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Medium Well Done: 14 Copper and other sheets
The vast majority of oil paintings have been made on supports of wood or stretched fabric. But over the centuries a wider variety of materials have been used, including sheets of metal, slate and other stone, glass, and most recently elaborately-structured composite materials. They all meet the primary requirement,... Read more
Medium Well Done: 13 Paper and cardboard
The first paper-like sheets were made by the ancient Egyptians from papyrus, but it was the Chinese who discovered how to break plant fibres down to form sheets of what is recognisably paper. This knowledge came to Europe in the Middle Ages, by the eleventh century, and by the... Read more
Medium Well Done: 12 Stretched canvas
Linen and silk have been used as a support for paintings since ancient times, particularly in Egypt and China, where fabrics have been in greatest supply. Their first use in modern European painting seems to have been in the late Middle Ages, when painted banners became popular in churches,... Read more
Medium Well Done: Wood panels
So far in this series, I have looked almost exclusively at the paints used to make paintings, particularly in terms of the binder that holds pigment particles to the ground. What I have largely glossed over is the equally important matter of the ground and how it is supported.... Read more
Medium Well Done: 10 Acrylics
Traditional oil paints were the mainstay medium used by professional painters in the west from the Renaissance until the late twentieth century, a period of well over half a millenium. Although other media have been widely and successfully used, until recently the apparently infinite flexibility of effects and painting... Read more
Medium Well Done: 9 Ink and casein
Since ancient times, writing, drawing and paintings have been made using pigments and/or dyes in water, often without any binder as such. These are generically inks, which don’t conform to other media such as watercolours or the temperas. The most common among them is India ink, whose essential ingredients... Read more
Medium Well Done: 8 Crayons, oil pastels, and more
Professional painters have long used brushes to apply paint for their finished work, but many used hand-held sticks of pigment only when sketching in preparation. Charcoal was widely used at first, with metal wire in silverpoint an alternative. In the sixteenth century, large deposits of graphite were discovered in... Read more
Medium Well Done: 7 Pastels
Artists have long used chalks and similar solid media for drawing, but lacking any form of binding medium their only adherence to a ground is mechanical. They were thus only used for ephemeral work such as studies and cartoons used in the production of more permanent works. Leonardo da... Read more
Medium Well Done: 6 Oils
Since the decline of egg tempera as the preferred medium for easel paintings in the Renaissance, oil paints have dominated those used by professional painters. This is due to their longevity and versatility. When appropriate techniques are used, oil paintings readily survive over five hundred years, and are the... Read more
Medium Well Done: 5 Watercolour and gouache
Watercolour is the most inappropriately-named of the popular painting media. Oil paint uses drying oils as its binder, egg tempera uses the yolk of eggs, and glue tempera various types of glue. Water is, of course, not the binder in watercolour, but the diluent, used to turn blocks of... Read more