I thought you might like to see the types of media I use in my work, the different paints/pencils/pastels, plus brushes and paper. I've listed the main ones below, in the order I use most often.
Acrylic paint is pigment bound in a synthetic binder and is water-based. I find it is extremely versatile, I like that it can behave like watercolour when diluted, creating transparent effects. However when it is applied more thickly it can appear a bit plasticky as it will dry very quickly with hard lines. When working with acrylic, water has been my friend, softening the medium and taking those edges away. Then when used without water, it has almost the feel of oil paint but with less of a soft buttery texture. I find acrylic to be very adaptable and forgiving, and in the field its speed in drying is a real benefit (because transporting paint that isn’t dry is quite tricky), although it needs a lot of heavy equipment, box of paints, easel, etc. Sometimes I use acrylic as a base and then add pastels or oil pastels, or perhaps water-soluble pencils. Each of these mediums bring their own unique properties to the painting, adding textures and dynamism that only they can bring.
Watercolour paint is a pigment bound with gum arabic which is based on hardened sap of an acacia tree. One of my favourite things about watercolour is that most colours are transparent, which means that painting thin washes on white watercolour paper allows the white of the paper to sing through the layers of paint. Another huge benefit is that it’s so easy and light to transport. I love taking a small half pan tin of paints with a few brushes and some water and sketchbook, then I can create a painting which dries quickly and is easy to bring home.
So much water is involved when working with watercolour there's almost a feeling of surrender to the process; allowing colours to mix how they will, which can sometimes be quite exciting, but often frustrating; watercolour can be difficult to control.
Another danger with watercolour is that it is easy to lose the life of the painting by adding more paint before the previous layer is dry. This creates unsightly muddy areas, so sometimes less is more with watercolour, which allows layers to dry completely before adding another wash.
My Dad was always surprised that people would often begin their journey into painting with watercolour; one of the most difficult mediums to use.
Gouache is a water-soluble paint bound in gum arabic. It’s similar to watercolour, but with larger pigment particles with a higher amount of pigment per binder making it more dense. The opaqueness is created by a white filler such as chalk so that it dries to a matt finish. I enjoy gouache for its quick covering and its ability to blend with other water soluble paints, complimenting watercolour well. With these two mediums, I can produce transparent washes with opaque areas of flat colour. When using watercolour I often use white gouache to create highlights.
Watercolour pencils compliment watercolour, gouache and pastel very well. I use them on top of watercolour or gouache where they can bring life back to muddy areas that have become overworked especially in shadow areas of a painting. I love how very versatile they are and that they can be used dry, and then adding a wash with a brush, or dipping the tip in water and applying that to create a very intense colour.
Pastels are pigment bound thickly together with gum arabic creating a dry medium similar to chalk. I like that they are very easy to use, with an added bonus that there’s no need to mix colours-the intense colour comes straight off the pastel. Pastels work very well over gouache and watercolour to create a mixed media piece-this is how I like to use them most often at the moment. Pastels need a different surface and I use 00 glass paper/sand paper which has a good tooth ie very rough texture, which means I can create multiple layers without the pastels sliding or slipping.
There are a few downsides; working with them creates dust which gets everywhere, they’re messy but I keep a big chunk of ‘blu tac’ in my left hand which I use to clean my hands between colours so they don’t transfer colour to the image or other pastels. Lastly they can smudge easily and are quite delicate, needing protecting straight away. Adding a fixative darkens the pigment so I don’t tend to use those. Pastel paintings need to get behind glass as soon as possible but they will still be fragile and even knocking into a framed pastel painting can make pigment fall away.
Oil pastels are a pigment bound with a synthetic binding medium and mineral wax. I love these for their intense colours and texture (due to the wax), a good quality brand will have a beautiful rich buttery texture which works well over acrylic, watercolour or gouache to create a multi media painting. They behave like dry pastels but again there’s no need to mix colours and they come in a vast range. But unlike dry pastels, they can also be thinned and mixed with turpentine to create a wash effect and don’t need a surface with a rough texture.
Oil paint is a pigment bound with linseed oil. I absolutely love to use this media, it has the most wonderful texture similar to very soft butter as I work with it mixing colours, or apply it with a pallet knife. It is highly versatile, and like acrylic it can be thinned but with a spirit based thinner, where you can achieve transparent layers, as you build up the paint it has a beautiful lusciousness and richness. However due to the linseed oil, paintings can take six months or more to dry, depending on the thickness of the paint, and the environment in which it’s stored while drying. Also, the turpentine used for thinning the paint and white spirit used for cleaning the brushes is very strong smelling which means it's not very compatible with painting in a home-studio. Plus there is the risk of developing an allergic reaction to turpentine over time.