What’s your favorite art supply? This is the question I recently asked some artist friends, and their answers are as eclectic and enlightening as anyone could guess. I asked because I think it’s interesting to hear what art supplies others hold in highest regard; the following roundup will likely inspire you to try something new for your own art. Answers came from illustrators, oil painters and mixed-media artists whose work can be described as everything from abstract to realist. It’s my honor and pleasure to share them with you today.
Along with their favorite art supplies, I also asked some to respond with a description of their work so that you can make a connection between the materials and the style, and identify with something that you’d like to emulate yourself and because it’s simply interesting.
Annie Strack: My favorite art supplies are pan watercolor travel sets. I have several of these folding palettes that hold pans of watercolor paints, and I tuck a few brushes and other painting essentials inside. They’re handy to grab and go painting anywhere, anytime. I keep a small one in my purse so I’m always prepared for an opportunity to paint, and I keep a larger set in the car for painting en plein air. I never leave home without one!
About Annie’s art: I’m primarily a watercolor painter, specializing in maritime subjects. (AnnieStrackArt.com)
Katherine Ruckle: I’ve been working with Progresso pencils lately and I really love them. I’m taking an advanced drawing class this semester which is cool because I already have the art supplies (I usually spend a fortune on supplies for my studio classes.) This meant I could splurge on a few nice things. My professor suggested the Progresso pencils, which are woodless colored pencils. I just love them. They feel sooooo good in my hand, glide smoothly on the paper, they do smudge, and the pigmentation is beautiful and rich, but not overpowering. Working with quality tools that feel good to me really affects the finished piece, so I don’t mind that they’re a few cents extra.
About Katherine’s art: Negative images are ever increasing in today’s society, draining our minds, bodies and spirits. It is all too common in today’s society to conflate honesty and reality with harshness and brutality. With my work, I aim to demonstrate that the world is, at its core, beautiful. My work reflects a sense of wonder, a passion for experimenting with multiple media and a love of the natural world. I enjoy turning ordinary objects into extraordinary things, things that seem to have come out of a dream. My process is organic, driven by aesthetics, the creation of beauty for beauty’s sake until a deeper, richer meaning is ultimately revealed.
The most common theme in my work is women that are portrayed as powerful in ways that transcend perceptions of reality. They take the form of faeries, nymphs, mystics and queens. I also frequently depict the natural world, not as it is, but in a fashion that expresses the ethereal, the fantastic and the sacred quality that is inherent to it, inviting the viewer to reconnect with the divine inherent in themselves.
Michelle Richeson: My paints and brushes are important to my work, but they change depending on the size of my canvas or the colors needed to best express the piece I’m working on. My Santa Fe easel, however, has been able to accommodate the smallest 5″x5″ painting to the largest 93″x76″ painting I’ve put on it.
In college I had an inexpensive three-legged easel that I could collapse and slip under the bed. I always seemed to be fighting the movement that happened with every brush stroke and it was a pain to try to adjust the canvas tray with the canvas in place. Next was a sturdier easel with four feet on the floor, but it was still hard to adjust the canvas holders with the painting in place and it was hard to move the easel around the studio. It also limited the size of my work. When I made the decision to paint full-time I knew I needed an easel that would not set limits on the paintings I could create. The Santa Fe has been a good choice as it has allowed me to work large without having to lift the canvas tray. The casters make it easy to move and the painting tray gives me extra storage for paints and a surface to place my palette and brushes. Other than a lightweight easel I take plein air painting, the Santa Fe is the only easel I’ve used in 15 years.
About Michelle’s art: My art is a visual expression of facets in my life, be it my surroundings, places I’ve traveled or people I’ve met. I choose an image because the composition, lighting or play of textures inspires me, but I also find myself searching for subjects that will challenge me and let me play with my style of fracturing and extending lines to create a sense of movement.
Once a linear sketch is put to canvas, I enter a world of ever changing color blends. Because oil paints are slow drying, it gives me the time necessary to explore how color can visually create the sense of illusion I strive for. A 24”x36” painting can take up to four months to complete due to the process of developing a crystalline effect through color placement. My paintings captivate me while I’m painting them, and I want the viewer to feel the same sense of awe and surprise when they discover that what looks photo realistic from a distance oscillates toward the abstract as they approach.
Cheryl Tipton Metzger: Colored pencils. Caran D’Ache Colored Pencils and Prismacolors Pencils are just the best, in my opinion. I usually do colored pencil on UArt sandpaper and Caran D’Ache’s Luminance pencils cover well, have great colors, and they last a long time. They have a sturdiness about them that I love. They seldom ever break and I use them down to the nub! The very best quality, though, is their lightfastness. My artwork usually is a slow process with many layers of pencil. Who wants to put 40 hours into a piece that’s just going to fade or change colors? Not me! Prismacolors are great too, but I do take out the ones with a low lightfast rating. They’re smooth and creamy.
