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?

We can broadly define two-dimensional (2D) art as comprised of wet or dry media. For example, watercolor is a wet media, while graphite is a dry media. Artists can use wet and dry media to create imagery specific to 2D forms. Artists produce three-dimensional (3D) media, such as sculpture, by additive or subtractive means.
Additive means are when the artist lumps materials together, as when working with clay. Subtractive means 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 and other performance-based works.
Installations activate large spaces by treating them as compositional zones that defy other categorizations, such as architecture or interior design. Within these broad categories of 2D and 3D media are many specific technologies, forms, and techniques.
2D art includes:

  1. Drawing – usually uses dry media such as chalk, pastels (colored chalk), charcoal, graphite, and oil-based pastels
  2. Painting – uses pigments for colors, such as oil-based acrylic or water-based watercolor
  3. Printmaking – produces copies of an original template image onto a new surface

There are six main painting mediums:

  1. Encaustic – mixes pigments with a beeswax-binding element
  2. Tempera – combines pigments with an egg yolk binder
  3. Fresco – mixes pigments with plaster using several methods
  4. Oil – mixes pigments with linseed oil
  5. Acrylic – mixes pigment with a synthetic polymer material
  6. Watercolor – mixes the pigments with water-soluble gum arabic

All mediums of painting require similar elements: pigments (the basis of the color), a binder (in which the pigments are suspended), and a solvent (for control when applying the paint).
Prints are produced via relief (where the ink is applied to the original surface, not in the etched-out areas as with woodcuts or the ukiyo-e "floating world" form that developed in East Asia), intaglio (where the ink fills in the etched-out areas, as with etchings) and planar (where the ink is flush to the original surface, as in lithography) methods. Another planar method is serigraphy, which is commonly called silkscreen, in which ink is poured through a mesh onto a substrate, which is how t-shirt graphics are created. Collage is another important form of 2D art, which uses fragments or pieces of images and various materials recomposed into a new pattern.
Example: This work by Pierre-Paul Prud'hon combines chalk and charcoal on paper.

To review, read Two-Dimensional Media and Three-Dimensional Media.

5b. Explain how advances in technology affected art practices

  • What are some 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 older technologies in art?

Historically, every new technology capable of producing images, sounds, or representations was used artistically at some point, whether it was used widely (such as in photographs) or more experimentally (such as with analog video synthesizers or air raid sirens in Futurist music compositions). The use of technology can often be quite surprising and unanticipated, as with the use of mobile and social media technologies to organize flash mobs – spontaneously organized groups who gather in public spaces for brief performances.
We follow a common pattern when new media art is introduced – we use them in the style of the old media. For example, we talk of webpages even though the internet is not made 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, creative people begin to notice the unique affordances of new media technologies and eventually leave behind simple imitations of old styles as they pursue 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?

New technologies that make their way into the art world typically enter a crowded field of practices and traditions. Photography provides an interesting case study because it is a relatively new medium (originating in the 19th century). It is easy to see and understand the changes it wrought.
Photography made portraiture, which was expensive to produce, accessible to the larger population. In the beginning, many photographic portraits emulated painting styles. Photography freed painters to do more things with paint than simply copy reality, which opened up new avenues toward abstraction and non-objective art. Photography changed and challenged the notion of art as a precious object – since we could reproduce photographs by the thousands or even millions. The status of art was transformed from being a unique work to a different notion of art as something that could be commonplace. Further investigations into photographic technologies, such as attempts to reproduce illusions of movement, led to new photo-based media such as film and video.
Examples: Portraiture was one of the most popular uses of painting, and photography made it more accessible to a wider population.

To review, read Effects 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 two-dimensional (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 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 three-dimensional (3D) art, depth is added to height and width, which has a tremendous impact on the creation and reception of art. Whether the artist uses depth to cut a stone figure against its background material, arrange people in space during a work of performance art, or place objects in a room as in installation art, they activate all three dimensions of physical space in 3D art in a way that is not true of 2D art.
To review, read Two-Dimensional Media and Three-Dimensional Media.

5e. Explain the technologies, aesthetics, and techniques that define photography as an artistic medium

  • What subject matters were of interest to the first photographers?
  • How do photographic images differ from painted ones, even when the subject matter may be similar?
  • Name some key technological changes photographers adopted during the early days of photography.

Photography appeared during a time when painting was the dominant form of image-making in everyday life. The first photographic technologies added a chemical process to the previous technology of the camera obscura, which painters had long used to produce highly realistic representations. This technique automated the image-making process for the first time and introduced new roles for technology beyond those immediately associated with the practiced hand of the artist.
The earliest forms of photography used chemical processes to produce a single print, which was unique and not easily duplicatable. The earliest known photographic technology was heliography (sun writing), which Joseph Niépc invented using plates made of pewter. The daguerreotype came a little later (named after Louis Daguerre), which exposed images on silver-plated copper. William Henry Fox Talbot's invention of the calotype introduced the first processes involving a negative and a positive image, which allowed for unlimited duplication of images based on the same original.
Photographers took over several key artistic genres that were popular in painting, such as portraiture and landscape. This put new creative and innovation pressures on painters who eventually moved toward greater degrees of abstraction. Photography also has its capacities for abstraction and processing, which were initially chemically based and not dominated by digital pixel-based processing software. Photography has also transformed journalistic practices – it is now essential to recording events as they happen for mass audiences.
To review, read Effects on Other Media.

5f. Explain the technologies, aesthetics, and techniques that define time-based photographic imagery in video, film, performance, and installation

  • What was photography's role in the origins of cinema and new media?
  • How do cinema and new media use time?
  • What are some new capacities that computers bring to artmaking?

Technical studies in photography led to the development of cinematic technologies, which brought time (and its capacity to represent motion) as a new dimension in creative media. Before this development, time was usually referred to as real-time, as in live performance, typical of art forms like music and theater. The ability of photographically realistic media to encode time and produce illusions of visual motion was fundamental to art's evolution during the 19th and 20th centuries.
Over time, new media has become increasingly accessible, miniaturized, and portable. Today, most cell phones can record video as a default feature. Other art forms, such as installations and performance art, often incorporate video. Computers, which are digital, treat images as data – 0s and 1s that can be manipulated via software into whole new categories of art.
To review, read Time-Based Media: Film, Video, and Digital.

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.

  • acrylic
  • additive means
  • binder
  • calotype
  • camera obscura
  • cinematic technologies
  • collaboration
  • collage
  • compositional zones
  • daguerreotype
  • drawing
  • dry media
  • encaustic
  • flash mob
  • fresco
  • heliography
  • installations
  • intaglio
  • new media art
  • oil
  • painting
  • performance-based works
  • photography
  • pigments
  • planar
  • printmaking
  • prints
  • relief
  • serigraphy
  • solvent
  • subtractive means
  • tempera
  • three-dimensional (3D) media
  • time
  • two-dimensional (2D) art
  • ukiyo-e
  • watercolor
  • wet media