Inside the Artists' Studio: Art Materials and Processes Explained

by Aileen Mitchell 1. July 2014 15:58

At Art Gallery.co.uk, you get to see the end result of many hours of hard work. Here, we explore the various processes and materials our artists use to create the work you see. Not only will this give you an insight into the artistic process, but it will help you choose the right artwork.

Before the finished artwork is alive with colour or texture, it's basically a collection of materials and tools. There are so many ways to capture an image or craft a sculpture that we thought we'd explore the most common mediums used by artists today. 

Paintbrushes
Image by khawkins04

Painting

One of the most popular art-forms, painting, encompasses a wide variety of styles – from abstract geometric shapes to portraiture. There are many ways to put paintbrush to canvas (or any other surface for that matter).

Let's start with oil painting. This type of painting comes with a rich, cultural history attached. It has been the artist's favourite medium for many centuries, for its long-lasting colour and the variety of ways it can be used – although there has always been the problem of how long it takes to dry! And despite its prevalence throughout history, it's still popular with artists today. 

Take a look at some of the artists using oil painting at Art Gallery such as Mike Bagshaw and Rumen Dragiev.

Offering a different look and style is 'watermedia'. This includes acrylics and watercolours and they are different, simply because the pigments are diluted with water instead of oil. Offering a different texture, tint and style, water-based painting can produce a wide variety of effects, from Hockney's quietly bold painting 'A Bigger Splash' to the calm landscapes of William Turner

From our collection of artists, we have a wide variety working with watermedia including Humph Hack and Eric Hattrell



Humph Hack
Image by Humph Hack
Rumen Dragiev
Image by Rumen Dragiev

Mixed Media

Mixed media is a phrase that can confuse those unfamiliar with fine art, begging the question – a mix of what? Quite simply, it can be anything. From a range of artistic mediums like drawing, painting, textiles, photography and collage, to a variety of found objects that can add a sculptural element to the canvas. 

Mixed media artworks can really be a melting pot of ideas and materials – it's an act of layering and getting ideas and materials to spark off each other and make new connections. The concept began with the Cubist collages of Picasso and is still seen today in contemporary art after the Pop Art movement demonstrated how it can be used to explore modern life. 

There are plenty of artists on Art Gallery, whose work uses a variety of media to 'paint' a picture, including Cyndy Cmyth, Sharon Deegan and Peter Mason (who works using postage stamps). 

Peter Mason
Image by Peter Mason

Photography

Photography began as a way to document the world, but it has developed into an art form in its own right. If you think about it poetically, it's a way to capture light – and paint a scene in light rather than oils or watercolours. 

And while everyone may be able to take photos these days, with camera-phones popping up into the air at all major events, you can't beat a beautifully choreographed photograph.

The world of contemporary art is full of photographers capturing the world in a different light, showing what is fantastical in everyday life. Artists like Andreas Gursky and Jeff Wall demonstrate what is possible with the medium. 

At Art Gallery.co.uk, we have a wide range of photographers including Paul Berriff and Jurgen Dabeedin.

Jurgen Dabeedin
Image by Jurgen Dabeedin

Print

The term 'print' can be applied to a wide variety of practices in fine art. It basically refers to the method of transferring an impression of something from one surface to another. It could mean anything from the limited edition of prints you can get from an original painting or photograph, to art forms like etchings, woodcuts and screen-printing. 

The popularity of print-making grew during the Pop Art movement with artists like Andy Warhol grabbing headlines with Black Bean, a screen-print of a soup tin. 

Many of the artists at Art Gallery.co.uk use print-making – from the silkscreen printing of Alexander Baynes to the vibrant screen-prints of Nick Sellers

Nick Sellers
Image by Nick Sellers

Drawing 

Drawing is much more than a way to just sketch an idea out before painting between the lines. It's a well-respected art form in its own right. While it may be a way to experiment and explore ideas, it's also a simple yet effective way of capturing a moment. 

Artists like Frank Auerbach and Juan Muñoz demonstrate the range of possibilities, in terms of style, but also the simplistic power of putting pencil to paper. 

You can find many artists who specialise in drawing at Art Gallery.co.uk like Zizi Lagadec, Dean Waite and Louis Julien.

Louis Julien
Image by Louis Julien

Sculpture 

Sculpture can be defined as an artwork in three dimensions. And with this as a starting point, the end result could be just about anything. Sculpture is one of the oldest art-forms, with sculpted stone and ivory figures from as far back as the Upper Palaeolithic period. Sculpture developed rapidly in Ancient Greece as bronze casting was mastered, allowing life size figures to be sculpted.

In the 21st century, there are four main techniques for sculpture. The first is fairly straightforward and involves carving into a hard surface like stone, wood, ivory or bone. Henry Moore's Girl is a good example of this. Next, there's modelling where you craft and shape a more fluid material like clay or wax. 

There's also casting, which is very popular in contemporary art. The process involves pouring molten metal into the cast of a shape or figure, the metal hardens to form the sculpture. Antony Gormley's cast iron figures in Testing a World View is a brilliant example of this technique. And lastly, there's assemblage sculpture, which involves the collection of various materials and assembling them to create a sculpture. A well-known example of this would be something like Dali's Lobster Phone

At Art Gallery.co.uk you'll find a refreshing selection of sculptural work – from the bronze and steel relief work of Bill Mack to the wire sculptures of Paul Nicholson.

Bill Mack
Image by Bill Mack

Hopefully this guide has helped to give you an idea of the range of artistic mediums out there and the variety we stock here at Art Gallery.co.uk. Browse by subject or style to find an artwork that captures your imagination. 

Do you have any art materials or processes that you love? Or any Art Gallery.co.uk artists that you think stand out from the crowd? Let us know in the comments. 

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