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Saturday, January 30, 2010

Its All in the Support

Probably the most crucial tool for the artist is finding the right support to work from.  A support may be paper, canvas, wood or any other base that media will either be applied to.  Often artists migrate to the cheapest supports they can find, for example when I first started painting I would get the absolute cheapest watercolor paper that I could find, however this often does backfire, and did backfire for me.  The paper, being of poor quality would absorb the colors unevenly, leaving discolored areas, and made controlling the paint nearly impossible.  Additionally, buying the cheapest paints can often give poor results, and result in beginning artists giving up before realizing that the problem was in the choice of materials, and not necessarily a lack of skill.

Probably my biggest weakness is artist paper. I have a huge collection of various types of paper that I will select from, include a lovely hand made paper from India, Arches mould cold press, which has a lovely slightly rough surface that provides for wonderful control.  Other papers I love are coulorfix paper made for pastels, but can be used with virtually any medium, and Yupo, a slick, challenging, but fun paper that can be used with various media, each lending its own special effect.  Needless to say, I have alot of paper that I work from, depending on my mood.  I also love Ampersand clayboards and scratchboards, all ready to paint on surfaces on masonite, easy to use and easy to frame.

Finding good quality media as well is important.  Student paint has definitely improved since I started, but remember, sooner or later you have to graduate to better quality.  Don't attempt to fill your coffers all at once with professional paints.  I enjoy trying different brands of professional paints, and have a large variety of professional watercolors in both tubes and pans.  Incidently, don't let anyone tell you that different brands can't be used together...totally bogus.  I have a large variety of different paints from different manufacturers, all living vary happily together on my pallette.

Finding art papers and paints doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg either.  There are lots of discount art supplies available online.  I personally have purchases from Jerry's Artarama which has both an online presence, as well as a cataloge, but they are certainly not the only supplier online.  Some of my favorites are Daniel Smith for their wonderful line of unique watercolors, Dick Blick for its affordable supplies, Cheap Joes and the list goes on.  If you find a supplier you like, its worth staying with them, as often supplier will provide discounts for repeat costumers. 

For the brave and experienced, consider creating your own unique supports.  I've used everything from Gessoed Sandpaper to Foam shipping liners. Whatever you choose, have fun and remember for artists its definitely about the journey, not necessarily the destination.
The above work was created on 220 grit sandpaper with pastel and charcoal!

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