I don’t know many people who don’t love a good list, women especially if I might generalise for a minute. And what could be better than a list turned into a visual?

Not much, obviously.

You’re welcome.

I was thinking the other day about what I love to use most when I’m making art, and there are definitely art supplies I come back to again and again, for various reasons, but mainly because they are what I most enjoy using to express myself creatively.

If you are not so familiar with using some of these materials, today I am sharing my reasons for choosing these over the bajillion other options out there. Obviously I use other things too, but I consider this my core group.

Sketchbook

For me, it has to be square. I simply can’t find a groove with rectangular sketchbooks. It also has to be quite large, which doesn’t make for back pocket storage when out and about but for me, bigger is better in this case! My current favourite size is 31 x 31 cm, and it has to be spiral bound so I can lay it flat. This one is my favourite make; the pages are 160gsm which is a great weight for drawing and painting.

Canvas

Again, has to be square. I can work on rectangular canvas but I don’t like it as much. I prefer not to go smaller than 30 x 30cm, and LOVE to go large ~ I’m currently working on a 100 x 100cm canvas. I buy them ready stretched and gessoed for ease. Sometimes I’ll work on wooden panels but I seem to always return to canvas.

Brushes

I have two favourite styles ~ flat and round, usually around a size 12, nice and chunky, although they can be used to make finer lines too. I’m not fussy about make but I do like the ones specially made for acrylics with synthetic bristles as they have a good springiness to them. I also have a few very tiny ones for detail, although they inexplicably get wrecked very quickly.

Palette Knife

Part of the reason I love this particular palette knife is the paint build-up on the handle. That aside however, this baby is flexible and easy to manipulate. I can use it to spread the paint on thick, or scrape it back to create lovely texture. Also useful for mixing paints. {If you use a brush a lot of the colour gets lost in the bristles.}

Soft Pastels

My pastel preference for their blendability, although they do make a lot of dust. But it’s colourful dust so I don’t mind. I have these Winsor and Newton ones and also some by Inscribe, and the colours are intense and gorgeous.

Fluid Acrylics

I have used Golden exclusively up til now but they are very expensive, especially if you’re just starting out. I’ve recently become acquainted with Liquitex’s fluid acrylics {called ‘soft body’} and am pleased to see that they maintain the pigment strength. Some cheaper acrylics can be very poor in terms of colour density so it is worth going as high quality as you can afford. But you certainly don’t need to go top of the range to get a good colour. I also prefer fluid over ‘heavy body’; I find them easier to manipulate.

Compressed Charcoal

I have this make, and prefer it to willow charcoal as it’s denser and less inclined to snap! It allows for a broader range of shades and you can go really black with it. Used in conjunction with a rag, an eraser and fingers, this is one of my favourite ways to make art. {I will be talking more about my love affair with charcoal in a later post.}

Black Pens

I use these ones by Uni called ‘pin’ pens. They come in various thicknesses and I just bought a pack of them in a range of sizes. Really nice for line work and drawing over pencil for definition or simple doodling in my sketchbook. They are also water and fade proof.

Rag

Great for use with paint, charcoal and pastels, for rubbing back, smudging, creating texture and blending and softening edges. I use old clothes that I’ve worn out cut up into little pieces. Waste not want not.

Fingers

Not often mentioned in a tools list but seriously one of the most useful tools you have! I love to smudge and move the paint around with my fingers, as well as using them for charcoal and pastel blending. I also love having painty fingers; it’s a kind of weird inverse vanity thing.

Oh my goodness. I forgot one.

Ink and feathers

A more recent discovery for me. There are plenty of seagull feathers round here where I live, although all you need is one sturdy enough; just snip the end off at an angle, dip it in basic ink, and you can make some amazing marks with it ~ and kind of feel like you’ve stepped back in time.

***

Finding ‘your’ supplies is usually a process of trial and error. Obviously just because I love the ones I’ve mentioned doesn’t mean you will, but perhaps knowing a little more about what’s available and how it can be used can start you off trying out what sounds like the most fun to you.

Do you have favourite tools and mediums? I always love to learn new ways to use these things, and also to try things I haven’t used before, so feel free to share in the comments!

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