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!
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!
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!
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!
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