Exploring Alternative Art Mediums


Exploring Alternative Art Mediums

exploring alternative art styles and mediums,
Discovering Alternative Art Styles

Every week I write a new article for members of our four wonderful art communities on Facebook, The Artists Exchange, The Artists Directory, The Artists Lounge, and The Artist Hangout. This week we explore alternative art-forms and mediums that can add even more visual interest to your work. We also deep-dive into the subject of mixed-media which is another great way of taking your existing artistic style and adding even more depth and visual interest, it is also a technique that can jump-start one of those creative dry-spells to which we artists sometimes succumb!

Consistency seems to be everything in the art world. I get it, I know that I have collectors who only ever purchase my landscape works, others who only collect my seascapes, and others that are only ever interested in abstracts. I really wish sometimes that I could forever commit to a single artistic style but that’s just not how my artist's brain works at all. I did the art school thing, I have studied countless books, and whilst this single subject, single style approach works for some, it all depends on who the artist’s audience is.

Whenever I meet new artists and they ask me for advice, I am always reluctant to say that they should do anything other than to stick with one artistic style or medium. It’s what gets taught in art school, it is also what is written in many books, it is the advice we read everywhere online, but in all my time in the art world I have never ever seen it is written in some biblical stone that you will forever work in one style and on one thing.

In my 30-something year career, I have made a living from selling everything from a pin to an elephant and I make no apologies. Some artists who I studied with have since gone on to great things by focussing on one thing, I know at least one who went on to become a doctor, and another an accountant, I know of only two other than me who went on to work in the arts, one is a curator the other works in multiple visual styles. Go figure.

I am very aware of the need for consistency in some areas of the art world. When I sold my works through a gallery one of them would only ever take on my abstracts and another gallery dealt with my blue landscapes. No gallery was interested in my other works but my own people were, in fact, those people were out-buying the works sold through the galleries by a long way and I wasn’t paying 50% in commission fees to one gallery and 60% to the other. It made zero financial sense to carry on. Yet others seek the gallery gig and I totally get why it just wasn’t for me at the time. Today, I use a network of retailers and sell directly which works for me but might not work for everyone.

Collectors love consistency because they like to collect consistent looking works or subjects, but consistency isn’t the only absolute way of doing things. In art school, it was because that is what we were told, but there is an elephant in the room. Most working artists aren’t working in the gallery space, they are painting for the pure joy of painting and to make a living from their people who might not buy from galleries at all. Artists are not only surviving doing this, but some of them are also thriving. To me, it seems like a disservice to those who are told there is only one way to do things because I know from my own experience that this puts artists off from pursuing their dreams. Not committing to a single subject or style is not the same as having no commitment at all.

Sometimes no matter how consistent we are when we create what we create, there are times when as an artist you just need to stretch and flex your creative muscle in other directions. Whenever I go through periods of creative block I always experiment with different mediums and techniques and it all adds to this life-long-learning experience we consider the art world. There’s always something new (or old) to learn!

But what of the other art forms that aren’t quite so mainstream? First, we take a look through some alternative artistic forms which may just whet your appetite for being even more creative!

Glitch Art…

If you have ever worked with technology for longer than a few minutes you might have come across something known in the tech world as a glitch. We’ve all seen them and experienced them and some people have even suggested that glitches don’t only affect technology but they affect the physical world we live in too.

Strange and bizarre because that’s what I do best, seem to be the order of the day when we listen to stories of missing time. I have experienced it and hopefully, I am not alone in this, but I am convinced I have lost days. I categorically know that I answered a question my wife asked on Thursday last week and I answered, and then she asked me again on Friday because she swears I didn’t give her an answer. I’m absolutely resolute in my belief that I did, she is absolutely unmovable in her belief that I didn’t. So where did the real Thursday go, or am I losing my marbles?  No need to answer that because I probably am.

