Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Activity #10 - Mediums and Techniques

In 1795, Gilbert Stuart created “George Washington” using oil on canvas. Oil paints are created using pigment mixed with a medium, a liquid that holds the particles of pigment together, typically linseed oil (168, 172). These paints dry very slowly which allows artists to blend colors by layering. Andy Warhol however utilized synthetic polymer paint on canvas in 1962 when he created “Green Marilyn”. These paints are commonly known as acrylics and they gain popularity in the 1950s. Acrylics were the first paints that competed with the use of oil paints by western artists (180). They are more versatile than oil paints and they can be used in ways that mimic many differently types of paints and they can be used on various surfaces (180).

Gilbert Stuart took advantage of the properties of oil paints when creating “George Washington”. The painting must have been created using layers of paint. This is evident when looking at the realistic colors of the subjects face. The shade of the skin varies to highlight his cheeks, nose and chin. He may have used glazes, thin, translucent veils of color applied over the thicker underpainting (175). This is evident by the flawless glowing finish of the painting. The strokes are not heavy in this work; the colors are well blended together which makes the painting appear very realistic to me.

Andy Warhol used synthetic polymer paint on canvas to create his unique “Green Marilyn”. The paints were actually applied using a silkscreen. A silkscreen is a fine mesh of silk mounted in a frame, rather like a window screen. The artist then works from drawings to block out parts of the screen not meant to print by plugging up holes so that no ink passes through (203). A different screen is created for each color (204). This allowed him to make the same piece of art using many different color combinations.

Even though both of these pieces were created using paints, their mediums were very different. “George Washington” was created using a traditional approach utilizing oil paints applied with a brush, while “Green Marilyn” uses a much less widespread approach, synthetic paints applied with a silkscreen, making them appear very different from each other.

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