My go-to art supplies

Art Supplies List: My favorite things

I’ve been talking about my favorite (and not so fave) art supplies on here, on an ad hoc basis, basically rambling on about whatever strikes my fancy on any given day. The other day, I was pulling out my supplies to make a simple colored pencil piece, and realized there are a lot of bits and pieces I use, that may be helpful to readers.

And then, of course, I thought about the *other* kinds of art I do: acrylics, watercolour, pastels, markers, digital art … well, the list is constantly growing, it seems. And it would make no sense to lump them all together in one big post.

So, in an effort to be considerate, and really, just to make it easier for myself, I’m going to split this up into a separate section on the blog and set up individual posts just listing the specific supplies I use for each.

Here’s the master list (links will be added/updated as I publish the relevant posts):

  • Colored pencil supplies
  • Acrylics supplies
  • Pastels supplies
  • Markers supplies
  • Sketchbooks and other surfaces
  • Digital tools

The list will be updated if and when I pick up new media, or even try some fun not-necessarily-art projects (who’s been wanting to try scrapbooking? how about coloring books?)

 

Artist’s tools: Tracing and Lightboxes

Drawing tools

If you’ve been creating art for any length of time, you know that you need to develop your drawing skills. And the only way to do that is to actually draw. Draw whenever you have a chance, and if you don’t have time, *make* time. Seriously. Because, as with anything else, the only thing that will help you improve is practice. Check out the book Sketch!: The Non-Artist’s Guide to Inspiration, Technique, and Drawing Daily Life by France Belleville-Van Stone to get a real life insight into what it means to make the time to draw.

Having said that, I’ll admit that’s not entirely true, that the only thing that will help you improve is practice. What I mean is, you don’t just have to sit there and just practice drawing by hand. One excellent way to quickly improve your drawing skills is to trace what you’re trying to draw.

This may sound “wrong”, and purists will tell you that the only way to learn to draw is to do it by trial and error. The reality is, for centuries, artists have used whatever tools were at hand to help them draw accurately. They used grids, worked out their compositions as sketches, and, yes, they then traced the final sketch on to their surface for the final rendition, using an early version of transfer paper: they covered a paper in black chalk and used a stylus to trace over their “cartoon”, as they termed that final sketch.

So, you ask, how does tracing help you learn to draw? The old masters used tracing *after* they were happy with their design, as I said above. Well, the old masters also learned from their predecessors … often by apprenticing with experienced painters and copying existing works of art repeatedly until the techniques were ingrained in them by the repetition.

Yes, artists often completed an apprenticeship. And art was made in a workshop, with the artist planning the work and his apprentices carrying out many of the initial parts of the work.

Changes in technology and individual wealth today means that many more of us have access to fine quality art supplies and have no need to apprentice with a master. However, it does not obviate the need to actually learn to draw accurately. And this is where that infernal tracing paper comes in. Drawing an image over and over does not mean you’ll draw it better each time!

You see, when you just look at something and draw it, over and over, you may actually be training your eye and your hand to draw the mistake over and over, effectively locking it in, because you are drawing what your brain tells you it’s seeing. What’s really happening is that your brain, because it knows (or thinks it knows) how something looks, makes your hand take shortcuts to produce the result your brain knows … except, when you look at the result, it looks different from the original.

If, instead, you grab a piece of tracing paper and go over the image repeatedly either with a pencil or with a stylus, your hand and eye will start correlating what is being drawn with what actually exists in the image. You will learn to “see”, as artists phrase it.

Try it yourself: pick an image you’ve repeatedly drawn incorrectly. Trace it some ten to twelve times. Then go back and try free handing it again. Isn’t that better? There you have it: a simple way to improve your freehand drawing using a technique that some will say is cheating. But the end result will still be a distinct improvement in drawing skills.

Once you have a finalized sketch, you can then use tracing paper to transfer it to a clean paper, and thence to your canvas or other surface using transfer paper: Loew Cornell makes a really good one: this 2-in-1 set has one sheet of white transfer paper (for transferring to a dark surface) and one in gray for paler surfaces. Is two sheets really enough? Yes. Because you don’t “use up” transfer paper for a really long time … I’d say hundreds of uses per sheet, because you have a large sheet and you won’t just be tracing the exact same image over and over in the exact same location on the transfer paper!

If you don’t have tracing paper, you can use technology to help you trace an image: the simplest way is to tape your image to your computer monitor, turn the screen brightness all the way up, and then trace over the image onto your paper.

You won’t always get good results with a computer monitor, though, especially if you have a busy image as your wallpaper. Another alternative is to get a dedicated lightbox: much like a computer monitor, except there’s nothing but white light being emitted here. You can turn up the brightness as you need, and all but the heaviest papers will allow enough light to pass through your image so that you can create a good drawing by tracing the relevant lines.

There are several decent lightboxes out there. I personally like the Artograph 12″x17″ lightbox as it’s large enough to accommodate most of my drawings without being overly heavy and bulky. Another decent alternative is the AGPTek A3 USB powered lightbox. The AGPTek is slightly lighter [A3 is almost the same size: 11.69″x16.53″], and a lot less expensive … I haven’t used this one myself, but a friend of mine has one and claims it works really well.

