Choosing your Artistic Medium

In a recent discussion on my facebook page the subject of ‘choosing one’s’ medium came up. That is to say how do we know which artistic medium (oil,acrylic, watercolour, etc) we would like to use? Well this is where I’d like to throw in my 2 cents worth.

After giving it some thought I realized that we often approach this sort of problem by looking at the symptom rather than the cause so-to-speak.

We likely ask ourselves – “well which medium would I enjoy using most?”  Although the question of enjoyment does come in to it this could be a bit mis-leading. It’s sort of like the question “What is my passion?”. In fact a passion is not really an actionable word but an emotion that can be brought to any task.

So if it’s not about the fit of the suit, so much, then it’s about the look!

That may sound counter-intuitive to what we already know about wearing clothes. It has to fit and feel good-look is almost secondary. However in the case of art it is about the look. It’s the look that elicits  a response. Follow me on this. I do know that creating art starts with an emotion but if you’re choosing a medium you want to deal with how you show that emotion. What is it about the art that draws you in and inspires you? How is that effect (or affect) achieved?

To say it another way:

If you want to know your favourite medium , even though *experimentation is good, then you want to take a good look at the art that already inspires you. What art do you like?

This is the fun part. Expose your experience to viewing and seeing other’s work. What do you see that you like? What medium is the artist using to express those feelings and emotions you identify with?

Won’t that make my art less original; less personal?

No. There is nothing new under the sun. There is only a different combination of using what already exits. Ever thought of painting realism over an abstract background?  What about the other way around?  Even this has been done but you can combine various media and styles, colours to  create something that is uniquely yours.

By seeing what you like it will get you to investigate the means ( the media) used to create that effect.

Then fall in love with the one you are with.


If it takes a brush to create that art then learn the brush!  If it takes photography then learn the camera techniques. If oil is what you like then explore oils!

Maybe less concern about what medium or artistic tool you want to fall in love with and more about the art you love will actually help you discover your medium.

Is there a magic medium out there just for you? Ponder more the art you love then fall in love with the tools to get the job done. Do we really build homes just because we like the feel of a hammer or saw?  It’s the dream, the concept and the idea realized that inspires us to passion!

Hope this helps…that’s my two cents, now what’s yours?

*Experimentation is a great thing. It stores in our minds and physiology a feel for what we like and what we can do. Yes I do think the same emotion can be expressed in many ways and with various media. Then just look at art. what art do you like..not so much what medium. :^)

A Stitch in Time – How to Scan a Painting for Print

Star Wars Super 8 Cover

Update: 2019

Recently I came across a very helpful scanning tool. If you are a PC user you can download free software from Microsoft to automatically align and compose multiple scans.

This article is still helpful in theory. However the free software app is much more reliable ,I find, than ‘eyeballing it’. Here’s the current download address. The The app is called Image Composite Editor:

Image Composite Editor

Sooner or later almost every artist will want to copy their work. Often a good digital camera with a great lens will do the trick shooting in diffused lighting.

However, sometime it may be more convenient to use your digital scanner to scan in the image of the print. The plus side with scanning as opposed to camera shots is that you will get an even, flat and highly detailed image. The down side is that you have to keep an eye on your scanner’s settings (are you in professional mode, what’s your dpi, etc.) and you may get too much detail ( like markings on the back of your canvas showing through). Although this is usually not a huge problem.

Once again I must say that these are the methods I use and someone else may get better results with their own techniques.

So let’s say your painting or art work is just a bit too large for your scanner’s surface. This is where stitching comes in handy.

I use Corel Photopaint and it does the trick. Other software likely offers similar options.

First you want to scan in both halves of the painting. Doing one side at a time. I use the settings on my scanner software for Photo at 300dpi and high quality prints/posters. Preview and then scan the image. If given the option to use a mask (a selective, dashed -line frame box) when choosing the area to be scan then choose to scan a hair’s width away from the outer edges of the area to be scanned. Let me clarify. Do not bring the border of the selection box to the very outer edge of the painting preview. Some scanners experience a little drop-off in this zone and you may get a slightly darker sliver of the image that will affect the quality of your final print.  I’m speaking of what you see in the selected preview of the glass on the actual scanner. So you could accommodate for this drop-off by allowing a border area left blank outside of the painting.

