ARTH101 Study Guide

Unit 5: Artistic Media

5a. Identify and describe specific characteristics of the media that artists use

  • What are the main kinds of media used in drawings and paintings?
  • What are the main kinds of representation found in sculpture?
  • How does time-based media differ from traditional spatial media, such as drawings and sculpture?

2D art can be broadly defined as being comprised of either wet or dry media. Watercolor, for example, is a wet media, while graphite is a dry media. Both wet and dry media can be used to create imagery specific to 2D forms.

3D media, such as sculpture, can be produced by additive or subtractive means. Additive means are when the artist lumps materials together, as when working with clay. Subtractive means are when the artist removes material to create a form, such as by carving and chiseling away at a stone sculpture.

Other forms of 3D media involve collaboration among artists, such as with festival spaces like Burning Man or with performance-based works. Installations activate large spaces by treating them as compositional zones that defy other categorizations like architecture or interior design.


This work by Pierre-Paul Prud'hon combines chalk and charcoal on paper.

To review, read subunits 5.1 and 5.3.

5b. Explain how the advance of technology affected art practices

  • What are some of the new forms of art that emerged from key technological developments?
  • How do artists respond to the introduction of new technologies?
  • Why do new technologies not replace the use of older technologies in art?

Historically, every new technology that became capable of producing images, sounds or representations were at some point used artistically, whether used widely (as in photographs) or more experimentally (as with analog video synthesizers, or air raid sirens in Futurist music compositions). As new media art introduced, it is a common pattern that they are used in the style of the old media. For instance, today we talk of 'web pages' even though the World Wide Web is not made up of paper. The web is full of pages because the dominant medium before the web, the book, was full of pages. The first photographic portraits looked just like painted portraits, and so on. Gradually, however, creative people begin to notice the unique affordances of new media technologies and eventually leave behind simple imitation of old styles in the pursuit of new expressive effects unique to the new media.

To review, read Early Development.

5c. Explain the effect photography had on traditional artistic media

  • How did photography affect portraiture?
  • How did painters respond to the new medium of photography?
  • How did painting styles change in response to photography's increasing popularity?

All new technologies that make their way into art enter a crowded field of other practices and traditions. Photography is interesting to study because it is a relatively new medium (originating in the 19th century) and so it is relatively easy to view and understand the changes it wrought. For one, photography made portraiture, which was very expensive to produce, accessible to the larger population, and many photographic portraits emulated the painting styles. Photography also freed painters to do more things with paint than just copying reality, which opened up new avenues toward abstraction and non-objective art. Photography also did much to change or challenge the notion of art as a precious object – since photographs could be reproduced by the thousands or even millions, they changed the status of art from being thought of as unique works to a different notion of art as something that could even become commonplace. It is also important to point out that further investigations into photographic technologies, such as attempts to reproduce illusions of movement, led to new photo-based media such as film and video.


Portraiture was one of the most popular uses of painting, and photography made it more accessible to a wider population.

To review, read Affect on Other Media.

5d. Differentiate between two-dimensional and three-dimensional media

  • What are the main differences between 2D and 3D artistic media?
  • How is depth rendered in 2D media?
  • What forms of 3D media also dynamically change in time?

No painting or drawing is 'purely' two dimensional, since all surfaces have a thickness and 2D planes are in fact a geometric abstraction. However, in 2D or planar-surface-based art, the thickness of the medium is of no or very little importance. With 2D art, we only pay attention to the image rendered on the surface of the medium (paper, canvas, wall, etc.) in its height by width aspect ratio. With 3D art, depth is added to height and width and most importantly, it matters for the creation and reception of art. Whether depth is used to cut a stone figure against its background material, or to arrange artists in space in a work of performance art, or objects in a room as in installation art, all three dimensions of physical space are activated in 3D art in a way that is not true of 2D art.

To review, read subunits 5.1 and 5.3.

Unit 5 Vocabulary

Be sure you understand these terms as you study for the final exam. Try to think of the reason why each term is included.

  • wet media
  • dry media
  • additive means
  • subtractive means 
  • photography
  • 2D art
  • 3D art