Let's Get Your Creative Juices Flowing!!!
Looking at mixed media art examples from other artists is a GREAT way to get inspired if you're ever feeling creatively stuck. As you'll see, my mixed media art journal is a place where I love to swatch, experiment, paint, collage, plan or teach online art lessons for Awesome Art School & SO much more!
Do you have an art journal, or have you always wanted to try it but didn't know how? Download my Kick-in-the-Pants Guide to Starting an Art Journal with inspiring quotes from one of my favorite people, Bob Ross. Simply click the button below and I'll send it straight to your inbox!
Once you've printed out your guide, meet me here to watch the series that goes along with it, or check out today's art journal flip-through first.
Before we continue, super quick announcement: All product links are Affiliate. I may earn a small commission if you choose to order through these links but by law there is never any additional cost to the consumer for doing so. I thank you for your support.
For me, art journaling is a place where I can swatch new art supplies, experiment, play, plan or teach the lessons I create for Awesome Art School.
This particular art journal is filled with fountain pen ink paintings like the one above, because I started experimenting with fountain pen ink right around the same time as I bought this journal.
I love to work big, so I always buy the 11x14 size, but there are some smaller ones available too. This watercolor sketchbook is filled with 140 lb. cold press (textured) paper and can honestly take ANYTHING I throw at it from watercolor pencils to full-blown, multi-layer "Hamburger Style" projects with collage, acrylics and mod podge.
If you've never done a mixed media art journal before, or aren't sure what kind to buy, I'm in LOVE with this hardcover watercolor sketchbook by Strathmore. It's the journal featured in today's video and countless others.
If you're going to work with any type of wet medium, and want to work in an art journal, you always want to be working on watercolor paper because it's the sturdiest and will hold up to whatever you're using.
How gorgeous is that red fountain pen ink in these paintings? It's called Widow Maker by Noodlers. It is SO vibrant and fun to work with.
As I mentioned, an art journal can be a great place to experiment with art supplies and learn which ones work well together. Look closely at the painting below on the left.
Do you see a sheen to it? I tested adding pan pastels to my fountain pen ink painting and wanted to see if it would hold up to a sealer (in this case just mod podge). It TOTALLY did, and I think the mod podge layer made this piece even more vibrant than it already was.
I mentioned how sometimes I will plan out a potential project in my art journals too. This one is of a cute interior from Wardhill Castle, the turret bathroom.
How cute is that?! I scribbled some musings about the castle and my curiosity as to whether or not it's legit haunted off to the side :)
Make sure you click over to watch the full video because there are lots of other pieces in this journal that I didn't feature on the blog today.
I hope today's flip-through is giving you tons of mixed media ideas to try in your own art journal. And seriously, if you've always wondered about starting an art journal, but don't know how, or feel intimidated... you've gotta check out this series.
It's a gentle "Kick-in-the-Pants" from me with quotes from Bob Ross to get you creating!
Need more resources to get your creative juices flowing?
❤️ CHECK OUT ALL my art books on AMAZON
❤️ CHECK OUT ALL my online art classes @ Awesome Art School
❤️ MY FAVORITE ART SUPPLIES on AMAZON (affiliate links)
❤️ MY BELOVED FACEBOOK GROUP
I LOVE collaging art backgrounds for the mixed media portraits I create on canvas or in my art journal! Typically I will do a collage background FIRST in my mixed media art projects, but today I started with some gesso and acrylic painting followed by a little simple sheet music collage. I just LOVE how it turned out!!
If you love to watch a timelapsed project set to music for a little mixed media inspiration, today's video is FOR YOU! Enjoy!!
🍔 NEED HELP UNDERSTANDING or LAYERING your mixed media art supplies? I'd LOVE to help!! Check out my "Hamburger" System & Get all my FREE TIPS in this YouTube series!!!
😍 LOVE Mixed Media Portraits but NOT INTO DRAWING? I've got a template & a series for that!!
✏️ WANNA LEARN HOW to DRAW a Fabulous FACE in 5 Minutes?!
🔥 LOVE Mixed Media on Canvas, but wanna save $$$ ? Use the trick in today's video! Upcycle an old record cover & throw a little gesso on top!! BOOM! You've got a super cute sqaure canvas ready and waiting for YOUR masterpiece!!