Some people are convinced that they have experienced glitches where days or time have been lost. A friend of mine swore that I had bumped into him at the station and I said to call me as I jumped on a train, I thought I saw him too but we were both at different stations and I didn’t say a word to anyone, it was on the London Underground and no one speaks to each other even if they’re wedded. Strange, bizarre, and completely no explanation why this happened, although I would like to think that there was a more logical reason than anything else. I know, I have no idea either, maybe coincidence that sometimes we have doppelgangers who just happen to pass each other.

Glitches though are more common than we think and even more so since they started to appear as artworks. Glitch art in case you haven’t come across it is a real thing. It is also an art form that I have to admit to not totally getting at all for a few years. Some of it can be quite beautiful, some even perplexing, but an artwork replicating pixelated, hallucinatory jagged lines isn’t something I have taken too much notice of, to be honest. That was until I came across Maya, a young girl standing alone at the end of a train platform in Bristol, England, between 2013 and 2015. That’s when I started to wake up to the art of the glitch.
Who’s she with? Is she travelling alone? Engrossed in her own world, she is still and focuses on the phone she carries. As a concerned member of the public approaches, her form appears to digitize and fragment into cubes. Is this some form of reverse augmented reality?

Maya was a 3D sculpture which acts somewhat like a three-dimensional pixelated portrait. From a distance you would have thought that Maya was alone, abandoned on a busy platform, if you moved closer you would find that she was indeed glitch art that fragmented into cubes. You can see the work right here

Glitch art is just like technology falling apart at the seams and whilst there are many Instagram and Facebook pages and groups dedicated to the form of glitch art, it isn’t new. In fact, it was something that appeared in the days of Web 1.0 when Rosa Menkman wrote the Glitch Studies Manifesto which you can see on the Internet Archive right here

Below you can see one of my early forays into Glitch Art. Everyday Glitches I created in 2015 but it hasn’t gone on sale at all yet. When it does, it will only be offered directly, it will be signed, and it will only be offered for sale on one day and the original file will be given to the buyer on an encrypted USB stick and it will be removed from my storage completely as if it was never there. You just never quite know when the work will arrive, just like any other glitch!

everyday glitches by Mark Taylor, artwork, glitch art,
Everyday Glitches by Mark Taylor


Post-It Note Art…
Another art form which if you have ever had to sit in one of those team meetings or if you have ever been on an away day becomes almost performative and interactive, is the art of creating art using sticky notes.

Sticky notes come in all sorts of colours and hues and if you have a day job with a stationary cupboard there is a fair chance that you have a couple of them sat on your desk right now. Pages of the sticky-backed notepads might have been torn off, they are used for all sorts of things including placing them on the side of your computer screen with the computer's password written cryptically on them. On telephone conferences, millions of pieces of micro-sized artworks are produced every day as we sit and doodle while we intently try to listen to what is being said.

Post-It notes have been used in performance art where the audience has been asked to write down things or to create a quick doodle, and they have been used for years to recreate pixel-art. I dread to think just how many forests we have got through since they were invented back in 1974 when Arthur Fry found a way of holding bookmarks in his hymnal while singing in the church choir. Their stickiness added by a 3M employee by the name of Spencer Silver.

post it note art, google sticky crew, mark taylor,
Post-It Note Art


Google that great curator of searchable zeros and ones have an employee-led sticky-art crew that was formed after a neighbouring company across the street used sticky notes to say hello in one of their windows facing the search giant. Google being Google wanted to up the ante, they went one or maybe a few thousand post-it notes bigger.

You can read about Google’s Sticky Crew right here,  where they even share some tips for pulling the individual papers off the pad (pull from left to right and not from the bottom of the page) and make sure there are two sticky-notes worth of space between the floor and the first note to avoid inadvertent mop damage when cleaning.

