Methods and Materials, let's talk about it.
I, like most artists I'm assuming, get giddy when the prospect of investigating the local art store is on the horizon. There are just so many artistic tools on those store shelves to accomplish so, SO much art! Right?
Don't you just love feeling all the papers? the brushes? reading all the subtle variations of oil mediums on their glass containers? Rifling through endless pen and pencil combination packs? I recently visited the Blick and Utrecht stores in New York City, by far the largest art supply venue I've ever been in, my head spun. I'd like to address a misconception that I found myself falling into as a younger artist, and practically every time I enter an art store. It's the myth that great art supplies equal great artists.
First of all I'd like to say that if you are going to buy art supplies, which is a must, you should go for the best if you can. There is alot to be said about quality over quantity. There is also alot to be said about experimentation, it isn't wrong to make a go with as many kinds of tools as you have access to, you won't know if you'll love something until you try it. However, if you're painting with the finest Windsor-Newtons you could purchase but your underdrawing is crooked then you might as well trade them to a classmate that can draw in exchange for his number two pencil. I know that's definitely what I should have done many times in the past.
When I think back on my college experience I really chalk it up to experimentation. I had a senior show that was semi-coherent in style, but deep down I knew that I hadn't reached a professional portfolio yet. After college I worked on a few collaborative projects, some of them weren't the most creatively stimulating, though I learned much at the same time. In one of these projects I worked with some pretty large files and it sometimes took up to ten minutes to do minimal tasks, frustrating right?
Definitely, but this boredom caused me to grab a stack of post-it-notes next to me and draw on it with a mechanical pencil. I tried to make my forms as simple as possible. The three inch square surface made me justify every stroke, made me think first and visualize before finding the shapes in a typical, sketchy way.
I loved the freedom from setting out all of my paints, my palette, my pencils, my vine charcoal, my erasers and chamois etc. I loved the transient nature of the post-it, easily drawn on and easily discarded, not getting attached to the first good drawing but moving on and making a small body of work in the process. I had cast off the myth of art product success for the truth of a coherent artistic vision starting with only a pencil and paper, the world was new and the next finished piece only a sketch away.
To sum everything up I realized that I had succumbed to the art supply myth, when all I really needed was time, the one and most important art supply you can't find in any store. Time and determination to use that time in a profitable way will get you farther than the possession of any art tool.