Today’s post is the result of one of those reader questions that’s too good not to publish. Chris wrote to me and asked a couple of excellent questions, including is using only one art medium limiting for the artist.
I’m an artist who mostly works on realism with ballpoint pen on paper. I’ve seen you’ve worked with oils alongside your colored-pencils. Do you see a bias towards your oil work versus your colored-pencil work? Do your clients prefer works on canvas as opposed to your works on paper?
I’ve been thinking about establishing myself as a portrait artist and wonder if I should be taking on a different medium (oil painting?) instead of sticking to pen on paper. Am I limiting myself? Thank you for taking the time to read this.
Thank you for your email and for your question. You presented more than one good question, so I’m going to answer them individually.
Is Using Only One Art Medium Limiting?
A lot of artists work their entire in one medium and/or one subject. A lot of other artists work in a lot of different mediums and paint whatever draws their attention.
There are “limitations” to both choices.
The artist who works in only one medium is limited in that he or she has decided not to take advantage of some of the benefits of other mediums. However, there’s lots of time learn everything there is to learn about their chosen medium and to get the most out of it.
The artist who works in more than one medium has the opportunity to learn about more than one medium and to take advantage of the benefits of each medium, but they may not have the time to explore each medium to it’s fullest.
In other words, there is no right or wrong answer to your question.
How you decide the answer to this question for yourself is by finding the things you most enjoy drawing and the medium that gives you the most satisfaction.
If you enjoy drawing portraits with pen and ink, then that’s what you should do. Explore the medium as much as you can and find out what’s possible with it. Look for pen-and-ink artists on YouTube and see what they’re doing that could improve your work.
The only thing I suggest is that if you’re planning to sell your work, find inks that are archival. I don’t honestly know how long-lasting the inks used in ball point pens are. My gut reaction is that they’re not archival, so that’s something you’d need to find out.
Also use the best paper you can afford. Using an archival medium on paper that yellows over time is also damaging to your work.
Bias Between Oils and Colored Pencils
You also asked about biases toward one medium or the other.
Some of my portrait clients liked oil portraits better and some liked colored pencil portraits. The bulk of portrait work was in oils, but I used oils exclusively for twenty years. Once I added colored pencil work, I did a lot of portraits both mediums.
Whenever you decide to use two or more mediums, it’s inevitable that you’ll gain fans of each medium. Most of them appreciate all of your work, but when it comes time to buy, most people have favorites.
The most obvious bias was either internal (I considered my colored pencil work to be less valuable than my oil paintings) or in the art world. Some galleries still will not accept colored pencil artwork under any circumstances, but I believe they are getting fewer and fewer in number.
I hope that answers your questions. Thank you again for writing, and for your great questions!