❤️ Want FREE, immediate access to my Fun Fab Drawing Club and/or Mixed Media Society plus discounts on all my art books, sneak peek at YouTube videos and new book content, behind-the-scenes fun and MORE? Join me over on Patreon today and get HUGE PERKS in return for a small monthly donation.
❤️ CHECK OUT ALL my art books on AMAZON (available in both Kindle and Paperback)
❤️ SIGNED COPIES of my art books on ETSY
❤️ MY FAVORITE ART SUPPLIES on AMAZON
❤️ MY BELOVED FACEBOOK GROUP
❤️ FOLLOW ME ON INSTAGRAM
The thrift shop is AMAZING if you need mixed media art journaling ideas! Join me on a little field trip to one of my favorite shops in Durham called The Scrap Exchange. I'll show you EXACTLY what I look for when I'm on the hunt for old books to upcycle into mixed media art journals and altered book art journals! It's SO much fun, and you won't believe HOW CHEAP!!
I might have spent a whopping 8 bucks!!
And, yes... before you EVEN THINK IT... this is pre-covid, hence the NO MASK routine- when things were "normal." Sigh...
Before we even walk into the store, here are the TOP 3 THINGS I'm always looking for when I'm on the hunt for an old book to upcycle into an altered book art journal for my mixed media masterpieces!!
1. Matte pages that are super flat - not glossy
2. Threaded binding
3. Thin books (12 - 30 pages usually feels good to me because I like to FILL my art journals completely!!)
QUICK THRIFT TRIP TIPS: Head to the children's section & sheet music book section and you're sure to score!!
Grabbing an old book like the one pictured above is AWESOME to keep around when you're in the mood for collage!
I love these types of books because the pages are usually really thin and distressed looking already (another LOVE IT for me). Additionally the pages are usually very pourous and soak up whatever adhesives and primers I throw at them from matte medium to gesso!
Lots of people have asked if I feel bad taking these old books home to use for art. I'll tell ya what- I don't. Not one bit!! That's because I specifically look for the books that are super beat up and completely on their last legs anyway- with missing pages, no cover, etc. I take the ones that no one else wants. THESE are my treasures!
I also REALLY love picking up books that have a variety of font sizes and typefaces in them. It just makes things more interesting to look at if you mix these elements up in your collage art.
Magazines like the one above are GORGEOUS, but I really shy away from them because they are typically super glossy, and I know working on a matte surface is going to yield better results, so as much as this glamour shot is calling my name - back she goes onto the shelf for someone else.
The pages of the children's encyclopedia above are PERFECT and exactly what I'm looking for, but there are SO many pages in this book, it's a little overwhelming. If I can't find something, I may come back to this one, because it's possible to systematically score and remove pages to thin the book out without compromising it's integrity if it has threaded binding (see below). I don't know if I'm in the mood for that much effort though, and with SO many options in this thrift shop - I keep digging!
As you'll see in the video, we ended up with quite a few awesome finds! I found an old fashioned giant coloring book of "Alice in Wonderland" that felt just perfect to me. Mandi grabbed an old book of paper dolls, some sheet music, and a board book.
Board books like the one she found (below) can be great as altered books! They're super sturdy and this one has a particularly fun shape! Just a word of warning - board books often have a sheen or gloss to them, which can make art-ing on top of them tricky. A great work around is to literally spray them with paint primer, or to sand the gloss right off the page!
Once you've decided which book you want to turn into an art journal, it's super easy to get started. I often begin with shoring up the pages using some pretty duct tape down the center to reinforce the binding. This typically sets the stage for my entire color scheme for a piece!
If getting started feels hard (TRUST ME, YOU'RE NOT ALONE!!), I've got a Bob Ross inspired "Kick in the Pants" PDF for you to help you start art journaling so you can get over the fear of the blank page, and just start HAVING FUN already!! CLICK the button below and I'll send that fun art journaling cheatsheet straight to your inbox!!
After you grab your art journaling cheatsheet, be sure to binge this entire series on YouTube about art journaling. I promise it will help you get OVER the HURDLE and just start creating. Here is one of the funny, no stress projects we do! Aren't these emus hilarious?!
If you're in the mood to try addding human faces to your art journal, but kinda hate drawing or feel intimidated by it - I've got an entire NO DRAW series of art journaling prompts to help you try this as well. It's SO much fun!! You can download my FREE face shape template, and I teach you EXACTLY how to use her so you can play around with adding gorgeous faces in your art journal - without the stress of having to learn how to draw!
