Monday, August 17, 2020

Be Ready When Your Muse Strikes!!

We are all doing things a bit differently during this era of Corona Virus.  And yet, in some ways, I'm finding the more things change, the more things stay the same!  

For me, this means that I am making more art than ever.  And, given that my kids have nowhere to go, and I am not even commuting to my job (at least, for now), I have more time to do what I love--make art, and talk  about making art.  

Over the past few months I've also had the opportunity to engage a number of people with art over Zoom. Art and Zoom, two things that go together remarkably well--who knew?

The groups were varied: kids, adults, teachers and colleagues, all engaging for different reasons.  What they all had in common was an interest in being creative, and a possibly a lack of tons of fancy art supplies to play with.  

During our sessions,  whether it was kids or adults making art in their homes, or educators planning for an unpredictable year, everyone seems to want to know:  

What should I have on hand, to be ready when the muse strikes?  

So, I created a list of materials I like to have on hand, both for myself and in my classroom.  

The goal of this list is accessibility for all!  These are suggestions that I make for people who dabble in art, or for teachers who would like to bring art into their classrooms in an affordable way.  I do use all of the materials that I suggest, but as a professional artist I am leaving out some of my more specialized or more expensive materials.  

Note that this list is not all inclusive by any means.  If you have access to different materials, or prefer different media, go ahead and use them!  The most important thing is to have simple materials on hand, ready to go, so that when inspiration hits, you don't have to shut it down while you make an art store run. Also, please note that I get no kickbacks and this is not meant to be an advertisement.  If you love, (or hate), one of these materials, feel free to share your feedback, or simply use something else.  

 Simple Supply Suggestions 

  • Heavy Mixed Media or Watercolor Paper: Mixed Media paper is great because it is thick and does well with both wet and dry media. It can be used with watercolor paint, markers, crayons and pastels.  You can also use it to create collage with glue sticks.  If you get it very wet or gluey, it may warp a little bit. 
  •     Watercolor Paint Trays: I like using the Prang tray sets—the colors are very rich and create vibrant paintings.  I also like these student sets with more variety. The color comes out a bit less intense than with the Prang sets, and I like that there are more choices of color.
  • Paint Brushes: I buy these in bulk for classroom projects. I often buy sets like this and give students a choice of brushes to use.  If you are purchasing brushes for personal use, or for use with thicker paints like acrylic, be aware that better quality brushes can get pricey, but they will hold up  to heavier or more intense use. Cheaper brushes usually need to be replaced more often as they lose hair or shape.   
  • Oil Pastels or Cray Pas: I love using oil pastels with kids, and in my own art as well! They can be used on their own or to resist watercolor paint for vibrant, ethereal painting styles.  They can be blended and color mixed.   You can buy multiple smaller sets, so each kid/group has their own, or you can buy larger sets with more variety, and divide them into baggies for individual or group use.  Oil pastels can also be called cray pas.   I like the brand  Cray Pas Expressionist.  Here is a link to a multi cultural set that is great for working on self portraits. 
  • Glue Sticks: Glue sticks are easy to use with little mess. I think the  all purpose ones adhere better than the washable ones, but either will work.
  • White Glue: I like to have a large jug of white glue that can be divided out into smaller containers for students to use.  White glue can also be diluted to create a decoupage glue that works like the more expensive but always fun Mod Podge (measure 1 part water to 1 part glue in a small bowl, use a paintbrush to brush onto your surface). Elmer's School Glue is washable and a bit thinner than Elmer's Glue All which is not necessarily washable and is a bit stronger.   
  • Construction Paper: I always have a variety of construction paper colors around. Choose whatever brand you like best, but take note of thickness--some construction papers can be very flimsy!
  • Collage Papers and Scrap Materials:  I save reusable packaging with interesting patterns, colors or textures, scrapbook papers, magazines to cut pictures from, old books, fancy coloring book pages, cardboard, anything that looks interesting and can be reused.  I keep a bin of collage materials, so when I find something I like, I just drop it in the bin for use at some other time.  I keep my scrap papers organized separately, in bins divided by color. 
  • Yarn and Fabric: I love sewing and weaving, so I like to have fun fabrics, colorful yarn, threads and floss around.  I'm convinced there are two types of crafty people in the world-fiber people and non-fiber people.  You know which one you are!  If you are the non-fiber crafty type, don't go out and buy anything.  If you are the fiber type, you probably have everything you need already!
  • Tools: Keep a box of tools, like rulers, pencils, erasers, good “adult” scissors and scissors for kids to use. For my fiber arts friends, a separate pair of good fabric scissors, labeled DO NOT CUT PAPER WITH THESE ON PAIN OF DEATH  is a must have as well.  
  • Fine Tip and Regular Markers:  This is a case where quality does mean more expensive.  Crayola markers work just fine in some cases, and are washable (make sure you check the packaging)  but dry out fairly quickly. Colorful Sharpies are super popular and fun to use.  They are, of course, not at all washable. Consider yourself warned! Fancy markers just go up in price and quality from there.  I am a fan of Copic and Prismacolor markers, and I use Faber-Castell Pitt india ink pens for fine lines, but I would not use these with students unless I really liked them (the students) a lot.  Like, a really lot.  Like, I don't even like my own children enough to let them ruin  use them. 


        What are YOUR favorite must-have supplies???