The Epic Journey of Gathering Art Supplies


I have a love hate relationship with buying art supplies.  I've gone through periods where I collected every supply under the sun, only for most of them to be thrown away when I moved to Des Moines.  Anymore I find that working with a limited stash of supplies makes me more creative as I find new ways to use what I have.

When I first started painting I was satisfied with just a few items, some watercolor paper and a cheap set of entry level scholastic watercolors.  I was thirty at the time and didn't know the first thing about painting.  Then as I got more into watercolor I had to have the finest of everything!  I discovered Hobein Irodori Japanese Watercolors, which were about $7 a tube.  And I had to have a huge array of colors to choose from.  Back then I was ordering everything from Dick Blick.  It seemed like the perfect spot to find just what I was looking for, that shiny new item that would level up my art.

My mother-in-law bought me a mixed media set of supplies that came in a box with an attached easel and I soon started painting with acrylics.  It's interesting the relationship between trying out a new paint or medium and the unfolding of an art journey.  I went through a period where I spent hours each day throwing paint at the canvas, trying to learn to work with acrylics.  At the time I wasn't much interested in really mastering the complexity of the medium, more interested in making folk paintings and expressing every nuance of experience through color and texture.  Thus began my collector phase, and I gathered every art supply under the sun.  It was gluttony for sure but I didn't care.  Sometimes I learned how to use the items and sometimes things never made it into my regular rotation.  In those days I discovered Hobby Lobby, and would buy canvas every two weeks.  I discovered Liquitex and Pantone Acrylics and they became a big part of my art practice. It was very expensive to paint on canvas, and now all my canvas art is in storage so it feels like a distant memory.

These days I shop all over for supplies, however I'm very choosy.  I tend to buy supplies three to four times a year, and use them up before buying new.  I'm back to painting on paper so mainly have to restock my paper supply and occasionally glue sticks for collage.  Beyond that I rarely buy paints or other mark making tools unless I absolutely need them.  I shop locally some, still order from Dick Blick on occasion and have recently discovered Jerry's Artarama.  I would say over the past year I have only spent $200 on supplies total.  Working in watercolor is quite affordable and it seems like paint pans last forever.

Sometimes shopping for paints can be like an epic adventure, like traveling in a new city and discovering a find that totally transforms the path of your art.  Other times it feels sort of gluttonous, and I ponder whether I really need to get anything new.  It feels good when you have a collection of things that work for you; go to items you can rely on again and again.  What is gathering supplies like for you?  Are you more the hoarding type or do you use everything you have?  The most important thing is to keep creating.  Sometimes collecting supplies can be a replacement to actually doing the work of mastering your chosen medium.  

Here's to many more epic journeys gathering supplies and all the excitement that comes with something new.  Now go forth and get creative!