The children's book I bought on this thrift shop field trip turned out to be so much fun to work in. Here's one of my favorite pieces I created inside. She's actually a mixed media art tutorial as well. That tear wasn't meant to be there, believe it or not. Find out HOW it came to be by clicking HERE.
If hope you have just as much fun on your own thrift shop adventure and creating your own mixed media art journal as I did!! See ya back here next week!!
Who doesn't love SASSY Pinup Girl Art?! Seriously!!
Why have I not shown you how to draw a pinup girl before?! I had such a blast with this art journal page and can't wait for you to try it! Today’s video is a FULL LENGTH mixed media art project, so if you love vintage collage, pinup girl drawings, art journaling, my hamburger system OR mixed media tutorials - this is for YOU!
Not sure what I'm talking about when I say "Hamburger System?" NO PROBLEM!!
I've got you!! My Hamburger System is a simple mixed media layering system I've developed over time after TONS of trial and error from playing with ALL the art supplies I could get my hands on!! I used to get asked all the time (and still do!) about my mixed media process, and what order I layer my mixed media art supplies in.
I've broken it down for you layer by layer and created a fun step by step video series on YouTube, created a FREE cheatsheet you can download, and EVEN ending up pouring it all into a book because I think it's that helpful to have as a reference on your art table.
I love collaging art journal backgrounds with new materials and trying out new art journal ideas, so was thrilled to try doing a postcard collage! I was not sure how this was gonna work because I've never done much with postcard art, or collaging materials with a glossy sheen, but I was in the mood to BREAK a FEW RULES!!
Grab your art journal, some vintage postcards, your acrylics, gelatos, pitt pens and ALL your mixed media hamburger supplies because it's TIME TO PLAY!!!
How ADORABLE is this retro pinup girl I found to use as our reference image for todays' project??!!
I'm SO excited to paint her into the foreground!!
Before we go any further, super quick announcement: All product links are Affiliate. I may earn a small commission if you choose to order through these links, but by law there is never any additional cost to the consumer for doing so. I thank you for your support!!
If you follow me, you know I'm a super fan of liquitex matte medium for my collage layer, but since I've already started this project in a rebel mood- I'm gonna go ahead and continue that streak!
These postcards are pretty substantial, so I grabbed my good old fashioned Weldbond adhesive because I don't want them buckling or separating. I want them to be locked down and rock solid.
Initially I hadn't planned to use masking tape for this project, but it was sitting next to my art journal, and I've used masking tape tons in the past on my collage layer, so decided to frame my page around the edges. Not only will this add some additional texture to my collage background, it will help to strengthen the edges of my page.
Before we get TOO FAR into the project- we need to talk about background vs. foreground. While I totally love each and every one of these postcards individually AND the composition they've magically created together in my background - I'm not gonna let myself get attached. I KNOW it's hard, but you need to do this to if you intend to paint or draw something into the foreground of your piece. A background is simply that- a background. Of course we want it to be awesome, but we can't be precious about it.
To help me with that, I've added a few scrappy pieces of masking tape in the center of my page, and my stamps!
Next, I added some gesso with my brayer to kick the background back even more, so I have some space to draw.
Don't let this hurt, ok? Background is background! We're prepping the space for someone fun to appear in the foreground, so we need this to head backstage. The rough application with my brayer helps the background take on a bit of a grungy look - which I LOVE. To bring that out a bit more- I added some brown acrylics around the edges.
I know some mixed media art fans kinda hate drawing, but I love it, so a lot of my work ends up as mixed media portraits (because I LOVE drawing faces and teaching people how to draw a whimsical face!).
If you love drawing faces, you HAVE to join me over on my YouTube Drawing channel for my Whimsical Women of the Women of the World series. We're having a blast and you can do this on your own time, any time you want!
If you're totally new to drawing faces, check this series out on my YouTube Drawing Channel to get you started!!
You'll learn how to draw a whimsical face in pencil. It's super easy and relaxed. Then I show you how to add a little bit of shading, and we build on those skills when you're ready for more!
I get a ton of questions about how to draw so many random things, and I really encourage using a reference photo because everything you need to know to create a beautiful drawing is already in the photo. All you do have to do is draw what you see! A reference makes things SO much easier. And if you choose to draw in a whimsical style like I typically do - it's way more forgiving than realism. AND more fun (I think!!).
