105 Why It Matters

Examine the materials, processes, and techniques used in the making of art (course level learning objective)


In this module will will discuss some of the major materials, processes, and techniques used in making art.

Creating a work of art is a process. When an artist chooses to work with a certain medium, or use specific techniques, those choices are some of the most defining parameters of the entire creative process.

Let’s return to the caves at Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc, where, roughly 35,000 years ago, humans transformed the space into a kind of canvas. Those prehistoric artists were using the technologies available to them—charred bones or charcoal from the fire. It’s surprising how the nature of the work surface figures into the end result, too. In the same way that a painter might select a particular type of brush for the kind of brushstroke it will produce, the prehistoric artists made thoughtful choices about where to place specific renderings of animals so they could use the natural contours and fissures in the cave rocks to create bas-relief giving a horn, a hump, or a haunch realistic depth (Thurman).

If art is a process of seeing, imagining, and making, as Henry Sayre explains, then media and techniques give voice to the imagination (3). All media bring specific visual effects that affect how we interpret them as viewers. As you work through the content in this section, consider how the visual effects of a figure drawn by hand with charcoal are different from a figure drawn with a digital vector-based drawing program. How would an artist’s drawn rendering of a scene in a courtroom be different from a photograph of the same thing?

Module Learning Outcomes

  • Describe the basic techniques of drawing, painting, photography, and printmaking
  • Distinguish between additive and subtractive sculpture techniques
  • Describe traditional methods and materials of building design
  • Explain the techniques of film and video art
  • Discuss and describe the growing impact of computers and digital tools on art making of the 21st century

How to Study for the Performance Assessment (PA)

The PA for this module involves answering short answer and short essay questions that are designed to test your understanding of the Learning Outcomes for this module. The questions deal with specific aspects of the different art mediums discussed in the module content. Read through the performance assessment for this module BEFORE you begin the module content. I suggest printing it out, or making notes on the keywords/concepts in each PA question. Use what you noted on the PA as a study guide. As you read through the module content, take notes on the subjects or anything that you find relevant to the PA questions. Be sure to document the page or place in the content where you found each note, in case you need to return to that content, or need to ask me a specific question citing module content. Once you are ready to complete the PA, you will have these notes to help you answer the questions thoughtfully.

OK, let’s get started!

Works Cited

Sayre, Henry. A World of Art, Sixth edition. Boston: Prentice Hall, 2010. Print.

Thurman, Judith. First Impressions, What Does the World’s Oldest Art Say About Us. New Yorker Magazine. 2008. Web. 31 May 2015.


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