What’s a Medium?

What’s a Medium?

Terminology & Why Mediums Matter

I recently met a local artist and asked her, “what medium do you use?” she looked at me blankly then asked, “What is a medium?” Since this conversation, I’ve asked a few of my friends if they know what a medium is, or if they know what mixed media or multimedia, means. A couple of them did, but most of them guessed a kind of definition. So let’s play a game of definitions!

A medium is the substance with which you make art. Mediums can really be almost anything. In ancient days, mediums were crushed berries, dyes, octopus ink, blood, and other natural resources. Today, common mediums are acrylics, oils, watercolors, or whatever the art is “made of.” Mediums today range from food products, trash, wood, to different kinds of paints or glitter. Some artists get really creative and gross with their mediums, like Vincent Castiglia, who paints with his own blood. I don’t recommend mediums like that 😛 Whatever the art is made of is its medium. So if you asked, what medium did Monet paint in? The answer would be oils. He applied that medium to canvas.


Good, so do you feel like you understand what a medium is? Great. Now that you understand a medium, mixed media, or multimedia really is just putting two and two together.

Mixed media and multimedia are the same thing, just different names. So don’t get confused if someone uses one term over the other, they both mean that there is more than one medium used to create the piece. If there is only one medium like Oils, then the piece is just called an oil. For example, I am a mixed media artist. I paint with acrylics, but I inlay gold leaf into most of my pieces. If my pieces were just acrylic, then they wouldn’t be mixed media, but since I add the gold leaf they are classified as multimedia. More than one medium is used to create them.

Mixed media pieces can have many different materials used, it is important to keep in mind that art is a chemical reaction. If you get a lot of mediums on a piece like, mixing oils and acrylics for example, you might have break down over time. The paints won’t blend the way you envision them. That is because different mediums have different chemical components. Oils are (you guessed it) based chemically on oils. Acrylics are chemically based on water. And we all know what happens when oil and water mix. So before you start spray painting, hot gluing, oiling, watercoloring, or bleeding your way to a mixed media masterpiece, make sure you understand the chemical components of your mediums to make sure they can be safely and beautifully used together.

There is your quick run down of mediums and understanding what mixed and multimedia means. Let me know if you have any painting related questions and I’ll write it up for you!

5 Reasons Some Pieces Take Longer Than Others

5 Reasons Some Pieces Take Longer Than Others


“Why do some pieces take longer than others?” That’s a great question, I’m glad you asked. Recently a friend asked me this question and here are the reasons why pieces take longer or shorter. My pieces take anywhere from a week to several months to complete. Here are the main reasons why a piece takes longer or shorter amounts of time.

  1. Christine_Olmstead_GRsmallSIZE

This one is probably pretty basic, but the size of the piece determines a lot of how much time a piece takes. A 4”x4” piece I could probably even finish in a day, but a piece that is 6ftx10ft. That could take me a couple of months. Simply for the reason that there is much more surface area to cover in a large piece compared to a small piece. However, there have been times when smaller pieces have taken me longer than large pieces which gets into other reasons why a piece may take longer.


A piece is balanced when it doesn’t feel too weighted in one area, where the focal points make you feel at peace, when there is enough white space and breathing room on the canvas for the colors and shapes to exist. All of these are factors of balance. If when creating a piece one of the many factors of balance is off, then the piece must be corrected and/or painted over. If the piece leaves the viewer feeling like its incomplete, or like something is “just off” the piece is probably unbalanced, and there are a myriad of reasons and factors that could contribute to that. But if a piece is off balance it takes more time to correct.

  1. Christine_olmstead_GR_closeWARPED FRAME

Many things can cause a warped frame, sudden change in temperature, humidity, improper storing conditions etc. In my case I occasionally have warped frames due to sudden change in temperature (studio thermostat doesn’t work very well :P) Or pieces can get warped in the shipping process due to the sudden changes in temperature from indoors to outdoors for long periods of time. If only I could ship in temperature and humidity control boxes.  If a canvas frame warps, it will need to be restretched on new bars with new wood. The restretching process isn’t too complicated, but it’s added time to finishing a piece.

  1. I HATE IT

I’ve been known to paint and paint over and over and over a piece till it’s right. There is no method to this madness except that if I just hate a piece I will paint till I don’t hate it. This can sometimes take many months, as was the case in the piece pictured in this post. This post took me three months to complete, where it would normally take about 3 weeks. I just wasn’t feeling this piece, and therefore it took a long time to finish.


A piece could take a long time to finish if a sudden commission comes in and takes precedent. All commissions take precedent to studio pieces, just my personal policy. I believe in timely commissions. So if something comes up, I’ll put my other pieces on hold.


So that’s it, those are my top five reasons why one piece takes longer than another. Comment below if you have questions or topics you’d like answered about the painting process!