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Finding Your Medium

paint brush mixing colors

I get asked about what medium I use a fair amount. Now, before I share the answer I give, I would like to share that most often I know that the person doing the asking is just asking to ask, as they know little to nothing about paint.

So, when I answer by saying, I'm most known for my oil paintings, but the truth is, I use the best medium for the type of painting I’m doing, I can see some confusion on their part. I then ask if they know the difference between, oh let’s say acrylic and oil? Most admit they do not, so I use the moment to educate them.

Now, I may be off on this, but truthfully, I think there are a fair amount of “artists” themselves who honestly do not know the differences between many of the mediums in a meaningful way, (meaning ways in which they know how one medium may help them accomplish something easier or better, or its characteristics). I get it, we tend to run with what we know. But I think you should test multiple mediums and learn their characteristics to help you possibly better accomplish your creative goals.

You should not only learn their advantages, but disadvantages, how paint technology works, and especially how mediums can be mixed or not. An example is how many artists get mixed up on the rule of oil over acrylic, but you never switch this order because of adhesion issues. Or, that acrylic paint dries one half to one value darker than it is when it is wet. Oil doesn’t do this. It’s also interesting how many artists use acrylic because they don’t like thinner and miss knowing H2O or water clean-up oil paint has been widely used for the last 25 years.

When artists are testing a new medium my best advice is to not begin by really painting with it. By this I mean, don’t try to make a painting, instead learn the properties first. Frankly, this is a rarity anyway. Most people learn to paint by painting. There’s no time learning how brushes work, how to load or even properly clean a brush. If you paint with acrylic and you want to try oil, for example, start with just buying a tube of white and a small canvas. See how it loads into your brush, see how your brush feels. Make sure you have at least one brush that is not only for oil paint but represents the style of painting you wish to do. Play with white. See how the clean up works and how long the paint takes to dry. If you don’t like it, you didn’t waste a bunch of money, but if you found some interest, then just buy the three primaries and try some paint mixing, and then maybe a small painting. Don’t just buy a whole set and overwhelm yourself.

I’ll take all of this past painting. Creativity is the act of having ideas in you that you wish to get out. How you get them out may manifest themselves best as paintings, music, writing, craft, acting, or dancing, etc. Be an open book and find what fits you best by what makes you not only happy with your results but happy in general. Imagine a frustrated guitar player who could have been a very happy piano player. Imagine an acrylic painter who never felt the joy of blending oils or the oil painter who never experienced the fast drying of acrylic. Find your medium and once you do, hey, try finding another one!

Live an artful life,


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