Advice & Guidance

How to Get Started in Mixed Media with Ali Hargreaves

15th February 2021 Estimated reading time: 3 mins

Professional Artist Ali Hargreaves took a while to adapt to mixed media, but now she uses everything!

I think my first mixed media work was pen and watercolour. Then I started experimenting with oil pastels, as a resist to watercolours, and using chalk pastels to produce highlights on top of paintings. There are so many wonderful materials to draw with out there. I use watercolour pencils, calligraphy pens, twigs and ink, charcoal, graphite sticks, wax crayons…you name it. I always encourage my students to experiment with as many different tools as possible. Experimenting is how we evolve as artists.

When I was young, I admired a painting in my parent’s house, which clearly had tissue paper underneath the watercolour…I loved it. This inspired me to add collage in my work. The creases in the tissue exaggerated the grasses and made them more interesting. Tissue is versatile: it can be scrunched up for fluffy clouds or delicate petals on a daisy, and in a linear way for waves in the sea, and is perfect for use with watercolour, as it is sympathetic to the transparency of the colours. When adding tissue paper, I recommend using two parts PVA glue to one part water and keep it in a jam jar ready for next time. Stipple the paper using a stiff brush. Tissue is far too fine to be using straight PVA…it will stick to the brush and to the paper and you can get in a right mess!

I started cutting and ripping watercolour paper and adding this too. As this is heavier, I suggest using PVA straight from the bottle and the same for sandpaper, textured wallpaper, string, threads, lace, doilies, hessian and scrim. I often use natural materials for paintings of flowers or landscapes. I use seeds, grasses, pine needles, sand, skeleton leaves, dried petals, and so on. As often as possible, it will be related to the subject, such as poppy seeds from the poppies I’m painting. This summer I was painting in Abersoch, and I added the sand straight from the beach. I often start with watercolour, or inks, finishing off with acrylics. I studied printing at college, producing large lino cuts, and I love to add print to my paintings, using anything and everything I can get my hands on.

As a primary school teacher, I was always collecting stuff and I am still hoarding, so I am never without a large choice of materials to print with. The end of a tube can produce perfect circles for the sun, or a buoy. Broken polystyrene creates great foliage. I have a large collection of textured wallpaper which is fantastic for printing. Corrugated card is great for adding ripples to water or emphasising the steep gradient of a mountain. My favourite wallpaper has random blobs all over it….you can see me using this for snow at the end of my SAA webclip:

It’s also fabulous for bubbles in the water or pebbles on a beach – simply use a flat brush and skim the surface to apply acrylic paint and then rub it firmly to get the print to work. Old credit cards are also great. I recommend Mixed Media to everyone.

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