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Dig Out Some Old Art Supplies

August 7, 2020

Even with the best laid plans sometimes things happen.

I like to tape sketching sessions to use when explaining things to my Patreon subscribers.

But last month while preparing pieces for this month’s playing with color theme I more than once forgot to turn the camera back on after taking a break to get something, in this case a sheet of tan paper.

I didn’t notice my omission until I went to turn the camera off. 

I’m going to start putting a note on the drawing board when I get up, “Turn Camera On!”

I’ve been experimenting using minimal amount of color on toned papers. This direct brush sketch was made with a red watercolor brush pen (Bienfang/Speedball; pigmented watercolor) and other watercolors, with a little bit of white gouache for the beard and highlights.

The paper is Kraft paper from Sennelier. I had a pad of this paper from years ago. (It’s very lightweight so if you’re going to paint with heavy use of watercolor or gouache get Strathmore 400 Series Toned Mixed media paper instead!)

Things To Do In The Pandemic

A pandemic isn’t a great time for reasons we all know well. It’s stressful, difficult, brain numbing (what no new TV shows?!), and too often disastrously tragic.

All the more reason to hold on to your sketching practice—to keep your mind thinking creatively.

That makes a pandemic the perfect time to use what you have, even if it isn’t what you want to be using. Now is the time to experiment like never before. 

Pull out supplies that have been set aside, stored in boxes, or forgotten, languishing on shelves too high to reach without a ladder…

Pull out three things you haven’t used in a while and use them for a week…

Pull out paper you have been saving and use it every day for a month…

Pull out that pan (or tube) watercolor set you purchased because an artist whose work you like collaborated with the paint company and put the set together. Start painting with those paints daily, changing papers every week. (Paint at least one week on each type of paper, no less than 10 times, to start to get a cohesive sense of the feel and workability of the paper with the media you like to use. Take more time if you can—it’s only going to help you know the paper better.)

Pull out your favorite pen and see how it interacts with those water-soluble crayons (pastels) you never got around to using.

Have you run out of color media? Pick up a pencil or a pen and work on value sketches for a month. You can’t look at values too closely or too much!

You do not need more stuff in order to keep sketching and painting.

Sure you might need a favorite blue pigment, but maybe, just for this month let’s say you try doing without it and see how the other blue pigments you have around mix with what else you have on hand?

Sure buying new art materials might give you a little surge of endorphins. There’s the newness, the possibilities…

But if something has been stuffed away in your closet for months, or years, doesn’t that really make it brand new?

Because of what the entire world is living through right now we all need to rethink how we live in the world. Having an abundance of art supplies and not a lot of finished work should tell you that your internal critic is using your addiction to new art supplies to engage your mind in distraction, but stop you from getting work done.

This is the easiest pandemic related problem to fix—just get those supplies out and use them.

It’s Not The Supplies, It’s The Process Or Method…

Let’s say that you don’t have an art supply addiction. What stops you instead is the idea that you can’t use the supplies you bought because “the class was canceled due to the Pandemic,” or “I don’t draw well enough to use them…”

If you’ve had a class cancelled and have a bunch of related supplies lying around—get on the internet and start googling. There are thousands, MILLIONS of people out there demonstrating just about everything in the art world that you might want to learn. Watching them paint will help you know where to start, following a tutorial is great too. Who’s the best? Who’s doing it the right way?

In 5 minutes you should be able to tell if they are clear, don’t put you to sleep, don’t annoy you, and are working in a non-random way that is thoughtful and intention driven.

Look for artists whose work you love, then google them to find if they have an online class or post tutorials.

Your plans to develop skills in a new medium do not have to be put on hold because of the pandemic. Set some time aside each day (you might have to negotiate this with your family if you are sheltering at home with others who need care or with whom you have shared duties) and start in.

If your issue is you don’t want to “waste” the art supplies because you don’t draw well enough yet—well that’s simply scarcity. It’s your internal critic working hard to convince you that you shouldn’t work until you’re more skilled.

The reality is you are never going to be skilled if you listen to that voice.

The best way to counter that mindset is to simply jump in and start using those materials.

Remind yourself that you are practicing. Remind yourself that you are where you are right now. Don’t compare your work with someone else’s, you simply don’t know where they are in their journey.

Instead, put your work away each week, and try not looking at it for a month. Then take it all out and look for things that daily practice brings to you: improved eye-hand-brain control, smoother line execution, understanding of proportions; most important the ability to see all of this in a positive way so that while you can see your work isn’t perfect you can also identify where you need to focus! Then make a plan to do just that. And google for resources to help you with it.

The worst thing you can do right now is go passive.

We’re Moving Towards a New Normal

One thing that’s clear in the world today is that we are moving towards a new normal. We can stress about it and stamp our feet in irritation or we can do something about it.

Many somethings.

We can take care of our friends and family.

We can show up and be responsible for our actions.

We can be responsible with our money and other resources.

We can be compassionate to strangers.

And as we move towards this new normal we can carve out a little time every day for creative expression.

That’s you alone with the blank page, not you online tweeting or drowning in visual images you wish you could make.

We need to make time for daily creative expression. We need to use up supplies to bring in creative expression in our lives.

Why? Because we are going to need that creative energy to do everything else on the list in the new normal.

    • Paul
    • August 7, 2020
    Reply

    Love this minimum colour approach on toned paper! As always, wise and timely advice. Thank you :o).

    1. Reply

      Paul, I’m glad you enjoyed this one. I hope you have some fun playing with color this weekend!

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