Okay..a picture is worth a thousand words I guess 🙂

The yellow area with the green dashed line is the maximum scan area of the glass. I have the painting positioned just a bit inside of that area. The dark dashed inner line (red arrows) is the area in which the software sees to scan. Notice I have that area narrowed a bit cutting the wookie’s face in half and not going all the way to the edge. Okay..let’s move right along.

By now you should have two separate images of high quality which you can open up in Photopaint.

Next you’ll want to crop one of the images to a smaller selection so you’ll have less image to match up and blend (above image). Do leave a little area of overlap as you can see i did for Han Solo’s gun.

Above: The cropped image.


Above: Under Image select ‘Stitch’

Above: Now select ‘Add All’

A new screen appears and using the select pointer tool you can ‘grab’ one of the images and match and blend. I have the blend image setting at 5.

Above: A close-up view ( you can zoom in to get a better match up) shows where the two images blend. Now just hit enter and a new solid image will be created from which you can manipulate or save as different files and sizes.

That’s about it. Hope you find that helpful. Check out my design page for further designs. Thanks for stopping by!




A Creative Solution


Someone has said, ” if it ain’t useful , of high sentimental value or a work of art then toss it out!”

Well that’s easier said than done when you have my sentimental over-attachment personality that rivals that of some giant,  tentacled creature from mythical lore. Okay…that was a little over the top, I know. Childhood images of the Seven Voyages of Sinbad came to mind. Apologies.


The Big Clean hit theatres this summer. Ahem, I mean my studio.  One result was the discovery of a ziplock bag of old watercolour tubes I used to use. ‘Haven’t used watercolors for quite some time and some of the tubes were as hard as rocks. Sure I probably could have performed some grade-8-like biology surgery where frogs have seen better days  to gut open the tubes.  This would then have exposed cylinder blocks of color that could be revived with a splash of water…maybe.

Some of the watercolors still had their original price stickers on them showing their true age.

What was I going to do?  It was down to that last pile…y’know, the one you’re always left with after a big clean up: paper clips, used popcicle sticks, Q-tips and maybe even some ketchup pack-ettes! At this point you’re feeling like an exhausted god determining the life or hapless fate of your kingdom. Should it stay or should it go now?

After some time a creative solution  was found!  However- whoever holds the time-lapse video on our lives would have had a great chuckle to replay the scene of me picking up the bag of watercolours and then placing them back down, rubbing my chin with indecision and then picking them back up AGAIN!! ha ha

So here’s what happened. Like something from Arthur Koestler’s  The Act of Creation an idea struck me!  If it were (a.)no longer useful and (b.) not quite of sentimental value then (c.) it must be a work of art!! And so it became.


To do this you’ll want a cheap 8 x 10 canvas, glue gun, matte varnish (waterbased), a couple ( or more) acrylic craft paints and newspaper clippings. You may want to use a small sharp exacto knife to move and place the newsprint cutouts ( unless you have little tiny fingers ). I placed a glittery star in the open space just to balance things out and make some contrast or for some unknown reason. I also dropped a few drops of rubbing alcohol on the fresh paint just to create some subtle rings/texture to the canvas before it dried. I used the matte varnish to glue everything  down including the star ( and except the tubes, of course). I don’t recommend rubber cement for the plastic star as I suspect it would cause it to curl. Not sure.

Also added was a few drops of acrylic red paint at the mouth of one tube missing a cap. Just a little something you know ;^)

Also don’t forget to place a hanging wire at the back.

Hmmmm? Now I have to hang it somewhere..Uh oh ..the walls are already full of art! Crap! yah dee yah dee ya

Passion is a Virtue

Wild rose illustration commission for Candle Company. by Kevin C

Wild rose illustration commission for Candle Company. by Kevin C

I was going to call this post “Don’t Overthink It” but I like positive sounding titles much better. I’m actually writing this to remind myself of a discovered truth that you also may benefit.