And there you have it: from doodles to professional quality results without a whole lot of pain and time spent apprenticing when you could have been out having a beer or watching the latest show on Netflix!

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Phone holders

Sdandun Phone holder

We’re loving this new phone holder from Sdandun on Amazon … the 360 degree rotation feature makes it really convenient to view the phone from all angles in your car.

This holder can hold phones in a range of sizes from 4.0 inches to 6.5 inches and mounts quickly with the quick-snap installation. It sticks securely to most surfaces, unlike many other phone holders we’ve tried that barely have any grip.

Spill something on the holder? Just rinse in water.

Your phone never looked better in your car!

Disclosure: This blog often reviews/recommends products from one or more 3rd-party e-commerce sites like Amazon, Etsy, eBay, AliExpress, etc. Please assume that any link you click on will probably result in a small commission paid to me: this commission does not increase the cost of your purchase. Please see the Affiliate Disclosure page for additional details.

Rubber Cement Erasers

Rubber Cement Eraser Pick Up

I’ve been using rubber cement quite a lot recently, because I purchased a giant bottle of it on sale from my local art supply store.

Well, the problem with rubber cement is that it oozes everywhere. And worse, it doesn’t always come off neatly. Rubbing with your fingers removes it, but it leaves my fingers feeling weird. So I’ve been looking for a solution.

Turns out, there is this thing called a rubber cement eraser! The Grafix RCPU Rubber Cement Pick-Up is small (2″x2″) and does a nifty job of cleaning up the mess I seem to make every single time I play with the bottle of rubber cement. I’m getting better at spreading the cement thin, but I still have issues with size perception, so I still dab on a bit too much and this eraser is perfect for picking up the excess without damaging the surface.

Bonus: From reading the reviews, it appears to work well at removing masking fluid from art work in progress. I tried it, and am impressed … no more masking fluid fingers when I rub off the masking fluid to get to the next stage of my watercolour (or Inktense!) paintings!

Disclosure: This blog often reviews/recommends products from one or more 3rd-party e-commerce sites like Amazon, Etsy, eBay, AliExpress, etc. Please assume that any link you click on will probably result in a small commission paid to me: this commission does not increase the cost of your purchase. Please see the Affiliate Disclosure page for additional details.

Storage boxes for art supplies

I have a lot of art supplies. A lot. Especially when it comes to markers and colored pencils. Like hundreds and hundreds.

When you have the biggest set of multiple lines of colored pencils and then you go crazy buying Copic markers and Winsor & Newton Pigment markers (which, by the way, need to be stored flat rather than up-ended in a pen holder!) … well, you quickly realize that traditional drawers aren’t going to do it.

Storing the markers and pencils in the tins they arrived in works – to a point. It’s not as easy to see all the colours at a glance, and you wind up with a ton of pencils scattered all over your desktop when you are trying to work on a drawing.

So I finally caved and got real storage. Those pastel storage boxes are really versatile, and there are a bunch of options for the number of drawers you want.

The most popular seem to be the 3-drawer variety and Amazon has even elevated this 3-drawer Art Alternatives pastel box with the Amazon’s Choice label.

It’s gorgeous, nicely finished and stained, lined with foam (model A only … model B ships without the foam!), with dividers inside so you can separate your pencils from your erasers or pastels or pens or whatever. If you are shipped the model without foam, the solution is simple: just line the drawers with shelf liner!

Unfortunately, for all its pluses, this particular brand does not come in a 5-drawer model. And you remember I said I have a lot of art supplies. So I had two choices: either buy multiple Art Alternatives 3-drawer boxes, or find a company that had a larger box. I went with option 2.

The Vencer 5 Drawer Wood Art Storage Box is perfect for my needs: it has 5 drawers, and the price was right. While the box isn’t as nicely finished as the Art Alternatives box, it’s functional and I can paint the outside if it really bugs me.

One minor annoyance was that the dividers are glued in place (unlike the other box), but it was easy enough to wiggle them back and forth until they came off and then I can replace them to where I wanted them! Well, in my case, I simply removed them altogether to make room for more supplies.

Tip: if you find the drawers sticking as you pull them out, simply rub soap along the edge where it sits on the runner … problem solved!

Disclosure: This blog often reviews/recommends products from one or more 3rd-party e-commerce sites like Amazon, Etsy, eBay, AliExpress, etc. Please assume that any link you click on will probably result in a small commission paid to me: this commission does not increase the cost of your purchase. Please see the Affiliate Disclosure page for additional details.

Super Glue … for glasses?

Gorilla Glue Super Glue

Recently, Mum’s glasses broke. The little piece that sits across the bridge of her nose just detached itself on one side and basically rendered the glasses useless. We ordered her a new set right away, but in the meantime she needed something to read with while she waited for her replacement glasses.

