Current Fave Art Supplies
April 14, 2016
Hey guys! So I just hit Day 100 in my 2016 daily drawing project and to celebrate, I thought I would do a kinda “what’s in my bag” post, on art supplies. It’s one of those things people tend to ask about, and even though I definitely think I’m more of a magpie than a connoisseur, I don’t need much of a push to geek out over art supplies.
Becauuuuse… I love them. I love the smell of them, love meandering the aisles of art stores, love trying out new things, love surveying my big pax wardrobe of possibility on the blue moon when it’s tidy… ahh. I like cheap kids’ materials and literal garbage – discarded packaging, weathered scraps torn off old billboards – as much as the fancy stuff. I remember the MFA student who taught my first painting class in undergrad commenting on how nice all of the newbies’ paintbrushes were, and how he used crap from the dollar store. It stuck with me. It’s definitely a trap to think you need the best materials to make art. I’ll use almost anything.
But of course, I do have a few faves. I’m going to do my best to give you the low down (with images) on the things I’m using the most often these days, with some decent product links. Also, just an FYI, no one (not even Staedtler!) is paying me anything for this post.
First, I’ll mention the snippets. My beloved snippets! Ah. Pictured is a tiny, somewhat random sample from a large, shallow bin, filled to the brim with paper bits… The remainders of previous, much recycled projects, Joni’s art that didn’t quite make the keepsake box, old envelopes and packaging, instruction leaflets, tags, notes, newspaper and magazine clippings, wrapping paper and so on. I have been lovingly gathering paper scraps for years, at first not knowing what I would do with them. I’m so pleased that it wasn’t for nothing and they make up the bulk of my supply these days! So satisfying. Usually, I take a handful, put it in a clear baggie or folder and loosely restrict myself to that for a couple drawings. It feels like the paper dictates the drawing that way, or at least has some say in the matter, which is only fair, obviously.
Now, for my staples. Remember my tiny toolkit? This is it! I do keep a bit more in there (a ruler, some washi tape, a butterfly clip, etc.), but these are the things I use most and like best. Clockwise, from the top:
Scissors. I really like these EK Tools precision scissors. Small, light, sharp, durable, with a fine, pointy tip. I did cover the handle in washi tape because it’s yellow and black and kinda ugly, but that’s okay. I’ve been hemming and hawing about where to find another pair for a while because frankly I have no clue where I even picked them up. But now I see, the brand is written right there on the blade! Who’d have thought? Brilliant, EK Tools, brilliant. I’ve just bought a new pair on amazon. Bonus, they are Instagram-friendly white this time.
Eraser. Ordinary pink school eraser. I keep a few erasers in my toolkit, and for some reason the white kind tends to pick up dirt and pigment from the other utensils, but miraculously the pink kind doesn’t. Thumbs up, pinky, thumbs up.
Pencil sharpener, pencil, and my fave SKETCH PENS. All Staedtler. I have to say, I have good experiences with Staedtler. I mean, for the pencil, probably any old pencil would do — I mostly just like one without an eraser because if the eraser is there I will inevitably impulsively use the thing and it will be old and dirty and I will curse it after it leaves an impossible to remove streak on my picture. So no erasers. The pencil sharpener, courtesy of my dad the engineer, is good and sharp and sturdy so that’s nice. But the real old favourite is the pens. Staedtler Pigment Liner 308. I’ve been using them forever. I often try new pens, but I haven’t found one I like as much yet. Mainly because of the lack of bleed. I can’t stand a bleedy pen. Regardless of paper, these don’t really bleed, flow is a touch draggy in a good way – not too slippery, pigment sits nice and light on the surface of the paper, and hardly fades, even if you erase over it. Also – they can remain uncapped for 18 hours without drying out, which is important when you are me. They come in a bunch of sizes, I like the super fine chicken scratchiness of 0.05mm, use 0.2mm for lettering and ordinary stuff, and 0.8mm when I have to do big text or fill something in. I do have one issue with them, which is that it does happen a little too often that the tip gets punched in. Very annoying. But otherwise, I’m a fan.
