There are many different forms of media in the art world. The three kids of media I chose were charcoal, silk painting, and sculpture for public art, all for specific reasons. Charcoal is interesting because it's used as both a preparatory technique and as a primary form of creation of an end product. Silk painting is fascinating because of its ancient history, vivid colors, and its need for very specific methods. Finally, I chose public sculptures because I have been able to see many of them and I love the possibility of immersion in the work. There are many interesting details about each of these media.
Charcoal is one of the oldest drawing materials existing, popular for centuries, and is used a preparatory technique and a primary media. It is essentially a product of dark, charred wood. Working with charcoal can be a bit messy because it can be smudged by careless fingers. When working with charcoal, an artist should start with light outlines, applying less pressure to keep it light. Next comes the rendering of the darkest areas. You can create dark tones and shading by pressing hard, in lines or solid blocks. You can use the side of the charcoal to create a more textured looking surface. To lighten up portions of darker areas, you can use an eraser of putty rubber to "lift out" stripes of darkness, leaving lighter areas exposed. You can also use chalk to help lighten areas, to create lighter highlights and white areas. When doing so, you must be careful to apply one, then the other, but avoid smudging together because that will create dull grey areas. After the general picture is complete, you can add the final touches by using mark-making techniques such as lines, cross-hatching, and dotting to add texture and detail. Because it is basically using burnt wood, work done in charcoal has been located in caves, the most well-known of which is the Niaux caves in France. There is a fairly detailed charcoal rendering of an ibex, which is a wild mountain goat, on those cave walls which they can date back to as early as 1602. From my research, I found that during the Renaissance charcoal was generally used as part of the preparatory stage of art - such as rendering preliminary sketches which would be later used as reference to create paintings or other media. Because charcoal is easily smudged, difficulties preserving the work would likely have been part of the reason it was limited in use. In the 14th century methods to preserve the work started to emerge but it involved dipping the drawing in a bath of gum which sounds a bit inconvenient. Today there are sprays to preserve the work which is much more convenient (although they do smell so you have to use a well-ventilated room - this is from personal experience). In the 20th century artists started to use charcoal as a primary rather than preparatory method, and there are a variety of end-products ranging from the detailed, realistic historic depiction by Albrecht Durer, "Knight, Death, and the Devil"," to the fragmented, Cubist-style portrait created in 1931 by Pablo Picasso, "Marie-Therese, Face and Profile."
More colorful than charcoal, silk painting is a fascinating media not only because of its beauty, but also because of its ancient history and modern popularity. The first step in painting silk is to stretch the silk across a frame, securing it with pins. Elastic ties stretched across the frame can provide support from underneath so the silk does not sag. Next, you must apply a "resist." Working with silk is difficult because the paint soaks in to the silk, and can spread out quickly, bleeding into the other colors. To prevent this, an artist must apply a resist such as gutta to stop the bleeding. The gutta should be applied onto the silk as an outline of the design you wish to make - the outline will be the barriers between segments, preventing the paint from bleeding from one segment to each other. If the design is highly complicated, draw it darkly on paper first and slide it under the silk so you can trace it. Also, you can mix the gutta with black paint if you want your outline to be dark on the silk. The final step is to actually color the silk, using silk paints. This will complete your product, unless you want to create a more interesting, dappled effect. If so you can sprinkle rock salt on the painted silk while it is still wet. Silk painting dates back thousands of years to China, which is the place of origin of the silk worm whose cocoons yield silk threads. Originally, silk was used for painting calligraphy, but eventually pictures were created on it. China held a monopoly of silk production for centuries because it was so profitable to the Chinese, but eventually silk worms were smuggled out and it spread to other parts of Asia, then with the crusades to Europe, particularly Italy. In the 1900s the French started using gutta as a resist, increasing the popularity of silk painting around the world. Works of silk painting art range from the traditional nature setting of birds, flowers, and trees, with vibrant colors, to more recently Western-influenced products such as "Pine Valley Tiger" by silk painter Wenzhang Dong, contrasting a clear form (the tiger) against a backdrop of swirling, vivid color.
Finally, outdoor public sculptures are a product that fascinates me because you can walk among art pieces, with more immersion in the art. Creating a piece of public art involves not only the "regular" process of creating a sculpture, but some extra steps in the process because of the nature of its being exposed to the elements and being surrounded by people. First, the artist must decide on a theme, such as love or beauty, with associated words supporting that theme. This can generate ideas as to the solid representation of these words to be a part of the sculpture. You can sketch the visualization of these ideas, or even a collage. The artist can then create a scale model, or maquette, using modeling wire as an armature (or support), which you can twist into shape, and newspaper and strips as surface cover. You can then use Modric, which is a woven fabric "impregnated" with plaster to cover your newspaper surface. Just dip the modric strips in water and plaster them over the newspaper surface, molding as necessary. Do two layers, and when it is dry you can paint it the color needed. Take photos from many angles, and then superimpose them over photos of the setting where your public art will go (being careful to keep true to scale) to make sure the eventual sculpture will fit in with the setting. there are many examples of public art, some more famous than others. Being from teh Philadelphia area, one of the most famous public art pieces is the Love statue, which represents the "City of Brotherly Love" that is Philadelphia, with its peaceful Quaker roots. It's a people-sized set of the four letters of "love"," two letters on top and two on the bottom, with the "O" cock-eyed at a cute angle to keep things light and fun. But the most fascinating collection of public sculpture is at one of most favorite places, Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, New Jersey. You can walk (or ride in a wheelchair) through the vast grounds and see so many fascinating pieces. My absolute favorite are the sculptures of Seward Johnson, which are three dimensional recreations of figures and objects from other artists' famous paintings. One example is "Were You Invited?" which is a three dimensional depiction of Auguste Renoir’s "The Luncheon of the Boating Party." You can walk among the characters, within the scenes of these famous paintings, which is a unique experience and the thing I love most about Grounds for Sculptures. I feel immersed in the art when I am "in" a Seward Johnson creation.
In conclusion, it has been rewarding to do a deep dive into each of these media. The reading is helpful to learn an overview of these media, and the tips to trying to create. However, the extra reading gave me insight into the history of silk painting and charcoal with details I did not know. And my trip down memory lane for public sculptures helped me relive the excitement of being immersed in the sculptures at Grounds for Sculpture. Seward Johnson's work has a double reward - one of appreciating Renoir's art and feeling it at a deeper level in three dimensional form.