I asked around, and while some recommended going to a jewelry store and getting it micro-soldered in place, others suggested super glue. Not just any super glue, but the Gorilla Glue Super Glue.

I’m cheap. So I tried the super glue route, and to my surprise, it worked. This glue works on a variety of materials, including metal, ceramic, leather, plastic, wood and more. For me, the metal-to-metal was all that mattered. Bonus, this dries super fast! They recommend just 10 to 30 seconds. We left it longer, not wanting to take a chance, and it doesn’t seem to have done any harm.

The glasses were useable again, Mum lasted out the wait for the new glasses,  and now she has a spare set in case anything happens to her brand new pair!

Disclosure: This blog often reviews/recommends products from one or more 3rd-party e-commerce sites like Amazon, Etsy, eBay, AliExpress, etc. Please assume that any link you click on will probably result in a small commission paid to me: this commission does not increase the cost of your purchase. Please see the Affiliate Disclosure page for additional details.

 

Scientific Calculators Revisited

Casio FX-300 MS Plus Scientific Calculator

If your kid has recently gone back to school, chances are, he or she will soon be asking for a scientific calculator (probably already has!).

The Casio FX-300MS Plus Engineering/Scientific Calculator is a good all-round scientific calculator that will serve well through high school and undergrad math and science classes.

This one takes a 1.5 volt LR44 battery. The add-on program at Amazon brings the price down quite nicely, so it’s a good idea to just buy a spare when you buy your calculator.

Pros:

  • You can see the whole equation at a glance
  • Nicely sized buttons
  • Large variety of mathematical functions (229, to be precise)
  • Fractions can be viewed as fractions or as decimals
  • Well priced

Cons:

  • Difficult to see the numbers if the calculator is flat on the table
  • Quality Control seems to occasionally miss a defective loose button

All in all, this calculator is a good choice at a great price.

Disclosure: This blog often reviews/recommends products from one or more 3rd-party e-commerce sites like Amazon, Etsy, eBay, AliExpress, etc. Please assume that any link you click on will probably result in a small commission paid to me: this commission does not increase the cost of your purchase. Please see the Affiliate Disclosure page for additional details.

 

So I’m a Spider – So What? [Manga]

So I'm a Spider - So What?

We’ve been reading some manga recently, and after a few series, they all start looking similar. A stand-out is Okina Baba’s So I’m a Spider, So What.

This series is about a girl who is reincarnated into a different world, one that’s more like a video game. She herself is reincarnated as a spider … and as she grows in experience and abilities (see, video game!). There’s a dungeon, and monsters that she has to defeat to level up.

Okina Baba originally presented this as a web novel back in 2015 … the current version is a manga adaptation of that novel by Yen Press, which acquired the rights in 2017.

Not having read the original Japanese, the story still is clearly told from a different world view than that of the average American teen. The series is a fun read, and manages to explore both human and other-world psyches in a light manner.

Well worth the price of purchase, and quite a stand-out in a rather crowded genre.

Disclosure: This blog often reviews/recommends products from one or more 3rd-party e-commerce sites like Amazon, Etsy, eBay, AliExpress, etc. Please assume that any link you click on will probably result in a small commission paid to me: this commission does not increase the cost of your purchase. Please see the Affiliate Disclosure page for additional details.

 

My latest art hobbyhorse: Watercolor Pencils

Art is likely to be a major theme on this blog, because art is a huge part of my life.

There’s almost nothing, no stress, no worry, that cannot be soothed by creating something. The zen-like flow state I go into when I’m working on is very similar to meditation, and I always emerge refreshed and renewed.

Sometimes creating art takes just a few minutes, as in this pigment marker sketch above, and sometimes it takes weeks, as when I work on a large project using colored pencils (my favourites are the German FaberCastell PolyChromos pencils and the Luminance line from Swiss manufacturer Caran d’Ache – you just can’t go wrong with either of these sets).

When I want something quicker, I turn to watercolor pencils. I have been loving the Museum Aquarelle line from Caran d’Ache for the brilliant colours. If you’re looking for a more traditional watercolor look to your art, check out the Derwent Watercolour pencils … they’re an absolute dream to work with!

The Museum Aquarelles are brilliantly pigmented, and the resulting work is not very much like a watercolour because of that spectacular colour. Like all Caran d’Ache products, these pencils have a fantastic creamy core and excellent lightfast ratings, so you can use this set to create works you can sell with absolute confidence.

The Derwent Watercolour pencils, as I said, have a more traditional watercolor look and feel, which, as you’d immediately expect, means more pastel shades and a general softer, more flowing result on your finished work.

Both brands are wonderful, each in its own way, and I’ve been loving using both to create art.

What do YOU do when you’re stressed? Working out and “arting” are two of my favourite stress relief options!

Disclosure: This blog often reviews/recommends products from one or more 3rd-party e-commerce sites like Amazon, Etsy, eBay, AliExpress, etc. Please assume that any link you click on will probably result in a small commission paid to me: this commission does not increase the cost of your purchase. Please see the Affiliate Disclosure page for additional details.