Painting with Mixed Media

book review

Painting with Mixed Media is a fun exploration of the many different ways you can mix traditional paint with other media to create an exciting range of artwork. This book, by Paula Guhin and Geri Greenman, features 132 pages of material and hundreds of photos to illustrate the concepts and techniques.

Painting with Mixed Media Book Review

This how-to book is easy enough for beginners, but also appeals to non-beginners who want to expand their repertoire of knowledge and skills. There's a world of mark-making materials and inspiring surfaces to explore. If you've always wanted to combine different media, but didn't know what to combine or how to combine them, this book is for you!

The five main painting mediums used in the book are acrylics, watercolors, oils, pastels and tempera. The lessons in the book show you how to use these various painting media in combination with each other, and also with other materials, such as wax, gels, powders, gelatin, conte and more. The book even demonstrates how to use materials you wouldn't normally associate with art, such as using plastic wrap and gelatin create mixed media art.

Click here to download a free PDF lesson from this book, Painting with Mixed Media, compliments of Stackpole Books!

One of the strengths of Painting with Mixed Media is the sheer number of techniques it demonstrates, including: painting, drawing, layering, collaging, texturizing, sgraffito, create peeled paint effect, monoprinting, frottage, rubbing, slicing, weaving and more! By using these techniques, you can make collages, scrapbook pages, decorations, greeting cards - any type of artwork you can think of, really.

The artwork in Painting with Mixed Media also spans across a range of styles and subjects, from representational art (such as the floral still life and richly colored portrait below):

Painting with Mixed Media Art

to abstract and non-representational art (such as the examples below):

Abstract Painting with Mixed Media

A woven mixed media abstract painting

Mixed Media Oils Over Acrylics

Mixed media painting using oils over acrylics

Painting with Mixed Media encourages you to step out of the box, to move beyond the concept of simply applying paint to canvas and to try new things, explore new combinations, and experiment with new techniques. If this sounds appealing but you don't know where to begin, this book will help you get started.

The pages are sprinkled with finished art accompanied by a caption that lists the materials used to create the piece. These examples can spark ideas and get the ball rolling. Painting with Mixed Media also contains step-by-step demos that show the artwork at different stages in the process, with instructions.

Mixed Media Painting Techniques

This piece uses white gesso and pastels to build a portrait from the ground up

In addition to demos and examples, there are also tips and hints scattered throughout the pages. For instance, the "Savvy Substitutions" provide suggestions on budget-friendly alternatives if the listed art materials are too expensive for your budget. "Green Scene" tips offer eco-friendly ideas for reusing items you probably already have around your house.

Chapter 1: Diving in With Materials, Tools and Substrates

The first chapter opens the doors of possibilities with detailed lists of materials that can be used to make art, from traditional art supplies to nonconventional media and tools. You'll find lists exploring the following:

  • art media for drawing and painting

  • household items that can be used for art, including free or low-cost items

  • tools (traditional art tools as well as atypical tools you might have around the house, from makeup brushes to paper clips)

  • paper types and other surfaces

Chapter 2: Make Waves with Acrylics

Squeeze Bottle Acrylic Painting

Chapter 2 begins with an overview of different types of acrylics and goes into the properties of acrylics, touching upon gel mediums, pastes, glazes and other media that can be used with acrylics to create different effects.

This chapter demonstrates different ways that acrylics can be used in conjunction with other media, as well as novel ways of applying the paint. One of my favorite examples is to put acrylic paint in squeeze bottles, which was the technique used to create the artwork on the right.

The acrylics chapter also explores collage, resists and textures.

Chapter 3: In the Swim with Watercolors and Inks

Chapter 3 starts by discussing the different forms that watercolors come in and also looks at types of inks.

