Your Perfect Medium

A medium refers to the materials used to create a work of art. Oil paint, bronze, crayons, paper, wood, marble; these are all media that can be used to create various forms of art. As we grow in our experience and expand in our understanding of art we may come to discover different things about our abilities; namely the media through which we feel most comfortable expressing ourselves.

If you are like me, interested in art and sometimes skilled at painting with acrylics, you don’t really understand your potential and that is okay! Here is a breakdown of different media you can pursue at home, what they are most commonly used for and tips for starting out!

Clay

Working with clay is more than simply a great activity at summer camp; with so many colors and endless possibility, clay is a wonderful medium! Most commonly, individuals paint on ceramic which is made from materials like clay, yet anyone can create their own piece using a technique called handbuilding. Handbuilding is the use of only clay, water and ones’ hands to create whatever her or she desires, and placed in a fire to harden.

The most common use for clay historically has been pitchers for water, plates and bowls. Fired clay takes on a stone-like nature in that the once malleable dinner plate is now strong, sealed and much more difficult to break or wear over time.

While we cannot all have a studio in our homes and a brick fireplace, we can visit our local craft store and pick up a few packs of clay! Craft stores offer a variety of colors and amounts of clay and sometimes even have handy booklets to draw inspiration from. If you want to dive into the art of pottery, there are kits one can purchase with a spinning table and sometimes a local ceramic shop will be happy to help cure your creation in their ovens!

Colored Pencil

We all remember school projects that involved a lot of coloring and while they were never the most difficult assignments, some people would give their project finesse with colored pencils. Colored pencils are a great medium for anyone looking for a wide color palette and wishing to incorporate any amount of detail into their work. Colored pencils can be used to create art on any paper-like surface and are always nice to have on hand whenever creativity strikes.

There are so many techniques artists practiced in this medium utilize to create the illusion of texture, depth, or even manipulate color. Colored pencils can really be used to draw anything the artist desires, as long as the pencils are used on a supportive medium.

When wandering through your local craft store, you might be confronted by several types of pencil options such as artist grade, student grade, mechanical, watercolor and pastel. While similar, there are some differences to note; breakage, pigmentation and ability to withstand UV rays are the major differences between artist and student grade pencils. Mechanical colored pencils potentially offer the ability to refill them, but the color palette is limited. Watercolor pencils are more diverse, they can be used dry as a common colored pencil and left alone, or the artist can apply water with a wet paintbrush to activate the pencil’s water soliable quality. Pick up a set that interests you and get creative!

Pastel

Pastels are a medium in the form of a stick that is made of pure powder pigment and binder. Pastels are somewhat the consistency of crayons; not as soft a medium as one might expect at first sight. Pastel can be used on a lot of different surfaces; anything from paper to canvas will hold the color! Greatest use of pastel goes towards canvas paintings, yet I personally use pastels for passion projects in old books or notebooks; the color once on the page is likely not to fade but it can be smeared, made into a gradient and used as a member of a mixed media project.

When visiting your local craft store, you will be presented with varying ranges of colors and amount of pastels; my tip is to buy a decent quality pack of pastels with a broad range of colors because it is not very expensive but leaves a lot of room for creativity!

Paint

Acrylic paint is likely the most commonly associated means of painting something due to its versatility. Acrylic will work on anything from a smooth wood surface to paper to canvas and almost anything in between. Painting is an incredible way to relax the mind and create works of art one might enjoy for years to come! Unlike other paints, acrylic is water-based, not oil-based and the water suspends acrylic polymer, the binder.

When starting out at home, it’s easy to become overwhelmed with the multitude of colors to choose from, so my suggestion would be to visit your local craft store with an idea of what you would like to paint so that way you only purchase the colors you need. This allows you to not only get familiar with acrylics, but you save a lot of money if it ends up not being the medium for you; or I it is, you can always stock up on more colors!

