Sketchbook Adventures: Mixed Media Art Journals

Published by Nela Dunato on in Art, Sketchbook

Every once in awhile, I like to share the results of my personal creative practice here on the blog. If you already follow me on Instagram, these might look familiar since that’s usually the first place where I post my work in progress and finished pieces.

The sketchbook pages I’m sharing today are about exploring mixed media.

Sketchbook Adventures: Mixed Media Art Journals

When I say “mixed media”, people probably imagine collage and acrylic paint, since that’s what popular mixed media artists use and teach. While I enjoy acrylics for my paintings on canvas, they take time to set up and clean, so I don’t use them in my art journals. My studio space doubles as an office, and I can’t just leave paint and water containers lying around. Ease of setup and clean-up is a must for me to be able to produce art daily.

(And believe me, I long for the days when I was able to work on a single painting for hours, and make a mess.)

And while I do love acrylics, I completely suck with collage. I tried to learn how to love it. It’s just not my thing. I’m not sure what bothers me so much—maybe it’s the clash of different styles and colors, or just the sheer effort it takes to find usable images and words. Drawing whatever I want is less of a hassle. (I’ve written about my approach to art journaling in detail in the post My 6 favorite mixed media art journal & sketchbook techniques.)

Mixed media art journal sketchbook by Nela Dunato - gouache, markers and colored pencils
One of my early mixed media journal pages from 2013. Gouache, markers and colored pencils in a Moleskine sketchbook – watch the video of this mixed media art journal tour here

My favorite type of mixed media is combining painting and drawing mediums, such as watercolors and colored ink with pastels, colored pencils and markers. I’m still exploring different combinations and finding which ones work well.

Mixed media art journal sketchbook by Nela Dunato - Colored ink, gouache and colored pencils
Experimenting with techniques: Colored ink, gouache and colored pencils in a Handbook Travelogue Journal

I’ve done a bunch of these experiments over the past months, but as with any other type of experiment—most of them didn’t turn out well. Sometimes the sketchbook paper is not designed to endure my abuse with wet media. Sometimes the particular combination doesn’t play well. And occasionally I just don’t like what the final result looks like, so I don’t want to share it.

What I want to say is, sketchbook envy is often based on incomplete information. You can check out my sketchbook flip video and see what it really looks like inside. Most things you see on YouTube and Instagram are curated, and don’t show you the complete picture of someone’s creative practice.

No one creates beautiful art 100% of the time. So you know, don’t feel bad that your sketchbook doesn’t look like other people’s.

Mixed media art journal sketchbook by Nela Dunato
Layering media: White pastel, watercolor, water-soluble crayons, ink and marker in a Moleskine watercolor sketchbook – watch the video of this sketchbook tour here

On my last trip to London I did a tour through several art stores, and picked up some supplies that I’ve been coveting for a long time. One of them was the humble white wax pastel. Why is that? Because wax pastels act as resist toward water-based paints like watercolor and colored ink. When you draw a design with a white pastel and paint over it, the design remains white (as seen in the photo above).

I’ve first heard about this technique from Alisa Burke. The problem is, this only works with wax pastels, and not with oil pastels or wax-based colored pencils (the latter produce spotty results). Yes we do have wax crayons in Croatia so I didn’t have to travel all the way to UK to buy them, but they only come in sets, and I thought it would be frugal to pick out just the colors I will actually use.

Mixed media art journal sketchbooks by Nela Dunato - wax pastel and watercolor
Top: Wax crayon design painted over with watercolor in a Moleskine watercolor notebook
Bottom: Base layer of gesso, white pastel, watercolor and sepia marker in a Hahnemühle sketchbook

Mixed media art journal sketchbook by Nela Dunato
Gesso, white pastel, watercolor and sepia marker in a Hahnemühle sketchbook

When my first experiment with a white crayon succeeded, I was hooked for a few days and tried out different variations with watercolor and colored ink.

Mixed media art journal sketchbook by Nela Dunato: Dragonflies
White pastel, watercolor and markers in a Hahnemühle sketchbook

I was quite fond of the results of these experiments, and I’ll be using some of these images as backgrounds for blog posts and social media.

Mixed media art journal sketchbook by Nela Dunato: Dragonflies
White pastel, watercolor and markers in a Hahnemühle sketchbook (closeup)

Unfortunately I only have the white crayon, so I wanted to give oil pastels a shot to test how different colors behave. That’s how I found out that oil pastels don’t work as well. Boo!

Mixed media art journal sketchbook by Nela Dunato: Death's Head Hawkmoth
Oil pastels, watercolor and sepia marker in a Hahnemühle sketchbook

The moth design was originally sketched with a yellow ochre oil pastel, but when I went over it with watercolor, the design all but disappeared. I had to re-draw it with a red pastel and be careful not to go over with with paint again.

This sketchbook page was the first one I did in the yard this spring. I love sketching outside (as long as there’s no noise or nosy neighbors bothering me), and just the fact that I can do it makes me more motivated to go out and draw.

Death's Head Hawkmoth mixed media sketchbook page by Nela Dunato
Oil pastels, watercolor and sepia marker in a Hahnemühle sketchbook

That’s it for this installment of Sketchbook Adventures. If you’d like to see more of my mixed media art, check out my previous post Sketchbook Adventures: Mixed media Gothic calligraphy, and the rest of the posts in the Sketchbook category.

What’s going on in your sketchbook lately?


Some blog articles contain affiliate links to products on Amazon. I’ll get paid a few cents if you buy something using my link, and there’s no extra charge to you.

2 responses to “Sketchbook Adventures: Mixed Media Art Journals”

  1. You make me want to get some white pastel! I have always been a bit scared to mix media but I am loving the art you produced. Now I’m very tempted. What mixture of media would you recommend for a first time attempt? Another thing I would like to add is that it’s always very exciting to see a professional artist using some of the same tools I am using! Thank you for motivating me to create!

  2. Thank you for your kind words, Eva! I’m really happy to hear you’ve found my posts motivating :)
    (I’m sorry for the late reply, I’ve been away from the computer this past week.)

    My entry point to mixed media was watercolor and colored pencil, plus water-soluble pencils. The wet media gives a lot of spontaneity in expression, but at the same time colored pencil is better for adding detail and intensifying the colors.
    Soft pastels can be mixed into this combination, and they have a softer texture than pencils, but then you need to be careful not to draw on opposite pages, as they transfer easily (even with fixative applied).

    Markers of any kind work well, too. I use white paint marker and black waterproof markers a lot. (But not on top of soft pastel, as that would ruin them.)

    Most mixed media artists I’ve followed use a lot of collage elements, I’ve personally never been a fan. But it’s very easy to use, so definitely try and see if you like it!

Leave a Reply

If you're new here, please read the commenting guidelines before posting. By submitting your comment, you consent to your comment and personal information being collected in accordance with the Privacy Policy.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *