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What Are the Different Types of Mixed Media Artwork?

By M. Walker
Updated May 23, 2024
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Mixed media artwork is any art form that blends different media, or materials. Although the term "mixed media" specifically refers to visual art, in common language it can also encompass other media, such as video, audio or viewer participation. The main type of mixed media artwork is collage, but other types include three-dimensional (3D) sculpture, installation art and online interactive art.

Collage art is the stereotypical form of mixed media artwork, because it is a form of visual art that incorporates different types of paint and other materials, such as paper, fabric and photographs. Artists who make collages use a blend of paints, such as oils, acrylics, watercolors or inks, as well as less-traditional substances such as pencil markings, crayons or even clay. The general technique for applying these substances is known as “fat over lean,” in which the thickest substances are applied last. Many collages also feature other materials, which range from organic materials such as leaves and grass to synthetic materials such as polymers or sandpaper.

Many of the techniques and materials used in collage art also apply to 3D sculptures. This type of mixed media artwork often features a wider variety of materials, which can include metal, wood and even large-scale items such as furniture. Like collage art, mixed media sculpture frequently requires a base, sometimes called a substrate, upon which the other materials are applied. The fastening process for the different materials can be a challenge, and some artists and viewers consider this a part of the artistic process.

Installation art is another form of mixed media artwork that incorporates the environment and sometimes viewer participation. The goal of this art is to alter a viewer’s experience of a particular environment, such as a room or public space. Installation art frequently incorporates various media, which can range from painting and sculpture to video presentations or sound recordings. Additionally, it tends to be on a larger scale than traditional collages or sculptures.

Lastly, online or computer-based interactive art is considered a form of mixed media artwork, although a more accurate category would be multimedia art. This art typically involves a large amount of viewer participation in navigating through a project, clicking on different links or images and playing different audio or video recordings. It incorporates elements of visual art, audio art and installation art, and it generally remains accessible to a wider audience through the Internet. The large-scale involvement of the audience is sometimes considered another “media” through which an artist can communicate.

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Discussion Comments

By giddion — On Jul 15, 2012

@healthy4life – I love it when artists put things on their canvases that are a raised expression of what is going on in the painting itself. I don't like it when the items seem to have no relevance, but in the case of your instructor, the outfits are a perfect use of mixed media!

I have some canvas art in my collection that features real seashells sewn onto the canvas. Beach scenes are painted around them, but they fit into the scenes so well that you almost don't notice that they are real!

Of course,when you get closer, you can tell that they are raised up from the surface. I think that sewing them on was better than using glue, because they are less likely to fall off the canvas.

By healthy4life — On Jul 14, 2012

My painting instructor is also a mixed media artist, and she incorporates fabric into her paintings. I love the way that she uses it.

She is great at painting people. She adds something extra that I've never seen anyone else do, though. She makes clothes for them out of fabric and glues them onto their bodies.

She cut a beautiful dress out of some lace for a woman in a painting. She made the man a flat black tuxedo an glued it onto him.

What is cool is that since she manipulates the fabric herself, she can fix it to where it fits the position of their bodies. If they are bending, she can make the outfits conform to their shape. If they are lying down, she can adjust for this, too.

By kylee07drg — On Jul 14, 2012

I am currently studying art at my university, and another student in my class is working on some mixed media abstract paintings. I think that you just have to have a special gift in order to come up with really good ones. Otherwise, it just looks like a bunch of junk on a canvas.

This guy in my class is good, though. He just used a combination of paint, spackle, and pebbles to do an abstract that he calls, “Sidewalk Interrupted.” You do get the feeling that you are looking at a broken sidewalk when you see it, but it doesn't look like a realism painting.

I haven't ventured into abstract painting because I don't think that I have what it takes to make an appealing piece of art this way. I do love using mixed media to draw things in the style of realism, though.

By JackWhack — On Jul 13, 2012

Online interactive art sounds awesome! This type of mixed media art would probably be the most involved, because the viewer would have to do a lot of clicking in order to see the whole thing.

I love it when artists combine sound and video with two-dimensional artwork. I want to feel that I have really experienced the art when I visit a gallery, and sometimes that is hard to do with just a flat painting.

I am always happy to hear that an installation art exhibit is coming to a gallery near me. I hope we get some online interactive exhibits sometime in the near future, because I have yet to view one of those.

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