Tools of the Trade
Over the past few weeks, we've slowly been putting together my studio (also known as our guest bedroom). And when I say slowly, I mean s l o w l y. Just last week, though, we (read: Hal) put up new shelves and drawers and suddenly it feels like we're coasting downhill to the finish line! A studio tour is definitely in the works, but right now I'm organizing what I have into new homes and systems and getting rid of things I don't like or use. And the things I do like and use? I thought it would be fun to shine a special spotlight on those!
One of my biggest caveats when I'm asked what supplies I like to use is that IT DOESN'T MATTER. You can make incredible art with a palette of Crayola watercolors. Artists are not made by supplies. (They're made by lots and lots of practice!)
Okay, with that little disclaimer out of the way, here are supplies I've tried over the years that I've come to know and love.
Strathmore - Paper texture plays a huge part in how your watercolors look. Cold press has a beautifully rough, almost pebbled texture to it and is the most traditional style of watercolor paper. Hot press is much smoother and lends itself well to highly-saturated paintings.
Arches - This is often cited as creme-de-la-creme watercolor paper, and, having recently purchased my first pad, I can see why. It's thick paper with an incredibly rough texture and it soaks up paint like a dream. I found that it didn't dry particularly flat, but that isn't much of an issue if you're going to frame the painting.
I also keep a pad of cheaper store-brand paper on-hand for practice paintings and testing colors!
Utrecht - Round brushes can be used to make oh-so-many kinds of strokes: use the very tip to create thin lines or tiny dots, and use the full brush for thicker marks. I like synthetic brushes because they're hardy and I won't feel too badly if I have to replace them. My most-used brushes are my size 10, size 3, and size 001.
Winsor & Newton - My smaller brushes are Winsor & Newton but, in all honesty, I haven't noticed that they hold up any better than my art store-brand brushes.
This is totally up to you. I know artists who even just use plates for their palettes! Since I use tube paint, I like to have wells to dedicate to colors straight from the tube, as well as palettes for mixing. Highly recommend this rectangular option with its mix of wells, and these rounds with lids for travel/storage!
Speaking of storage, what do I do with all those paint tubes? There are definitely more efficient storage options, but I keep all of mine in a small cosmetic bag. Despite having a studio, I tend to move around the house to create paintings and it's so much easier to grab a bag and go! The bag also fits nicely into drawers or shelves when you aren't using it.
Drumroll for the star of the show: paints! I still have the store-brand watercolors I started out with, but I've slowly been replacing them with tubes from Winsor & Newton and from their Cotman line. Cotman is Winsor & Newton's student line, which means the quality is slightly less but the prices are much more affordable.While what I said before about being able to create art from Crayola watercolors is true, there is a noticeable difference between lower-end and higher-end paints. Higher quality paints have more pigment and are therefore brighter and can more easily achieve opacity.
Those are my favorite tools to work with! I do believe in experimentation, though, so my favorites will probably change down the road. Let me know if you found this helpful! What are some other things about watercolor you'd like to learn about? I'm always looking for content ideas so your answer could turn into a journal entry!