Choosing a Medium to Work In

I am often asked why I choose a particular medium when creating new work.  It’s an interesting question for an artist who works in many media instead of specializing in only one.  There are actually a number of answers to the question, often influenced by what exhibitions I am getting ready for.

One answer is: I may need work in specific media for an upcoming exhibition.  Another answer is, the image has been in my mind a while and a way to treat it in a certain medium suggests itself.  Or, I may find myself longing to work in a certain medium just because I haven’t used it in a while.

After the Rain, Oil Pastel by Julianne Ricksecker

After the Rain, Oil Pastel by Julianne Ricksecker

Sometimes, I know immediately when I see something inspiring which medium I prefer for the image. “After the Rain” is an example – I knew as soon as I saw this rain-drenched rose  that I wanted to paint it in oil pastel. I wanted to work through the challenge of painting the water droplets on the petals and the stems.

I usually have a number of images that I am mulling over, knowing I want to portray a certain scene or a particular flower but not knowing which technique I want to use.  It may come to me, while thinking about what imagery to create for an all-print exhibition, that a specific image will lend itself nicely to treatment in etching.  During this process I may consider another image and decide on a different medium for that composition – and postpone that work for a while.

In this way, I often have several images in mind, including possible technical treatments, while I am working on another piece. Some pieces stay in this mulling mode for months or even years before they are finally realized.

Timelines, etching by Julianne Ricksecker

Monotype presents itself as an attractive option when I am preparing for an exhibition of original print techniques and I am running short on time to come up with the requisite number of new pieces. Under the deadline pressure, I may cast around in my group of potential images for one or several that would work well in monotype. Monotype is also the medium that demands the most spontaneity, so it becomes an appealing option after completion of several etchings with long, meticulous plate development processes, such as “Timelines” (above) which took three and a half months to complete.

Illilouette Falls, Monotype

Illilouette Falls, Monotype by Julianne Ricksecker

Monotypes are one-of-a-kind prints. I use water-soluble oil-based paint on a blank sheet of plexiglass.  Once I begin to paint, I need to print within 4 – 6 hours.  This forces me into a totally different working mindset from any other medium that I use. There is always the possibility that the days’ work will be lost – not every monotype is successful on first attempt. Some go on to become mixed media work, by enhancing the print with pastel, color pencil or watercolor.  For others, I repeat the experiment until the monotype idea is fully realized.

Some of the joy of creating in different media is that they handle differently, and I feel like I am always learning.  Working in one medium, I feel inspired with an idea of how to use a different medium in a new way.

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