What does ‘Medium’ Mean in Fine Art Practice? The same view in three different mediums.
Interesting to see the same landscape view in three different mediums : drawing, watercolour & stone lithography.
Different material, different effect.
Each medium is good for certain effects. In the above three images,, watercolour is delicate colours & brushmarks, conté is so immediate & so fresh, lithography is good for a design, a powerful composition.
But a medium doesn’t simply mean the actual physical material , such as acrylic PVA wood glue sticky glue, slippery graphite pencil, etc.
Nor does ‘medium’ mean the technique imposed by the physical nature, the touch, the feel of the actual materials …though an artist disregards this at his peril. For example, if you wish to attain a granulation effect in watercolour, you need to use a pigment that goes into suspension, not dilution & thus will granulate out onto the surface of the paper fibers rather than soak in deep into the paper & ‘stain’ it, which is what pigments that dissolve in water do.
What does ‘Medium’ Mean in Fine Art Practice?
Train the hand, so that the hand knows what to do. This is done by the hand touching the material. Having contact with the world. It is through the hand of the artist manipulating & touching the medium that art arises. It is in the gestures of the artist’s hand that a deep respect & love for the physicality of materials is seen. After all, we artists deal with some of the most gorgeous of our beloved planet resources : beautiful reds from madder plants, lovely rich carbons from willow, cobalts & lapis lazuri,
It is said we live in materialistic culture but actually , I see more & more disrespect & contempt for materials. Trashed, smashed & built-in obselence. Built by a machine, not the hand of man. Cheaper to throw away than to fix. As we enter into the ‘Age of Resources’, a crisis of supply & consumption of raw materails, where a normal european lifestyle requires three planets of resources, what of art? How does this crazy disrespect for materials effect making fine art?
When I see the stone flints of where I live, near Bergerac in Dordogne, South West France, I understand why prehistoric man was willing to walk for weeks & weeks to find these beautiful & useful materials… then learn how to transform them into tools that have even been found as far away as the Ukraine! Home habilis = habile = dexterious. Home faber = faber = faire= to make ….We owe our existence to things that we make. They shape our experience & perception of the world.
A beautiful painting reminds us that the world is made up of beautiful physical materials, though most of us now inter-react with art via print or internet, which has the effect of dematerializing the artwork, so as to become yet another chimera without a body, another figment of one’s imagination. I frequently am shocked physically when in front of good art. When I saw Gauguin’s painting in the Musée D’Orsay, the size, the burlap, the skin of linoxidation of the rough linseed he used, the sheer scale precipitated a gut reaction in me that mere familiarity with the image’s fame via reproductions did not.
See the world through art materials…
A medium will also determine how the artwork arises, what the artwork can & can’t do & most important of all but maybe the most subtle as well, a medium will shape how the artist gives expression to his vision.
You need to be able to see in the world in terms of your art materials. The medium gives rise to the vision… Too many beginners & too many uncultured spectators (I can’t call them ‘connaisseurs’ because they don’t see the art in the medium; they don’t even see the paint in the painting! and need cajouling to appreciate the hand of the artist) naively think that the art work should look like the world … but isn’t it a bit stupid to confuse , say for example, a tree with an ink stain? No, I believe that an ink stain should first & foremost look like an ink stain. A beautiful ink stain yes. Yes make it as beautiful as you can. and make it a ‘truimphe d’oielle ‘ yes – ‘pourqui pas’ and put on top of this all the rest of it: expression, signification, asethetics, – but always first of all, it is an ink stain. First & foremost this integrity, this respect, this sensitivity for the material itself. It is this deep respect for materials that the hand of a real craftsman.
The creative process lies not in imitating, but in paralleling nature – translating the impulse received from nature into the medium of expression, thus vitalizing this medium. The picture should be alive, the statue should be alive, and every work of art should be alive. – Hans Hofmann
I often work in both watercolour & oil painting. I enjoy the translation from one medium to another. Same view, different vision.
In this case, the watercolour came after the oil, and so, I consider it to be a lot more than a study for the oil painting. Some historians tend to classify drawings & watercolours as preliminary studies for a more substantial, more resolved painting. Here for example is one of my tonal studies for a painting , but it is fresh enough, coherant enough to stand alone :