I thought today I would share with you the tools of my trade. Yes, every artist needs brushes, paint and something to paint on but each artist will have ‘things’ that set them in the painting zone and when these things are just right, they do their job. The job of these tools is not to distract the artist from what they are attempting to get down on canvas (or paper or any other support you choose). Every artist’s tools will vary, some will use expensive brushes, some can afford high quality paint, some prefer a sheet of glass as a palette, others like to paint on the floor. Here are my necessary ‘studio’ tools when I need to get into that all important painting zone. I say studio tools because when painting outdoors (or sketching) obviously these will change. Here we go:
My brushes are not expensive. In fact most of them are the cheapest you can get in the art shop and some are the higher end of the cheap range. I do have a handful of nice Van Gogh brushes that I won in a competition. I do try to keep them cleaned but usually they look like this. Recently I purchased a reasonable brush cleaner which seems to work quite well for old paint. I have watercolour brushes that I keep separate to avoid the temptation of caking them with oil paint when I need to do detail.
Obviously something is needed to clean out the brushes while painting and keep the solvent in. I took the brush holder part off this a while ago as it was just in the way. The mesh insert does allow the paint to sink to the bottom and keep the liquid on the top. It does the trick.
Yes, that’s two things but if I separated it all out this would be a very long post! If you know paint brands you will know that those are NOT the most expensive/high quality brands available. I simply can’t afford to buy those. In fact, its only recently that I’ve dared to purchase the larger tubes (and I have been trialing a tin of white oil paint). I do like to buy the better quality paints when they are on special but usually I just can’t. However, I avoid the ultra el-cheapo’s if I can.
My palette is a tear off paper palette. I have had a wood one, glass one and ceramic one in the past. I do like the glass but this one does me quite well.
In this collection I have:
Liquin – a great drying medium which I’m learning to use less of due to its matte drying effect.
Refined Linseed Oil – I’m re-learning to use this and liking it more and more.
Raw Umber Acrylic – I use this for under-painting tonal areas. As you can see, its very cheap student quality.
Brush Cleaner – I have found this brand to be quite good, still experimenting with this one.
Pencils – I have a white pencil for sketching on darker canvases and red watercolour pencils for lighter ones, especially for use in portraits and skin tones. I also have water soluble graphite for some work.
Paper Towel – I use this all the time while painting. I have learnt to wipe off my brushes first to remove excess paint before dipping them in the solvent. This uses more paper towel and less solvent. I have seen recently the suggestion of using old telephone books to wipe off brushes. If I can find any I might try it.
I actually own around six or seven easels. this one is my studio easel although I have another one of a different style which the girls use. As you can see this one is well used and in fact the top of it is broken and I have to fix my canvases to the stand with a bit of adjustment from a bulldog clip.
My canvases vary. I try hard not to use the el-cheapo ones you buy at $2 shops unless I want very small ones for practice work. I usually hang out for the canvas sales that happen once a year and buy up as many as I can afford. I prefer to paint bigger but the bigger you go the more expensive it gets. Considering I haven’t sold any paintings as yet, this is a problem! When I was at uni I used to make and stretch my own but I don’t have the facilities for that (let alone the floor space) now.
These are just as important to me as the other tools I have shared so far. The stool once belonged to my Nanna (and I sort of added my own touch with the fringing). Its not that comfortable after a couple of hours so I’m considering getting something more ergonomic one day.
The apron. This is my most important tool so far. As soon as I put it on I am ready to work. Its a bit like my uniform if you like. I have used this same apron for probably 15 years. Originally it belonged to Myer where I once worked in their now defunct deli section. I have no intention of replacing it any time soon.
When I was at uni I was encouraged to use citrus turps and later on I used normal painters turps. These both were irritating as the smell drove everyone crazy. I am aware that just because its odourless it doesn’t mean its not giving off fumes. I use it in a well ventilated space and open up my window when I can. I also filter it out a bit which is what you can see in the jar to the left of the picture.
I really love the moleskine brand and I have used it for years now. I have a few spares that I have bought when they were on sale and I only ever buy them on the web, never in a retail store. The price difference is quite big! I can’t say I’ve been great at sketching over the years but I am good at doodling! I take this with me at times when i go out but usually only use it to jot down notes and that sort of thing.
I don’t really drink a lot of coffee but I do drink a lot of tea. Just plain white tea with no sugar will do. Most of the time it goes a bit cold before I get to it but that’s ok. I have several favourite mugs and this one is most appropriate as I tend to have way too a high expectations on myself.
For those who see this for the first time, you might think this is the odd one out in the list. How strange to put this as a tool for painting! However, its not so much about the show itself but the zone that it puts me in. There are several reasons for choosing this particular show (nostalgia which effects my painting for one) but the important thing was to find something to distract my brain. I can’t paint in dead silence all the time and putting this one (via youtube by the way!) means my brain knows its time to paint. Once this is on and the apron is on I’m set.
There is another reason this is a great choice for me. Each show (ad free) is 45 minutes in length. I know that when an episode finishes I have been painting for 45 minutes and that after two episodes its time to stop and put the kettle on. Its a great marker for me to keep record of how many hours I’ve spent painting. I do have a couple of other shows in mind to watch once I get to the final episode of A Country Practice (there are 1088 in total and after a year and a bit of watching and painting I am at episode #484). The show itself is important for setting the painting mood but as long as there is something to tell your brain that its time to paint (whether it be music, silence or something else) it doesn’t matter.