On Organizing Art Supplies
Most artists I know have a secret second passion besides art – (shhhhhh!) collecting Art Supplies! For me, it manifests when new brands of colored pencils are released, or when a fellow CO artist recommends a brand of paper I haven’t tried. (An artist I admire does most of her work on Fabriano Artistico White Hot-Pressed 300 lb Watercolor Paper. I bought 5 full sheets of it. Have you looked at how expensive it is?) (I’ve used it a couple of times and it’s really great for colored pencil.) Or when a particularly attractive sale wafts past.
Because I buy most of my supplies on-line, my email box is bombarded with ads for Big Deals! Clearance! Back-To-School Bargains! Of course, I always read them – I mean, art supplies! I’ve been pretty good at resisting. For the time being. I am planning a field trip to Daniel Smith when the virus eases up.
But I’ve got a ton of supplies already and am struggling to organize them. Let’s start with Paper.
Mostly I get paper in pads, but none of them are the same size. I’ve got pads as small as 6X8 and as large as full sheets of watercolor paper! The perfect solution would be shelves that would accommodate the largest but allow storage of smaller pads of paper. It would be nice to organize them by Brand: Stonehenge, Pastelmat, Bristol, Newsprint, Drafting Film. Or by color: Black Stonehenge/Bristol, Mi-Tientes colored paper for Pastels, Toned paper for drawing. I could also organize it by Purpose – what the surface was designed to support: pastels, Ink, watercolors, colored pencils, graphite pencil, charcoal or Conte crayon.
You begin to see the problem.
Moving on to pencils. There are a lot of companies manufacturing colored pencils now. After the big craze of Adult Coloring books (don’t knock them until you’ve tried them – very therapeutic, coloring) companies upped their production and the versions of pencils. There are basically three ‘grades’ of pencils. First are the kind you buy for kids in grade school. These include Crayola pencils and Jolly-Good Xtra Big pencils specifically designed for smaller hands. Not much pigment, hard leads, not sure why kids would like them. Oh, well. Then come Student-Grade pencils. Most manufacturers make some version of these. More pigment, better color saturation. They are much less expensive than the third category of pencils – Artist Grade. I counted 45 different choices at Dick Blick’s web site last time I visited it.
I have at least 10 of those different Artist Grade Pencil sets. They come boxed in lovely flat boxes (usually metal, sometimes cardboard) The number of pencils ranges from 150 to 10. Of course, none of the containers are the same size – that would make storing them too easy. And don’t forget the pencils you can buy one at a time from open stock. Don’t get me started. No handy dandy containers there – oh no. What to do? I’ve tried several solutions – none of them quite works as well as I’d like them to. Empty jars, empty soup cans (washed out!), zippered pencil pouches, expandable notebook-like things designed to hold pencils or brushes, wooden drawers that hold up to 25 pencils in each drawer. These stack neatly. But I have close to 800 pencils. I’d have stackable drawers everywhere!
Of course, there are all those accessories you need. The tabletop easel. The three dozen different erasers (including an electric one I haven’t located in months). Bottles of ink; pens for that ink; fine tip markers; wide tip markers; blending tools; embossing tools; scraping tools – I’ve got way too much stuff! And I use it all! Rolls of artists tape. Drawing boards (I prefer Gatorboard brand). Mat board – cut and uncut. AARRGGHHH!
If I had unlimited funds, I’d get a stack of drawers/shelves for my various papers. I’d have shelves fitted with spaces for plastic holders and put all my dark greens of one brand in one holder, Cerulean blues in another – I’d have a set for each manufacturer’s pencils, plus a separate one for my watercolor pencils (3 sets of these). I’d have little drawers for various erasers and pens. There’d be attractive spots for my pencil sharpeners – hand-held, battery operated, plug in, crank types. Oh it would be wonderful.
If I had money. And space. You see, a proper artist should have (or so I’ve been told, and I very much am a Proper Artist) a Studio! I have a portable Kitchen Island from Crate and Barrel that I inherited when I bought my house and my Kitchen Table. Sigh. ‘Tis a puzzlement.
Regardless of your medium, you should be organized. I keep telling myself that. And portable, if possible. Watercolorists have brushes, paper, tubes of paint, palettes, containers for water. Oil and Acryllic painters have the same, plus solvents for washing/cleaning bushes, rags to wipe brushes, canvasses or canvass board, cradled boards, slabs of wood, pencils and chalk for sketching on the canvas, gesso or something like it for prepping the canvas, fixatives – and on and on and on. Aprons and easels and paints! Oh, My!
Next time I’ll tell you my current solution for organized storage of my (last count) 8,964, 211 ARTicles of supplies currently occupying – or possibly overtaking – my house. Now, back to sorting pencils.