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The Medium is the Message

Objectives

This week I intend to introduce some traditional methods for artistic creation and begin a discussion regarding artistic media. The objectives of this lesson are as follows:

  • Describe various processes of artistic creation
  • Describe the importance of media in relation to artistic message
  • Further develop visual literacy
  • Continue to form a basic understanding of how value is determined in art.

The role of the media

There are entirely too many artistic processes to summarize in a week. Classical methods of creation include drawing in various media as previously discussed, along with artistic processes typically categorized under the following: printmaking, painting, photography and time-based media, and sculpture. In this module, I will briefly introduce each of these categories and provide some video demonstrations of artists at work on these specific processes. The goal will not be to provide an exhaustive resource, rather to demonstrate the technical skills involved in artistic production. It must also be understood that each process is often undertaken by different artists in different ways. Mastery of any of these processes is often a life-long pursuit merging the technical with the artistic.

Printmaking

Printmaking is a process that often allows for multiple impressions to be formed from an original artistic production. Printmaking is a longstanding tradition that dates before even the printing press as artists would create images, and sometimes typography, on carved wood. These wood plates would then be inked and pressed onto a parchment surface much like a stamp. With the invention of the printing press and Guttenberg's moveable type in the Fifteenth century, printing became even more popular as manuscripts were more widely reproduced and distributed. The traditions of manuscript illumination also allowed for artists to become involved with the printing revolution as the desire remained for beautiful illustrations to accompany the texts.

Printmaking takes on many forms other than the early woodblock print techniques. Under printmaking, we have techniques such as linocut, drypoint, etching, intaglio, lithography, silkscreening, and even monotypes to name a few. Chuck Close demonstrates many of these processes as well as others in an exhbition: Chuck Close: Prints, Process, and Collaboration" where he works closely with printmakers in a variety of processes to reproduce his original artworks. In the link provided, you will also come across several videos of the artist describing this process and his thoughts regarding printmaking.

 

  • Relief Processes (Linocut and Woodcut): These processes are some of the oldest used by many different civilizations. The magic of these processes is that they don't always require a printing press to produce because the raised surface of the plate is what is printed much like modern rubber stamps. The artist will carve out the areas that they want to leave blank, and ink the raised surface to be printed following completion of a carving. The process requires that an artist think in negative terms, carving out the white areas, while leaving the black areas raised. When naturally drawing, an artist typically works the opposite way, adding in dark marks on a lighter surface. 
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    Woodblock Prints Direct Link
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Linocut Prints Direct Link
  • Intaglio Processes (Engraving, Drypoint, Etching, Lithography, Mezzotint and Aquatint): These processes require the etching into a surface where the relief will hold the ink and transfer it to the print when run through a press. This allows an artist to work as they naturally would with drawing by producing images in a positive manner unlike the woodblock techniques that required a reversed drawing process.
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  • Silkscreen: This is a common technique we see in the reproduction of images on shirts and quality posters. The process requires silk screens to be blocked out like stencils and the ink is pressed through the silk to the printed surface. Layers of colors can be used for more colorful designs.
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  • Monotypes: Monotypes don't typically fit in with the print processes described as they are not edition prints as the other processes. Monotypes refer to a process where the artist produces a single print from a plate by painting the ink to the paint, and, without wiping down the plate, printing it to paper fixing a reverse image to the sheet. In many monotypes, the process also requires that the artist think backwards as when the layers of ink are printed, the bottom layer will be displayed on top and the top layer of ink on the bottom when put through a press. The reason that this is classified as a printmaking technique is that it requires a press to be produced.
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  • Papermaking and weaving: Papermaking is a lesser thought of print form, but Chuck Close provides a process for how prints can be produced using this method. Also, carpet weaving can be thought of as a print technique given the reproductive nature of the designs produced.
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    Painting

    Painting has a long tradition in art and is typically viewed as one of the highest capital "A" "Art" forms. Painting requires that an artist mix, layer, and blend pigment on a surface binding it with some sort of medium. There are various types of painting medium used to adhere the pigment to the surface. Among some of the more common are tempra, oil, and acrylic. Though these may be common, other techniques such as encaustic, watercolor, fresco, and gouache have been used for centuries as well. In the modern design era, artists and critics began to question the definition of painting, and mixed media elements widely became a part of the final product as well.

    Category: Art Appreciation
    History
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