Creating Without Overthinking | Mixed-Media Art Techniques

A few months ago I had the honor to sit in as a student with Seth Apter during his new video workshops. I learned so much that week, and seeing him create mixed-media art step by step was one of my favorite parts. As you’ll see in his guest blog post today (below), Seth encourages us to work intuitively. If you’re not sure how to do this, never fear–keep reading for an exercise in which you use an ordinary deck of playing cards to awaken your inner artist.

In Seth’s video demonstration, you’ll also pick up some additional mixed-media techniques that you can apply to any of your projects. I can tell you first-hand how much I loosened up; when we first began, I laid out my cards in nice, neat rows and columns, but Seth encouraged me to “mess up” my cards by putting them in an untidy pile. That’s when we began to have fun, and now it’s your turn! ~Cherie

Mixed-media art ideas | Seth Apter,
PIN this exercise! Get playful with mixed media by learning the favorite techniques of Seth Apter in his new book and four new DVDs, a paper project eMagazine, two stencils, and a stamp set, all part of the Mixed Media Play bundle!


Creating Without Overthinking by Seth Apter

One of my favorite aspects of mixed media is the freedom that this approach to art offers. Anything goes and no supply or technique is off limits. (Like this? Click here to Tweet it!) This looseness allows me to create without thinking–a process that has made my art less constricted and more organic. And as an artist who tends toward the linear, this has transformed my work greatly.

Certain projects, such as bookbinding, require sustained concentration and a good deal of focus. Making a mixed media surface, on the other hand, often ends up better when the artist creates without conscious effort. I call this getting into the creative zone. You know, the one where time passes and you forget the rest of the world.

When we overthink as artists, we hand our inner critic a megaphone and end up with negative thoughts: “This isn’t coming out the way I want it to. I cannot paint as well as … (insert the name of every other artist ever seen online). If I go any further I will ruin it.” It’s hard to imagine feeling the creative burn with these types of thoughts running through our heads.

The solution is to create random with abandon. Focus less on how the artwork will come out and more on enjoying the process. Recognize that there’s no law that says any layer along the way needs to look good. Let each layer guide you to your next move, rather than having a preconceived notion as to how the final piece should look. In other words, let go and create without thinking.

Maybe you’ve heard these mantras before and are now thinking “easier said than done.” Everybody says to loosen up, but you may not know the concrete steps to take to do so. If this speaks to you, give the following a try. These steps are all about keeping your artist hand in your work while taking out your critical thoughts.

Tips for Working Intuitively: Card Play

1. Start small. You’ll worry less about wasting a large canvas. In fact, don’t even use a canvas, use a deck of cards. This is what I did in my new mixed-media art workshop DVD, Card Play (included in my Mixed Media Play collection). In it, I guide you on how to add layers at random.

2. Start with gesso. Brush it on fast but don’t worry if you miss some spots. It’ll be better in the end if you do.

Mixed-media art ideas | Seth Apter,

3. Continue with acrylic paint. Do without your palette and squeeze several colors directly on each of the cards. Use the same brush and don’t worry about making mud. You can always add more paint layers.

3a. Grab a snack, because you were having so much fun you probably forgot to eat.

4. When the cards are dry, put them in a messy pile. Let them overlap randomly. Do this without a thought of where they fall.

4a. Let the fun begin.

Mixed-media art ideas | Seth Apter,

5. Stamp randomly over the cards and don’t worry about where the stamping ends up. After the first round of stamping, move the pile around and repeat. Allow to dry.

6. Take the same approach with stencils. Allow to dry.

Mixed-media art ideas | Seth Apter,

7. Add splatter and paint drips to the pile. Allow to dry.

8. Repeat any of the steps in this recipe until you are happy with your backgrounds.

Creating this way tends to lead to complex, dimensional, and organic backgrounds. You’re likely to not even see the paint colors from your first layer. And you will have created an effect that you not only couldn’t repeat, but that you likely could never have developed without this random approach. ~Seth


Blog, Mixed-Media Painting Techniques, Mixed-Media Techniques

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