Four Reasons To Use More Than One Art Medium

Unfortunately, Roman-style mosaics aren’t one of my art mediums.

As regular readers of this site know, most of my daily artwork consists of digitally-edited paintings (which are technically more like drawings than paintings, since I use watercolour pencils and waterproof ink pens). If you haven’t seen them before, they look a little bit like this:

“Backstreets” By C. A. Brown

The interesting thing is that the “digitally edited” part of my art is hardly a new thing. Although I’ve certainly learnt a lot since I started making basic brightness/contrast adjustments and adding blurring effects to scans of my art in 2012.

Still, most of my art technically consists of at least two mediums (eg: digital and traditional). So, I thought that I’d talk about some of the advantages of using multiple mediums. I’ve probably mentioned some of this stuff before, but it’s probably worth repeating.

1) It makes learning easier: Although I make relatively little digital-only art, I was able to make a digital painting recently using a free program that I’d only used very occasionally beforehand. And the main reason why I was able to do this was because, thanks to digitally editing paintings and/or drawings pretty much every day for the past 5-6 years, the basic features of image editing software (in general) aren’t really that unfamiliar to me.

So, one of the advantages of using multiple mediums is that it makes learning new mediums significantly easier. Since you’ll probably be combining a familiar medium with a less-familiar one, you already know how to do part of what you’re doing. This makes picking up a new art medium less intimidating.

It means that, in the early stages, you can rely more heavily on the medium that is familiar to you, whilst gradually learning and experimenting with the new one at the same time. This makes the learning process a bit slower, but it also makes a bit easier and more forgiving too.

2) It makes your art look unique: One of the cool things about combining two or more art mediums is that it can give your art a very unique “look”. With art that only uses one medium, you can usually tell what the artist used at a glance. After all, watercolour paintings look like watercolour paintings, digital art looks like digital art etc…

However, if you mix several mediums, then you can really make your art stand out from the crowd. It’ll look a bit different to most types of art, and people will be a bit more curious about how you made your artwork. And, if people are curious, then that means that they’re interested in your art.

It also means that you can use techniques that you can’t use in any one medium. For example, the characteristic “vivid” look of most of my paintings is something that requires both traditional and digital techniques.

On the traditional side of things, I try to make sure that 30-50% the surface area of each painting is covered with black paint (to make the colours stand out by contrast). I also mostly use a small palette of bright primary and secondary colours, which I make bolder by applying a fair amount of pressure when using watercolour pencils and then applying as little water as possible to the finished piece.

Once the painting has dried, I scan it and then I make adjustments to the brightness, contrast and colour saturation levels (amongst other things). By lowering the brightness, increasing the contrast and increasing the colour saturation, I’m able to make the picture look even bolder than an “ordinary” watercolour piece (whilst also making it look different to “digital art” too). The end result is something like this:

“The Abandoned Lobby” By C. A. Brown

3) It makes you more efficient: One of the interesting things that I’ve noticed over the past couple of months is that I’ve started relying slightly more heavily on the digital tools that I use. This is as much for time reasons as it is for creative reasons. For example, take a look at this digitally-edited painting of mine:

“Trendy 90s Cafe (II)” By C. A. Brown

At first glance, it just looks like an ordinary painting. But, here’s a scan of the parts of the painting that were made using ink and watercolour. As you can see, the sky is missing and the characters don’t have any skin tones:

This is a cropped, but otherwise unprocessed, scan of the original painting. As you can see, quite a few parts were added digitally afterwards.

By learning how to add elements to my pictures digitally, I’ve been able to make my art look better whilst also being able to make it more quickly too. Likewise, if I make a mistake in one of my paintings, then I can often salvage the picture by editing it digitally. So, this also means that the “failure rate” for my paintings is significantly lower too.

4) It makes you less obsessed with branding: One of the side-effects of using multiple art mediums is that you’ll need more art supplies. What this means is that you’ll probably have less to spend on each type of art supply than you would if you only focused on one medium. This means that you’ll often have to try to get the most “bang for your buck” when getting art supplies. This is a good thing.

Why? It allows you to dodge a lot of the pretentious commercial nonsense that surrounds art. If you look at a lot of art-related stuff online, you’ll often see people talking about certain well-known brands of marker pens, image editing software etc… Well, you can do all or most of the stuff that you can do with these things with cheaper brands of art supplies, older software, free open-source software etc..

The fact is, if a good artist can produce great art with expensive art supplies, they can probably do it with cheaper ones too. If you’re dazzled by an online art video, make sure that you’re dazzled by the artist’s skill rather than any sponsorship deals they happen to have. Focusing on multiple mediums means that you have to focus more on improving your artistic skills than on getting better art supplies.

So, using multiple art mediums can be another way to avoid brand-related hype. It also makes you more inventive too – since, if you have to work out how to make art made with cheaper materials look as good as art made with more expensive materials (eg: using older and/or open-source image editing programs to make a watercolour painting look a bit like a marker pen drawing etc..), you’re probably going to be thinking more creatively too.


Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂

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