My Modern Met…

If you suddenly find yourself wanting some inspiration to start creating artworks from unusual materials, My Modern Met has some twenty-five which you can view right here. It is here that you will find works created out of cassette tapes (those born within the past twenty-years might not be familiar with these but us oldies are) and you will find coloured pencil artwork that uses the pencils in the form of sculptures, even smoothies aren’t off the table here when it comes to creating beautiful works of art.

Introducing Other Mediums…

Ninety-percent of my time is spent working digitally these days, that wasn’t always the case. Back in the early nineties, I worked with various home computers but much of my time was spent working on canvas. To this day I try to keep my hand in with traditional painting techniques and many of the private commissions I have created over the past decade have often been a combination of both digital and traditional in mixed media works. My preference whenever I create these is to use watercolour and acrylics, I’m just too impatient to use oils.

My mixed digital/traditional works are created by using a gel transfer and the other parts of the image are created using traditional materials and then scanned into whichever application usually using a drum scanner depending on the size of the work. The reason I don’t do more of this is because drum scanners are expensive and they are big, so I tend to hire the use of one through an outside company and then scan in a number of works when I go and use it.

Drum scanners also tend to need older computers with older software to function, more modern drum scanners are available to buy but the costs for most working artists are prohibitive, expect to pay anywhere between $4000 and $70,000. Some traditional artistic techniques no matter which digital application or digital painting engine you use can ever be faithfully recreated digitally. The use of a drum scanner makes the images much more realistic and they really are the best at creating exact digital replicas of your traditional paintings. There are plenty of companies around who use them or provide professional scanning services and some like the one I use will rent time on the scanner out. A smaller high-end scanner is perfect for smaller works and it is so much more affordable.

When I work with both digital and traditional mediums though I also use gel mediums to transfer the digital images on to canvas. Using this technique I can create an almost plastic effect and bring what is on the screen onto a completely different medium that can’t easily be directly printed on. I sometimes do print directly onto a canvas and then overpaint the image, the canvases, however, have to be suitable for use in my printer and there is a limit to the final size. A gel transfer medium is an easy and reasonably quick way of transferring the image if quick is having a few days to spare.

I have used Liquitex as an acrylic pouring medium for a few years now but Liquitex also have gel mediums available specifically for this kind of transfer work. Other manufacturers have similar versions and I really have no preference, I just find the Liquitex variants more readily available where I live and some are better than others.

You can adjust the gel to your needs so you can add retarder if you want to increase the smoothness of a finished piece or you can mix in acrylic, I have even mixed in gold leaf which provides a metallic feel but if you want a grainier texture then using sand is also something you could try.

When you print the artwork out for transfer you will want to avoid using glossy photo stock, I tend to find that something that is about the same quality as a newspaper or an uncoated magazine then the page is more effective at transferring the image. Generally the cheaper the medium the better but I always try to ensure that the paper medium is 100% acid-free as this could have long-term issues with the robustness of the final image and the rest of the canvas.

Just apply the first coat of gell to the picture but remember to keep the brush strokes smooth, and then allow it to dry. I always allow it to dry a little longer than the recommended time of twenty to thirty minutes, often leaving it for a couple of hours. Once it is dry, the gel turns completely clear. As it hardens I place a piece of clean glass over the paper to make sure that the moisture from the gel doesn’t make the paper buckle which can make the images distort. You need to reapply a few more coats and for best results always try to apply it in the opposite direction to the lower coat. Once that’s done, I leave it to dry for three or four days. It is a slow process and proves once again that art needs patience.

Once dry you just need to soak the entire image with the gel coat in water to dissolve the paper, hence the reason why using high-quality paper stock that tends to have some inbuilt water resistance is a bad idea. The trick here is to only allow the image to soak for around 15-minutes. Once done, gently scrape away any remaining paper, if there is any of it left the image will look less clear and the sharpness erodes. Once the paper is off the gel, run it under a gentle flow of cold water and allow it all to dry. Again, I tend to leave it at room temperature for a good few hours.

