Practical Color Theory, Part 1
Red, a King Dethroned
The Whimsical work of Arthur Rackham, 1867-1939
Dawn of a New Year
Tackling New Media
Tackling New MediaWombat Droppings
by Ursula Vernon
Happy New Year, everybody!
About all I can say about 2007 is that it didn't kill me, despite some serious efforts. But we won't dwell on that. The new year is upon us, and let us hope that it brings happiness and art.
Today, in honor of the new year, I'm gonna talk about new media.
I'm for them.
"But Ursula!" you say, as I crouch on my kitchen floor, sweating over a recalcitrant silkscreen. "Having clawed your way to a minimal competence in one medium, why would you possibly want to start over on this completely different one?"
Because I'm batshit insane, obviously.
However, leaving that aside -- and really, if you're reading this column of your own free will, you probably are a coupla Prismacolors short of a set yourself -- the fact is that there's a lot to be said about trying new media.
The art classes I took in college weren't really great in improving my skills. To improve really takes practice…endless, grueling, miserable practice, of the sort you just aren't gonna get in a couple hours a week. What it DID do was require me to use a whole bunch of different media, most of which I would never have tried on my own. Pastel on lithoplate? Never would have tried it. Heck, I probably would never have even tried pastel. Too sloppy, too little controlled, what do I want with that powdery stuff? And on lithoplate? Isn't that for making lithographs? Who paints on that stuff?
Well, it actually turned out that pastels are awesome, and I loved using them. I don't do it much any more, but they're an awesome medium. And while I never did anything much with it, one of my classmates did some spectacular ink-on-lithoplate pieces that wowed me completely.
Same goes for conte crayon, charcoal…even gesso. I used them first in classes, and I would never have thought to do it on my own. And all of those I have later used in my professional career.
It's not just that using new media allows you to accomplish stuff that one medium won't -- obviously you can't do things with pen and ink that you can do with acrylic, and vice versa. It's that having to use a new medium forces you to come up with new solutions to artistic problems, which, if you're keeping track, was the definition of "style" I threw out, lo these many moons ago. And that forces you to stretch and grow and helps you not get stuck in a rut. Something you can even bring it back to your favored style—it was fooling with scribbly bits digitally to do a comic that lead me to develop my megascribble style, which I eventually started using in acrylic and ink.
Since then, I make a habit of regularly trying a new medium whenever I get the chance. I tried linocut printing last year for the first time. Last week I did my first drypoint etching. Today I picked up silkscreening equipment.
Part of it is to stretch myself. Part of it is that whenever I see something cool, part of my brain, which is either hypercompetitive or just completely nuts, goes "I WANT TO DO THAT!" Betcha I'm not the only one who does that, either.
So! Go forth and try a new medium! A really different one! Get wild! Sure, you can try cautiously introducing a new element to your mixed media, adding a little colored pencil to ink—but hey, why not try intaglio printing? Try silkscreening or photography, try working in 3-D instead of 2-D, try doing something entirely digitally instead of scanning it. Try carving a woodblock instead of doing a drawing!
And you know, the odds are good you'll suck. It'll probably be terrible. You may throw it all in the closet, cursing. This is possible, even likely. But try it again, see if you can figure out how to do it a little better. You aren't required to devote your life to your new medium, after all. It's an exercise in artistic growth, and I give you permission, here and now, to make really bad art and that will be okay. The point isn't to be good. The point is to learn something new.
You may hate it. You'll probably be bad at it. But you'll definitely learn something…and who knows, maybe you'll fall in love.
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