 

Alex, Contributing Editor

Photo by amaranth photography

Calligraphy as Creative Expression

Creative expression refers to participation in a range of activities that allow for creative and imaginative expression such as music, art, creative movement and drama. To say that words on a page cannot be considered within this category is to denounce the power of the written word. A handwritten note has fallen victim to the rise of technological communication. In a globalized civilization where ‘snail mail’ as a concept has replaced the intimacy of a written note, I make it a point to continue the art.

It has become far too easy to categorize art into its many constructs and defining features. The bold outer curve that comes together with a fine stroke to create an ‘e’ is just as dramatic as the uniform, all capital letter spelling of any word or phrase. Dramatic, dainty, bold, capitalized, miscellaneous; the boundaries of our creative expression are limited only by our mentality.

What is calligraphy without the handwritten note? What significance would the handwritten note have if technology did not prevail as it does? To be surprised by a letter in the mail is a wonderful moment in which we subconsciously and intimately connect with the sender. At one point the personalized note was a staple of each birthday; the kids wrote letters to each guest and thanked him or her for their generosity yet today this is lost due to the convenience of social media pages.

If we had the ability to look at letters written from hundreds of people when it was still common practice, the diversity in style, bold accents, thin lettering and so many other elements of writing would come alive! In a way, we are all calligraphers; each of us has a unique style of communicating the same message with a different flair. Writing is the oldest means through which humans have communicated and calligraphy is arguably how we have always expressed emotion.

Some Tips

If it has been a while since sending a note to someone in your life, go ahead and take some time to send an update of your life or even a friendly hello. It might just make someone’s day!

Before writing in a notecard write your message on piece of paper, this way you can clearly communicate! You might even think of a fun way to write it out or add a small drawing to make it more personalized and use all the space on the card.

Calligraphy has no rules, so allow your pen to navigate the page in any way you choose!

 

I thoroughly enjoy the call I receive once a friend or relative has opened my note, it is always a welcome and wonderful conversation! -Alex, contributing editor

Expression of Watercolor

Watercolor as a medium of expression, as well as an art, is a fascinating opportunity to explore the emotion behind artistic creation. Traditionally, watercolor was simply pigment that would be ground with gum and require a brush and water to apply. To find an artist who creates his or her own watercolors is exceedingly rare. While acrylic is completely opaque, watercolor can be as dense or translucent as the artist desires. To make the application of a particular color translucent, one must keep more water saturation on the brush from initial dip to the color and onto the page. For a more opaque expression of color, an artist has options and may use less water or layer a color between drying.

A simple palette of pigment may elaborate into an array of colors as endless as the artistic imagination will allow it to expand. There is arguably a learning curve to the ways in which watercolor can be manipulated on a page. Every piece holds an opportunity for the artist to explore the opportunities the plasticity of watercolor allows. Watercolor is one of the most versatile forms of art anyone from novice to professional might explore. Endless color variations, gradations, intensity, saturation and other factors seemingly unique to watercolor make it appear that the notion of ‘correct art’ is but a distant opinion. It can be a tool through which to explore a new-found interest or challenge existing skills. To be deemed proficient or skilled in one medium does not guarantee a translation of skill through another; each form of expression carries with it a unique learning curve.

The Art of Delicacy

As a child, painting on my easel with only the primary colors to highlight my creative expression, I would stare. I would ponder at my art and think it to be worth its weight in gold, yet as I grew in my artistic understanding and age I began to doubt. I would ask myself how I might express my most delicate of messages or whether it was even possible. As the range of artistic mediums expanded, the ways in which I could harness a moment followed. A realization came as well that the ways in which one may choose to express delicacy or the rawness of exaggeration may not be similar to that of others; and that in-and-of itself is beautiful.

To be traditionally delicate is to act with an air of intricacy among calculated passion. Delicacy in art, as in nature, can be what allows one’s message and expression captivate the onlooker. As with most subjective forms of expression, there is no inherently right or wrong way to approach or display a delicate tone. To be delicate with watercolor may not translate similarly to other mediums of expression. In delicacy, there is a desire to portray something of simplicity, elegance, or even display emotion. In contrast is exaggeration; those bold, excitable lines and contrasts generate the relation of feeling from artist to admirer.

