Mar 5, 2010
Creative Corner ©
Which Medium Should I Choose!
by Sharon Teal-Coray
As a beginner many years ago I really didn’t know exactly which medium I wanted to pursue. I started with pencils and from there I went to oils. I have spent time learning to use watercolors, pastels and acrylics and after trying all the other mediums my favorite are oils with acrylics a close second. Sometimes if you are just starting out you don’t know which medium to explore and if you have been painting for a while sometimes it is good to just take a break from your regular medium and use something else for a change.
The paints that are used the most are acrylics, oils and pastels. I think that what you choose primarily depends on your personality and what you plan on painting.
If you are a person who likes fast results without waiting for something to dry then acrylics and watercolors may be your choice. If you have patience and you’re not in a hurry to get your painting done, oils may be a better choice for you.
One of the most important things you should consider is the hazards of the paint you’re going to use. If you have small children or if someone in your family has asthma or allergies, oils and the solvents you need may not be a good choice.
However, today we have water based oils and natural solvents that are completely safe. So it is now possible to choose these and keep your studio safe. When I was working with pastels I found them produce lots of dust and they did bother my lungs.
Also, animals that might walk across your palette should be a concern. I have two cats and two birds; I have had them get in my paint and had to give them a bath. Fortunately I was using acrylics so the paint was easy to remove, animals seem to be attracted to paints!
Acrylic paint is a good choice for a beginner; they are inexpensive, easy to use and really effortless to clean up. However, never buy a student grade of any paint; you will use more to get the same results as you would with a medium price paint because the cheaper paints have more filler in them and less pigment. That is the only reason for a paint to cost more; they simply have more pigment and more expensive pigments.
What I love about acrylics is that they do dry fast, however the drying time can be controlled with extenders plus there are new products on the market that are slower drying then the old acrylics.
I love how easy they clean up with water but most of all I love how I can paint over something I don’t like in only a few minutes. Acrylics can be used like watercolors creating fresh washes or can be applied thickly like oils.
One thing I don’t like is that acrylics dry darker, so you have to know this and take this into consideration when choosing the colors you’re going to use. I used to be upset if I left a brush and it got stiff with acrylic paint in it but since the hand sanitizer has become popular I have found that I can soak my dried brush in this for an hour or so and the paint comes out.
I found watercolors to be a very fun medium albeit a hard medium. The reason being is that once you have applied the paint, it is there to stay. Being transparent it is hard to hide or repair mistakes. The colors will be lighter once they dry and there is no white in watercolors, the white of the paper is the white you will use. However, they are the cheapest paints you can buy. You only need a basic set of paints a few brushes, paper, a board and brown gummed tape if you plan on stretching your own paper.
I love to work with watercolors, however, the biggest problem I had was the stretching of the paper. Not that is hard to stretch but it takes planning ahead, if you are going to paint with watercolors you need to have your paper stretched and dried, not being good at preparing ahead I would find myself wanting to paint without the paper being ready.
With pastels you will have a great range of colors to paint with. Brands differ in the softness of the pastels. They do smudge easily so you will need to use a fixative. You actually mix the colors on the paper. If you use oil based pastels you can thin them with turpentine.
The main thing I didn’t like about pastels was that you need a bigger range of colors than you do with other mediums.
So with that how does one tell if they have chosen the right medium? All I can say is that I didn’t know what I wanted until I tried it all. Then you will have the experience to judge which ones you love and which ones you just don’t like.
It is fun to use two mediums, “mixed mediums”. I love to do an under painting with acrylics and then use oils over them. This way I can get to the finishing steps faster.
It all boils down to your own likes and dislikes. Just try to experiment with lots of different mediums and you will be sure to find the one that is meant for you!