Different Art Mediums Types

by Cristian I

Art Mediums

Artists throughout history have pushed the envelope for material inclusion when expressing themselves.

In ancient times, chiseling words into stone would have been as controversial as using duct tape to place a banana on a wall today.

When we attempt to understand the various art mediums and art genres that exist for creators to use, we look at the techniques and concepts that provide the best fit for their expression and skill.

That’s why an artist working during the Renaissance isn’t always referred to as someone from that period.

This penultimate guide on understanding art mediums reviews the materials that people have used over the centuries.

It can help you find the direction needed to start your own journey, find the style that fits your personality, and even look for a school to help you refine your skills.

What Are the Different Traditional Drawing and Painting Styles?

With so many different drawing and painting techniques available to artists, the tools and mediums used often require significant attention.

The materials that someone selects to create art can define who they are and what they hope to accomplish.

Although anything can conceivably become art in this category, such as drawing on a leaf or a grain of rice, this guide covers the most common materials that artists select.

Ink Painting by Endre Penovac For The Year of Rooster

1. Ink

This familiar art form involves font creation, calligraphy, and pen art today.

Artists can use fountain, graphic, or drafting pens to make the piece that speaks to their expressionism.

What is unique about this choice is that it is an unforgiving medium.

If the artist makes a single mistake, they must adapt or start over.

It creates expression by taking advantage of white space within the paper’s confines, canvas, or selected material.

Oil Painting on Canvas
Oil Painting on Canvas

2. Oil Paint

Although oil painting was happening before the 15th century, it’s around that time that Europe started recognizing it as an essential technique.

Several famous pieces came from around this time.

Most oil paints get produced using linseed oil, which makes it much slower to dry.

That quality makes it easier for the artist to make changes by adding more materials to their canvas.

Watercolor Painting - Denise McGill
Watercolor Painting – Denise McGill

3. Watercolors

Artists love using watercolors because the technique is simple enough for anyone to try it. You’ll also discover that it requires considerable skills to create art with vivid colors, defined lines, and minimal color mixing.

Once you apply the paint to the paper, the artist has little that they can do to alter the work results.

When this artwork catches the light, its translucent qualities make it an inviting medium to use.

Oliver Sin - Portrait Charcoal Drawing
Oliver Sin – Portrait Charcoal Drawing

4. Charcoal

This material could be the oldest medium used by artists.

Today, we use sticks bound by gum or wax to create art, but fingers and powder are still suitable for traditionalists.

Charcoal can make powerful, bold lines, pale ones, or any grade in between.

It’s also more erasable than other materials, making it easy to correct and challenging to maintain as the years pass.

Madaras Girl On The Couch
Madaras Girl On The Couch

5. Acrylic Paint

Artists enjoy using acrylic paint because it dries quickly.

That means a piece can get brought to the market without much difficulty.

This medium also creates numerous challenges because of the speed at which it dries.

If you make a mistake, your best option is to paint over it.

What makes acrylic paint a popular choice for modern artists is the versatility it offers.

You can add textures to the canvas with it, apply water to create a gouache effect, or completely dissolve it for custom watercolors.

Once acrylic paint dries, it also becomes water-resistant.

Tempera Painting - The Birth of Venus
Tempera Painting – The Birth of Venus

6. Tempera

The earliest tempera art dates to at least the first century.

It references paints that get mixed with cohesive materials.

In the past, artists would use egg yolks to create the medium that served their painting style well.

Today’s creative minds use gums, waxes, and similar stabilizers to create a similar effect.

Pastel Painting by Adry del Rocio - Better do not say
Pastel Painting by Adry del Rocio – Better do not say

7. Pastels

It wouldn’t be until the 18th century when this art medium began rising in popularity.

It uses a combination of oil paint pigments with binding materials to make them easier to use.

Hard and soft varieties create different outcomes to manage.

The first option works well to create sharp lines, while the latter materials provide blending opportunities.

Pan pastels require soft sponges for applications.

If you love bold colors that offer some transparency and faster drying times, this artwork approach might be worth considering.

Check out our best colored pencils guide and start your sketching.

Pencil sketch Ani Cinski
Pencil sketch Ani Cinski

8. Pencils

Colored and graphite pencils have been part of the art scene for over 300 years.

Originating in France, artists often use this material to create shading, outlines, or sketches.

You can place it on a canvas for painters to use as references for their colors.

If you want to avoid paint, a forgiving medium involves colored pencils.

Modern colored pencils can help you to create a photo-realistic piece without needing the technical skills that other art mediums require.

Your Guide to Three-Dimensional Art

One of the world’s greatest wonders is a three-dimensional creation.

The Colossus of Rhodes was a statue of Helios, who was the sun god of the Greeks.

It was placed in the harbor of the city and island of the same name.

Experts have called this statue one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

The city constructed the giant 3-D piece to celebrate its defense against Demetrius Poliorcetes.

According to contemporary descriptions, the statue was a little over 100 feet tall.

That places it about two-thirds the height of the Statue of Liberty, but still giving it the distinction of being the tallest statue in the ancient world.

