Tuesday, March 16, 2010

My Top 10 Favorite Art Studio Tools (so far)

Since I've been working a lot lately and have not had that much time to paint, so I thought I'd take a minute to share some of my studio must haves. Like many artists, especially those who work in multiple media, I'm an art supply lover who loves to try the latest colors, art tool, studio gizmos, etc.

But over time, I find that I have a few tried and true art studio resources and tools that I always go back to or buy in bulk. And most of these are quite inexpensive. Keep in mind that I regularly paint in oil, acrylic, and watercolor so some of these "studio helpers" work across media and others are media specific. Best of all, most are under a few bucks each.

1) Red sheets of acetate (usually available at art store in the drafting department). For those of you who used them before, you know they a great value finding tool.  Put them over any color photo or painting and they instantly "decolor" and help reveal the values. Ahh, the magic red sheet--my students know it well! Price: Under $1 for a small sheet.

2) Blue painters tape. I use the basic 3M brand from home improvement store. Yes, sometimes it's not as sticky as I'd like it to be, but you can use it for so many things and as a well-known TV designer used to say: It's a ruler on a role!  So if you struggle with astigmatism like I do, it helps keep you on the right track.  Price: $3-4 roll. Probably less in bulk.

3) Speaking of something blue. I love blue shop towels on a role. You can also find these at home improvement store, hardware store, or even Costco. Much better than paper towel, IMHO. Because they are designed for oily clean up, they help keep my brushes cleaner and in turn I have to use less solvents.  Price: About $3-4 each in a bulk pack I think.

4) Covered palette boxes. Yes, those crazy plastic lids can be a pain the you know what, but I like how they are relatively easy to transport, deter curious pets, and in general keep your paint relatively fresh. I use these for all of my media in a variety of styles and shapes from round to the classic rectangle Pike palette with big wells for watercolors. Price: Varies $10-25. 

5) Color wheels. I've painted for over 25 years and am even known as a "colorist," but I still like to have a good size (think pie) size color wheel (as well as some smaller "purse size" wheels) on hand. A bit of a color safety net? Perhaps but when I get stuck sometimes, usually a quick glance over at helps me make a decision or a more interesting choice if I'm in a color rut.  Price: Usually under $10.

6) Old frames of a variety of shapes and sizes. I never complete a painting without popping it into a frame first to help me make those final adjustments. I try to keep the most common sizes on hand like a 8x10, 9x12, 12. x12, 12x16, 18x24, etc. in both a dark (black, dark brown) and light finish (gold, silver).

These studio frames don't have to be great quality and many are quite banged up and scratched. Next time you are at a frame shop ask if they have any "scratched/dents." And yes, I've spray painted some frames that had seen better days that a neighbor was tossing out. That being said, once in a while I splurge and buy a really high quality frame (more than $100) which are always nice to have in the studio. Along the same lines for watercolor paintings I like to have a variety of sizes of white mats on hand. Often you can save a painting by simply cropping it in different way.  Price: Varies based on your dumpster diving issues.   

7. Big tubes of white oil paint. I use both Permalba (a mix of Titanium/Zinc) and Titanium. Yes, large tubes (I find) have tendency to dry out, but I think it's worth it if you ever see these on sale to buy a few extra. Rarely do I have a day, especially when I'm teaching, that I'm not reaching for a big tube of white. And yep, I buy student grade white oil and acrylic paint. I've tried the professional white and personally can't tell enough difference. Price: $8-15, maybe less on sale.

8.Painting knife (I like the new stainless steel ones with the color rubber handles--very comfy), especially with oil, but I use them quite frequently for acrylic as well. As much as I love brushes, if I was forced to choose one tool for painting it would have to be a painting knife. Price: A few dollars on up depending on brand, size.

9. Art or painting apron--I've said it before. I love art aprons. I'm really not that messy but mentally I just feel ready to paint when the apron goes on. It's like my work uniform--but with crazy retro patterns. With summer approaching, I've seen some nice ones in the kitchen wares section of home goods stores. Look for lots of pockets--you will use them. And of course you can get more "serious" aprons from a variety of online art stores as well. Beret, optional. 

10. Hmm, at ten already. Isn't part of the joy of being an artist all the special equipment that comes with the job? I really can't pick just one more item, o I'll just list a few a extra studio accouterments came quickly to mind as far as daily studio use (and hopefully most fairly self explanatory):
  • Digital camera
  • Variety of easels (from large floor to small table top)
  • Scented candle (preferably natural or woodsy--helps "put me in the mood") and/or hot cocoa
  • Bungee cord (use to hold paper towel on easel)
  • Idea folder
Have  a great week in the studio! P.S. The spinning red brush holder (only $14.99)  is a utensil holder from Target and comes a in a variety of fun colors like this red (which I had to have of course), turquoise,  and lime.

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