As an artist, I often get asked by other creatives what my favorite painting supplies are, so today I am sharing a little list to help you get started on painting your own abstract wonders!
Here's my list of favorite art supplies for painting in acrylics:
1. Paint: My favorite kind of paint and the best quality out there is Golden. The investment is WORTH IT! If you are just painting for fun, I recommend starting with a student brand paint, like the Basics line available through Liquitex.
2. Art Supply Stores: My favorite art supply stores are Artist and Craftsman and Blick online. Both have AMAZING deals and I usually shop when there are great discounts to help save some money. Also, I secretly love trolling the aisles of A&C and just touching and smelling all of the art supplies. :)
3. Brushes: I paint with Acrylic paints and I love to use a variety of brushes for my work. This choice is completely based on preference. I prefer to use flat brushes with strong bristles, as I apply the paints in a thicker, more "impasto" manner most of the time. I like to use both synthetic and natural haired brushes, but I can offer the suggestion that it is worth pulling on the fibers a bit at the store to see if hairs fall off. I HATE when there are rogue hairs in my paintings after the fact. Insider secret: Ikea's kid department has AWESOME brushes.
4. Canvas vs. Paper vs. Birch Board: This age-old debate (Actually, I guess the oldest debate was just stone, but I digress) is really 100% based on textural preference. Most artists are really tactile people, so we all have our crazy idiosyncrasies based on them. I am a canvas and paper girl for no other reason than just because "I like them"!
5. Oil vs. Watercolor vs. Acrylic: Again, this choice is totally personality-based. I LOVE acrylics because they literally match my personality. I am quick, cheerful, bright, and stubborn. We work well together. Oil painting requires a bit more technique and ventilation as well as A LOT of patience (which is not my area of expertise!). Watercolors are free-flowing and require a bit more control, but are LOTs of fun. So, basically, just start experimenting and see what you enjoy the most.
6. Water Jars: This is a relatively important issue. It seems like any cup or jar will do, but that's just not the case. (I know, it seems like I am taking this WAY too seriously!) Talenti gelato jars are literally the best because they are broad on the bottom and balance when full of heavy brushes. Also, Mason Jars are perfect and come in both the short and tall varieties, which help with balancing really tall brushes. The idea here is to pick a water jar that will not fall over and spill, which happens quite often if they are full of dirty brushes.
Part 2: The Ocean + why I can’t stop painting it…
- “Megan, why do you paint the ocean?”
- “Mama, you should try to paint something else like a dog or a bird.”
- “Megan, what’s your deal with the ocean?”
I can’t really answer this question, but I will try to put this crazy obsession into words.
I think I paint the ocean because I am drawn to things and attracted to learning about things that:
1. Scare me + I cannot understand.
2. Are beautiful + powerful.
- Enter randomly selected Spanish major in college.
- Enter dating and marrying my best friend even though it scared the crap out of me.
- Enter living in Spain and getting a MA I wasn’t qualified for but fighting hard for it.
- Enter love of travel and new adventures.
- Enter not minding getting lost.
- Enter love of oceans? I think so.
I love being adjacent to something that scares me a little and that I cannot understand or comprehend.
Now, a little story…
When I was 12, I went to the beach with my best friends in 8th grade. We were there for a weekend or something and it was great fun. I even had a new two-piece bathing suit that I would be debuting and it felt so adult and daring of me. Well, as we swam out to sea, we noticed that the waves were extra strong. Like, “weird-strong”, as my 8th grade (or probably current) self would have described them. So, like the responsible and thoughtful ladies that we were, we kept swimming out further and further. Suddenly a wave crashed and I lost them. And then another wave crashed before I could catch my breath. And another and another. And another. Then, I couldn’t breathe and I started flailing my luckily long and gangly arms around yelling for help from the rip tide that was swallowing me up. And a handsome young, perfectly tan (as the story always goes) lifeguard had to save me and literally drag me to shore. I lay there with my eyes closed utterly embarrassed and very grateful that I hadn’t drowned. But also in complete awe.
That was a day where I learned the power of the ocean. I was scared and in love *with the ocean*, not the lifeguard. Come on!
And, to be honest, I love that feeling. I love to be a little bit in awe. Not always at the time (like whilst drowning and flailing and screaming), certainly, but the rush of adrenaline afterwards is amazing and kind of addictive to me.
I love how beautiful and powerful the ocean is.
One more little story…
In college, I studied abroad in Spain. (I know, I don’t talk about it enough, ha-ha.) The ocean and beaches there are ridiculously blue, colorful, powerful, amazing, and gorgeous. One weekend, we decided to road-trip down to a town called Cadiz for Carnaval (Spain’s Mardi Gras). It was insane. It was one of those moments that you look back on and think, “Man, whose life was that?”
But, one of my favorite memories from that weekend was when our group was hanging out on the beach during a really windy day and the ridiculous boys decided to run into the ocean. It was a chilly, wet 50 degrees out and the ocean was like ice. But, I wasn’t going to let them get all of the credit. I was going to go in too. (Note: I HATE cold water and being cold in general, but I also have a fierce competitive streak and an even fiercer feminist streak.)
So, there we were, running into the Atlantic Ocean in February in our *bathing suits* (I was, I promise!) and I have never felt more alive. Yes, of course I was freezing my ass off, but it was such a beautiful and powerful feeling to be a woman swimming out further than the boys and doing what they could do without any fear or concern. (Note: I went home and took a bath and drank some red wine and it was all-ok.)
I felt beautiful and powerful thanks to the ocean.
- I loved that feeling of being BOTH that day.
- I liked that a combination I had always convinced myself was an impossible contrast wasn’t.
- I didn’t want to be beautiful OR successful someday.
- I didn’t want to be pretty OR limitless.
- I didn’t want to be in love OR free.
I wanted to be both.
That day at the ocean was a little awakening just like the day I almost drowned.
I love that combination…beautiful AND powerful. I like how it relates to being a woman. I like how it makes me feel like that is a possible combination. I like how scary it is.
So, I think that’s why I paint the ocean. But, check back with me in like 3 years and my answers may be completely different.
At my school, we do what is called "The Memory Project" each year. Art students are assigned a photograph of a child orphan to create a unique and original artwork. Students have drawn portraits, a gift that the orphans truly enjoy, for children of all ages from El Salvador, Burma and Indonesia for the past three years. The project was created by one generous man in Wisconsin named Ben Schumaker. Each year Ben takes hundreds of pieces of art to children who live in orphanages around the world to present them with an original piece of artwork that they can call their own. And students in DC love to create the art as well! What a beautiful arrangement!
The favorite part of the project for my students is that sometimes they get a letter or a picture of "their orphan" holding the portrait that they created several months after the portraits were submitted for the school's deadline. The students at my school love seeing the child's face smiling and holding their new portrait.
Take a look at this great website and video to learn a little more about the Memory Project.
Also, if you are an art teacher or know someone who is, please recommend to them that they take part in this amazing experience for their students.