Saturday, August 05, 2017

Media Madness

Someone commented to me not long ago about admiring an ability to work in several different mediums. As those who read here know, I've posted watercolor, casein, graphite, digital, oil and metalpoint images at different times. My primary medium is still oil, but experimenting with other media has been both interesting and useful.

In my opinion, drawing and painting can be accomplished with many different media and tools and if you study diligently, the overlap among the media can be very helpful. Watercolor's transparency gives spark and luminosity; oil paint when used in certain ways seems to glow; casein is quick and opaque and handles similar to oils; gouache is like casein in many ways; digital methods of drawing and painting can emulate all of the other media but depends significantly on the tools chosen and the ability of the artist (at least in my case).

Long ago online there was a series of posts wherein the artist tried making images of the same subject in as many different media as possible. It seemed an impossible task, but when one simply relaxes and realizes that the process and the learning are the purpose, rather than making pictures for sale, it becomes easier.

This week I decided to give the idea a try. Accordingly, made four images of coneflowers behind my home studio. The first was yesterday, a 4x6 watercolor done in an hour or so. This morning I did three more paintings, each the same size as the first, but this time in casein, oil, and pixels. Here they are:

The first is a digital sketch done on my iPad Pro using a free sketch program, Adobe Sketch and the Apple Pencil. Although the image is recognizable and the colors fairly accurate, one of the problems with doing this sort of work digitally is whether the program allows the kind of nuance of mark-making that you can get when using other tools. With paint, graphite, charcoal, etc. an artist can vary marks more easily, at least during the learning phase. In my eyes, this image is at least partially successful in evoking the summer garden.

To the right is a "real world" painting of the same subject, although a bit different grouping. This is casein on panel, 4x6. The image photographed well because of the matte finish of this kind of paint. The opacity and quick drying of casein allowed me to lay strokes over one another fairly quickly. If you're too picky in the beginning, you can use a full-bodied opaque stroke or two to cover the fuss and loosen the work.

The next is oil, 4x6 on panel, done alla prima with added Maroger medium. The advantage of that medium is that with care you can lay wet strokes over wet strokes without seriously disturbing the first ones, if you're gentle. Allowing the first strokes to set for a few minutes before overlaying helps that process a bit. Here I did the background first then let the paint layer set up a bit before fusing edges and softening things with a sable blender. I reserved the lighter parts of the panel and then placed the petal colors in varying chroma, value and hues, trying to make my strokes crisp and true without fussing. The edges of the central seed heads are soft and sharp depending on the passage. I like the luminous effect of oil.

Finally this is the watercolor that started the experiment. This was done on cold press 140 lb paper measuring 4x6. I laid the background greens in various chromas and values reserving white for the petals and central seeds. Watercolor is transparent, so the colors seem to glow. It was fun to overlay the pinks, making petal edges indistinct.

So what is the result of this media madness? Well, seems to me that the subject can be served by any of these four mediums. Watercolor is cheap, fast, simple and easy to carry. Casein can be just as easy, but the paint dries so fast a small covered palette with a soaked sponge or paper towel inside could facilitate portable sketching. Certainly casein is remarkably forgiving and allows thick and opaque passages that watercolor can't accommodate. If oil paint is a medium of choice, seems to me that using some kind of medium--even an alkyd resin like Liquin--would make portable painting a lot easier. The Maroger medium I used dries very fast (for oil). Last, I think digital images can be very useful as source material and for sketching but until the current tablets and pressure-sensitive styli were available, outdoor and portable digital sketching weren't so feasible. Now it seems to me that the sky may be the limit.
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