No matter what kind of creative craft you do, it is important to have a stock of basic supplies at hand. I believe it's important to also know where to splurge and where to find those deals. I am sharing with you a list of my favorite items that I use daily.
Disclaimer: I have no affiliation or relationship with the suppliers of these products.
I learned a lot of my painting skills from my grandpa, who was a high school art teacher. When I was young, he brought me a set of supplies including some student-grade paints. The paint colors were Hooker's Green, Cobalt Blue, Cadmium Yellow, Cadmium Red Light, Raw Sienna, Brunt Sienna, Black and White. He told me that you can make any color you want with these colors. When I attended different art classes, my instructors also had me use a reduced color pallet and made us mix our own colors. Yes, you can make any color with a basic set of paint, however, I could never get my colors to be rich enough. When I started up my studio, I went ahead and broke all the rules and bought every color of paint I wanted. I'm sure grandpa is looking down at me and shaking his head, but then again I was never one for rules.
Apple Barrel Matte Acrylic Paint & Apple Barrel Multi-Surface Satin Acrylic:
You might have used this paint yourself when you did a basic craft project as a child. This is found at most craft stores and comes in a variety of colors. I like this paint because it super liquidity. I paint in light watered-down layers, and this paint helps with with that effect without wasting too much. I find this paint highly durable for my Matryohka dolls that are being handled.
Folk Art Paints:
This paint is produced by Plaid Paints, who also produces Apple Barrel. Comparing the two brands, Apple Barrel brand is the classic craft paint, and Folk Art brand is her new hip sister. Folk Art has a ton of unusual colors like metallic, neon, and even glow-in-the-dark. I find this paint super thick. I use this a lot for painting the background or base color. When I use it for detailing, I notice that the paint sticks to the inside of the tube. Usually, I shake the paint bottle to allow for some of the paint to collect in the cap, then grab the paint from just the cap as to not waste paint. I have trouble doing that technique with Folk Art Paints. However, the color variety is vastly superior to Apple Barrel which is why I will continue to use Folk Art.
Posca Paint Pens:
It was only this last year that a friend suggested Posca Pens. I am incredibly mad at myself for not being aware of this amazing life saver. If you haven't heard of Posca Pens, they are a paint marker that comes in different colors and tip sizes. My style of art has outlines that I used to hand-paint with tiny brushes that took me forever to do and I was never really satisfied with the results. Posca Pens make my outlines and highlights brighter and crisper.
I love using metallic paints as an accent in my pieces. Back in Medieval times, majority of the art produce was centered on the Church. The most valuable pigments were saved for the Holy Mary and Sweet Baby Jesus. This would include thin layers of gold leaf to emphasize holiness and the scarcity of Christianity. I am not religious, but I like the idea of highlighting scarcity with gold.
In my piece, "Spring", I used gold paint on the moon and highlights of the hair. It really adds dimension to the painting.
My absolute favorite metallic paint to use is from Craft smart. I find their Multi-Surface Premium Ultra Bright Metallic Paint is delight ever time I use it. This paint has visible specks of gold that really sparkles even after varnishing.
When it comes to brushes, I believe this is where the you should spend your money and time being selective. You can have paint hand-made by mountain monks, but it will come out looking like a third-grader's fridge painting if you are using cheap brushes. It is also important to pay attention to the type bristles you are using that compliments the types of paint.
With acrylic paints, I like to spend a little more on the mid-quality brushes. If you go too cheap, you get shedding which is pain and can ruin your paintings. I also have a hard time keeping the points on my brushes sharp, so I usually replace them every year or as needed. Recently, I bought a set of Martha Stewart's craft brushes from Michael's and I really enjoy the ergonomically handles. I like synthetic bristles, like nylon or taklon, because they are easier to clean. I also like to buy sets of brushes instead of individual ones, as you get more bang for your buck.
The size of the brush is important depending on what you are doing. Most of my brushes are size 3 and smaller. My biggest is a 4'' for large surfaces and the smallest is size 4/0. I do trim some of my brushes even smaller so I am only using a few bristles but I recently discovered a different technique to do those tiny details. I bought some clay indentation tools for the Matryoshka dolls, but I find them really helpful to do dots and stippling on different pieces.
Everyone artist has their preferences when it comes to the surface you are painting on. There are so many options, but the great thing is that you can paint on almost anything. One thing to keep in mind is if you need to prime the surface or not. If I need to prime, I will use a gesso. Gesso allows the acrylic paint to adhere better to your surface. I like to use Golden Bright White Acrylic Primer. Golden produces great product and is reasonably priced. This allows me to prep any surface to be able to be painted on. I would not go cheap on this product since it is the base of your art work. What is the point of painting an amazing piece of art if it just going to peel off over time?
Because of COVID-19, I've challenged myself to use up the surfaces I have already. In my studio, I have a variety of different wrapped canvases and board canvases. I prefer small-scaled wrapped canvas, but it's been fun trying to work with what I have. I love wrapped canvases, because they are easier to hang and you don't need a frame. The canvas boards are also easy to use, because you can pop them into a frame you may already have (after removing the glass, of course). Both types of canvases can be purchased at any art supply store - I've even found some at the dollar store and because I use gesso, they came out great!
Matryoskha dolls blanks can be purchased from Amazon and Etsy. My mini dolls are the ones you might find on Amazon. The bigger dolls are from a lady who makes them by hand. Since these are wood, it is important to sand and gesso them before any paint touches their surface. Even if you are using a multi-surface paint, which usually means that it has a primer in the formula, I will still gesso the dolls since they are meant to be handled more than a painting.
Varnishes and Sealers:
You've been working on a piece for days. You prepped your surface (let it dry 24 hours), slowly layered paint (letting each layer dry in between), re-worked areas, and made sure everything fits your vision. Now you need to protect your masterpiece with a varnish.
There are many options when it comes to varnishes and sealers for paintings. I like to use Liquitex Professional Varnish, both in Matte and High Gloss finishes. This is a polymer based varnish that can be cleaned with soap and warm water off your brushes and is safe to use in small spaces. Which types of finish I use depends on the types of message I am looking to express. High Gloss is used for bright, fun pieces that need that extra dollop of fun. Matte is used for my moodier works because it dulls the colors.
My secret weapon when it comes to Matryoshka dolls is the expensive, highly toxic, but totally worth it - Mr. Super Clear UV Cut Flat Spray. This product is used a lot by the doll modification community because it seals your work but leaves a natural texture and actual color. Varnishes leave a smooth finish to the touch, while Mr. Super Clear has a little tooth to it. I love this texture for some of my dolls, especially when it's contrasted with a High Gloss varnish for the eyes and lips. I think it gives my dolls a more "natural" face (or as natural as creatures and goddesses can be!). I have never seen this product in stores and I have to order it online from China.
When it comes to art, I don't think anyone needs be going out and buying the top of the line art supplies. You are able to make incredible pieces for very little. Art is about exploration and that does include the materials you use. With that being said, share some materials that you use! I love trying new things and discovering some new favorites~
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