Even early humans recognized the need for having three-dimensional artwork.

One of the oldest artifacts ever recovered, the Venus of Berekhat Ram, is thought to have played a significant role in forming societies’ first ceremonies and rituals.

The art world currently recognizes three standardized sculpture types.

  • Free-standing sculptures allow viewers to see the artwork and craftsmanship from any angle or side.
  • Bas relief statues have a shape carved out of the material so that it stands out from the background of the original item.
  • High relief works get carved to stand out prominently from the original background.

When artists first started experimenting with 3-D pieces, stone and wood were the primary items used.

You can now select almost anything, including plastic, foam, or glass, to create a three-dimensional item.

Several techniques get used for interpreting the artistic vision when 3-D art is the preference to use.

Carving is the most common option, which involves the artist cutting away pieces until the desired shape develops.

Modeling transforms softer materials to a desired shape so that they can harden into a three-dimensional piece. This method even works with glass.

Casting pours a liquid product, such as molten metal, into a mold that creates some, if not all, of the sculpture.

Construction involves assembling several pieces by combining different elements together, using techniques like welding or wiring to maintain the structure.

Mixed Media Artwork in the Modern World

What makes the art world such an intriguing place to visit is its ability to evolve continuously.

Artists can use the Renaissance approaches, experiment with the styles of their favorite influencers, or chart a unique path that changes with their life experiences.

An artist who seeks unconventional ways to express themselves will often experiment with the mixed media genre.

Mixed media art involves multiple art mediums to create one piece.

It often includes non-traditional items, such as magazine clippings, yarn, or twine, while adding acrylic paint or watercolors.

Here are some of the most common approaches you’ll find artists using when expressing themselves in this way.

  • Collages combine various materials, including paper clippings, cloth, and everyday objects, to create unique pieces. This method offers digital options for artists to use today.
  • Assemblage is a 3-D version of this genre, placing different materials and objects on specific surfaces to create an intended effect.
  • Book alteration physically changes a novel into artwork by cutting out pages, using the items as material, or taking the text from the author to create something new with it.
  • Art journals represent ways to record thoughts, memories, or events by showing them visually instead of writing about them.

Anything you have can become art.

If you want to try an interesting challenge, try to express yourself using only the items in the space where you currently are.

This approach will inspire the imagination, encourage creativity to grow, and potentially explore new artwork avenues.

The World of Photography in Artwork

Since the camera’s invention, photography significantly impacts how we perceive everyday life, nature’s wonders, and even our personal histories.

Do you have a wall at home filled with family photos?

The images you select and how they get arranged are artistic reflections of this medium!

As technology evolves in this genre, artists have more control than ever over the final outcome of each image.

Digital and film-based solutions can enlarge items to significant sizes, including having wall-size art to display.

Some people capture still life, with others focus on landscapes or people.

With photography, you can be like Ansel Adams to focus on black-and-white images or use different coloration techniques.

Each photography option fits into one of these common categories.

  • Documentary photography captures moments in history that you want to remember. War photographers accompany troops in battle to show us what conflicts are like today. Journalists would take pictures around town to discuss current events, while families have photos taken to serve as reminders of various events.
  • Portrait photography is slightly different, capturing a person’s image more than the environment around the individual. Artists can use other lights and colors to create specific effects that serve as signatures for their work.
  • Digital photography incorporates every category. It uses files instead of film to capture images. Many artists find this process useful because it lets them instantly update the pictures taken to make them even more perfect. Most modern cameras have settings that let you adjust coloration while taking the photo, including black-and-white options.
  • Nude photography represents two ideas. The first is an exploration of the human form, taking the classic image of beauty against the backdrop of heroes and ancient gods. Another option is a stripped-down version of a photograph or one taken without using any filters or editing techniques.
  • Landscape photography offers a real-time look at a specific natural environment. You often see beaches and mountains in this setting, but it could also be a cityscape, a garden, or an interesting bug found in the backyard. This selection lets the photographer play with different settings and saturation levels to produce stunning results.

You don’t need a state-of-the-art camera to embrace photography.

Stunning images can get taken with a smartphone!

A Final Thought About Artwork and Its Role in Our Lives

As technology continues evolving, you can expect the various art mediums to receive updates.

We already have paints and pencils that provide several different shades of the same color instead of asking the artist to mix it on a palette.

Photographers find it easier to produce their own images with computers and printers instead of investing in a dark room.

In the future, artists might use lasers and drones more often when contemplating multimedia projects.

Neon lighting can produce a memorable exhibition with the same attitude as acrylic or oil paint.

Whether this foray into art is your first step toward creativity, or you’re looking for something new to try, selecting the art medium for your work requires wisdom.

It works best if you select materials that reflect what your original message hopes to convey.

You should have opportunities to reflect your uniqueness while having fun with the creative process.

That’s the ultimate test that the art world provides.

If you’re not having fun creating, it could be due to your choices.

Artwork should not be a constant struggle!

When it fits with your identity, you’ll have numerous opportunities to make your mark on this world. 




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