Medium & Support

Have you ever wondered how you should describe your artwork? Let’s say it’s your first art show and you do not know how to label your body of work. Let’s discuss what your artwork is made out and your options. The choices you make are important for not only you, but your viewers as well.


When referring to the materials artists use to create their artwork, artists typically use the word medium. I’m sure you have created drawings or paintings in many different mediums already. You probably were using the medium crayon when you were very young. Perhaps one of your watercolor paintings is still hanging on your mother’s refrigerator. Yep, watercolor was the medium you were working using for that fine painting.


The media is what you will use to make your marks, in this case let’s say a drawing, but you still need a surface to put those marks on. The surface in which you create on is referred to as the support. Remember that crayon drawing? Its support was probably paper. While paper is a very common support it is by no means the only surface to create art on. You could draw on fabric or a brick wall, the possibilities are endless. When learning to draw I recommend you stick to quality drawing paper. It’s economical and easy to find.

Medium and Support are common labeling attributes that you should get used to. They show up everywhere. When you go to an art museum, a gallery, or even look at artwork online, indicating the medium and support is a standard practice.

John Morfis | Ball Pein Hammer | oil on canvas | 16” x 10 “ | 2013

Now you know what that “oil on canvas” is all about. The oil is referring to the medium; in this case oil paint. The canvas is referring to the support; in this case I’m referring to a canvas fabric that has been stretched tightly around a wooden structure called stretcher bars.

What is Mixed Media?

Sometimes you’ll hear artists refer to their artwork as being a “mixed-media”. That term refers to the fact that they combined two or more different mediums that normally don’t go together. Perhaps they mixed charcoal powder into acrylic paint and glued down strips of newspaper into some parts of their artwork. Instead of describing all of the different materials involved in that artwork’s creation, artists sometimes just refer to it as a mixed-media. Perhaps they ran out of room when describing their artwork, which can be the case when using tiny display cards positioned near one’s artwork when it’s on display at a museum or commercial space. Maybe the artist forgot what crazy combination of materials they used, or are no longer alive to tell us about the materials. Perhaps they are just lazy and did not feel like letting viewers know what the specific media is. Either way, mixed media is a term I used to see much of, but lately I have been noticing a trend in the opposite direction. An Elaborate description of one’s artwork seems to be the growing trend nowadays and I’m glad for it. I’ve never cared much for the term mixed-media.



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