After your pinup girl drawing is all sketched in - it's time to kick things up a notch and add some color!!!
Have FUN layering in your acrylics and gelatos. Just keep on moving up the hamburger layering system from the bottom up! If you have questions about your supplies and where or when they go, just use your cheatsheet! If you didn't grab that yet, click the button below to have it sent straight to your email!
When I'm happy with my gelatos and acrylic layers, I'm ready to seal it - which is layer number 4. At this point, nothing should move when I add mod podge except for my gelatos. They will melt a little bit, so be prepared for that.
If you don't want anything to move (this totally freaks some people out, and that's ok!) - you can just choose to work only with materials that are nonwatersoluble, and permanent - like acrylics!
Tons of students ask me if watercolors are ok to use in the Hamburger System and where to put them. I honestly don't use them AT ALL in the Hamburger system because they are SO reactive, and just their own animal!
I save up my watercolor love for other projects. Watercolors play nicely with colored pencils, paint pens, fountain pen ink, pens, etc. - and I totally love them, just not for my "Hamburger" projects.
Remember - my Hamburger System is not the only way to go with mixed media- it's just a fun pattern I've developed for layering over time that I love and find to be pretty fail safe. It always gives me gorgeous results, and because I want YOUR art to be AWESOME - I've shared this with you so you have NO questions about what supplies play nicely together and you can just have FUN, which is the most important part of art-ing, am I right?!
Once my mod podge layer dries, it's time to have some fun with my pitt pens! They're made by Faber Castell and filled with India Ink, and I LOVE using them to "paint" more details on the mixed media faces and mixed media animals I love creating. They actually make an awesome skin tone pack that you might want to check out if you don't have any pitt pens and are interested in trying them out. So fun!!
Make sure you do a test swatch of these before you put them on your project because the caps can totally can trick you here and there!
At this point, I just have a blast shading and doodling all over the place with my pitt pens to add detail and depth on my slippery mod podge surface. I use my finger to blend for shading in the face. The amazing thing about this layer and playing with pitt pens, is they can be erased with a baby wipe if something happens that you don't like!!
If you're following along with my cheatsheet for the Hamburger System, you can feel free to seal this layer with mod podge, and then go back to add even MORE doodles!
If you do get any smears with your mod podge here - like I did (because my black pitt pen marks weren't quite dry in one spot before I added my mod podge), that's ok! Everything is fixable- we can figure it out. Just take a breath and redirect the smear!
I always finish up with a white sharpie pen or posca pen / paint marker to add some highlights that pop - they make SUCH a huge difference in your art! Watch the video to see exactly where I love to jazz my girls up, and make them glow!!
Once I'm good to go with my highlights and have finished adding some distress marks to the edges of my art journal page, it's time to seal her up so she doesn't move and so my art journal pages will not stick together.
This is one the HUGEST questions I get from students- "How to keep art journal pages from sticking together?!"
So here ya go - my answer is at the end of today's video. Be sure to stay with me till the end for that tidbit!!
Thank you so much for hanging out with me today!
I hope you LOVED this project and will see ya back here next Friday!! Have a fab weekend!!
I've been a full-time working artist for 15 years! If you've been wondering how to become an artist, how to become a better artist, or if it's too late to start your own art journey, you NEED to watch today's YouTube video on my Mixed Media channel, because that is EXACTLY what I'll be talking about!!
Would it surprise you to know that I don't sell ONE SINGLE PIECE of my art? I don't!!
So WHY do I make art and spend all of my time and energy on TEACHING art with a team of people behind me? Because I know the way art makes us FEEL. It can have a HUGE impact on our own lives and the lives of others.
You might find it interesting to know that becoming an artist was NEVER even on my to do list when I was growing up!!
Not for one second did I even consider becoming an artist! I grew up thinking art was a hobby - no more, no less.
So how did I get where I am today- with two YouTube channels, an online art school, and 12 art books already under my belt?!
I got into art later in life because I got addicted to the way it made me feel when I spent time being creative. If I was having a bad day, stuck home when my kids were little and I was changing diapers and wanted to cry, the minute that I sat down to draw, sketch or paint, all of those feelings melted away. It was like a drug. There was a transformation that happened inside of me - in my brain, in my soul, in my heart...and it made everything ok again.
Art gave me ALL the FEELS inside, and was something I craved because this goodness washed over me every single time I sat down to create.
