Must it be costly to be creative? It does not have to be! First of all, you can be creative coloring with your kids, dancing, journaling or drawing a chalk village on a sidewalk.
However, I was recently given a reason to pause as someone asked about the materials cost for my upcoming workshop.
If you purchase every item, it could impact your pocketbook. There are alternatives!
As I grew up, I was fortunate. My mother and uncle always had a houseful of supplies, and I could experiment. Over the years I have certainly replaced and added to my collection. I always look online through at least 3 major sellers: Dick Blick, Jerry’s Artarama and Cheap Joe’s. Today online prices are standardized, and companies compete for business.
I always accept offered gifts of art materials and often donate mine to other artists. Some art associations run a shop featuring donated supplies.
My studio as it looks NOW, full of supplies I have collected.
If you want to experiment with a new medium, explore the options. I bought Golden acrylics at a friend’s art/garage sale. She was giving up acrylics for oils. I also borrowed a “Sta-wet palette” before buying it because I didn’t believe it would really keep acrylics wet for several weeks in the desert. It does! Seeing is believing.
I very often look for sales. It’s a game, but it saves money.
When I was young, we shopped at Standard Brands Paint Store (a Torrance based chain which eventually went bankrupt). Those days are gone.
Today, I shop Big Lots and other discount stores. At certain times of the year, they carry stretched canvas and cheap brushes-some of which are not too bad. I love buying inexpensive Unison mechanical pencils for on the spot sketching – no sharpening required, and you do not lose your eraser!
Home Depot sells “Oops” or “Oopsies”- mixed paints that are not the shade the buyer wanted. Often these pint-sized containers are 50 cents! It takes a while to accumulate a collection of suitable colors, but I find they are great for classes and are often in subtle shades ideal for beginners.
Used art supplies sale, new paint tubes, retro Standard Brands Paint Store
All this being said, don’t skimp on materials if you are serious. When I first began taking workshops, an instructor was horrified that I was using my mother’s old brushes, and she said I could not paint well with them. Stubbornly, I continued to use some. I actually like some stubby old brushes to “scumble” or sketch with (some people use sticks or branches). However, I also find there is nothing like gifting yourself a lovely new brush!
Using good paint will make a difference. I found that my acrylic paintings were more vibrant when I used better brands such as Golden or even Liquitex. I had always loved the juicy rich color of oil paint. Rich reds, blues, and yellows cannot be substituted! A good medium is important, also.
I just type in “acrylic sets” on Amazon – and my reaction is buyer beware! Liquitex student grade “Basics” is inferior to the same brand’s heave body acrylics. Like many generic products, you must experiment to see what works for you.
If you are painting for fun- a variety of surfaces can be used: old wood, furniture, or sale canvases. Masonite or watercolor paper covered with white gesso makes a wonderful surface.
Learn about your materials! With the ease of Google, knowledge is readily available, but there are some tried and true references such as the many times revised The Artist’s Handbook of Materials & Techniques by Ralph Mayer.
Sometimes, buying a set of paint is the best way to go-but buyer beware!
If you have kids, surround them with the art supplies you can afford. The biggest expense is your time and the mess! 😉,
Your creative investment rewards your soul! Not all hobbies require money, but they do require time. Drawing and painting can be an exercise in meditation, like yoga or prayer for the creative spirit. Most artists feel they must create. They are happiest when surrounded by a variety of colors and textures. Sports require equipment. Attending theater or film has a price. Although the best things in life are, indeed, free, many go more smoothly with a collection of the right and lovingly cared for tools.
Above: Allow kids to experiment-blackboard for drawing with colored chalk; amazing art space for a child; Matisse in his studio; Cezanne's studio (perfect - on my wish list); my desk today and last, but not least, maybe toooo much organization can stifle creativity!
For some of us, it stands out as a key element to life.
We remember the color of a loved one’s clothing!
Perhaps the color of food!
I remember being enchanted by the first full length film I saw, “Sleeping Beauty.” The film ends with a magical color contest; the three fairy God mothers are changing the color of Princess Aurora’s gown as she dances with Prince Charming. I was three!
What draws you to certain colors in a painting?
Above you see a portion of my painting in full color, black and white and the negative image.
Plein air painters know that colors in a landscape can change in a moment! Clouds pass overhead, altering shadows. The sun slowly traverses the sky changing the mood of the landscape throughout the day. This week, I experienced a fairly consistent sky in Pioneertown as I painted. Then, the unusual early morning snowflakes and stormy clouds rewarded me as I (determined) painted in the Morongo Valley Preserve. Indoor painters know that good light (natural or artificial) is crucial to painting accurate color.
