Sherrie McGraw In the Studio Gallery

Painting and Drawing Mediums to Capture Subject

Jackie Kamin and Sherrie McGraw once again enjoy a discussion to share some best practices on painting and drawing mediums to use to best capture your subject. Watch the video below or read the transcription to get their tips.

Jackie

Hello Sherrie McGraw.

Sherrie

Hello Jacqueline Kamin.

Jackie

Today we’re going to talk about how to decide what painting and drawing mediums to use on any particular day or subject.

Sherrie

That’s a good idea, I think that a lot of people just pick one medium that they really love. Then that’s pretty much what they work in all the time. For some reason, all these years of learning and understanding painting and drawing mediums, my mind works in terms of just what you’ve asked me. Which is the best medium to do something in verses what I really love?

And so what I can tell you is what I do. This is how I figured it out. If I’m interested in an animal, say a human, a goat, a donkey, something like that. My first thought is, am I interested in doing like a whole composition with them? Which might suggest then doing it in paint. There might be a color…the fascination I have with the subject. That might inspire doing it in color.

So then, my options would be oil. This is because I can certainly work in color with oil. It could be pastel, if I want to do something kind of quicker. But it’s more like a painting, you know, and pastel is a perfect medium.

It’s somewhere between oil and drawing because you manipulate it like you would in a drawing. But you can actually do a full-fledged painting, you know. And it can be corner to corner, it could be vignette, It’s very versatile, pastel. So I happened to work in a lot of different painting and drawing mediums. Pastel was one of my first mediums and I do really love pastel. And it has a lot of possibilities today. You can really expand what you can do with pastel.

Watercolor

You can even do watercolors acrylic under it onto paper, and then to pastel over it. It has a lot of flexibility and that’s when paint quality isn’t the main focus, you know. And watercolor is another choice, so you can do watercolor again. For me, if I’m really interested in a human, I do them in watercolor. It is because I really want to draw them, but I’m also very interested in color. And so it’s a wonderful way very quickly, because she doesn’t have to deal with the paint quality like with oil paint. So it’s a medium that is good for wanting to do figure, but not dealing with all the paint qualities.

A few years back, I had this big painting that I was doing in oil and I needed a figure in the composition that had gone through a lot of transitions. And I decided to do a watercolor study of this mountain man – I’ve got the finished watercolor here.

You can see that it shows my studio and a bunch of the objects on the shelf behind me and the figure itself. So it was just so much fun to draw him and then to get all the indication of all of those objects that you find here. But again, not with all the worry of trying to get paint quality, beautiful paint quality which is really an issue in oil and a wonderful issue.

Subject and Color

So you might just have to do with what about your subject is appealing to you. And then if you’re familiar with different mediums, you start to get a sense of what medium would best or this vision that you have in your head. Lastly, in a sense, if I wanted, if I am really interested in the form of a model, you could see with all these drawings behind me, but not interested in the environment necessarily. Then that’s when I go to drawing. Because you can have a little intimation of color. But it’s essentially, and you could see that some of the papers behind me have been prepared with a watercolor background. And that allows me to create form. And, again when I draw, I’m interested in the form. It’s the simplest medium, and the best way to satisfy that urge that I have.

Jackie

People are afraid of watercolor in that there is no room for mistakes. Do you find that a problem?

Sherrie

That can scare you away. I really haven’t been doing it that long, but the one watercolor that I really loved the most were Burton Silverman. I got a DVD by Burt and one thing that he suggested was to work on a bristol board. And so it has a very slick surface, but because it is a slick surface, you actually can move the paint around.

Jackie

Very interesting.

Sherrie

It definitely looks like a watercolor.

Jackie

Oh yes.

Sherrie

He said on his DVD, “I’m not a watercolorist”. He said that as a joke.

Jackie

We are going to hold him to that.

Sherrie

Yes, I mean, so it’s a surface. You could work on that, and it is much more forgiving. As an artist, you can move paint around and you can take some paint off. You can do different things with it. And there is a difficulty in working on the slip surface.

Jackie

Right.

Sherrie

So there’s pros and cons to it. And, you know, regular watercolor paper of course is much more absorbent. You’re going to have a whole different feel to it. And that may be exactly what you love. Some people just respond to one medium and that is their medium that’s probably the norm.

Jackie

Wow. Right. You suggest people try?

Sherrie

Well, that’s what I was going to say. If you do try different things, you just never know what you might just fall in love with in terms of the painting and drawing mediums. You might be able to do things in that medium, express the beauty that you’re seeing in a way that you can’t in any other mediums. So if you’re having trouble in the medium, you’re working in, it would be an interesting thing to try some different mediums and just see what happens.

Jackie

Do you find with pastels you get a return tone? That you can really get a hierarchy of pigment?

Sherrie

Oh, you know, I really think it has to do with again, I like strong light and shadow, and you can definitely do that in pastel

Sherrie: And the beauty of it too, is that you’re working in color, but you can vignette it, you could treat it like a drawing almost with a little bit of color. You can…you know it’s really versatile or you can make it go from corner to corner. Actually, I can show you one pastel that everybody that comes to my studio loves it. And, it’s not one I did, I wish I had, but I did this, but it is this beautiful, does that show? Can you see that?

Sherrie

It’s a landscape of this rock and reflection into the water and it is done corner to corner, as you can see, it’s a tiny little thing, and I bought it in this miniature show down in Albuquerque. It is so gorgeous, the color relationships in this are just stunning and people are amazed that it’s in pastel. But you could imagine that if you were doing you know, landscape like this, you know how lovely it would be to do little studies, you know, it’s not wet, but you’re working in oil, I mean, I bet you’re working in color and you can do, you know, flat areas.

So it’s just each medium kind of has its pros and cons, you know. I know there’s concern about the dust, obviously from pastel. There are things to mitigate that and ways of dealing with that. But anyway, so it has pastel really has a wonderful strength of watercolor also. I think that it’s just so beautiful. I could show you a Burt Silverman watercolor that I bought a few years ago. It’s just one of my favorite paintings. It is of a Mardi Gras scene in Venice.

Jackie

Yes.

Sherrie

Yes. Isn’t that the wildest thing?

Jackie

It really is. I know that Burt lived in Italy for a time.

Sherrie

Yes. Burt has gorgeous watercolors, the beaches, and so forth, but you could just see it’s just a… it’s that stunning?

Jackie

Great.

Sherrie

I love it. So, I mean, but you could see, like to do something that involved in that big, how much fun it is to kind of find different ideas and, you know, you don’t like it, it’s easy to get rid of and so, you know, it’s just, you may just find that you try different medium you will find it could open up a whole part of you that you never knew was there, if you hadn’t tried it.

Jackie

Thank you for our discussion on painting and drawing mediums today. Bye Sherry.

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