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Discovering My Medium




 

“To practice any art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow. So do it.” ~ Kurt Vonnegut

 

One of the challenges as an artist is finding the right medium, one that works for you. While on the surface, it would seem to be one of the easiest decisions, nothing is further from the truth. My own experience is a perfect example of this.

 

The first medium I created in was graphite pencils. I enjoyed creating fantasy drawings and I sketched for a number of years. I loved the look of the grey scale imagery, but as creatives tend to do, I wanted to explore other media. I tried watercolour pencils thinking they were the closest paint medium to pencils. I quickly abandoned them, as they lacked the vibrancy and depth for which I was looking. I then tried oil paint, inspired by the legendary Bob Ross. While watching him was always so Zen-like, trying to recreate his pieces was anything but – oils are not an easy product with which to work. And as I learned, they can be very daunting for a beginner. Eventually, my journey led me to acrylic paints, which is the main medium I use in my art today. For me, acrylics seemed a natural fit. For someone starting out, how do you decide which medium to use?





Art Appeal

 

The style of art often dictates the type of medium to use. A traditional still life often has a more muted look, pop art requires a medium that is bright and vibrant. Experiment to see what material works best for your style and subject matter.

 

Affordability

 

Art is not a cheap hobby or career. The materials tend to be quite expensive. Pencils and markers, along with sketch paper are at a very different price point, than paints, brushes, stretched canvas, glosses and other mediums needed for acrylics and oils.

 

Ease of Use

 

Pencils and shading techniques are easier to learn, while blending techniques with paint can be more challenging. As well, pencils and markers are easy portable. Painting materials, not so much.

 

Product Odours

 

Oil paints and thinners have a stronger smell then acrylics. Markers tend to give of fumes, while pencils are not as noticeable. Depending on one’s sensitivity, this needs to be a consideration, not only while working, but while the work dries.

 

Messiness and Space

 

Where you are creating can be a huge factor as an artist. If one has a dedicated space where mess and chaos is not a concern, unleash your inner graffiti artist or your hidden Jackson Pollock. Have fun, get dirt and go wild! However, if one is using their dining room table as a creation space, it will likely impact the type of art being created.





I profess that I have not used every possible medium, but I have tried a number of different art materials. I also recognize that for me, I need a product that is opaque, vibrant, and which I can use to create large scale pieces. Because of that I may be biased, as I love acrylic paint. I prefer certain companies’ acrylics because of the quality and pigmentation. Even within a medium, there are different product qualities. A hobby artist can get away with a base product – professional artists need artist quality paints, which is what I use. While I enjoy working with acrylics, some of my pieces do contain other media as well, which I will not share – I cannot give away all of my secrets! Below are the materials I have used the most over the years and my thoughts on each.


Graphite Pencils

I enjoyed using these for realistic drawings. They are great for shading and early in the process mistake correction is easy. One of the drawbacks with pencils is that it is challenging creating large scale pieces as it takes time to properly sketch and shade such a big surface. Upon completion you also need to finish the work with a fixative to prevent smudging.

 

Watercolour Pencils

 

While great for sketching and even blending colours, I found that this product is better used for still life and figure works. If that appeals to you, it is definitely something to try. As well, proper watercolour paper is required to reduce warping.

 

Watercolour Paint

 

Similar to the pencils I found that this product is better used for still life and figure works. I find that the pieces tend to look more muted than oil or acrylic paints, as those are thicker media, and they use different types of pigments and bases.

 

Oil Paint

 

For a long time, many artists were using oils, as they provide richness of colour are a great material for larger scale pieces. The paints can take days to dry, which can be both a pro and a con. Once mastered, the blending on these pieces can look fantastic. I found it very challenging, and the smell was too much for me.

 

Acrylic Paint

 

I am biased, as this is the material I use. Acrylic paints have come a long way and rival oil paints in quality, with less smell and a shorter dry time. While cheaper than oil, the paints are still very pricey. I find acrylics to be versatile and they work well for my style.





It took me years to find what worked best for me. Not to be lost in that is that certain materials were my go-to during a given period. I loved the gritty and dark feel when I was sketching fantasy pieces – skeletons look fantastic in grey scale. Some of the products I did not enjoy using – watercolours especially, but that was my own personal experience. Part of the fun is experimenting. You may discover that you like a few media and decide to use all of them in the same piece – mixed media works are becoming very popular these days. There are so many options out there that nobody should be limited in their creative interests. My advice: play around, get dirty, experiment with products I did not mention (yes pastels, charcoals, conte sticks, chalk, pens, collage, and printing ink – I am referring to you), and talk to others to learn about their experiences. The options are only limited by your imagination!

 

I am always interested in hearing the stories of others. Feel free to reach out and let me know about the medium you use and why you chose it. If you have topics, you want to learn about, please feel free to contact me. I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas.

 

Thanks for reading. Stay creative! Rock your day with everything that you do!


Cheers,


Al


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