All of my posts are to Artists.  That is  my passion and interest and I’m assuming if you’re reading this you too are an artist or have artistic interest.

There is a kind of secret that attends the studio of great artists.  Disclaimer:  I do not think of myself as Great or the Center of the Universe in anyway.  No Narcissism here.  This secret does not involve some master technique. It is not about some great art school in Italy.  First let me tell you a brief funny story.

Passion is a Virtue

Many years ago I worked as a shipyard labourer/painter and welders’ helper.  I got to see the beauty of boats and ships tied up at the wharf during early peaceful mornings when the water was so still it looked like you could walk on it.

Shipyard labourers were the guys who did “all the other work”.  Stuff that the electricians or welders didn’t do.  There were no ladies working among us and the conversation often harkened to that of the back of the classroom during recess in high school. So the  announcement of my then upcoming marriage became fuel for such conversation. After-all we had to pass the time somehow because the work was often menial and tedious.  With winks in their eyes and a gratuitous grin the guys tried to get me to ‘kiss and tell’ and see just how far the relationship had already advanced.  I wanted to extol the virtue of waiting and being patient. I held my head up high and meaning to say ‘Patience is a virtue’ I instead and erroneously proclaimed, “Passion is a  virtue!”  Well that phrase became the saying of the summer and we enjoyed many a good laugh over it.

The Secret

So what has that story to do with my “secret“? Nothing really except that after a few decades I never forgot it.  The phrase seems to apply aptly to this post, however.  The key to a ‘good’ painting is more about passion, energy, spirit and emotion than it is about technique, colour choice or what ground you’re using .  You can teach a monkey or a machine to paint but it won’t make the painting a part of human phenomena.  What moves the viewer  are those paintings that first moved the artist.

If you want a good painting that will speak to others then concentrate less on ‘the rules’.  Learn the rules but don’t let the rule be the master.  Otherwise your work will be ‘wooden’.

This is where art differs from the sciences.  It’s about feeling first.  Whats the emotion?  Is it Anger? Love? Fear?  That is what you are painting. Are you painting an old building?  No.  You are painting a home that has felt love, fear, anger and loss. You must feel it first in order to transfer it onto canvas.

My wife wrote in a poem once these words describing love, life and a rose:

“…it’s the thorns we miss that cause the tears…”

Why does a beautiful thing like a rose have such sharp, peircing things as thorns?  Perhaps so the rose will not only be seen, smelled and admired but so that it will be felt and felt in such a way it can never be forgotten.

Can your beautiful art make one’s soul bleed? If so, then it has done it’s job.  When it comes to Art and when all is said and done, Passion is a Virtue!

Thanks for droppin in!  See ya next time. KC.

The Under Painting



Wikipedia defines the underpainting partially as :In art, an underpainting is an initial layer of paint applied to a ground, which serves as a base for subsequent layers of paint. 

The underpainting helps you to establish the values of your final painting.  Basically it’s usually a one or maybe two colour sketch painting that you use to paint over with your final colours.  Here’s an example of an underpainting with the final painting started on top of it.


This painting is no where near completion.  You can see the areas of the painting that have only a brownish ( burnt umber) colour. This is the underpainting used to define the shape and the values of the painting.  The values refer to the light and dark of the painting.

There is no rule saying you must have an underpainting.  If , for example, you are painting a cartoon image with flat opaque colour you wouldn’t have to have an underpainting.

I mostly use a thinned, almost watery mix of paint and water ( you can add matte medium if you like if you are worried about the initial paint ‘bonding’ to you canvas or board.)

The nice thing is that whether you do an oil painting or a water based acrylic painting you can use acrylic as the basis for the underpainting.  This is because oil paints will adhere or stick to water based paint…but not the other way around.

Here is another example of an underpainting in which I used two colours.  This had to be adjusted because as you can see I got the direction of the light source wrong in the lower right foreground.  In fact the final painting had some major changes.


So as you can see the underpainting is kind of the “unsung Hero”-the Under dog , if you will, that serves a real purpose but gets very little appreciation.

See ya next time!  Happy Painting…o…and underpainting!