Once it has dried you will have a crisp image on the gel which you can then incorporate into your traditional paintings or whatever surface you need the image to appear on. It’s a great way of creating intricate designs for wooden trinket boxes and you can also apply it onto glass surfaces. My advice is to check the labels of any medium you do buy, follow the instructions and remember that some only work effectively with laser printers. Mod-Podge have small kits available and as always with Mod-Podge, the results are usually great.

You can produce some interesting visual forms using a combination of gel transfer medium and traditional materials and I find that the technique can be used for most things. I have in the past had to quickly recreate tins for use as props but you could add visual interest in assemblage works by using the gel transfer method. The work below, Tsunami is a creation of mine from a few years back. It’s also now available as a print from both Fine Art America and Pixels. The original hung in my studio for a while but eventually, I had to let it go. If you look closely you will see multiple textures.

Tsunami by Mark Taylor


Ink Application…

We looked at art forms such as Frottage not too long ago in another article but there are other effects which can be created using everyday items. Gyotaku is an ancient Japanese method of printing whereby a natural object is smeared in ink, rubbed on paper and this then is used to transfer the image onto the support. It takes some practice, my own early attempts ended up as smudges rather than anything distinguishable but with practice, there is an elegant timeless beauty that you can create by using natural materials such as termite destroyed wood, the bark of fallen trees, even leaves and mushrooms. Anything that has even a slight texture is fair game, but be warned that the ink might stain the objects completely and forever. Yes, I didn’t think of that when I first experimented with this technique!

firework art, artist,
Do Not Try This At Home!

Do not try this at home…

The lengths some artists go to when they create art never fails to amaze me. My one ambition is to create an installation artwork using an aircraft but alas, I just don’t have the space or that kind of art budget to create it in my studio. But space, budget, when has that ever put an artist off doing what they have to do? 

Rosemarie Fiore does something that you definitely shouldn’t do at home, or at least without having experience of pyrotechnics, she uses fireworks to create beautifully colourful abstract art from the smoke. Her works are often large and she frequently layers her compositions. If you haven’t as yet come across Rosemarie’s work, you should definitely take a look at her website right here

Using Alternative Mediums in Your Own Work…

Whenever you have been painting for any length of time you can sometimes feel like you are getting stuck in a rut, it might not be anything to do with having a creative block but you might just sometimes fall slightly out of love with your own current artistic style. That’s surprisingly more common with artists than one might think. At one time I worked only in acrylics professionally, and many of my artist friends who have worked with me over the years on projects have all wanted at some point to step onto other creative paths, it’s not new or strange to want to do this, this is how artists evolve and it is well documented throughout art history, artists have always done this. Jackson Pollock anyone?

Consistency is key with art but there are times when even the most experienced artists feel that a particular work just needs a little something else, a little more pop, a little more thinking outside the box, something that is a little different or more original, it needs some added zing and occasionally some added bling. Sometimes we have to add that little extra zing by introducing other mediums and materials. Remember, there are no laws against it!

When I look back to the time when I studied art formally I clearly recall that along with the other twenty-something, twenty-somethings, in the class I would only ever create my works on white paper stock. There are some beautiful papers out there but just occasionally it is good to change things up a little. One of my best selling works is a print of a work I created on a piece of fence panelling, the original 24 x 24 inch work was sold many years ago to a long-time collector, it was the first time I had sold anything on a support that wasn’t either paper or canvas and today it surprises me at how often it is resold as a print. We literally had to replace 30-feet of fencing after it was removed!

Even though that was the first time I had sold a piece of work using non-traditional supports, it wasn’t the first time I had used something that wasn’t either canvas or card-stock. Using other materials instead of the traditional ones can take your work in a completely new direction or it can just add that little something that takes it from okay to wow. A surface that has its own markings and indentations can bring beautiful irregularities to your work or lend its colour to your own creations, but above all, older surfaces bring something else, a history which can enrich the story you are trying to tell through your art.

