackburn.com/recent_work.html recent work

http://vivienblackburn.com/ my website

http://vivienb.blogspot.com/search/label/seascapes seascapes

http://vivienb.blogspot.com/search/label/mixed%20media mixed media

http://vivienb.blogspot.com/search/label/Leicestershire Local landscape

http://vivienb.blogspot.com/search/label/landscape landscape



Yellow said…
I was about to say that I don't do mixed media, but I do use indian ink with watercolour, or watercolour pencil. And I do work oil pastels over coloured inks. I keep meaning to stick with one subject and try it out in a series of mediums. The thing with mixed media, is that I don't know where to start. I'll look at a scene and think 'that'd look good painted in ink, or in soft pastels' but my head can't seem to mix the two. How do I start?
Robyn Sinclair said…
The story of your Beacon Hill sketch is a great example of mixed media use, Vivien. It was really your work that convinced me it was okay to add other elements to watercolour - I have no idea why I was so hung up about it.

I did wonder just how much kit you were carrying when you did that little Cornwall sketch.

Every one of these paintings excites my eye. Very lovely (as usual).
vivien said…
Hi Yellow - I decide what medium to use by deciding what kind of marks I need to suggest textures - so I may use oil pastel (white) to preserve the surf if I'm using watercolours and for bits of colour popping through other colours - then I can slosh the watercolour about with abandon and know that they'll be safe :)

Then I use pastels or cp's to intensify areas or develop subtle gradations in colour or tone - just playing and experimenting - it then becomes second nature when you are working :>) - so play!!! and have fun experimenting

Robyn I'm so glad you mix your media - I think people get hung up about it because there is usually some 'Sunday-painter-self-professed-expert' who loftily tells them they must use 'pure' watercolour or whatever and stifles the experimental ideas :>(

With the Cornish sketches I was painting from the garden of the house we were staying in - so not too far to carry anything :>D

Because I like to take lots of stuff I like it best if I can park nearby!
Making A Mark said…
It's such a good idea to promote the idea that mixed media is good. I really enjoy mixing pen and ink and coloured pencil - but I ought to try doing more watercolour and pastels too.
vivien said…
Yes I'd love to see you do some watercolour/pastel work Katherine as you've done some beautiful pastels in the past.
Vivien, your work is simply excellent--everything you do is of the highest quality. It's frustrating for me at this point, as I work on my water theme, because I won't let myself look at your blog very often. I don't want to see the kind of solutions YOU'VE come up with and have them influence me! Just know I'm a big, big fan ;D.
vivien said…
well that's just made my day :>D thank you!

I think your work is great and thoroughly enjoy following your blog so the feeling is mutual
Gesa said…
Great post, Vivien - I love the photos and close-ups. My use of watercolours is decidely poor and needs some practicising but I wholeheartedly agree on the uses of various media. I liked what you did with charcoal and coloured pencils. I think I'm still rather hesitant on charcoal but that coastline works really well.
I think changing the 'usual' order is really useful too, just as you describe with the oilies underneath watercolours.
vivien said…
Hi Gesa - the charcoal/cp is a great mix to experiment with and I think you'd love using it - you get the painterliness and speed of the charcoal 'grisaille' and then can use the cp's quite fast to add the subtle colours for a moody feel :>)

I really enjoy your blog and work though I don't always comment
Gesa said…
Thank you, Vivien! I had been busy with work recently, so looking around the blogs I like had been too infrequent...
I must admit I sold my CP set after I hadn't used it for a year... but maybe there's time for a new one.
I hope to be doing some more pastel work soon, and since discovering de Stael's black sky (last post of mine) I may be more experimental with using black (charcoal) for my own work.
Kodanshi said…
Mmmm… Loving the mixed media detail picture at the top. It looks like an extremely close–up and abstracted eye!
vivien said…
it does!

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