Saturday, January 9, 2010

Right Fit for the Right Brain

I had to make a return yesterday because the item did not fit. Nope, not clothing from Christmas or anything like that. It was an easel. I had wanted a newer portable easel for on location drawing. Art supplies are like clothing, they have to feel right and fit right to be of any use. The easel I tried was too short.

Considering the variety of easels on the market (French, folding, tripod, quad pod, double bar, display, table top etc…) finding the right one for the job is important. I am a bit tall, so I need one that can hold a canvas or drawing board at eye level. Without an extender, most can’t do that. I sit on the floor when I paint since that process is more time consuming and requires closer vision so easel height is irrelevant. When drawing, I prefer to stand up since my marking is more physical. So too does the easel need to be sturdy to take the jiggle and wiggle of the board as I attack the paper. French easels have fallen over in the past so stable extended legs are a necessity. Now the darn things even come with carry bags and in a variety of colors. Sorry but not even I will work on a pink easel. Then one has to consider the material from which it is made, aluminum, wood, steel, or plastic composite, which is where weight and transportability come into consideration. Dress shopping is easier.

Supplies are the same way. Brushes for example can make any person dizzy. First one must consider the type of paint to be used….watercolor, acrylic or oil, as each has its own type of suitable brush. Then comes the question of real hair or synthetic. If one chooses real, there is squirrel, horse, ox, camel, and sable hair plus probably a variety of others new on the market. Once we have those two down, move on to the cut of the brush itself, round, flat, filbert, wedge and so on, for the type of marks you wish to make. Finally comes the length and balance of the brush handle. I need a long handled brush probably more out of habit and learned technique than anything else, but there are short ones out there too which are more common and cheaper. Oh, I forgot about size. Brushes have sizes too that determine the width of the stroke. I think finding a pair of shoes would be comparable.

Materials are a whole other adventure. Paints alone can drive one crazy in finding just the right fit. Tube colors or pan colors, student grade or professional grade, domestic or imported, dry or wet, large or small, every yellow or just a warm and cool….the cost can add up. Sure there are designer brands on the market, but are they worth the price? I like tube colors. Pan colors are annoying in that I can’t tell when I am getting near the bottom. With tube paint, it is like toothpaste, one can twist and bend and squeeze it for every last drop, then cut the other end open to force out the stubborn residual. Okay, so I am a bit miserly.

Shall I even venture into the world of papers and canvases? The sizes, weights, surface textures, tones and so forth? Or erasers, pencils, inks, pastels……by the time one finds all the right materials, in the right sizes, weight, color, purpose etc…one could be too tired to make any art. Darn if that studio doesn’t look fabulous however! What happens with me is that I still use the same 10 brushes from many years ago even though I have jars and jars of them lined up on the shelf. Like old friends, I know how they will work, the pressure needed, the amount of paint each will hold, and that I can make them work for me with little effort. I am sure all you artists out there can relate to what I am saying. I suppose we lovingly pour over catalogues of supplies the way a gardener awaits the yearly seed selections or sportsmen drool over Cabela’s bible.

Want to talk about sketchbook choices? That is like buying underwear, best done alone because the intimate connection between an artist and their sketchbook is more personal than one can imagine. TMI as the kids would say, TMI.

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