10 Ways to Use Vintage Photos in Mixed-Media Art

by Amber Demien

Blog post by Amber Demien, editor of  Art Journaling

I often think that looking at mixed-media art is like a creative scavenger hunt or game of “I Spy.” The closer you look at a canvas or art journal page, the more you can identify common elements that have been reinvented within the artwork. Everything from clothing tags to drywall tape, junk mail, receipts, and beyond can become an intriguing piece of collage fodder. Vintage photos have long been a staple of mixed-media artwork, but sometimes it can be challenging to think of new ways to incorporate them. I had a blast (from the past!) going through issues of Art Journaling to find innovative uses for vintage photos. I hope you find the following 10 ideas as inspiring as I do!

vintage photo project

1. For a whimsical spin on an otherwise somber image, place a vintage photo within a miniature pocket, like Tina Walker did here. (See more from this art journal in the  Summer 2021 Issue of Art Journaling.)

vintage photo project

2. To add an air of mystery to a vintage photo, Emilia Tapiola placed it beneath transparent vellum that had been heat-embossed with vintage-style script. (See more from this art journal in the  Autumn 2020 Issue of Art Journaling.)

vintage photo project

3. Sometimes the best way to make an element more interesting is to destroy it. Here, Tiffany Goff Smith ripped a photo in two and partially stitched it back together with striking red thread. (See more from this art journal in the  Autumn 2020 Issue of Art Journaling.)

vintage photo project

4. Nancy Bales used a layer of white paint to blend a vintage photo into the background, giving it a more subtle and timeworn feeling. (See more from this art journal in the  Winter 2021 Issue of Art Journaling.)

vintage photo project

5. Cabinet cards are vintage photos within a formal cardboard frame. Melissa Johnson put the frame to good use by transforming a cabinet card into a bold focal point on her journal page. (See more from this art journal in the  Winter 2021 Issue of Art Journaling.)

vintage photo project

6. Chris Tessnear thought “outside the box” by drawing within one. To make square sepia photos even more unique, she drew simple portraits upon them. (See more from this art journal in the  Winter 2021 Issue of Art Journaling.)

vintage photo project

7. A vintage photo can be easily customized with hand stitching, like Nicolet Groen did here. You could also use stitching to highlight specific parts of a photo, like flowers. (See more from this art journal in the  Winter 2021 Issue of Art Journaling.)

vintage photo project

8. Combine a vintage photo with tons of texture to create an eye-catching focal point. Lynne Moncrieff distressed the edges of this photo and layered it with scraps of trim to make a statement in her art journal. (See more from this art journal in the  Spring 2021 Issue of Art Journaling.)

vintage photo project

9. Choose a vintage photo that complements the theme of your work, like Michelle Kosciolek did here. This Girl Scout looks at home in the forest, especially in her customized uniform. (See more from this art journal in the  Spring 2021 Issue of Art Journaling.)

vintage photo project

10. Create outside the boundaries of your artwork by attaching a vintage photo as a tag. Lynn Hasty simply trimmed a photo, punched a hole, and attached it to her journal page with a binder ring. (See more from this art journal in the  Spring 2021 Issue of Art Journaling.)

Which project inspired you most? Share with us in the comments below!