Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The Medium Battle

There are lots of different mediums and tools out there.  Which ones are better than others or the easiest to deal with?  We all want the secret to the perfect medium.  The one medium that goes on like butter and stays there without any problems.

I hate to burst the bubble of your perfect world . . . but there isn't a medium out there like that.  All materials and mediums have their ups and downs.  All take time to master.  I believe some click with you better than others, but all the same they still take time to learn.

I'm just going to talk a little bit about some of the mediums that I use and why I like them and why I hate them.

So at UVU they teach the Illustration students both the traditional and digital paths for art.  That means classical figure drawing alongside photoshop or even digital figure painting in some cases.  All of this includes learning to paint.

In High School I took a painting class and I absolutely loved it.  The teacher set out some paints and just let us at it for the whole semester.

But then I came to college and the professional artists paint and brushes cost an arm and a leg (and maybe a kidney) and you have to hold the brush in a certain way and learn value, light, and color.  The composition has to make sense and you suddenly find out that you suck at painting.  It was natural in High School, but now you suck at it.

This has been my experience with painting.  I first took oil and watercolor.  I thought I would love them and I'd feel like the old masters when I dipped my brush in those rich oil colors.  Nope.  I found out that semester that I absolutely do not like oils whatsoever (or watercolor for that matter).

A couple semesters later I took an acrylic class.  I discovered that I loved acrylics.  I loved how fast they dried (and with a blow-dryer they dry even faster), I loved the textures you could get out of it, and I loved watching my teacher make amazing creatures appear with his paint.

I sucked at it.  My faces were lopsided and the skin color was always flat and weird.  I exhausted myself trying to make clean lines in some places and blurred lines in others.  I painted slowly and because of that the paint on my palette would dry up.  I had very real battles with that medium.

My teacher was a fantastic encouragement.  He would paint on my piece for awhile and then let me at it.  Or he would put a hand on my shoulder and say, "Alisha, you are stronger than you think you are; beneath all these clothes is chain-mail."

I love acrylics.

But I also hate them to a certain extent.
Next I want to talk about Digital Painting.  For club we set up a booth at least twice a semester and sell student art.  A lot of it is digital.  When a passerby looks at the art they stop and ask this question, "So did you paint this, or did the computer?".  This has frustrated many an artist over the years.

I don't think "normal" people really understand digital art.  Yes it is on the computer, yes there are some buttons that make it a little easier than traditional painting (you don't have to buy expensive paints and brushes for one), but in the end it is the artist's hand that is moving the cursor, it is the artist who decides on the color and composition.  They use the exact same techniques and make the exact same decisions as they would if they were painting in oils.

With this in mind I'm not really all that good at painting, traditional or digital.  So when I took my digital painting class the struggle was real.  We used photoshop and it made no sense to me.  It was hard drawing curves or straight lines on the tablet.  It didn't feel natural.
Tin Man
We did a project every week and every single one of mine failed to look halfway decent.  While others in the class took it like a duck to water, I felt pulled under by the unnatural feelings it was inducing.  It just didn't click in my brain.

But I didn't want to give up on digital since there are many positive aspects of it once you get it down.

So next I tried Painter.  I was hoping that since it's more painterly based that it would feel more like painting with acrylics.

And while I like it more than photoshop, I was still having problems with it.  There are too many brushes and I didn't like how they created new layers for different brushes and some other stuff.  It was close, but still didn't feel quite right.
Might have seen this in a previous post "Because I Missed"

At the moment I am playing around with a program called Krita.  It's painterly like Painter, but it doesn't have the overbearing amount of brushes and the access to perspective grids and manipulation is easier.  I'm liking it more than the other, though to be truthful I haven't used for very long (so I haven't had time to hate it just yet).  I'm hoping this is the program that launches me over that learning curve for digital art.
A piece for my brother-in-laws RPG
Finally I want to talk about my favorite medium.  Graphite pencil.

Yup.  The ordinary, every day pencil.  I think the reason I like graphite so much is that I've been using pencils since I was a tyke.  My mastery of this medium is further along than any other medium.  The pencil feels natural in my hand and it does what I want it to do.

You do have to be careful with smudging and the pencil is slow progress over larger surface areas.  So there are downsides, but like I said at the beginning: there are going to be downsides to every medium you use.

My advice regarding mediums:  play around, try them all, and remember the upsides and downsides.  Take note of which ones feel better to you and pursue mastery in them.  Be aware that there's still a learning curve, even if the medium does feel natural to you.  Practice, practice, practice.

Above all else, have patience with yourself.


If there is any topic you wish me to discuss, or any questions that you would like answers to please respond in the comments and I will blog about them!

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