What shape is your mixed-media library in? Maybe you need a dose of instruction and inspiration, especially on days when the muse needs a little nudge. If that library needs some new acquisitions, we have just the resources for you. We’ve chosen two standout books in six categories of mixed-media art that you shouldn’t be without. Read on to see why we think these books are must-haves for your collection. – Barb and Jeannine
Hand lettering: Hand lettering is great as stand-alone art, but it can also be the icing on the cake on a painting, a collage, or a page in an art journal. I’d like to recommend a couple of books to add to your hand-lettering resources. In Artful Alphabets: 55 Inspiring Hand Lettering Techniques and Ideas by Joanne Sharpe, you’ll find everything you need to create all kinds of alphabets, including ways to develop a new one of your own.
Even if you don’t particularly like your hand lettering, Joanne shows that there are plenty of ways to dress up the most humble letter and turn it into something you can’t help but love. Create scenes within block letters; add stripes, dots, or flowers to letters; fill letters with color; and lots more. Joanne proves that no matter how simple a design or basic a drawing, both will add style and presence to your hand lettering.
Round out your lettering skills and your mixed-media library with Creative Lettering Workshop: Combining Art with Quotes in Mixed Media by Lesley Riley. After discussing a variety of ways to overcome the fear of using hand lettering in your art, and especially of adding it to a completed piece, Lesley provides lots of projects to get you started and build your confidence. Don’t miss the gallery of great art that’s sure to inspire you to give hand lettering your favorite quotes a try. – Barb
• Art journaling: Art journaling may be just one aspect of mixed media, but it encompasses an abundance of techniques, materials, and styles. These two book picks may be a little different from what you’re expecting, but hear me out. The first is Artist’s Journal Workshop by Cathy Johnson, which encourages artists to create journals as a regular part of daily life, recording places, people, and events, both large and small. Johnson offers so many ideas for incorporating text, creating cohesive page compositions, rendering nature, and staying motivated to create, that you’ll find yourself reaching for this book again and again for ideas.
My second recommendation is Shimmer and Shine Workshop by Christine Adolph. This book may not have art journaling in the title, but Adolph includes breathtaking ideas for adding a hint of shine that can be effortlessly incorporated into art journals. This book stands out in my mixed-media library because it includes techniques for adding sparkling foil accents with a glue stick, using surprising materials like bleach, getting the most out of metallic paints, and incorporating ephemera with a bit of sparkly bling. These techniques offer unique ways to make your pages stand out, and they easily mesh with any style. – Jeannine
• Collage: Let’s talk collage. Every piece of art tells a story. Some stories are easy to read, while others are hidden in the layers of the piece. Collage is a perfect example of this. In Storytelling with Collage, Techniques for Layering Texture & Color, Roxanne Evans Stout shows readers how to notice their surroundings and then use what they see and find—papers, flowers, sticks, a sunset, and more—to tell a story.
Roxanne offers inspiring vignettes and artwork to help jumpstart your imagination, presents tasks and challenges, and provides plenty of guidance and ideas for gathering materials and using them in creative ways. If you are great at collecting inspiring bits, but have trouble building a collage, add this book to your mixed-media library and start telling your stories.
Here’s a thought: Listen to your intuition when a bit of ephemera, a paper scrap, or that tiny shell catches your eye and let The Art of Expressive Collage: Techniques for Creating with Paper & Glue by Crystal Neubauer guide you in using these inspiring fragments. Crystal says, if something grabs your attention, grab it! It may just be the missing piece in a story. Learn to use photos in collage, create depth and texture, use faux writing, add dimensional elements, and much more. Let go of the rules, and unleash your creative self. The projects in this book will help you learn to trust your instincts and create the collages you’ve been dreaming of. – Barb
• Doodling: Doodling is a perfect fit for mixed-media, since drawing intricate, whimsical, and repetitive patterns can easily mix with art journaling, collage, painting, handmade books, jewelry, and much more. Two books in this category stand out for what they offer artists at all levels. Zentangle Untangled: Inspiration and Prompts for Meditative Drawing by Kass Hall is great for getting started in Zentangle, but also for taking your art further.
The book begins with step-by-step instructions for classic patterns, then shows how to add color in a variety of ways and with an array of mediums; how to create borders; create shapes and lettering, and much more. It’s an indispensible resource.
If you’re itching to forge your own doodling path, Creative Tangle: Creating Your Own Patterns for Zen-Inspired Art by Trish Reinhart is what you need. The book includes wonderful inspirational patterns, with an emphasis on developing your own designs. She shows how to do that with examples of a wall hanging, doily, plants, fabric, and more inspired patterns.
Then you’re off and running with projects that include doodling gift wrap, picture frame mats, stationery, lettering, and fabric. Creative Tangle shows that when it comes to artful doodling, there are no limits. – Jeannine
• Mixed-media painting: If you’ve been shying away from painting, this book is your all-access pass. No Excuses Watercolor: Painting Techniques for Sketching and Journaling by Gina Rossi Armfield will show you how to take control and get the results you want with watercolor. Learn the ins and outs of watercolor and how to create a palette.
Create a color chart and explore techniques such as glazing, wet-on-wet painting, and blending. Gina’s step-by-step process involves simple sketching (and getting comfortable with drawing), and then adding watercolor. This is not a traditional approach, but it is one that will make painting with watercolor a lot less intimidating and help build your confidence. If you’ve wanted to try painting with watercolor, add this book to your mixed-media library today.
Now that you’ve gotten that confidence boost, how about painting with acrylic paint? How to Paint Fast, Loose & Bold: Simple Techniques for Expressive Painting by Patti Mollica will help you get the results you want and enjoy the process.
Learn the essential building blocks for a successful painting—values, color, and brushwork—and enjoy a much freer painting experience. Five technique exercises help you hone your skills, and five painting demonstrations guide you through every aspect of painting a variety of scenes and still lifes. Add this book to your mixed-media library and find a whole new world with acrylic paint. – Barb
• Encaustic and cold wax: Encaustic art is a slippery slope of pure artistic fun. Once you see the potential for the tons of techniques, tools, and materials you can use, it’s tough to stop. Encaustic Revelation by Patricia Baldwin Seggebruch is aptly titled; working with encaustics is an eye-opener, and the book takes you through every phase of this captivating art form, starting with materials and set-up and segueing to tons of innovative techniques.
If you’ve tried encaustic, no doubt you’ll discover even more ideas from a variety of artists, like working with Procion dyes, printmaking, creating landscapes, and sculpting with fabric.
Encaustic wax isn’t the only way to get a textured, dreamy, layered look, and in Wabi-Sabi Painting with Cold Wax Serena Barton shows how to achieve a variety of styles using cold wax mediums. Lots of step-by-step techniques, plus galleries of gorgeous artwork by various artists, help you build your confidence and grow your mixed-media practice by leaps and bounds. – Jeannine