About Cheryl’s art: My favorite subject is anything Americana. The world is constantly changing and I want to capture the common, ordinary subjects that are so special, including people. Old chairs, oil lamps, handmade baskets, roosters, old tobacco barns, old houses and family are my favorite subjects. Colored pencil is my favorite medium because I’m a control freak and details are so much easier for me with pencils. It’s a slow medium, however. I use UArt sandpaper often because it does speed up my process. (cherylmetzger.com)
Tonia Jenny: Two new favorites include acrylic paint pens and paper clay. I swing between book/paper arts, sewing/stitching, a very wee bit of painting and primarily jewelry making. That said, I have a newfound love for acrylic paint pens and discovered they can be used on nearly everything, including rocks. I’ve also been heavily into beading for the last year and I’m fascinated with the precision of Delica beads. I’m very detail-oriented and I think I love paint pens and seed beads for this very reason: I can be very precise and add the tiniest of details using these materials.
About Tonia’s art: I love to create with a sacred sort of intention, and I tend to bring a lot of symbolism into the things I make; I love the language of symbols. I also love leaving my personal mark in as many aspects of the process as I can. If I want to use a stencil, I prefer to hand-cut the stencil. If I want to collage on an image, I prefer it be one I’ve drawn myself. (SacredMaker.com)
Kathy Hildebrandt: Terry Ludwig soft pastels are one of my favorite brands of pastels because of their consistency, high pigment load and their rectangular shape. I rely on the edges of these pastels to get into tight spots and for details. CarbOthello pastel pencils are great for all the detail that I paint. This brand is one of the softer pencils, have a good color range and very importantly, sharpen well. They’re also great for lightly glazing color or value over soft pastels while at the same time blending. UArt pastel paper, especially the 800 grit, is my go-to paper. It holds many layers of pastels and allows me to achieve fine details. It also works great for those times I want to do a wet underpainting. I know I can rely on these supplies to work consistently. I love to experiment with new pastels and papers but when I need to get work done on a deadline, I know I can count on these to get the results I want.
About Kathy’s art: I paint contemporary realism in pastels. Most of my work features still lifes of old toys, books, games, etc. Many of my pieces have a playful undertone and incorporate toys from my childhood. (www.kathyhildebrandt.com)
Lisa L. Cyr: Acrylic matte medium is my absolute favorite art supply. It’s a multitasking medium that is a major player in my arsenal of art supplies. It not only acts as a sealant between layers of acrylic, but also serves as an adhesive in many of the collage and texturing techniques that I employ in my work.
About Lisa’s art: My imaginative, fantasy-inspired, mixed-media works are a poetic, rhythmic synthesis of drawing, painting, collage and assemblage composed to collectively create a new reality with a more expressive, symbolic arrangement. (www.cyrstudio.com)
Kristy Conlin: R&F pigment (oil) sticks. I’m working in two styles of encaustic painting right now–abstract (mostly celestial inspired–the moon, planets, galaxies and more) and encaustic collage, in which the wax takes a back seat to the collage elements. I’m working on a series I’m calling Herstory. Each piece features a unique and offbeat vintage photo of a strong woman and a variety of other antique or vintage collage elements.
About Kristy’s art: I like to do a lot of incising in my work and pigment sticks are just fun to work with–I scribble over the incised lines to fill them in and then wipe off the excess pigment. I’ve also started using them to create my own colors by mixing little bits of pigment stick with melted encaustic medium. You can get custom colors this way, but it also saves money because I can mix a white encaustic paint for much cheaper that I can buy one. Finally, I add bits of pigment stick to melted encaustic paint to give it shimmer and a little bit of a metallic sparkle–silver is my favorite for this.
Carolyn Owen Sommer: I love the ShyArt winged palette because it fits my lifestyle. It’s made from sturdy industrial quality plastic, and even the hinges are plastic, so there’s no rust and it’s easy to take through airport security. It folds open with deep wells for large washes and flat pans for mixing smaller dabs. The wells are really roomy and hold a whole tube. It’s lightweight, portable and easy to clean. I received mine as a gift, but I know they’re affordable.
About Carolyn’s art: My favorite media are watercolor and collage. Sometimes I indulge in a bit of assemblage. I see art everywhere I look, so the hardest part is starting and then, staying on task. I often have more than one piece going at a time.
Steve Barr: When I’m cartooning, my favorite art supplies are pen and ink and high quality bristol board for finishes. (Check out Steve’s project, Drawn to Help)
Judi Hurwitt: A brayer for painting
Camille Wagner: Oil pastels!
Doreen Renner: I love my Caran D’Ache watercolor crayons. They can be used as accent markings on watercolour or acrylic paintings.
Jamie Markle: Palette knives, bone folder and acrylic inks!
Christine Adolph: FOIL!
Peter Smolen: Wacom stylus
I hope you’re as inspired as I am after learning about so many different art materials and even styles. As for my favorite supplies, I rely on an arsenal of acrylic, watercolor, graphite and ink (not to mention yarn and string). But if there’s one thing that makes its way into my most common art, it would be a fine-tipped pen (Micron is my current favorite) for lettering and tiny, doodled details. I use it on almost every art journal page, have used it on canvas (thank you, Sandrine Pelissier!) and handmade books and cards.
Now is a great time to check out the art supplies that are on sale for a limited time at North Light Shop. Tell us about yours by commenting on this blog post below!
Yours in art,