Cook Up a New Recipe for Mixed-Media Art

Up until recently, my husband and I have had completely different approaches to cooking. I find a recipe I like and follow it. He looks up a bunch of recipes for a particular dish or main ingredient and puts his own spin on it.

My mixed-media painting.

For years, I admired his way of cooking. And I always claimed I could never cook that way. Too much uncertainty. Too little confidence. What if I wasted the ingredients? What if the dish wasn't edible? Then my way would be wrong. If I followed a recipe and it didn't come out, well then, it must have been a bad recipe. Nope, improvisational cooking just wasn't for me.

But recently something changed. Maybe it's because a friend who stays with us occasionally has become a vegan, and I've had to adapt some dishes to her diet. Or maybe my focus on using the ingredients we have on hand rather than making a trip to the grocery store has affected my culinary creativity.

In any case, I have begun improvising. I've begun to ask, "What if?" "What if I used spinach instead of kale?" "What if I put in cumin instead of coriander?" "What if I left out the chicken breasts?"

And you know what? Not only has my cooking become a lot more interesting, but I am having way more fun. (And, so far, no one has refused to eat what I've made.)

You see how this applies to art, right? Say you want to make a mixed-media collage. You could look for a collage project in a book, in Cloth Paper Scissors magazine, or here on the community and follow the directions. And that would be a good way to learn a technique.

But after a while, following someone else's directions might get kind of frustrating. Or you might compare your end product with the original artist's and find yours wanting . . . or too similar! On the other hand, following a "recipe" is a safe.

Or, maybe you've been using the same techniques over and over again. You're really good at them, but possibly bored. Yet trying a new technique is risky: what if you waste supplies? What if it doesn't work? Maybe you can't do anything else. Maybe you should stick with what you know.

If you're in an art rut or think you can only create "by the book," then maybe it's time to think of yourself and your art in a new way.

If you want to learn about mixed-media collage, look at several projects and techniques. What do you like, what part could you do without?

Ask yourself, "What if I used a different color palette?" or "What if I substituted fabric for paper?" "What if I took the supplies list and made something completely different?"

I'm willing to bet that your art may get a whole lot more interesting. I'm absolutely certain you will have more fun.

Need resources and encouragement? In my book Mixed-Media Self-Portraits, there are many different exercises and techniques to help you stretch your skills and find yourself as an artist.

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P.S. Do you stick to the recipe book or just plunge into the pantry and see what you can make? Tell me about it below..

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