Well, I am back from two weeks of welcoming my new granddaughter (yes, granddaughter) into the world. What a wonderful time! However, with exception of a bit of colored pencil work, art has gone by the wayside (can we count a lot of photography?).
I’m ready now to think again about what it is that makes a student artist a good artist. Last time we talked about really looking at what we were doing and getting ready to paint. In this session I want to discuss materials.
When I have a student just starting I ask them to buy a limited amount of supplies. Art materials last pretty well so when you make that first purchase remember that they are not just for one picture. One of the best ways to keep costs down is to learn to mix paints. This skill, which we have already discussed, will benefit you by saving money but also help you to learn a lot about color in the process. Buy brand named paints. (Your teacher will have a favorite.) Quality pays off for you. There are things you can do with the cheaper kits or the bottle colors from Walmart, but learning about colors and color mixing are not among them. You will not get the strong rich color of a Golden Acrylic or a Winsor Newton watercolor or oil. This leads to disappointment in your finished product. Remember you are trying to learn, not just paint something. Buy fewer more expensive paints and learn how to use them. Learn about hues (another subject we have already discussed) and see if you think those cheaper colors will work for you as well.
Another thing I see people doing is buying a set of inexpensive brushes. These almost never get the job done. For a new student in watercolor, I recommend one $6 or $7 brush and in oil, 2 inexpensive brushes. In painting, the wrong brush will defeat your best effort and you are paying a teacher to teach you and then working against them with the wrong materials. Never buy the big sets of art materials like we see at Christmas a lot of times, except possibly for a very young child. For someone really trying to learn there is little in those sets that they should be using except for just playing around.
Learn about the brushes or palette knives that your teacher is using and suggests for you. There is a reason that they have picked that particular one. I let my students try those things I am recommending before they buy them.
There are many types of supports available to painters today. The traditional stretched canvas now comes in various finishes, linen, portrait smooth etc. some brands are rougher than others. Any of those are just personal preference. However just be aware that some of the cheaper canvases from the box stores have weak stretcher bars and will break easily and possible. I do know that several times we have tried to frame some that were not square. This makes them almost impossible to frame. Also available are panels-canvas panels (make sure you get the archival type), hard board panels, with gesso or emery coating. We are enjoying these hard board panels. We can cut them to any size, gesso them to paint and then cradle them for hanging with no framing.
Buy the good stuff and it will reward you.
An easel—-Easels are not terribly expensive and with oils and acrylics, lifting the work up off the table will make you really look at it. When possible I really recommend standing simply because it is easier to step back away from your work. A table easel will work if room or physical problems don’t allow a standing easel.
Here at the gallery we also have a projector available for students to use in helping them get their drawings placed on their support. We have two kinds and would be happy to discuss them with you. I do not feel that the use of a projector is cheating. Many of the Old Masters used them in one way or another. We use them here for placement, combining photos, and lots of other things. Remember the first thing you do is cover up that drawing so if you don’t have something else going for you, you will be done for.
The last thing I want to talk about is an I-Pad. It is the greatest thing I have purchased in recent years. I can enlarge the photo to see exactly the color of those eyes, where the roof lines meet–is there really a fence behind that house. And when my son, John, fusses about the paint on my cover, I tell him that my I-Pad is a work horse and those are marks of honor.