My Favourite Art Supplies
When I discovered mixed media art, a whole world of experimentation and opportunity opened up to me. It brought freedom to my creative process. Suddenly it wasn't so important to follow the rules. My art-making became more about following my curiosities and seeing what new discoveries I could make.
This continues to be my approach and as a result I go through seasons with my art supplies. There are times when I am all about watercolour and other times when it has to be rich creamy acrylic. In general though, these are the supplies that are never too far from my reach …
My favourite paper to work on is a cold press watercolour paper (min weight of 300gsm) in either Arches or Canson brand. I usually wait until these brands are on sale and purchase in bulk as I find that I can achieve much better results with a good paper.
I also love to use Moleskine watercolour journals. The quirky landscape format is fun for experimenting and testing out ideas in.
For my mid to large sized work I use cradled wooden boards and pre-gessoed canvases. My main focus when choosing a substrate is to get something that is sturdy and will hold up to many layers of painting and experimenting. Current favourites include:
Custom made stretched canvases by Elite Framing Adelaide.
I am yet to try raw canvas but it is on my wishlist!
Watercolour / Ink
Two words - Daniel Smith! As many of my students know, I like to treat myself to a Daniel Smith watercolour or two. They are very expensive but the vibrancy and the different effects you can achieve with them make them worth it! I try to get them when they are on sale. A few of my favourite colours are - Indigo, Cascade green, Quinacridone Deep Gold, Rhodonite Genuine, Amazonite Genuine, Autumn Mystery and Fuchsite Genuine.
I often use acrylic ink in combination with my watercolours and the two brands that I use are Daler Rowney and Amsterdam. If I am wanting to make a watercolour paint more opaque (almost like gouache), I add a bit of white acrylic ink to the mix. The other ink colour that I couldn't live without is Payne's Grey. Often I dip a skewer into the ink and sketch out loose and flowy botanical linework.
Being in Australia, I mostly use Australian brands of paint with my favourites being Derivan Matisse and Atelier Interactive. Matisse in particular, has been getting me excited lately. They have such a wide range with heavy impasto paints, creamy flow paints, fluid paints and more affordable background paint. I use them all and have also had good results with their mediums and varnishes. Golden paints and mediums are a great alternative to Matisse but are very pricey in Australia.
When it comes to mark-making supplies, I don't tend to purchase supplies in sets, instead I like to buy singles, just 2-3 colours initially and then if I love them I will add to the collection over time. It means that I am only buying supplies that I will use and it helps keep my tool kit manageable and functional.
A few of my favourites are:
Van Gogh Oil Pastels
These are quite firm making them great for more defined marks.
Sennelier Oil Pastels
Super creamy and a little sticky, I use these in moderation. Just little flourishes in the final layer of my paintings.
Mungyo Gallery Soft Pastels
While I love soft pastels they smudge very easily. For the work I do, I prefer the ones that sit at the firmer end of the spectrum such as these ones.
Shiva Oil Paintstiks
These oil sticks dry in about 2 days so they are a great way to experiment with oil paint. I use these over the top of acrylic to add marks and areas of rich creamy colour to my work.
Neocolor II Watersoluble Crayons
These are basically watercolour in a stick form. I use them for mark-making and I love how well they combine with acrylic. Unlike other types of pastels you don’t need to worry about chalkiness or stickiness. These crayons dissolve with water and blend in with other supplies.
A watersoluble pencil that creates vivid marks on a variety of mixed media surfaces.
For fine line work you can’t beat paint pens. I’ve tried many brands and always seem to come back to Posca. I use a variety of different sizes from 0.7 mm to 2.5mm.
For acrylic, I love gesso brushes or brushes from the hardware store for covering large surfaces quickly. For mid sized brushes I often use long handled stiff brushes such as the ones by Princeton or by Dina Wakely. Most of my brushes are flat brushes and round brushes but I do like to experiment with different shapes. Recently in my watercolour work I have been having fun with fan brushes and mop brushes.
I am a big fan of Princeton Catalyst tools. I use quite a few of their blades for creating texture in my paintings and I love mixing my paints with their mini-blades. I use the mini blade in the same way I would use a palette knife. I enjoy them more though as they are made from silicon making them flexible and easy to clean.
The other main tools I enjoy using are items around the house. Skewers, credit cards, rags, sponges and of course my own hands! For blending acrylic paint you really can't beat your fingers!
For convenience and ease of use, I love disposable palette paper and plastic takeaway containers for mixing paint in.
As far as mediums go, at a minimum I always have a gel medium for collage and a glazing fluid for my acrylic paints. Currently I am using Golden mediums but I might test out a few in the Matisse range in the future. I have also heard good things about Liquitex.
For varnish, I tend to use Golden MSA UVLS Spray Varnish in Satin or Gloss. I find it to be very versatile and does a great job of sealing my acrylic and mixed media pieces. I always wear a mask and spray my pieces outside. Occasionally, if I am looking for a more varnished appearance I will also brush on a coat of Matisse Solvent Based Satin Varnish.
Well that brings me to the end of my mixed media must-haves. Okay they aren’t really must haves but they are my favourites that I keep coming back to. How about you, I’m curious what are your ‘can’t live without’ art supplies?