using different media

Do you stick to just one medium? do you move from one to another depending on mood or the needs of a particular subject? do you mix media? do you enjoy trying out a new medium?

I realised recently how many people stick to just one medium and are worried about trying others.

I also realised that most of the artists that I admire use a wide variety of media and also mix their media and break 'rules'. I don't like rules! guidelines - ok, suggestions - ok, rules???? no.

I started out, like a lot of people, using watercolours and also gouache (with an early backbround in design) - they are relatively clean, odourless and don't involve masses of equipment - well until you become addicted to painting and then your equipment and tools seem to spread to fill every room in the house - my husband certainly thinks so.

I still enjoy my watercolours and tend to use them with other media - sometimes with touches of chalk pastel, sometimes oil pastel, ink, gouache - sometimes all of those in one piece. I am simply trying to get down the light, colour and feel of a scene and will choose whatever materials are going to get the marks I want.

This one is a watercolour, pencil, ink,oil pastel, chinagraph pencil, gouache, tippex pen and coloured pencil piece! It's a tiny sketch in a small sketchbook, just 6 inches square, a really useful size to keep in my bag when I'm on holiday.

I had my paintbox, brushes, a water bottle and pencil case containing pens, pencils, a few oil pastels, that chinagraph pencil, a tube of white gouache and a few coloured pencils and sketched while the family went shopping on a misty grey day.

In the studio there is more time for planning and it would be possible to do a 'pure' waterolour but all these additions are perfect when sketching plein air, enabling me to work faster, regain lost lights, knock areas back - the far off headland was too dark and I simply scumbled the white chinagraph pencil over it to make it disappear more into the haze (watercolour doesn't lift well from cartridge paper and the paper gets damaged). I'm really not interested in following rules and keeping a watercolour 'pure' - these other media make the kind of marks I want, that describe the textures, weather and colour of the day and for me I prefer to work this way. Turner often used a little gouache with his watercolours - it's great mixed with the watercolours to rescue lost lights.

Acrylics I always think of as my least favourite medium - but I use it regularly. I do the first marks in an oil painting in acrylic often or use it to paint the whole canvas a darker positive colour like red, which will then flicker through the final piece. Then I like to use it on unprimed canvas in a watercolour-like way before finishing in thicker paint. I use it as underpainting for chalk pastels and with collage - so maybe it's not so unfavourite after all :) . I also really like the pearlescent colours, especially the soft turquoisy blue.

Oil is definitely what I use the most. I like canvasses because of the impact of the final piece - no framing, no glass or reflection blocking you from connecting with the work. I use deep sided canvas so that no frame is needed - I feel it imprisons the work to frame it. I also detest shiny varnish for the same reason - it's a barrier, and that reflection - ugggh! I feel the same about old fashioned ornate gilt frames on modern work :( - I don't even like them on Impressionist works - they feel wrong somehow. With oil there is such a vocabulary of marks to be made, I can push and pull a painting until I'm happy .... ish! painting out large sections, simplifying where I've overcomplicated, changing colours and mood in response to the needs of the painting itself, rather than preconceptions and I can move on and away from the preliminary sketches.

Pastel is glorious to use - but oh the mess! colour over me, my surroundings and even worse trying to put the finished piece in a frame without getting specs of pastel on the glass or mount (mat). I love to work in pastel but this makes me use it less than I'd like. Sometimes I'll underpaint in acrylic or watercolour and other times work simply in pastel. Unison is my favourite brand - they are velvety and intense but don't break if you simply look at them like some. I also buy Inscribe - cheap and cheerful but still nice to use. I haven't liked Rembrandt at all when I tried them and find Conte too hard and scratchy. This painting of local woods is a compressed charcoal drawing with acrylic paint and pastel over.

Charcoal: I love the painterliness of charcoal, its ability to suggest tones from the lightest softest greys through to intense inky blacks. I love the ease with which you can marry line and tone, one blending and becoming lost in the other - I really need to use charcoal again - soon.

Pencil/graphite is something I use occasionally in sketch books or with watercolour but only on a smaller scale. I like my propelling pencil with a B or 2B lead, it doesn't smudge like softer pencils. If I want a sfumato, soft image then I'd rather work larger and use charcoal.

Coloured pencils are something I've used for a very long time in mixed media pieces, playing a supporting role, used to bring out elements. Recently I've used them more in their own right but only on a small scale. Once I work larger I want the liquidity and freedom of paint - or the versatility of charcoal. I was amazed at the intense glowing colours achievable and they are definitely something I'll come back to for intense studies.

the picture uploader isn't working so I'll add some more images later.

Then there's printmaking - collagraphs, etchings, monotypes, drypoint ......


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