Watercolor Slicing Weaving

Some of the demos and examples include:

  • wax resists (using wax paper and plastic kitchen wrap)

  • making imprints with gauze, cheesecloth, and plastic shopping bags

  • outlining with metallic pens or markers to create contrast

  • slicing and weaving

  • doodling

  • drawing and painting on top of photos/photocopies

  • blowing paint

Chapter 4: Plunge into Oil Paints

Blue Oil Painting Portrait

Chapter 4 begins with a brief intro to oil paints, discussing the types and forms of oil paints and listing some of the tools and materials that are commonly used with oils.

The demos and examples include:

  • painting on newspaper to loosen up

  • sgraffito to "scratch and reveal"

  • using oils over acrylics

  • glazing techniques

  • creating a monoprint

Chapter 5: Into the Pool with Pastels

Chapter 5 begins with an overview of the types and forms of pastels, and the tools and materials used with them. 

Techniques in this chapter include:

Pastel Mixed Media Art
  • going from dark to light

  • going from black and white to color

  • start with dark background then drawing light to dark

  • making resists with oil pastels

  • rub oil pastels over textured surface

  • painting over pastels

  • accenting a painting with soft pastels

  • using oil pastels on top of oils

Chapter 6: The Water's Fine with Tempera

Chapter 6 focuses on tempera, and begins with an introduction to tempera paint and a list of materials and tools used with tempera.

Tempera Painting

Some of the demonstrated techniques include:

  • using tempera over acrylic

  • using pastel over tempera

  • how to create a batik look

  • hatching

  • dry-brushing

  • making traditional egg tempera

Chapter 7: Portfolio of Art

Chapter 7 contains a portfolio of artwork from 8 contemporary artists who create mixed media paintings. The artists represent a variety of styles and subjects. In this section, they explain how they created their pieces.

The artists whose work appear in this section are:

  • Jacob W. Bosmoe

  • Nathen Cantwell

  • Robert Esquivel

  • Cheryl Holz

  • Dreama J. Kattenbraker

  • Nancy Johnson Standlee

  • Brian J. Sullivan

  • Laura Lein-Svencer

Final Thoughts

Pastel Tree Painting

This book's strong point is in the sheer number of ideas it contains. Painting with Mixed Media touches on tons of possibilities for mixing media and sets you off on the right path. There's a wide variety of art in the book that draws on many different styles and subjects. Flipping through the book is enough to get the creative juices flowing!

If you are more comfortable with detailed step-by-step tutorials that lead you clearly by the hand on projects that you are meant to replicate from start to finish, this book may leave you wanting. While there are a lot of step-by-step demos in this book, they seem to serve more as examples of what can be done using particular materials or techniques, with progress photos to show you what you can expect along the way. The demos provide inspiration and instruction, which then require a curious self-starter to take the materials off the shelf and get to work, drawing upon your own imagery or themes. This may hinder those who need detailed instructions to create specific projects, but for others it may provide you with the freedom you need to follow your own inspiration.

Mixed Media Still Image

The introductory material at the start of every chapter is short and basic - the bulk of each chapter is the ideas. The info provided at the beginning of each chapter provides an informative overview, and you'll need to do your own research if you want to learn more about any particular painting medium.

Another strength of Painting with Mixed Media is that it contains lots and lots of photos, all with captions that detail the materials used. Not every caption explains the steps involved though, so while the images are inspiring you might wonder, "How did they do that?" But, given the number of ideas and artwork shown in this book, there would not be enough room to explain all the steps for every piece of art shown.

Who this book is for:

  • People interested in learning to mix paint with other media

  • People who don't need detailed step-by-step tutorials

  • People who get inspired by looking at examples of what can be done with certain media or using certain techniques

  • People who already have ideas in terms of style and subject matter, but are seeking inspiration and instruction on different types of media and how they can be used together

Who this book is not for:

  • People who want to focus on one particular media

  • People who need detailed step-by-step tutorials that show you how to create a specific piece from start to finish

Textured Acrylic Landscape Painting

A complimentary copy of Painting with Mixed Media was provided to me by Stackpole Books for this review, which is based on my honest assessment of the book. All images in this review are displayed with permission.

You can purchase Painting with Mixed Media on Amazon. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.