Exploring Mixed-Mixed Media Portraits

In my book Mixed-Media Self-Portraits, one of the themes I tried to emphasize was that not only are there endless ways to create a self-portrait, there are endless ways to create your self-portrait. Especially when you have all the tools and supplies that mixed-media art has to offer.

mixed media self portrait linda wyatt
By fading the image and adding strips of fabric strategically, Linda gives this portrait a sense of innocence.
mixed media self portrait linda wyatt
The Harlequin colors and styling
on this portrait asks the view to
go behind the mask.

Artist Linda Edkins Wyatt contributed one of the best demonstrations of this theme in her piece Therapeutic Self-Portraits. Using Photoshop®, stitch, paint, and other materials, Linda manipulated a photo of herself into several different "personalities." Each treatment explored a different side of her and different combinations of mixed-media art techniques.

In the book, Linda offered the following tips for using digital images in mixed-media self-portraits.

Whether altering images digitally or by hand, always work on duplicate photos. That way, if you make a mistake, you still have the original. Some image-editing programs, such as the Photoshop family, have a History palette that lists every edit you make to a digital file. This allows you to retrace your steps so that you don't have to start over if you are unhappy with your results.

  • If you like the effect of a filter on the photo, save the resulting image with a new name that includes the filter so you can remember how you did it. You can also organize your favorite filters inside most image-editing programs.
  • It's a good idea to spray photos with fixative before applying paint. Inkjet printer inks tend to bleed when they are exposed to water or watercolor paints.
  • Paper can be sewn, but you should stabilize it before running it through the sewing machine. Back papers with strong fabric to strengthen them before any sewing is attempted. Use a longer stitch length than usual so the paper won't fall apart.
  • Images can also be printed on fabrics. You can buy print-ready fabrics at your local fabric or craft store; they feed through the printer just like paper. You can also print on fabrics of your choice if you stabilize the fabric first. You can iron freezer paper to the wrong side of the fabric to give it stability and peel it off when you are finished. Avoid using synthetic fabrics in your printer. Also, be sure to trim rough edges and loose threads that can get caught in the printer mechanisms.

Of course, experimenting with people and faces in mixed-media art isn't limited to self-portraits. In the downloadable eBooks Mixed-Media People I and II, you will find a wide array of techniques for making a portrait. The theme is the same: have fun, play, and explore all your options.

P.S. Do you create people in your mixed-media art? What are your favorite forms and mediums? Leave a comment below.

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