Which medium is right for you?

With barry Whitehouse of the Artery in Banbury

The Arty Bit – a quick tip!

When mixing several colours together the order you mix them in will help greatly in getting the colour you desire. For example, if you have the four colours ultramarine, cadmium yellow, and alizarin crimson depending on the order you mix them you can get a whole host of new colours. Without first determining the sequence of mixing more than two colours together you are in danger of consistently mixing ‘mud’. Below are four examples of creating four totally different colour mixes by using the same three colours, but by changing the order you mix them in.

To get a Dark Chocolate Brown, first mix together ultramarine and cadmium yellow in equal amounts to make a green, and then slowly add the alizarin crimson.

To get a Very Dark Green, first mix together a lot of ultramarine with a little cadmium yellow, then add a small amount of alizarin crimson

To get a Light Tan Brown, first mix together cadmium yellow with a little alizarin crimson to make a yellow orange, then add a little of the ultramarine blue.

To get a Shadow Colour, first mix together the ultramarine and alizarin crimson to get a purple, then add a little yellow

The Art Surgery

Which Medium is Right for You?

 The beginning of a new year often brings about the urge to take up art, or attend an art class. I thought I would run through a few of the popular mediums here:

Acrylics

These paints are fast becoming one of the widely used mediums with beginners. A plastic polymer based paint in the same colour as traditional mediums, but with these there are subtle differences.

Plus points: They are much brighter than oils or watercolours as a clear binder is used to trap the pigment. Acrylics are opaque and so are extremely forgiving. You can paint any colour on top of another. They are water based, but permanent when dry. They dry extremely quickly and have no smell so they are great for working with in a class, or at home. They can be used on any surface including paper, card, wood, plastic, clay, and canvas. They can be used straight from the tube to give an oil effect, or diluted down with water to give a watercolour effect. Brushes or knives can be used to apply the paint. Paintbrushes are cleaned with water.

Negative points: They do not wash out of clothes easily. To some people they are gaudy and require some learning to make more ‘natural’. We do not know how long a picture painted in them will last because they are too new (only 30 years or so) compared to the more traditional mediums. Do not leave any paint to dry on brushes as it will be almost impossible to clean the brushes and get them useable again.

Oil Paints

The oldest paint medium still in use today. The paint consists of pigment mixed with linseed oil and in some cases, the addition of beeswax.

Plus Points: The artist quality versions are lightfast and will last hundreds of years. Solvent based, they require using turpentine or white spirit to dilute. Oils are opaque so any colour can be applied on top of another. They work similarly to acrylic paints. They can be painted on canvas, canvas boards, and primed wooden surfaces. They are very traditional and paintings painted in oil can generally command a slightly higher price. Brushes or knives can be used to apply the paint. Paint needs to be applied in layers starting with the thicker paint first, and more diluted subsequent layers. This is because a thicker more impasto paint will not adhere to a diluted paint. Brushes clean with turpentine or white spirit.

Negative Points: The solvents used can smell and cause breathing problems. Low odour and citrus based solvents are now available to counteract this problem. As oils are solvent based, they can take weeks or months to dry depending on the thickness of the paint. They dry from the outside in so the only way to ensure they are dry is to stick a pin in the thickest part of the paint. If it comes out clean, then it is dry enough to varnish.

Watercolour

The most popular medium, and one of the oldest. The paint consists of pigment mixed with gum arabic and in some cases honey. Available in student and artist quality, in tubes and solid blocks (pans).

Plus Points: It is transparent paint and so give a beautiful glow when painted properly. Due to being available in solid pans, it means paint sets are thoroughly transportable and are great to use on holiday or at classes. As watercolours are the most popular, there are plenty of reference books, guides and instructional videos available to help learn from. They can only be used correctly on properly sized watercolour paper. The paint is diluted with water and brushes are cleaned with water.

Negative Points: As they are transparent watercolours can only be painted in a certain way. The lightest colours have to be applied first and slowly darker colours can be added. This makes painting in them less forgiving as mistakes cannot easily be rectified. Getting the correct ratio of water to paint can take a little time to get right.

Coloured Pencils

With the increasing popularity of grown up colouring books, colouring pencils are coming into their own as an art medium. Available in a wide array of colours and qualities.

Plus Points: Extremely portable and user friendly. Pencil blenders or a blending medium can be added to the collection to help get more subtle blends or a more painterly quality. Coloured pencils are great for beginners as it’s a medium everyone is used to. By varying the pressure on each pencil, a wide variety of shades and tints can be achieved. Coloured pencils are great for taking on holiday or for class, as all that is needed is cartridge paper.

Negative Points: As they do not blend or mix in the same way as paint, a greater variety of colour is needed. Most coloured pencils come in a range of 72 colours – the good part is you don’t have to buy all 72 together! It is easier to use them on smaller scale projects, although some artists do create very large pieces using them.