The essential art supplies you won't find in the art store

Shock! Horror! The manufacturer of my favourite pickles changed the shape of the jar! I know... first world problems.

But you see these pickle jars are an essential part of my painting process. They hold the water for my watercolour painting and I usually have a selection littered across my desk. I need two really, one for clean water and one that I can use for rinsing off my brush. But they seem to multiply.  It is funny how such a small thing seems to be important in my painting process. Its a matter of ritual I suppose.

It got me thinking about all the other essentials that I wouldn't be without in my art studio - the ones that you won't find in a art store.  I love that! It makes me feel all resourceful and thrifty.

 
essential art supplies you won't find in the art store
 

Here's the list:

Pickle Jars

Ok. I won't go on about these any more. (But I don't think I could paint the same without them.)

Old hair spray bottle

I think that when I first had need of a bottle to spritz water about it wasn't so easy to find them such a thing in the stores. I found a bottle of hair spray in the back of my cupboard. It was surprising because I don't ever use hairspray and also because it was not the aerosol kind but the one with a removable top attached to a long straw that goes into the inside of the bottle.

Clearly it had been sitting there waiting to be emptied, well rinsed and repurposed as a water spritzer in the art studio. Essential for waking up the watercolour palette in the morning or spritzing over the acrylic palette once in a while to try and extend the drying time of that beautiful buttery paint that is squeezed out onto the palette.

And if you spray it directly into a watercolour wash you can get some lovely effects.

Molly the Dolly

Now, I know that you can get a proper mannequin for the purposes of figure drawing but they are not terribly approachable creatures, I find. It's an intimate business this figure drawing lark, you know.

Much easier to have a sweet face smiling up at you regardless of the awkward pose you are requesting.  Molly the Dolly sits with me on my desk with her fully articulated joints and a very patient disposition. She even has the prettiest little fingers for me to draw as opposed to the mittens that artist mannequins usually come with.

Old Credit cards

So these I seem to have plenty of! Old store cards are also good.  I love them as scrapers for spreading gesso or acrylic paint over my art journal pages.

They are part of my watercolour kit too. You can cut them up into nice sharp shapes for the purposes of scratching into wet watercolour paint for some lovely effects. In fact you can sometimes get them sharp enough to scratch out white marks on paintings that are completely dry to make details like highlights in eyes. Of course you can use a craft knife for this, but doesn't a shard of credit card sound a lot more fun?

Vodka

If it is a bit later in the evening and you have it to hand, you might see your way to sparing a drop of vodka into your watercolour wash.  You can get plain alcohol from a pharmacy, I believe.

However.... painting in collaboration with a spot of vodka.... how can you not?

A drop of alcohol spreads in a perfect circle. Sometimes they turn out like dandelion heads. Delightful.

Salt

On the subject of getting texture into watercolour paints, we cant ignore what the kitchen has to offer. Salt.

Drop salt into a nice juicy wash of watercolour and leave it to dry completely. The salt soaks up the water pulling the pigment with it. This leaves little star bursts in the colour when you brush the salt off.  For a slightly different effect you can tip the paper at an angle when you drop the salt on letting it slide down the page a little before you let it dry.

essential art supplies you won't find in the art store

(Now it occurs to me that if you had tequila you could substitute that for the vodka and since you have the salt out you may as well make yourself a Margarita. For the good of the painting.)

Candles

You are going to need an actual candle stick or some such (I use a floating candle because that is what I had to hand). Before you start painting with watercolour you can rub the candle across parts of your paper.  The was will resist the watercolour and preserve the white of the paper. You can do this rather purposefully to put a bit of texture into something like brickwork or as highlights on water, for instance.

essential art supplies you won't find in the art store

Chux Eraser

These are those little white abrasive cleaning blocks intended for removing marks from walls and that sort of thing. Where I am, the available brand is Chux but I bet you will find something like it in the cleaning aisle of the supermarket wherever you are.

If you rub these little blocks (slightly dampened)  over your very dry watercolour painting you can actually remove a bit of the paint revealing the highlight. Go carefully. It is scratching off the top layer of paint and paper -  don't be too aggressive or you could end up with  a hole in your painting.

Toothbrush

Speaking of watercolour texture, how about getting an old toothbrush (ok to be honest that seemed a bit yucky so I used a fresh toothbrush for this) and dipping it in watercolour paint, watered down acrylic paint or  ink and flicking it across the page. Lovely!

It's best to hold the toothbrush with your thumb over the bristles and then pull your thumb nail back over the bristles releasing the colour in delightful random splatter over the page. With  a bit of practice you can learn to control this at least a little bit and then use it in particular areas to indicate things like stars in the night sky or a field of flowers in the distance. But filling journal pages with  nothing but abstract toothbrush splatter is a charming way to spend a lazy afternoon too.

Cotton buds

Now these are just fun things to have around. I wouldn't dream of sticking one in my ear somehow but I use them as mark making tools  - cute little dots they can make.

They are also handing for dispensing things like mineral spirits/ blending solvent/ Gamsol when you have your colouring pencils out.

What is this blending solvent you ask? Well, before you rush off the to art store you might want to see if you have any .... vaseline.

Vaseline

Yes, vaseline. This can be used to transform your colouring into something more like a smooth painting. The vaseline reacts with the coloured pencil and smooths it out giving some lovely blending effects. Similar to what you might achieve with something like Gamsol which is made specifically for this purpose.

Don't believe me?

Look!

 

Tea

Ok maybe this isn't essential for you but it is for me.

I am seldom without a cup of tea and painting is no exception. A word to the wise though... it is best to move the teacup a safe distance from the water jar.... that could end tragically...