White pen. Uni-ball Signo gel pen in white. I use this a lot, although I am rather new to the wild world of white pens. I’ve never tried Sakura Gelly Rolls, for example, and I hear those are good. So far I do like this one, though. I use it to highlight things, add pattern, add texture, and even white out bits that aren’t working.
Glue. Good ol’ UHU! I get the biggest one, because those little ones are always running out. I do a lot of gluing and a need a glue stick I can depend on, and UHU is a reliable old friend. I tend to stay away from precision glue stick type things because they are often either kinda wet or not that sticky and both annoy me. For tiny glue jobs with the UHU, I’ll just grab, like, a stick pin or something and use that to apply the glue. Easy peasy. Also – they don’t dry out too fast if left uncapped. Do you see a theme here? 😉
Water brush-pen thing. Pentel Aquash Brush. This thing is great. It’s a paintbrush with a little reservoir for water. You just squeeze it to release the water. It’s quite easy to control. At the moment I’m not doing too much painting, I use my watercolours a dab here, a wash there and this tool makes it easy. I literally leave it filled with water in my toolkit – no spills, a year and counting and it’s always ready to go.
And that’s my toolkit! Or the main bits, anyway. These next materials are my runners up – the things I use almost as often and also like very much.I got the cork pencil case at a local art/craft market here in Bonn, made by fellow bonner, Rufinchen. My sister made the polkadot case for me and it is even lined with turquoise fabric. These little things make me happy – the personal connection, and knowing they weren’t made in a veritable sweatshop and shipped across the sea. Actually, it’s worth noting that 85% of Staedtler’s production takes place here in Germany, as well. I know, Staedtler really should be paying me for this post. Or just sending me loads stuff to try out, that would be just fine, too. 😉
Coloured pens. Achim put a set of Staedtler triplus fineliner 334s in my stocking this year and I am surprised how much I like them! Again good ol’ Staedtler, they don’t bleed and have a nice fine tip. I wanted a few more colours, but somehow I got confused and bought a bunch of Stabilo point 88s instead. They’re okay. Great colour but they do bleed a bit.
Coloured pencils. Prismacolor premier soft core coloured pencils. These are kind of expensive, but the difference is quite perceptible and they do last. My current pack is close to a decade old. They just cover so well and blend like a dream. After you go Prismacolor, an ordinary coloured pencil just feels dead.
I don’t use these last things quite as much. Not daily, probably weekly though.
Paintbrush. Dudes, I have no idea what this is, do you? I got it for pennies from a yard sale back in Toronto. The girl who sold it to me had a huge bag of them, she was a travel writer and got them somewhere overseas. I think she said it was a stencil brush. It kind of looks handmade. The bristles are very soft and it makes a lovely wash with the watercolours, anyway. And I kind of like its ambiguous origin.
Watercolours. I use Sennelier paint boxes. When I was in Toronto last year I stopped in at Articulations, a beautiful art store and gallery space in the Junction. At the time, I was using this 4 Euro 8-colour set of kids’ watercolours. I asked Heather, one of the owners, what difference I would see if I jumped up a few price points. She said the improved richness of colour when layering was pretty significant, especially in the reds and blues. I bought the aqua-mini set, and she was quite right. Much nicer. My mother-in-law got me a big 50 colour set this Christmas as well, which is a crazy nice luxury, but most of the time the little travel set is enough.
Cutting mat and art knife. The mat is DeSerres, it’s a good little self-healing mat. Not particularly special, but I’ll say, having one of these sure saves a lot of book covers and table tops! Mine is 8″x11″ I think, which is a good size for portability, but I’ll invest in a bigger one soon. Got my eyes on this Ansio sky blue/lime green beaut. The art knife – I don’t even know the brand. Something like this one. I like this sort better than the retractible kind. Those retractable ones are always coming apart and hurt the hand after a while.
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So that’s what I’m using these days! I hope this was helpful. Let me know if you have any questions, and I’d love to hear about your favourite supplies. I’m especially curious about why you like them. The reasons are often kinda weird or surprising, the stuff I don’t naturally think of, like the drag of a pen or the transparency of a notebook’s pages or who knows what. Personally, I hadn’t realised how apparently obsessed I am with the bleed of my pens until I wrote this! Lol. Peoples is funnnny.
Until next time. 🙂