The Quest to Find the Best Medium

Naturally as pretty much all artists start out, I began doodling with pencil and paper. I wouldn’t have had enough common sense to combine complimentary colours and I easily had access to a pencil and paper at all times of the day during elementary school. Doodling progressed, especially from the end of Gr 6, through Gr 8. My parents bought me my first sketchbook which I filled with dinosaurs, car crashes, and battle drawings… the usual doodles for young boys. But then I began to copy paintings of ducks and moose from a book of Robert Bateman paintings. Rather than using photographs (as his paintings look like photographs), I figured that since they were ‘actually’ paintings, that I should be able to atleast match his state of realism eventually. I never liked using normal pencils because I don’t like constantly sharpening them. I absolutely love a sharp tip at all times, which is why I use Bic mechanical pencils. If the end is becoming dull I just snap it off, pound the back end of the pencil onto my shoulder to have a quick reload of lead and off I go. This helps me with the fine sharp details, and I invented my own way of blending my pencils lines nicely over wide spreads – so it doesn’t matter whether or not I have the side of an actual pencil to spread across the page.

In highschool they introduced us to Acrylic, watercolour, and gouashe… (however it’s actually spelt – shows you how much I use it).

I became a huge fan of Acrylic painting. It made me feel professional, finally moving away from the cheap discs they make you paint from in pre-school. It’s hard to talk about why I liked using Acrylics so much now, as it’s been nearly 7 years since I last used them. I was really good at blending them, also it took forever, and I often used up gobs of paint. If you know me, I don’t like wasting paint, and I use very little no matter how large my paintings are. One of the other problems with Acrylics are that you couldn’t get the stunning impossible blends like you can get with oil. I was good at blending, but there was still a fine line between a smooth blend, and a seamless blend.

In university we were retaught how to use Acryllics again. Just as I felt like I was beginning to work at a professional level we turned away from Acryllic and began to learn Oil, and I’ve never once used Acryllics again.

I don’t like Oil paints. There are just too many difficult factors that you have to deal with – but I put up with it because I like the outcome. Pretty much, I just like blending, and that’s all. What I don’t like is the drying time, linseed oil, the difficulty of cleaning your brush, the smell, and keeping a clean rag. If you make a mess, boy is it ever a mess. But that blend, boy do I love it. I don’t paint with oils the way most would. I prefer to paint as though I’m still using acryllic paints, and only act as though it’s oil at the moments I need to. But time constraints and different themes and genres of painting keep encouraging me away from oil to find something different to use.

For the first time in 5 or 6 years I picked up watercolours again during a drawing class in University. We spent about two days with them in Gr 10, but I didn’t like the difficulty level back then. But now that challenge was intruiging – because I was patient, and I liked the drying time, and the ability to blend nicely. For the next three or so years I began to use watercolours heavily… but the same thing that erked me then began to really catch up. When you paint for fun it doesn’t matter if you screw up. But if you paint to impress, show off, and sell… well, I try to work with a zero tolerance level. I have a good pile of unusable watercolours paintings going on in my studio closet. I keep them as reminders, and because a lot of them were spectacular paintings until the last moment of error. When working with watercolour I never had a real feel for how to plan it out. It was almost like 85% of the time I was making one big mistake that I could turn around into some awesome looking painting. If it ended up looking how I wanted it too… why should it matter how many mistakes and problems I faced on the journey to making it look that way? Well, it caught up with me… especially now that I have to work on these paintings at a frantic pace.

In University I worked at a frantic pace because you never had enough time with all of the work load and studying. I believed that once I was out that I’d be free and be able to work leisurely for as long as I want on paintings. Well, that’s not true. To keep with demands, and keep an audience constantly intruiged by what I have going on from day to day, or week to week, I still work at an exhausting pace – for me at least. Often I find myself sitting there pushing myself: “By this time you must have this much done” which is normally twice as much as I believe I can actually accomplish. I am a slow worker – but then again, I think I work at a good level of detail… and the trade off doesn’t seem worth it to me. I don’t want to spend less time and have less quality… that’s the opposite of what I believe in.

So watercolours became annoying as well – espcially because I’ve never been that good at spreading skywashes across vast pans of paper. I hadn’t drawn anything for over a year even, and it was stunning to think about. I’m best when it comes to a pencil, why hadn’t I done this for so long? Well, instead of going back to pencil I picked up charcoal – a nemesis I’ve hated since Gr 9 or so when I first began using them. Why? Because they look good. So, I spent the last month or so teaching myself how to use them. But I still find that they are too messy, unforgiving when you make a mistake, and not sharp enough for me. I love the contrast you can get, but I keep finding that the images I want to draw would look so much better with colour.

Which has led me to discovering pastel pencils. They are like charcoal, but with colour. They blend nicely, and they don’t need to dry. They can still be messy, but I don’t have to waste a lot of them in gobs (they are expensive – like most things in art), and I’m interested to see what it’s like drawing on a different coloured background besides white.

We’ll see how it goes with pastel pencils. I’m not done with the other mediums, but it’s nice to explore and speed up my drawing/painting time.