Why do you work in the art medium you do?

Toy Monkey and Candy, oil on archival canvasboard, $435 framed includes shipping and handling in the continental US.

I have always been just a painter. I figure if I keep up with it, someday I might truly master painting. (That’s not false humility; it’s the only healthy attitude toward art.) I did other things as a student, including clay and printmaking. But painting is devilishly difficult. It consumes all my energy.

Because I have such a narrow focus, I’m sometimes at a loss when people look to me for guidance about art mediums. I never chose my path-it chose me.

Is this strong personal preference for drawing and painting a natural affinity, or am I a product of my times? I imagine it’s a bit of both. For example, when I learned to paint, acrylics were not the excellent product they are today. I understand them, but I’ve never done the deep dive into them that radical painting requires.

Dish of Butter, 6X8, oil on archival canvasboard, $435 includes shipping in continental US.

We choose art mediums that we feel comfortable with. I had good primary drawing instruction, so I’m comfortable with a pencil. However, I’ve taught enough painters to know that’s hardly universal. (The very first lesson in drawing is, “don’t panic; you can do this.”) On the flip side, I’ve never had any formal instruction in carving or sculpting, and they make me nervous. With the first flying stone chip, I’d probably put someone’s eye out.

In part I became a painter because it was all around me. I could raid my father’s supplies. (Sorry, Dad.) Cost can be a real barrier to artistic expression, something that was made painfully clear when my late friend Helen decided she wanted to try painting. What she could afford was a dime-store watercolor kit and copy paper.

Most of us have limits set by finances. I can’t afford bronze casting at a foundry, so I stay away from clay work. That goes double for casting jewelry, as rewarding as it might be.

Possum, 6X8, oil on archival canvasboard, $435 includes shipping in continental US.

Different art mediums offer different tactile qualities. Photography engages us through light and color (and, with modern cameras, immediacy). Painting rewards us with an interactive surface. Sculpture appeals through form and the sheer personality of its materials. Monoprinting provides happy accidents that lighten our sometimes-leaden hands

I love painting outdoors, especially when I’m in inaccessible places. My friend Toby would rather do anything other than paint en plein air, including canning tomatoes.

The medium is the message

Sonia Delaunay was a very competent painter in the post-Cubist style called Orphism, every bit as good as her more-famous husband Robert Delaunay. Needing money, she applied her design skills to textiles, pioneering wearable art that included quilting and embroidery. She wasn’t a feminist in the modern sense, but her work is certainly a manifesto. Likewise, there’s no teasing apart the environmentalist from the artist in Andy Goldsworthy.

Stuffed animal in a bowl, with Saran Wrap. 6X8, oil on archival canvasboard, $435.

If you wanted to expand to a different art medium, what would it be?

There’s a press idling in the corner of my studio. I’m thinking a lot right now about the intersection of words and images, perhaps in the form of an artist’s book.

Why do you work in the art medium you do? If you had time to expand your range, what medium would you start experimenting in, and why?

My 2024 workshops: