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*All images and words copyright of Diane Dobson-Barton dba as Barton Studio 2002-2007
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Where do I begin?
So you have decided you would like to try painting. You are somewhere on the spectrum of ability, either a professional, just wanting to touch up on basics, or a beginner who has never picked up a paint brush. Perhaps you just want to discover a world that appears to be magical, that until now has managed to elude you.
For everyone’s benefit, let’s start with the bare bones of supplies. What do you need to do this wondrous event/action of painting? Although I strongly believe that no matter what your budget, creating or painting can be within your grasp. But, let’s take a look at what would ideally be at your finger tips as an artist.
Sketchbook – This is a wonderful to have on hand at all times. It doesn’t have to be anything more than typing or copier paper in a folder to do its job. The idea is to have a place to draw, as ideas hit you. Or a place to play without worrying about the end results, as you might in a painting.
Resources – It is wonderful to have on hand 3 dimensional objects that have caught your eye in one way or another. They need not be expensive items. But can be garage sale finds, or interesting items found on a country stroll. The idea is to have things available to you to use as subjects for paintings that have an interesting feature, whether it is the items color, texture, shape, etc. Basic items such as interesting cups, saucers or rocks can become a good place to get ideas flowing, or subjects taken from a completed painting.
Choosing Your Medium – In choosing your medium you need to consider numerous things. The amount of time you wish to have your materials ‘workable’. Do you have children or pets that may come into contact with your supplies or work area? If you will be concerned that you’re 2 year old would like to see what your painting taste like? Do you wish to buy everything you need for less than $20, $100, $500 or perhaps $1000, or even $10,000? I was once told by a professor that money should not stand in the way of creation. In this instance she was happened to be a weaver. Her thought was that if she did not have the money for supplies of a loom and such, that she would still be able to weave with sticks found in the woods. Although art materials can be seen as expensive, there are materials for every size budget. Below you will find a brief description of some available painting supplies.
Watercolor – A wonderful transparent medium that is extremely transportable. This is surely the most popular of painting materials. From the pans of watercolors found in many a school child’s desk to the many tube watercolors on the market, there are a wide variety of prices and paint qualities to choose from. It is important that you have a good quality brush. Nothing can be more frustrating than using a cheap materials and finding the brush coming apart on your painting. If you just want to get your feet wet (no pun intended :0) perhaps trying a inexpensive student grade set of watercolors with a medium grade brush would be just the ticket? And don’t forget to also pick up some watercolor paper. Make sure to pick up something sturdy that will not warp when wet. You can learn to stretch watercolor paper later on. But for now let’s just see if this is the painting materials for you to try.
Acrylic – Acrylics are a wonderful diverse medium. They have the ability to be used thick from the tube or thinned in a watercolor technique. You can also add water to them and create different textures, such as sand, marble dust. If you want a medium that can be diluted with water, are versatile and are relatively non toxic, acrylics are for you. They can be painted on a wide variety of surfaces and are only limited by the artist imagination. Although general thought of as a quick drying material you can add substances to the paint that lengthen its working time. Be aware that many of the additives are highly toxic. It is recommended that you use a synthetic brush with acrylic paint. When using a palette it is best to use glass and not plastic, it is very easy for acrylic paint to dry on a palette quickly and it is almost impossible to get off of a natural porous surface. Whereas with glass the paint will simply peel away when dry. But take care when cleaning in a sink that you use the necessary precautions to not cause bodily harm should the glass break.
Gouache – (pronounced go-waush) Is a opaque water media that dries to a matte finish. They are often used by graphic designers due to their ability to create strong pigmented areas of color that transfer well to printed media. Not as popular with the general public as other painting material.
Oils – Often considered a more advanced material, finished oil paintings often bring more on the market than acrylic or watercolors. Although some of the materials used with oils can be toxic, they can be handled easily with a little education on how to do so. A lure of oils is the ability for them to stay workable for a longer period than water media. They usually are dry to the touch in 2-14 days. Expense usually runs similar to using acrylics. Generally are painted onto canvas or well primed surface. It is historically recommended to use a natural bristle brush with oil paint, although there are now much suitable man made products on the market that work very well. It is often recommended you use a wooden palette with oils, which builds up a wonderful patina after many uses.
Water Mixable Oil - These are fairly new on the market and offer a wide variety of color. Used alone they can be cleaned with soap and water. Or you can also use the traditional oil mediums along with them. If you follow the specific manufacturer’s recommendations you can use them along with oil paints.
Alkyds – a transparent oil color, these work well for glazing and are dry much quicker than the standard oil paints. It has been said by many artists, that they work well for plain air painters.
Oil Sticks – Are relatively new to the market and is oil paint, of sorts, in stick form. Are wonderful for use as a drawing medium and making expressive marks made on painting surfaces, work well with oil paints and can be used for drawing the composition out on canvas before oil paint is applied, for added finishing touches, or as a painting material all its own. They are available in a wide variety of colors from a variety of manufacturers.
Soft Pastel – Often mistakenly called chalks, these are a highly popular medium, both for its ability to remain workable indefinitely and its wonderful array of color. Tragacanth gum is used as a binder with the pigment to create a stick form that can be used to either paint or draw with. Used on a textured surface pastel, they can create a wide variety of affects. They do need to be framed under glass in order to prevent damage by elements. Many pastels painting that were created over a hundred years ago are still presented to the viewer with vibrant and fresh looking results. They can be purchased in a variety of hardness including in pencil form.
Oil Pastel – Similar to soft pastels, but with a binder that is oil based. A variety of affects can be achieved by using them. By using a brush dipped in mineral spirits you can create washes with the colors and manipulate them. It is not recommended you use oil pastels along with oil paints on the same painting.
Water Soluble Pencils/ Crayons – Available in a wide variety of qualities. They are wonderful for creating the initial drawing for a watercolor or acrylic, or adding details along the way to a finished painting.
Encaustic – Less popular than many other methods, using hot wax as a binder with pigment.
Tempera – Considered somewhere between an oil and a gouache paint. They contain both aqueous and nongaseous binding materials. (temperate – medieval Latin meaning blending or mixing)