If you don’t fancy the idea of painting your garden fence (you do have to be very committed by doing this or you have to live with it) and want to stick with more traditional supports then changing the type of support to something with a heavier grain, or paper-stock that has a darker or more neutral tone can also give your work an edge by using the contrast of the paper as highlights or shade. You can even use materials that would have otherwise been sent for disposal, tearing papers and card and layering those elements onto a mixed-media board will give you plenty of added depth and add more interest to your work. My Tsunami work which you saw earlier included the use of tissue paper, acrylic, gel-transfer medium and digital art.

Mixed media art, mark taylor, beechhouse media,
Mixed Media

Mixed Media…

The term mixed media is often used interchangeably with the term multi-media however, there are some key differences that are worth noting. While both terms describe works that are created with a range of different materials. Multi-media is generally used to define works that use or includes a combination of electronic media such as video, computers, film and audio. The work I create with elements of digital art would be mixed-media as there are no electronics within the piece.

When it comes to using mixed-media, there really are no rules. Mixed-media is a paradise for exploring texture and it is a discipline of the arts that demonstrates perfectly that art can be created with anything or any combination of things. Mixed media first found its way into the art world around 1912 with the cubist collages and constructions of Picasso and Braque. As attitudes to art mediums became more open it paved the way for the continued use of mixed-media works.

I am constantly surprised by the imagination and beauty of the mixed media works that I see created by independent artists and some of the pieces I see are arguably more aesthetically pleasing than some of the early works of the great masters. But in all honesty, I do tend to find that there are many works created by independent artists today that aesthetically speaking are far superior to some older works. They might not have the provenance but they certainly have style.

Just to digress for a moment but I often think that if an artist of today was able to produce the very same work in the same way, as they create their works today back in the days of the great masters, whether or not that work with its 21st Century pigments and materials would have been seen as something very special indeed a few hundred years earlier. A digital artwork created today if it could have been seen in the 15th Century would have probably freaked people completely out. It would have certainly got some attention.

Back to mixed-media, there are many other artistic disciplines that fall within the term, assemblage is perhaps one of the better known and this is a subject I covered in an earlier article which you can read right here

One of the most common methods of producing mixed-media works is to use collage which is also how those earlier works from Picasso and Braque were created. The beauty of collage is that you can literally create pretty much anything out of anything. Whilst some will remember collages from school projects, others might more easily remember the works of famous collage artists such as Kurt Schwitters, such as the painting, Collage Das Undbild – 1919 which you can see below. Schwitters is often credited as being the very first collage artist although others disagree and credit Picasso.  You can read more about the work of Schwitters right here

Fred Tomaselli, an American artist is amongst one of my many long-time favourites. His paintings include medicinal herbs, prescription pills, and hallucinogenic plants alongside images cut from books and magazines, all combined to create dazzling patterns that spread over the surface of the painting like a beautiful virus or growth, and along with an explosion of colour the works are completed by painting over the elements used within the work by using paint or varnish. You can find out more about Tomaselli on Wikipedia right here, where there are also links to his many works through a range of galleries the world over.

Mixed Ideas…

So many artists have discovered that adding something different to an artwork beyond the traditional paint and canvas can make their works come alive. The possibilities are endless and it can be as simple as drawing an image in black ink and then adding in colour using paint, or cutting out shapes from materials such as paper or fabric. It can also be as complicated as you want with the addition of string and metals.

Textured effects can be created from tissue paper which is then painted over, newspapers can be added to provide a richer context where the story in the news is carried through into the art. You can even use books (no first editions – this my friends is a thing I witnessed a few years ago), and you can create some stunning textures when painting on cardboard.

Gesso becomes your best friend again to build up textures but so do materials like modelling compounds which can be applied and then scratched. The possibilities of adding mixed media elements to your original works are only ever limited by your own imagination. Like I said earlier, there are really no rules at all with mixed-media, you can throw all sorts of things together that usually wouldn’t share the same space. I absolutely love it, it makes me feel like a child again!

