The idea behind this is actually very simple, but I often find many artists that don’t take the time to learn about their pencils, pens, paint, etc. which I find to be a massive oversight in their art education. For someone like me it was always intuitive to learn about new materials, but I’ve found over time that I am in the minority in that regard.
However, I don’t feel like it’s a “you have it or you don’t” mentality. Instead the desire to learn about your materials is something that for myself and for others I imagine develops over time. Early on in your artistic lives we just want to make art (which is very important part for sure) however you at some point will feel limited by a medium’s capabilities. At this point you can (and to some degree should at least for a time) change media, and learn more about other techniques, but again you may find yourself hitting mental walls.
So, how would one get out of such a rut? Thinking about what types of materials you use, and how you might use them more effectively I feel is where this exploration begins. Something like my choice acrylic paint for example has a lot more to it than what might be first understood. High quality acrylics are made from a polymer emulsion, water, and pigment. Lower quality paints add more fillers and water in place of more concentrated pigment loads. Then depending on the individual pigment it will determine the price of the paint, its opacity, its tint strength, and its glossiness. Then subsequently learning about pigments can allow you to start seeing the limitations as well as the limitless possibilities a single color can have. Not to mention how one pigment can be called by several names across brands, viscosities, and individual media (ie. oil, acrylic, watercolor).
While all of this may sound complex it is the core from of education that I have pursued in the past few years that has continued to drive my worth further and further. Breaking down my understanding of transparent vs. opaque acrylics as well as the subtle difference in hue between pigments is transforming my use of color and composition in every painting. Sure it’s not helping something like my line quality or rendering skills, but the understanding of what the paint can do even further than I already understand it brings about new ideas every single day.
For acrylics I’ve found that many paint manufactures take a great deal of care in showing off their products. Not only because they’re wanting you to buy them, but because for a creator of professional materials like Golden, they really care about artists creating the best work that they can. It was actually Golden’s Youtube Channel, which first introduced me to acrylic gels and mediums (a discovery that at the time transformed my work entirely). For nearly 10 years prior I just didn’t really understand my paint, but when I started putting the time in to researching it, I began to see new ideas for paintings erupting in my imagination.
For companies like Golden, Liquitex, Blick, Utrecht, Faber-Castell and many others, the promotion of new and interesting products doesn’t just sell product but it inspires artists to create something new.
If you do nothing else this week artistically, start looking into the composition, the production of, and the possibilities of your materials, and I can guarantee you’ll find new techniques and ideas right around the corner!