What is your earliest memory of color? Perhaps you received a box box of Crayolas or a set of Prang watercolors—and you experienced the thrill of mixing color! Or you blending colored chalk. I lived on a cul-de-sac and we neighborhood kids drew elaborate cities to trace with our bikes.
Light must be present for us to see color, and Sir Isaac Newton’s original color circle illustrated spectral hues, blending colors as light: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet (often remembered as Roy G Biv: red-orange-yellow-green-blue-indigo-violet). The typical artists' color wheel includes the primary colors of blue, red, and yellow and the secondary colors of green, orange, and violet or purple.
Sewing, knitting, fiber arts and crafts projects introduce delicious color!
Today, colored paints are readily available, and we are accustomed to paint in tubes. However, when paint tubes were originally invented in 1841 (by American portrait painter, John Goffe Rand, of Bedford, New Hampshire), they were a novel improvement over the traditional pig’s bladder tied with string! Painting was revolutionized as artists moved outdoors, and the Impressionist movement was born.
Of course, as in any field, a specific and almost mysterious vocabulary is used. Vermillion, cadmium, alizarin, ultramarine are words of poetry to the painter. The names generally are inspired by the color’s source.
Here’s handy description of the origin of many colors:
Do you want more color in your life? Mixing colors can create shades, tones, tints from the original hues! If these become confusing, the CA State Board of Education’s Visual Arts Content Standards provide a useful glossary of art terms: https://www.cde.ca.gov/be/st/ss/vaglossary.asp
hue. Refers to the name of a color (e.g., red, blue, yellow, orange).
intensity. Also called chroma or saturation. It refers to the brightness of a color (a color is full in intensity only when pure and unmixed). Color intensity can be changed by adding black, white, gray, or an opposite color on the color wheel.
tint. Color lightened with white added to it.
tone. Color shaded or darkened with gray (black plus white).
value. Lightness or darkness of a hue or neutral color. A value scale shows the range of values from black to white.
If you hunger for more explanation, the extensive Munsell Color System (first introduced in 1898) will catch your attention! https://www.britannica.com/science/Munsell-color-system
Graphic artists are familiar with the name Pantone. During the 1950s, the New York based Pantone commercial printing company began to use chemistry to systematize and simplify the company's stock of pigments and eventually developed the Pantone Color Matching System. Since 2000, the Pantone Color Institute declares a color "Color of the Year" which sets trends in color for the fashion and design world.
This clever site matches people’s skin tones to Pantone colors!
Here’s a color thesaurus which matches color to substances and names such as coffee: https://graf1x.com/list-of-colors-with-color-names/
Knowledge of color enlivens many forms of art. Once, I challenged my class to come up with a list of names for red; we discovered 47 different names and colors for red!
Do you want too mix believable colors? Watch my future blogposts!
Until then, here’s a fun tool to evaluate any photograph you upload in terms of color: http://snapyourcolors.com/
Do not select "Snap It for Chrome"—just scroll down to upload an image, and you will get a color match such as these for my paintings, "Azure Agave" and "Reflection." Accurate? Maybe--but fun!
Whose world does not need a little more color?
As I watch the long rays of sunlight create a brilliant stripe across the floor, I am reminded of the variety the four seasons provide. If you have ever lived in a home with large southern facing windows, you know well the power of winter light.
It affects our mood and certainly the painter’s palette.
I admit, I thrive in summer and warm weather. However, this winter I am making a conscious effort to embrace the season! We know the short days often lead to depression, and all cultures have sought ways to create winter light and festivity - be it a bon fire or Christmas Tree!
Determined to get back into the studio, this week I to paint from pastel plein air sketches I made in December at JTNP’s Black Rock Campground, near my home. Photography is a wonderful aid, but it does not record color as the human eye sees it.
How does our perception of color and attitude change with the seasons?
I know winter affects my art! Winter light is distinctly different! Images appear brighter in a clear, cold light – and shadows loom northward. Colors are also crisper. Animals and humans react differently during the winter. Seventh grade science and new studies tell us how winter light and colors are different:
1) I reviewed elementary science to verify that shadows are indeed longer in the winter. The summer sun is high in the sky striking the ground almost at a right angle, and shadows are short. However, during the winter the sun is low in the southern sky, striking the earth at an angle producing long shadows. http://www.classzone.com/vpg_ebooks/ml_sci_gr8/accessibility/ml_sci_gr8/page_386.pd
Last winter I visited Zion and had fun painting the tall peaks of upper Kolob Canyons in the snow!
