Top Ten Favourite Art Supplies

Welcome to My Top Ten Favourite Art Supplies!

Apart from obvious things like paint, brushes and canvas (though you don’t actually need any of those things to create art), the art supplies I couldn’t do without might surprise you. Takeaways, bedsheets, and masking tape feature heavily in making the magic happen!


So here, in no particular order, are ten things that are among my very favourite art supplies.

10 Palette knife

I know a lot of artists do this, but I’m going to give it to you straight – mixing paint with your brushes wrecks them. Seriously – it will eventually gum up the bristles and ferrule, take you longer to mix a colour and you’ll never quite wash out all the paint from deep in the brush. Over time, this will accumulate and ruin the brush. Do yourself a favour and get a couple of palette knives to mix your paint. Metal ones are the most fun, but even cheap plastic ones are better than mixing with a brush.

9 Tiny takeaway containers

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As a takeaway addict, I never need an excuse to order a curry. Luckily for me, our local takeaway uses little plastic containers with air-tight lids for condiments. Once washed out they make excellent storage for spare paint when you’ve dished out too much and for that carefully mixed colour you want to keep for a while.

8 Watercolour pencil

Not for doing watercolour paintings as I’m useless at them, but for sketching on the canvas, drawing grids and guides for the underpainting, and drawing on top of the acrylic paint . Unlike a graphite pencil, which will muddy your paint and never fully erase, watercolour pencils will wipe off cleanly with a damp tissue or even your finger.

7 Tear-Off disposable palette

These pads of disposable palettes are fantastic – the glossy surface is a joy to mix paint on, there is a pre-cut thumb hole and no clean up needed. For very detailed work I sometimes tear a bit off and tape it to my painting next to the area I’m working on.

6 Masking tape

From sticking reference photos on my wall and easel, to taping things to the actual paintings while I’m working on them, this low tack tape is super useful and doesn’t damage anything. Use it to help you painting straight lines or even to paint your entire painting as demonstrated on You Tube here by Jamie Dougherty.

5 My phone!

Researching reference images, taking in progress shots and tweeting when I’m painting to hold myself accountable. I work hard to turn what could be a major distraction into a valuable tool.

4 Stay wet palette

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As an acrylic artist, I am blessed and cursed with the rapid drying properties of acrylic paint. An indispensable tool in every acrylic artists studio has to be a stay-wet palette. There are loads of different types available, but they are simply a shallow container with a lid that keeps your paint from drying out. They work by using a membrane at the bottom that you soak with water. My favourite thing to use is old bedsheets that I’ve torn up into duster-sized pieces, but you could also use a j-cloth or blotting paper. Top with a piece of greaseproof paper that you can then put your paint on. It will wrinkle when it gets damp from the cloth underneath – there is no way to avoid this. Make sure your greaseproof paper is white not brown so that it doesn’t affect your colour mixing. I get mine cheaply and pre-cut to roughly the size of my palette from here.

3 Daylight bulb and stand

Lightstand

Due to parental commitments, most of my painting takes place at night after the children are in bed. My daylight bulb enables me to paint at night but keep my colours true – a normal tungsten bulb can cast a yellowish shade over your work and will make your colour mixes slightly off when viewed again in daylight.

2 Spray mister bottle

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The quick drying properties of acrylic can be slowed by the occasional light spritz of water. This is especially useful when painting plain air as I did here

1 You

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Look in the mirror!

Yes.
Seriously.
None of us exist in a vacuum, and I am so grateful for the friends and family around me, and an audience for my art. Thank you for sticking with me, reading the blog, liking and buying my art. I really appreciate each and every one of you.

So what are your favourite art supplies? Anything you absolutely couldn’t do without? Please leave me a comment and let me know!

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Derwent Graphitint Gift

Apart from family, friends, cake and cards, one of the lovely things about having a birthday is being given new art supplies.

This year, my mother-in-law gave me a fantastic set of 12 Derwent Graphitint pencils. Unlike the creamy and smooth watercolour pencils that I’ve previously used, these have a much more textured finish. You can see the pencil marks more clearly on the paper, even after you’ve washed over the graphite with a water brush. They are brilliant for sketching and doing water colour on the go, as you only need a water brush to activate them and don’t have to carry a pot of water with you.

The first thing that struck me when I used the pencils, is how inaccurate the colour swatches on the end of each pencil are. I’d highly recommend doing yourself a sample swatch before using these pencils, as you’ll be surprised at the difference. Here’s mine to illustrate what I mean. Look at the difference in colour of the Storm pencil in particular. On the end of the pencil is a light grey paint, the actual pencil nib is dark grey, and once wet, it is almost a purple colour:

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Don’t they have a wonderful vibrancy once wet?! The Chestnut pencil in particular is much brighter and warmer than when the pencil is dry. The tones in the collection are generally quite muted though, and it is an interesting challenge to decide what to create with such a limited palette. I was gifted the 12 pencil set, but even in the full 24 pencil range, there is no yellow, and the Midnight Black is a dark grey at best when diluted.

