Mixed-Media Watercolor: Believe the Hype!

I’m not one for jumping on a trend just because it’s popular, but the mixed-media watercolor trend lives up to the hype. The effects are incredible. No matter where you are in your watercolor practice, from never-touched-it to do-it-every-day, there’s an artist I’d like you to meet: Danielle Donaldson. Let me tell you why you need her in your life.

When I first saw Danielle’s mixed-media watercolor art I could not stop looking at it. Every detail of her imaginative, whimsical work wowed me—it’s playful without being coy, romantic without being sappy, and has a unique style that instantly grabbed my attention. When I learned she had a book and videos coming out, I was thrilled that I could finally try her techniques. Her book CreativeGirl is packed with inventive techniques and fun projects, and each idea she offers will get your wheels spinning. The fantastic Creative Girl Workshop video series, which includes Watercolor Illustrations, Watercolor Story Blocks, and Watercolor Words, expand on the techniques in the book, and you get to see Danielle working in real time.

In CreativeGirl: Mixed Media Techniques for an Artful Life, discover standout mixed-media watercolor techniques that will enhance your artwork.

To be honest, I was just going to tell you about what’s featured in the book and videos, but I was so fired up after watching Watercolor Illustrations that I grabbed my supplies and got to work. This video shows you how to create an illustrated still life using pencil, watercolor, a paint pen, and ephemera. You don’t need any special drawing skills—you can work with basic shapes that are easy to render, like flowers, leaves, and pencils. I created a still life that featured some of my vintage art supplies.

Danielle suggests arranging them, taking a photo, and printing it, so you’ll have a ready reference. And don’t worry about rendering it perfectly—this is art, remember? Feel free to change colors and play with shapes. It took just a few tries to assemble an arrangement I liked for the photo. I purposely created some white spaces to fill in with ephemera later.

mixed-media watercolor
This still life photo of vintage art supplies served as the inspiration for my mixed-media watercolor piece.

The one thing you realize watching Danielle’s videos is that she has an incredible depth of knowledge, and she’s able to translate it so well, so the process isn’t overwhelming. Her techniques are doable, so your art practice is bound to improve. I created a sketch using her tips, one of which is to use a mechanical pencil to draw. The lead offers a consistent point, which makes for a neater sketch. That simple trick made such a difference.

When creating your sketch, feel free to change things around to suit your composition.

I put down the first layer of watercolor, incorporating Danielle’s techniques about how much water to use, how to hold the brush, and how to mix colors. Her advice clicked right away.

mixed-media watercolor
With the first layer of watercolor, I could see the elements of this mixed-media watercolor composition start to come to life.

Watching your art come together as you build your piece in layers is so satisfying, since it improves with each phase. I added details with pencil, darkening some areas to create depth and interest. What a great effect. To finish the piece I layered more watercolor, created shadows, and added some ephemera and vintage embellishments. Danielle’s tip for creating shadows is so simple, yet so effective, and it’s now my go-to technique.

mixed-media watercolor
In her video, Danielle shows you step-by-step how to build layers and add details with elements as ephemera and a paint pen.

There’s one other thing she does that I really appreciate—she shows you how to fix something you don’t like. The inside lid of my paint palette was a hot mess, and I hated it. But after a quick fix of adding patterned paper, I loved it. There are tons more tips I won’t spill because you have to see them for yourself—how to add doodles, the importance of white space, how to layer and remove color—and you will not be disappointed.

mixed-media watercolor
After adding shadows, ephemera, and 3-D elements (a button and ribbon), I love how the piece turned out.

In the video Watercolor Story Blocks you’ll learn how to use ephemera and fabric scraps to build a story block to tell your unique narrative, plus discover fun watercolor techniques. In this video, the joy is in the details—these features are what make the piece stand out, and Danielle shares so many ideas for adding personality and individuality to your work (like stitching paper). Even if you use these techniques to create a series of story blocks, each piece will be distinct, as you work intuitively in choosing and layering your components.

mixed-media watercolor
Random scraps of paper become a cohesive piece of mixed-media watercolor art by following the techniques in the Watercolor Story Blocks video.

Lettering is such a huge part of mixed-media art, and in Watercolor Words Danielle shows you how your watercolor brushes and paints can work together to create beautiful, flowing lettering—with no complicated calligraphy! Learn a few easy techniques that utilize your own handwriting, and you’ll feel so confident adding lettering to your art journal pages, cards, collages, and more.

mixed-media watercolor
Use your own expressive handwriting to create flowing watercolor lettering.

I’m so happy with my finished piece, and I can’t wait to start another project. If you love watercolor or have been itching to try it, you’ll find so much here that will elevate your work. And, you’ll have a lot of fun doing it. One more thing: If you love Danielle’s work as much as I do, pick up a ready-to-frame signed print–the same gorgeous illustration that’s on the cover of her book!

Click on any of the photos or links below and find out more about these great resources!

Watercolor Illustrations
Watercolor Story Blocks
Watercolor Words


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

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