New Releases…

Excuse the really quick interlude, an artist has to eat! My new releases this week include two works that I absolutely loved creating. Pisces which is one of my personal all-time favourites has been really popular this week. The artist proof set has been signed and is on its way to its forever home, and this will also be sold through a specialist aquatics retailer too as signed editions. Prints are available through Fine Art America and Pixels and you can also order through my usual retailers. A further eleven works are planned in this series and you can also see the work in full right here. And no Jane, I haven’t forgotten the Ram! I am working on him! How difficult can rams be!

Pisces…

Pisces aquatic horoscope artwork, Mark Taylor, Beechhouse Media,
Pisces by Mark Taylor - Available Now

My second work of the week is Bedtime Story. There was a time when as a young boy I would go to bed at night and take a torch under the covers to explore my books and comics. It was my own little space, it became my den. We didn’t have the technology we have today, we might have had a pet goldfish in a bowl, we often had an analogue alarm clock that would wake us from our slumber to head for school.

In this piece, I wanted to show how some things change but other things never do. Instead of a torch and a book, the illumination comes from a smartphone, instead of an analogue clock, we now have digital, and as for the goldfish, that has now been replaced with tropical and exotic species. Some things never change but changes to some things do. This is my bedtime story and you can see it in full right here

Bedtime Story…

bedtime story, art, Mark Taylor, Beechhouse Media, Fine Art America, Pixels,
Bedtime Story by Mark Taylor - Now Available

A new appetite for painting…

Using mixed-media for me is something that always fuels my creative fire. It’s a great way of adding more visual interest but for me, there is something else, it can transport you back to those days when you were a child without a care in the world. Sometimes I long for the imagination I had back then and mixed-media can certainly get you close. Sometimes you just have to be that kid again when it comes to creating art. Have the confidence of a three-year-old wearing a Batman costume whenever you paint!

Hopefully, you will have found this week’s article will have whetted your appetite for creating something different. Art is about taking risks as much as anything else, sometimes we just need a steer in the right direction to take them. If you have created mixed media works let us all know how you go about creating them in the comments below. If you are thinking about adding elements into your own works, let’s see the results! As always, leave a comment below and I will look out for the best ones to feature in an upcoming article.

Big Love and Happy Creating as always,

Mark X

About Mark…

I am an artist and blogger and live in Staffordshire, England. You can purchase my art through my Fine Art America store or my Pixels site here: https://10-mark-taylor.pixels.com  
Any art sold through Fine Art America and Pixels contributes to the ongoing costs of running and developing this website. You can also view my portfolio website at https://beechhousemedia.com

You can also follow me on Facebook at https://facebook.com/beechhousemedia where you will also find regular free reference photos of interesting subjects and places I visit. You can also follow me on Twitter @beechhouseart and on Pinterest at https://pinterest.com/beechhousemedia

If you would like to support the upkeep of this site or maybe just buy me a coffee, you can do so right here. Every penny goes on making sure I can bring you unbiased and thoroughly researched articles week after week and which contribute to the funding I need to be able to do this and to support other independent visual artists. 

Comments

  1. Mark Taylor, Thank you and congratulations! Btw such an honor to be mentioned in here lol!


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    1. You're most welcome Jane and thank you! I still have a whole feature on you and your work in the works! Hope you have had a great Monday! xx

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    2. Thanks Mark! Great start, big week for my day job. I appreciate that very much. Have a great week yourself! xx

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    3. Thanks Jane and that sounds exciting! I’m winding down towards my holiday, albeit a slightly worky holiday with a bit of added art, photography and sea! Oh and Boo and Bear who are way more excited about the beach than even I am! (The two dogs who think they’re human!)

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    4. Yep..a time to assert. I hope you and Boo & Bear have a wonderful break not that they needed one :)

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    5. Yep, those two retired when they were born. Now that have a full staff and soon, a social media account. They do love to pose!

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