the miserly artist at work

Interlaced - 12x12 Oils on Canvas

Interlaced - 12x12 Oils on Canvas

But it’s not about saving bucks. It’s about volume of paint and the potential for juicy creativity. Expensive paints bring out your resident miser. Cheaper paints, used discretionally, are more likely to be lathered on in abundance and bravura.

Fact is, for some of us, inexpensive materials bring out the magic of playfulness.

[From In praise of inexpensive materials]

I love reading Robert Genn’s letters, they have a range of interesting observations, views, tips and ideas spanning the whole gamut of being an artist. I felt a need to write about this one in particular as it’s a subject very close to my heart. especially right now as I’ve been considering buying some new pencils currently on sale. my husband’s comment is, yes but you’d never use them- they cost so much you would want to save them for best.

this is so true of everything for me. I hate spending money (yet, ironically, I love shopping) especially if it’s on something that’s important. when I started painting again I went to a place called art shed which had enormous tubes of paint for under $5 and inexpensive 100% cotton canvasses. knowing that I hadn’t paid that much meant that I could play with paint and if they didn’t work out it wasn’t a real loss. I was free to experiment. in a way, my main style has come from my inner miser, I didn’t have much left in a tube but I wanted to make it count. it was heavily dilute and very thinly applied and I realized by accident that I could create really cool effects with it that thin.

I finally splashed out on real professional quality oils only a couple of years ago (after a large sale) because I wanted to try windsor and newton water miscible oils. my studio is in my house and Liam can’t stand the smell of turpentine. on top of that we wanted to start a family and I didn’t want harsh chemicals around (much better for the cats as well!). I do love these paints, they are wonderful quality and the clean up is very easy. but it took a very long time to get out of the saving mindset. I put the paint on very thinly (even for me!) and I tried to make it go as far as possible. The funny thing is, the tubes are not as robust and splitting. the lids are breaking too – so I have to keep using them as much as possible and not worry so much. the threat of losing the entire batch is freeing me up to play once again.

I still buy art shed canvasses, they have a range and I buy their upper range now rather than the cheapest. it’s still affordable enough that I don’t feel too bad if the painting goes badly – at least not about the cost! I also use one of their easels, which, as far as I can tell, is just as good as any other. the trick is knowing where to cut the costs.

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