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Artist’s Process: Learning a new medium

Sometimes that new set of paint tubes or markers can be intimidating. I often found myself staring at a new set of paint on my desk, making no move to open it for a few days. There are times when transitioning from one medium to the next, you may feel uncomfortable and weary.

This isn’t true for all artists. Some people are naturally spontaneous and love jumping into new, unfamiliar mediums. I have become more daring as time went on, but even now my art drastically changes depending on the medium I use, and there are even mediums I tend to avoid because of that. I thought that sharing some of the methods I’ve learnt when dealing with new mediums can help other ‘cautiously-inclined’ artists start their journey with a new, unfamiliar art supply.

Firstly, research is your friend. Research the medium before you buy it, because that will give you a quick overview of what other mediums are similar, whether or not the medium needs special paper, canvas or brush cleaner and what mediums can be used with it. This helped me a lot when starting out with Gouache.

Gouache and Acrylic Mixed Media- I used the now familiar Gouache to progress into a medium I have less experience with, Acrylics.

 I found Gouache to be similar to Watercolor, which is a medium I am very familiar with. It can be used alongside both Acrylic paint and Watercolor, and it doesn’t require any particular canvas or paint board.This really helped me get started, since I could use Watercolor and Gouache together in a piece and find out what makes Gouache unique from the mediums I already used in the past. After learning to enjoy and properly use Gouache, I began to use it alongside Acrylic, a medium that I still find a challenge.

Secondly, experience is the only way to learn. Research can only bring you so far, and knowing all the ins and outs of the medium before you start is helpful. But it can never replace actually using the medium, making mistakes and learning to correct them. Copic Markers are not similar to any medium I have attempted prior to using them. It needs special paper, which I couldn’t find at the time. I didn’t see any other mediums used with Copics in artworks. Watercolor paper ruins the nibs and the alcohol ink doesn’t work very well when layered on paint.

Recent Copic Marker Illustration.

This posed a dilemma, since I have seen a lot of Copic art and absolutely loved the look of the medium. That led to the spontaneous purchase of my first four markers. I had no experience with the markers, and by the end of the first two months of using them, one already had a ruined nib. I had also stored them wrong at some point, so one end of the marker always had more ink than the other. This was the hard way of learning how to use the medium, and soon I got the idea of using chalk pastels alongside the Copics to make up for my limitations in color. I bought a new set of six markers as soon as I could, and set to work using Copics along the chalk pastels. That was when the art began to progress, and soon I stopped using the chalk pastels along with the Copics.

Thirdly, when it comes to buying the best, most expensive brand, versus buying a cheaper version of the product, try to buy the cheaper product. This will help the situation feel less risky, and help you feel more relaxed when using the medium. Some products don’t have this option, but for those that do I highly recommend it. I started Watercolors with a cheap, chalky, kid’s art set. I followed tutorials done with higher, artist quality paints, and at first, I was not limited too much by the cheap Watercolors. When I found myself enjoying and progressing in the medium, I invested in a more expensive set. That was almost three years ago. Recently I even bought a professional level metallic Watercolor set, knowing that I will enjoy and often use the medium.

Watercolor Illustration using FineTec Metallic Watercolors and Van Gogh Watercolor Travel Set.

In the end, the best way to learn a new medium is to do research, and then to actually experience the medium. Patience is key, because like most things in art, it is a growing process. Stick to things you are comfortable drawing and painting, as to not push yourself too far into unfamiliar territory. When using a new medium, I usually draw or paint my favorite original character, which helps familiarize the experience.

Keep in mind that learning a new medium is just that, learning. Don’t be afraid to fail, because it will grow you for next time you tackle that medium.

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