To give you an example, I thought I’d do a quick sketch:

 

I really love being able to build up the colour slowly with the pencil, then using a barely damp brush to soften and intensify the colour. I used a Zig water brush (available here )  to wet the pencil, and then once dry, I went back over with more pencil strokes layered on top for additional texture. Here is the finished quick sketch:

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Finished!

If I had more time, I’d break out my other watercolour pencils or paints and add some gold to the eyes and white to the fur. For larger pieces, or more detailed work, try creating a paper palette for yourself. By sketching a block of colour onto a scrap of paper, you can use your water brush or damp paintbrush to pick up the colour as though it was a solid pan of watercolour. This gives you more pigment on the brush, and the option of using a small brush to add very fine details. For the most intense colour, run a damp brush across the nib of the pencil itself.

If you fancy having a go with these pencils, I’d highly recommend them! Grab yourself a set from here or your local art store. Have you used these before? What do you think? I”d love to see your creations in the comments below.

 

My Space

 

Let me lead you through a closed door to a corner of the bedroom that is now my mini ‘studio’.

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It has one window that isn’t north facing as coveted by so many artists. Instead, I have a lighting set up that allows me to make the most of any free time I have to paint – whatever the weather or time of night. The lamps I am using are two E27 80W 5500K daylight bulbs.  Lighting can be a tricky issue for artists, as the temperature of the light (warm or cool, not how hot they are!) can dramatically affect the perception of the colours you are painting with. The wonderful Will Kemp has done all the hard work for us and researched lighting for studios in great detail – have a look at his fantastic article here

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I love keeping all my canvases close to hand on top of my desk. On the left are completed paintings and on the right are in progress or new and unwrapped. The large ones at the back are for a series of five paintings that I’m planning – they are still in the early stages of prep sheets and reference photos, but hopefully I’ll have more to share on those in a couple of months.

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Vertical storage on the left is great for all my sketch pads and acrylic paper – I’ve also used the bottom rung for masking tape and toilet paper – I use lots of paper when painting for cleaning brushes, spills or scrunching up and adding texture, and this keeps it close at hand. The drawers underneath hold all my tubes of paint and mediums, grouped by warm, cool, earth and black and white. I have my brushes and essential pens, pencils and charcoal pencils on my right. The sci-fi teacup coaster is by a talented artist I know called Andy Bigwood. You can check out his work on DeviantArt here. I also use a Wacom Bamboo tablet and pen instead of a regular mouse.

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On the shelves you may recognise my pochade box from an earlier blog post, my stay wet palette and one of my Filofaxes. (It’s an a5 electric blue Finsbury if you’re curious) Underneath are some of the vases I use for water, my water mister, Filofax supplies and a sneaky little tardis (they get everywhere in this house!)

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Finally, is inspiration corner – a little place next to me that I can stare at in those moments of daydreaming to remind myself of some of the artists and places that I love. I plan to keep adding to it over the next few months.

So, that’s the grand tour of my little ‘studio’ area. If you enjoyed having a little peak into where some of the creativity takes shape, you might like to read this thread on Wet Canvas, where other artists have shared their workspaces too.

Have Paint Will Travel

Having all our family back home in Wales, I spend a lot of time away from the ‘studio’ of the spare bedroom and living in various parent’s houses. While it is lovely to see everyone that we miss, it does take up a lot of painting time – especially if you miss out on one weekend in four.

To help keep my painting on track and enable me to still paint wherever I am, I made myself a pochade box. These nifty boxes (and there are tons to look at if you google them) are miniature studios and make travelling or painting plein air much simpler.

Here is how I made mine!
A couple of Christmases ago, my dad bought me a painting set that came in this strong wooden box.

I used some of my left over floor trim and some wood glue to create a bracket on the back to stop the box opening too far. This means the lid, once opened, rests on the bracket so I can use the inside like an easel.

I added more floor trim to the inside to create compartments for my paints, brushes and pencils, and a little bit in the lid to hold the canvas.

I then carved a small channel in the wood to allow an A4 piece of glass to fit on top of the compartments, which also keeps all the bits in place when the box is closed and being transported!
(yes, that is the baby’s hand trying to take a tube of paint!)

While I can’t take my bigger wip (works in progress) with me, it does mean that I can at least get some practise in while I’m away and can usually fit a couple of canvas boards into the box too.