2) Recent studies have also found that we perceive color differently in the winter. Researchers from the University of York (UK) recently discovered that our vision automatically adjusts to the seasons, especially regarding a color known as unique yellow. Humans identify four unique hues – blue, green, yellow and red. However, across cultures, everyone agrees on a similar wavelength to define pure yellow.
67 volunteers were recruited to test unique yellow in winter and summer. Each participant entered a darkened room and recorded when they saw “pure” yellow on a colorimeter. York winters are distinctly gray while summers are flooded with green. Researchers discovered that participants’ perception of pure yellow shifted with the seasons. In summer, their definition of yellow shifted toward shorter wavelengths, or a more greenish yellow. In winter, yellow perception shifted toward longer wavelengths, or a reddish yellow. https://www.livescience.com/51863-seasons-change-color-perception.html
I found this color perception experiment particularly interesting – it explains why we enjoy different colors during different seasons. It’s not just following trends or fashion-we physically and psychologically crave different colors!
3) Some animals which are brownish gray during the rest of the year turn white in winter: several species of hares—including the Arctic hare; three species of weasels; subspecies of caribou; lemmings; all three species of ptarmigans—a genus of birds related to grouse, chickens, and pheasants; artic foxes and Siberian hamsters all drop their drab brown for a winter white! https://www.britannica.com/list/7-animals-that-turn-white-in-winter
This week, I am also devising lessons on color mixing. Much of what I do is instinctive: blending a cool violet with orange to achieve a grayer tone for the distance, greens with ochres and even cool violet blues to achieve natural hues. In fact, once my palette is loaded with shades that I have toiled over all afternoon in the studio – I have fun just painting small experimental works - often in a few minutes.
So – as we watch those long rays of light at 3 in the afternoon disappear into winter darkness, how do we elevate our mood during the cold months of winter?
Below: Black Rock Campground Dec-2017- pastel, two oil paintings displaying winter light- Jasmin, 11x14 and Sunlit Kitty, 11 x 14 (both sold).
My heart is with those enduring the brutal cold this week, as we are enjoying bright, sunny days and temperatures in the 60’s and 70’s.
Wherever you are, I wish you a Happy New Year and time to pursue your creative dreams. You may be setting new goals or just grateful for a clean calendar to begin anew.
As an artist, I find nothing better than to have my indoor workspace ready to go. I am a collector, and it’s hard to toss things I’ve inherited or have been gifted and are overflowing from boxes and shelves. Yet, spent time this fall, sifting and organizing so I would have little excuse.
Are you an artist, a writer, a creative novice? Nurture your aspirations!
Even if your space is a tiny desk or card table, set it up as you’d like. Hang or place inspiring works of art or treasured items nearby. Create an arrangement of flowers, dry weeds, or sea shells. Collect quotes or books by those artists, writers, musicians, dancers, actors who inspire you.
Add a candle and or burn incense! I do all the above and the scene and scents tell me it’s time to make art!
Lighting is important. A window is ideal; north light is even more ideal. However, I have a collection of lamps (a desk lamp, long armed drafting light, and standing floor lamps) – all from thrift stores. I seek full spectrum light bulbs.
Music lifts my mood. Occasionally, I will listen to an audible book, or heaven forbid, the news—but watch where it might lead your work!
Lay out your supplies: water or medium containers, pens, pencils, brushes, prepared palette (for acrylic paint, I use a Sta-Wet Palette which keep paint fresh for a couple of weeks – even in the desert!), paper towels, apron, paints and medium.
You are ready! Would you go to the gym without your shoes and appropriate clothing? Would you go to yoga without your mat? Would you bake a cake without assembling the ingredients?
Even when my mood is not ready - if I set myself in motion, I soon become lost in the process of applying color to surface! Another important item- a timer- or set your phone timer. I have often burned my lunch while painting!
I love painting people, but I also enjoy landscape and still life. While others in my family are attracted to fauna, I love flora! So far this month I’ve focused on plants, painting succulents and even sketching the Christmas wreath I assembled from eucalyptus, heavenly bamboo (Nandina), juniper, rosemary, sage-savoring the joy it brought. I sketch and /or paint from live plants or photos (preferably that I have taken) on my laptop. I choose music from creative periods of my life: James Taylor, instrumental guitar, celtic tunes and, yesterday, by Israel IZ Kamakawiwo’ole.
What are the colors of your new year?? The past may be in black and white, but the future can be in color! Use YOUR palette with care!
Next UP: Get ready to move your gear outdoors!
Note: The last 15 months have challenged us! This month I encourage you to learn from the isolation and I wish you a cautious, but joyous June reopening!
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