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Monday, October 10, 2016

Don't Blame the Media


It isn't the medium that lacks depth, it's the artist.
Andrew Wyeth

Dead artist's and writers' homes intrigue us the way their unfinished works do: both are like ancient ruins asking for completion.

I just had the pleasure of touring one artist's home, Andrew Wyeth's, in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania.

Wyeth worked in his studio there for 68 years, completing (and abandoning) thousands of drawings and paintings.

Although he used other media, Wyeth mastered tempera, the favorite of Renaissance artists like Botticelli and Raphael. It's made by mixing dry pigment and egg yoke.

Wyeth preferred tempera because it's durable.

"There is something incredibly lasting about the material, like an Egyptian mummy, a marvelous beehive or hornet's nest," he once told a critic"The medium itself is a very lasting one, too, because the pure method of the dry pigments and egg yolk is terrifically sticky. Try to rub egg off of a plate when it is dry. It's tough. It takes tempera about six months or more to dry and then you can actually take a scrubbing brush to it and you won't be able to rub off that final hardness."

But Wyeth was careful to distinguish the medium's force from the artist's.

"My temperas are very broadly painted in the beginning. Then I tighten down on them. If you get the design and the shape of the thing you want to paint, you can go on and on. The only limitation is yourself. I have always argued this is true with any medium. I have had people say to me, 'Why do you waste your time with watercolor, it's such a light medium, a fragile medium. It lacks depth.'Well, it isn't the medium that lacks depth, it's the artist. You can never blame the medium."

As in politics, when up against our limits, it's easy in creative pursuits to blame the media. 

I hear blame every week in the drawing class I attend. Charcoal sucks. Conté sucks. Graphite sucks. Ink sucks. This paper sucks.

But the limits are in ourselves.

You don't control your chosen medium.

You surrender to it.

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