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Know Your Materials

As with most professions, you must understand the materials you use; ongoing learning and investigations are recommended.

If Engineers lacked an understanding of building materials and the environment, structures would collapse or be unsafe. Without knowledge of produce and flavour profiles, chef’s meals could make you sick or be inedible. Bakers need to understand flours, yeasts and quantities or their bread wouldn’t rise and taste so good. These are only a few examples, but I am sure you see the point.

To get the most out of your chosen materials, whether sand, pencils, clay, paint, silver, ink or textiles, you need to understand and have confidence when using them.

There are many different ways to record your investigations, and it does depend on what materials you prefer. However, all you have to do is test small quantities of your chosen materials and take notes about how they react, alter, dry or perform. By doing this, you will become more and more familiar with which materials are suited to different creative projects.

Your method of recording could be digital, using photos, scrapbooks, visual diaries, swatches or wall charts etc.

If testing and investigating pencils, charcoals or dry mediums, you might like to test darkness, hardness, coverage, colour or how they look on different paper surfaces.

If your chosen material is paint, you might like to make colour swatches, test different surfaces like canvas and paper, take notes on drying times or try a variety of brushes. You may even like to test different mediums or varnishes.

For textiles, you might like to take notes on the fibres, colours, type of fabric and cost per metre, washing instructions or where to source it.

If clay, glass, metal or digital art are your choice of mediums think about what element can be tested, tried and explored. Drying times, firing times, tools, colours, techniques, digital brushes and effects are just a few suggestions of what you could record.

Whatever materials you are testing, be thorough, use a wide range of products and believe in the process. Reach out to other artists and discuss their methods or techniques for testing materials. The possibilities are endless but the more you get to know your materials the better your results will be.

Happy exploring everyone!


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