These amazing feelings are what I hope ALL my students can experience, and they're WHY I spend SO much time coming up with cheatsheets and shortcuts and break things down step by step for my online art classes - because I want my students to get to their happy place TOO, and to get there even faster than I did!!
I became a good artist by default.
Because ALL the chasing of those good "happy place feelings" lead to practice, and all of that practice lead to really great results. Why does that matter? Because I grew up believing people who made art were BORN with talent. I didn't even entertain the thought that I could make art because I didn't think I was born with that talent.
Yet here I am, a successful working artist impacting students who are now making masterpieces of their own. So how does that happen?!
This is my philosophy on what happened... if I CAN LEARN to be a good artist... so can anyone!!!
SO CAN YOU!!!!!
After you watch today's video, make sure you sign up to join one or both of the art challenges I'm running next week. They start on MONDAY!!!
✅ SIGN UP for my MIXED MEDIA CHALLENGE
✅ SIGN UP for my DRAWING CHALLENGE
Now press play already for today's video so I can show you how YOU can become an awesome artist too ;)
I can't wait to show you!!!!
I've been IN LOVE with Bryn Nguyen's mixed media portraits since she started posting them in my Facebook Group about 6 months ago! I'm so excited she agreed to do an art journal flip through with us & talk about how she creates these beauties with tombow markers on sheet music!
If you're into sheet music art, or have been looking for fresh mixed media art journal inspiration, altered book ideas, & new ways to sketch or paint mixed media faces - today's video has your name on it!!
Bryn shared that she started this altered book / art journal in a book of violin sheet music she bought at Goodwill for 99 cents!!! I LOVE doing this kind of thing too! It's so pretty to see the music notes peek through your art work. If you haven't tried it yet - you have to!!
Bryn has created a gorgeous style that's all her own and SO unique... you just have to come see for yourself!
While we chatted, she explained that she started this altered book back in March - when we all started hanging at home because of covid. She said she typically begins each page with a thin layer of gesso over the sheet music, then sketches her portraits in using a reference photo.
Bryn uses a combo of painting and shading techniques using tombow markers, copics, micron fineliners, posca pens, india ink, and polychromos to create her beauties, and said each of her mixed media portraits takes a couple of hours to complete.
Just LOOK at this insane masterpiece!!!!!
Bryn was an art minor in college and shared that she's constantly taking art classes, and that's how her style has evolved over time. She said she took a number of face courses a while back that weren't clicking. Then she stumbled onto my Fun Fab Faces books over on Amazon and did my #100FunFabFaces challenge last year. She even did ALL 100 faces!!!! Not many hung in there for the long haul like Bryn. I'm so proud of her, and her dedication shows in her work!!
Bryn also credits Toni Burt (LOVE HER! Everything she does is magical!) for helping her develop a looser style in her work. In addition to Toni, she loves James Burke (ME TOO! Totally "stalk" him and his gorgeous work!).
I'm super lucky to have Bryn as a long time member of BOTH The Fun Fab Drawing Club AND Mixed Media Society. I have to share a quick look at one of the pieces she did in The Fun Fab Drawing Club earlier this year...
FYI - if you're interested in either of my clubs - Bryn has some GREAT ADVICE if you're someone (like us!) who loves BOTH drawing and mixed media, so stay tuned for her thoughts if you've been on the fence yourself!
After you watch Bryn's flip through, make sure you head over to Awesome Art School to sign up for my TWO SUPER FUN challenges beginning on Monday, September 21st!! Here are the links ....
✅ CLICK HERE to SIGN UP for my MIXED MEDIA CHALLENGE
✅ CLICK HERE to SIGN UP for my DRAWING CHALLENGE
Each challenge is going to run for 5 days and kicks off open enrollment for The Fun Fab Drawing Club & Mixed Media Society! SOOOOOO .... if you've been waiting for these clubs to open up - your wait is almost over!!
We're having a blast and hope you come join us!!!!
See ya next week!
"Karen is flipping hilarious and she's very real...I like the way she teaches in a way that really gives you confidence, whether you're a beginner or advanced there's always something new to learn!"
- Elizabeth W.
What Fans Are Saying
Karen, you are absolutely fabulous! You make me feel like I can draw anything. I have recently retired and finally have the time to do some of the art that I have loved since I was in school. I am really at the beginning of my art journey and I hope to learn as much as I can. Thank you for all you do.