Compilations of techniques are popular for mixed media books. I looked over The Cloth Paper Scissors Book by Barbara Delaney, and The Mixed-Media Artist by Seth Apter. They expose you to many different artistic styles and show possibilities you may never come up with on your own. On the negative side, they skim the surface of techniques. Four pages just isn’t enough explanation if you’re totally new to a technique.
The Cloth Paper Scissors Book contains articles previously published in Cloth Paper Scissors magazine, so if you subscribe to that, you may already have the articles. Contents cover printmaking and surface design, journals and bookmaking, collage and assemblage, mixed-media stitching, and encaustic, metal and jewelry. Many of the articles focus on paper, but I think some could be done on fabric as well.
I concentrated on the stitching and surface design articles, as journaling, book making, etc., hold no appeal for me. In fact, the journal/book making aspects of mixed media often raise my hackles. The creations seem so self-absorbed, and require so many pricey stencils, stamps, inks, spray paints, etc.
Here’s an example of what I dislike in mixed media. Badly drawn face, a few big stitches, a button that doesn’t relate to anything else, and a piece of wretched “poetry” that references angels. It needs only flowers, and heart and key charms to complete its twee-ness.
I liked Dorit Elisha’s use of stitch in this collage based on a screen print of an old photo. I believe the base is heavy paper, with fabric raw edge stitched on top. The zigzag stitch adds variety.
This book is best for browsing. Once I found some artists of interest, I went to their websites for further information. I also put a library hold on the latest issue of the magazine.
The Mixed-Media Artist by Seth Apter features several artists’ responses to prompts such as below the surface, imaginary worlds, and the face I show the world. One section focuses on 30 artists and their self-portraits. Each was asked to list 3 things they’re inspired by and 4 things on their studio table. Most responses were material objects, with a few surprises such as “the caramel aroma of fallen leaves in October” as an inspiration; and “uncertainty” as one of the items on a studio table.
Interleaved with photos of work (and there are lots) are responses to an online artist survey and some descriptions of specific artistic processes. The survey responses didn’t do much for me. I saw them as padding, and would have preferred more “how I made this” information.
The best parts of The Mixed-Media Artist are the artists’ explanations of what inspired their work. Trudi Sissons created The Chairman (above) in response to the prompt long-term memory. As she explains, she was deeply affected by reading “Wherever You Go, There You Are.” The author of that book encouraged readers to pick a board of directors to serve as their internal advisors, and Trudi named Vincent van Gogh as chair of her internal board. Through photo imaging software, she melded parts of van Gogh’s paintings with a graphite drawing. I’ve talked before about copying famous art, but this piece samples it to create something new.
Like the Cloth Paper Scissors Book, The Mixed-Media Artist is good for browsing, but it’s less helpful for techniques. I had no doubt I was looking at the work of serious artists rather than crafters. It’s worth looking for at your library, but I wouldn’t purchase it just for myself.