In no way is it impossible to find one’s own creative means through which to project an air of deliberate delicacy, and there should be no shame in learning from the efforts of seasoned artists. Nature shares with us the ease with which it may project both a bold statement and retain elegant simplicity. Skills are learned and for an artist to creatively express thoughts, feelings or beliefs in a delicate form, or lack-there-of is truly an unappreciated phenomenon.

Art is representative of the artist; allowing another to dictate your personal expression destroys the sanctity of individuality and difference in opinion. Create with a stroke of pen, pencil, brush or pastel that speaks to your message despite whether it is ‘traditionally delicate’. -A, contributing editor

Photograph courtesy of Amaranth Photography

The Power of the Handwritten Note

Handwritten-Note-Photo-583x3861Getting Back to Basics

Every year I get a card from my grandmother with a handwritten one-page note.  She is catching me up on what is going on and throws in a little guilt trip as well.  No matter what it says, I find myself finding a chair to sit in and really spend a few minutes reading what she wrote.  For me, I look forward to these few minutes every year.  Why?  because it’s different and that makes it special.

Having a business for over 15 years, you start to look for new ways to connect with clients.  Having a business for over 15 years that manages online marketing you look for new ways to connect with clients that get their attention.  Everyone is doing the same thing with social media and electronic e-blasts, nothing stands out anymore.

Handwritten notes do stand out and more often than not when ever I send a client a handwritten note, I get a call from them.  That tells you something.

Here is an article I found: Handwritten Notes: The Most Powerful Follow Up by Susan Ward.  Well worth the time.

Those that follow up can not only get the customers/clients that other less conscientious sales people have left behind, but beat competitors in attracting new business.

To reap the benefits of follow up, though, you have to do it, and have to do it right. It continually astounds me that so few businesses that I am personally aware of can’t seem to be bothered to follow up. My guess is that they are assuming that people will contact them if they’re interested – a faulty assumption that can cost you a lot of business. Customers and/or clients have busy lives and unless there’s some special reason not to forget about you, they will.

What’s the best way to follow up? The phone call? The text message? The email? No – none of these. The best way to follow up is still the handwritten note.

Now don’t take that to mean that you should just dash off one handwritten note to a client or customer and your follow up is done. If you are trying to make a sale, chances are good you are going to follow up anywhere from two to seven times (I remember reading that 80 percent of new sales are made after the fifth contact.)  And that doesn’t mean that you have to write a handwritten note each time. Phone calls, emails, and even text messages can certainly help keep you and your products and/or services in the forefront of your client or customer’s brain.

But the handwritten note, because of its apparent personal nature, has a power that other follow up techniques lack, so it should be the fulcrum of your follow up efforts.

Properly done, the handwritten note is a real relationship builder because it says to your client or customer that you have taken the time to recognize them as an individual and that their business is important to you.

It’s also a great way to differentiate yourself from the competition because so few people bother to follow up at all, let alone follow up in ways that will impress customers.

For instance, right now several financial investment firms are courting me. One of them dropped an obviously mass-produced flyer into my mailbox asking me for my business (and a poorly printed flyer at that). He never bothered to follow up.

Another dropped by the house, introduced himself, and we had a pleasant chat about what my financial investment needs might be. The next day I found a handwritten note in my mailbox thanking me for taking the time to talk to him and asking me to let him know if he could be of future service.

Guess which one of these firms I would choose to do business with? Who wouldn’t? The first investment firm may be fine, but the representative of the second firm has impressed me; it’s his name that is lodged in my mind.

Besides being a great way to get prospective new customers and/or clients to think of you favourably, handwritten notes are also a great way to thank people for their patronage. After we got new flooring installed in our house by a local firm, the owner of the business sent us a handwritten note thanking us for choosing their firm and hoping that we were enjoying the look of our new floors (which we are)! This sort of personalized attention is one reason that I recommend this firm to anyone local.

Don’t be afraid of being old-fashioned; when it comes to follow up, sometimes the old ways are the best. Take the time to write handwritten notes thanking your customers and/or clients; the time you spend writing them will be well worth it in terms of return business and increased positive word-of-mouth.