Using Up Art Supplies Without Fear

Have you ever bought a nice canvas, tube of expensive color, or been given one of those expensive leather bound Journals as a gift? Then, you were afraid to use it? You wanted to wait and use it on "that something special that will be your masterpiece -- or at least on a subject worthy of using those something special supplies?

Conte Crayon on Multi-media paper

Get Over it!!! Use it up, not Later, but NOW

Over the last few years, since I started religiously drawing and doing thumbnail notan sketches -- I have accumulated many hundreds of sketches in a stack of 6x8 sketchbooks. For years I collected supplies, had precious gifts given to me, bought tubes of expensive paints because there was a huge sale. I have left in a drawer 80 sheets of 100 sheets 100% rag etching paper that is worth about $10 a sheet. I DON'T do etchings anymore -- say bye-bye baby, it's being gessoed for pastel paintings.

If you are not in the habit of watching YouTube videos of artists at work, artists giving instruction, etc.... it's time to start. The first thing I learned from a steady diet of this is that they make a lot of messes. They tear through supplies at a rate that would scare most artists -- especially hobbyist. I quickly found that I could not rediscover the inner child in me if I was worried about ruining an expensive piece of paper or canvas.

Start Slow, Start Small to Get Over the Fear

This revelation didn't happen like a light switch. No, it took small steps. The notans on page after page of sketchbooks I had in a drawer started it. Once I found myself giving permission to use the #120 sketch book pages to make almost incoherent scribbles -- instead of the cheaper #60 pages -- I stopped thinking of the cost and started looking at the results. Give yourself permission to fail, destroy, and through away what doesn't work. Once this happened, it opened the door to more experimentation, more failures and way more learning on my part. If you are not failing, you are not growing.

See the #66 in the corner of the above notan thumbnail? Number 66 is about page 14 in this book -- it's the 66th drawing, not the 66th page. The book was started in mid January. I now have several other sketch books in various stages of completion all started at about the same time.

This bound copy is at my studio. A paper covered sketchbook is in our living room. Another paper covered one is in a traveling sketchbook cover that I use to take with me wherever I go in my car. There are drawing pencils in all these locations too. My point is, use up the supplies, don't think they are too precious to use.

A pastel artist friend of mine visited my studio last week and saw my new set of full stick pastels. "Aren't they so pretty before you use them and get them dirty and break them in half -- you almost hate to use them," he said. He's right, but he and I both know that they are there to be used and that they need to be broken into at least two pieces.

What I Learned

  • I've now got the guts to use things up where earlier in my career I did not

  • Supplies are like a car -- they are pretty but are there to use up just as one day my car will die off too

  • I can find a balance between being creative and not thinking of cost verses just being wasteful

  • The minute I think of the cost of an item I'm using: that's taking away from the focus of the creation itself

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