Mixed-Media Art Techniques: How to Turn Simple into Stunning

I'll never forget the first time I saw a piece of art by mixed-media artist Beryl Taylor back in 2004. It was a gilded and encrusted portrait of a griffin made primarily out of small pieces of fabric paper. I was in awe. How on earth did she do that?

mixed media art techniques by beryl taylor
Layered, detailed, mixed-media art by Beryl Taylor.

Honestly, the awe never went away. The painted silk, the beads, the delicate embroidery, the teeny-tiny paper cutouts–I'm still amazed at her work.

However, by her own admission, the techniques Beryl uses are not terribly difficult to master and her materials are not all precious. They just look that way. One time, when editing one of Beryl's articles, I called to ask her about a part of a design she had "forgotten" to explain: an intricate bas relief gold letter. How had she achieved this fussy detail? Modeling paste and foil, perhaps?

"Oh that? That was a piece of embossed wallpaper I painted with gold paint," she replied.

We both had a good laugh. But I also learned a lesson about how to use simple ingredients to achieve stunning results.

Here are some of Beryl's tips for turning ordinary supplies into extraordinary art.

Incorporate commercial fabrics. You can acquire small amounts of commercial fabrics for very little money (in fact, your friends who sew or craft will probably give you some). Back it with felt to give your mixed-media treatments support and integrate it into your artwork with embellishments or paint.

Find the beauty in everyday objects. With a little tweaking, even mundane items like metal washers can be elevated with the addition of stitching, beads, or paint.

Create a stash of embellishments. Set aside some time to make paper beads from old magazine pages, punch out shapes from leftover scrapbook papers, or cut shapes from fabric. Then you'll have plenty to choose from when you're creating.

Stamp and stencil. Stamping and stenciling are a quick, easy, and inexpensive way to add color and texture to fabric, paper, and canvas.

Enhance with hand stitching. Even a simple running stitch in a colorful thread will add texture and design elements to your work.

Whenever I think I don't have the exact materials I need to make the project I'm working on sing, I think about Beryl's mixed-media art and reach for some paint, a needle and thread, or a thimble full of beads. They can make all the difference between simple and stunning.

If I sound nostaglic, it's because I've been going down memory lane as I review the first eight years of Cloth Paper Scissors magazine, now available in Ultimate Collection on CD or digitally. All those techniques, artist profiles, and bits of inspiration in one place–without taking up shelf space!

P.S. Have you been with Cloth Paper Scissors from the beginning? Do you have a favorite artist or project? Please share below!

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