Mixing Up My Media

Anybody who’s read this blog for a while knows that I have very mixed feelings about mixed media. Although I love trying out all kinds of different art supplies, I’ve always been a bit skeptical about putting them together. And, of course, the term mixed media is often used in conjunction with “crafty” things — like art journals — and I’m certainly not the “crafty” sort.  So it is that when I hear the term, I tend to cringe a bit.

On one recent morning, however, I deliberately mixed up a variety of different media — just for the fun of it. I suppose I was in a silly mood. I’m not sure how else to account for my perverse determination that morning to use not one or two media, but about a half dozen, all of which were there at my easel or sitting very close by.

It started with another “floral” prompt — one more from the New Year’s challenge I recently came across. Previously I’d done the first prompt — those ranunculus flowers — but that was all I’d done. How about getting back to that and finishing the challenge?

Fine. The prompt for the second day was rose. I think it’s a sign of some growth as an artist that the idea of drawing a rose didn’t faze me. I’ve drawn roses before using lots of different methods. A rose can be drawn very simply.

Here is one “Easy Rose” tutorial.

Of course, roses can also be drawn in a very realistic way. Here’s a tutorial for that.

On this particular morning, I wasn’t interested in too much realism, nor did I feel the need to watch any “how-to” video, although maybe I should have! I was just wanting to play, wanting to have a little fun in the studio, and sure, I know enough about drawing now to quickly come up with something that resembles a rose.

I’ll concede that my “finished result” isn’t great, but it was certainly fun. It started out reasonably well. With graphite I made a very basic drawing of a rose. I didn’t take any photos as I played, so I can’t show you how this rose began. All I can do is show the finished drawing — after I’d colored it with two different sets of watercolor pencils, gansai, my new Neocolors, a few “mermaid markers“, Staedtler “fineliners“, and a bit of traditional watercolor. Talk about mixing up my media! I just kept at it, all the while knowing how ridiculous it was, but not caring.

Here’s my “very mixed media” drawing.

Reverting back to childhood, I’m going to say that this rose is “pretty in two ways”… pretty awful, and pretty apt to stay that way! Did you ever say that when you were growing up? My friends and I said it often.

Despite the overdone, overworked, and over-tweaked rose I ended up with, I definitely did have fun gleefully picking up one media after another and using it.  It was, needless to say, a chance to experiment, an opportunity to say… “Hmmmm, why don’t I try this?”  I was well aware that the more media I used, the worse the rose became, but I didn’t let that stop me.

After finishing the rose itself and adding a few “loose leaves”, I thought about adding a background with my Crayola watercolors. I began by spraying a bit of water around the rose, then, instead of trying to paint or wash in  a background, I just dropped in bits of color. It doesn’t show up very well in the scanned image I’m sharing here, but it actually does look impressive. It’s light, it’s loose, it’s a perfect example of the casualness I’m hoping to develop as part of my watercolor style.

So, indeed, I learned something in the process of creating this extremely mixed up rose. I will probably use this “spray water and drop watercolor” technique for backgrounds quite often. I learned, too, that it’s not good to mix up too many media — unless you just want to play around and have a fun time.

There is, by the way, a fun little art game to play with mixed-up media. It’s referred to as the “art supply” relay. You can follow along with Danny Gregory from Sketchbook Skool to see how it’s done.

I learned this little game last year during “Sketchbook Revival”. Instead of self-portraits (as done in the video above) we drew shoes. My drawing was a disaster, but here you can read about another participant’s experience: Shoe – Art Supply Relay and see her result.

In the video shown here, Gregory sets his timer for 2 minutes. In our “Sketchbook Revival” relay, I believe we changed media after 1 minute. Gregory suggests putting the different media into a “grab bag” and pulling things at random.

Even though my shoe was really awful, the idea of doing an “art relay” was fun. If you try it, be sure to leave a comment and let me know how your experience turned out.

For now, I’ve done enough “media mixing”. It’s time for me to get back to my easel, back to my oil paints, and back to landscape painting. All the while I’ll be celebrating the wonders of art materials. Isn’t it awesome that we have so many things to choose from!


  1. I usually don’t approve of drawing from photos — especially not from photos online — but painting fresh roses picked from my garden proved to be impossible. I made a light line drawing and began to paint it, but it was a summer day and the rose slowly opened. It no longer looked anything like my drawing! That was when I learned to take reference photos with a digital camera before dropping into that time-free zone of painting!

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    1. I learned to hold a piece of black construction paper behind a flower before photographing it as a reference. Drawing flowers “from life” is definitely a challenge. It’s amazing to watch flowers as they open and close. We had some beautiful morning glories at our previous home. It was incredible to see them blooming. We need to plant more!


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