Learning More Than One Medium

Learning More Than One Medium

Learning how to make art can be a life-long process. Is learning more than one medium at a time a good idea?

Today, I’d like to answer this question.

This is the third post in a series based on questions asked by a good friend and fellow artist. The first post concerned choosing a theme for your art. The second post dealt with the benefits of focused learning and how long to continue with a theme or subject.

Now it’s time to talk about the mediums.

Learning More Than One Medium

In one of the previous posts, I mentioned that it’s possible to learn how to draw more than one subject at the same time.

You can do the same thing with a couple of different mediums. If they happen to be compatible (such as watercolor and colored pencil), so much the better.

But that doesn’t mean you have to dedicate all of your art time to one thing. My favorite example of this comes from the Olympics. Some athletes train in one sport, while others train in a group of sports.

Runners train for their best distance and that’s all. They’re very good at that discipline, and they compete only in that sport.

The Decathlon, on the other hand, requires participants to perform well in ten different disciplines. The decathlete trains in running, but also in cycling, swimming, and every other activity required.

Like that decathlete, you can pursue more than one thing at the same time.

What’s the Difference?

Focus is the difference. The single event athlete can dedicate all of his or her training to that sport. The decathlete has to train in several different disciplines.

Artists who do nothing but colored pencil “train” in nothing but colored pencil, so their skills may advance more quickly or they may become more proficient.

Artists who do more than one medium train in all the mediums they want to use. Yes, their skills will improve in all those mediums, but they may not reach the same level of skill as artists who focus on one medium.

Keep in mind that there are basic skills that apply to all forms of two-dimensional art, no matter what medium you use. Drawing skills are just as important to the oil painter as to the acrylic painter, watercolorist, or colored pencil artist.

Knowing how to create a full range of values, depict distance and a number of other basic skills are all important no matter what medium you use. Once you learn how to do those things with one medium, it’s much easier to use those skills for colored pencils.

That’s true whether you learn one medium at a time or more than one.

Learning More Than One Medium

Learning More Than One Medium—The Bottom Line

What all this adds up to is that learning more than one medium is a personal decision. Some of us knew from the start that our interest was in learning colored pencils. No other medium interested us.

Others—myself included—started out with another medium and came to colored pencils later on.

Still others get bored with just one medium and work with as many as four or five, moving from one to another whenever the mood strikes.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with any of those options.

The secret is finding the best option for you.

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  1. Coral

    Very good Carrie
    I want to learn it all!!
    I am amazed by the work produced using just coloured pencils, I never knew that such realism could be done with them
    I am also trying soft pastels for the 1st time too. I have to practice a lot more yet but I’m doing it.
    I am 70 yrs old & only started this year after putting down the pencils when I left school in 1970
    Thank you for sharing your knowledge ❤️

    1. Coral,

      Thank you for your very kind words.

      Thank you also for sharing your art journey. You’re quite courageous, picking up something new now. I’m glad you’re using retirement for good purposes!

      I can’t help you with the pastels, but if you need any help with colored pencils, let me know. I’m always happy to answer questions.

  2. Rhonda Roth

    Hi Carrie, I read this post with interest because I recently started watercolor painting after years of drawing with various media such as pencil and oil pastels. I think that learning more than one media, or moving on to a new media, definitely helps expand an artist’s creativity. It did for me.

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