…that I’d become so fond of water color paint in tubes!

I was kind of an art-supply freak! When I saw colors, I wanted them. I was the kind of person to walk into an art supply store and buy a whole set of something because all the colors looked so pretty together in a box, instead of trying a few colors first. Definitely something I needed to tone down a bit. Lucky for me, there are few things I’ve later come to regret. Just my Derwent artist color pencils. I hate them dusty things! The full set of them! (serves me right, I guess.)

The way I used to buy art supplies, could easily have ruined my artistic aspirations. Hardly anything beats down inspiration harder than a hole in your purse and a box of supplies lying there, blaming you for buying it. When returning it to the store is impossible, giving somebody else a huge present is then the only thing that helps soothe the pain. (Yes, I admit. I have done that once or twice. Not the wooden box of Derwent pencils, though. I’m saving that for when my kids’ creative aspirations have grown a bit.)

Okay, okay, so I used to be the needy greedy big art supply spender. Or perhaps I should admit I no longer am because I pretty much have everything I want already? No, sorry, that’s a joke. Not EVERYthing. Yet. (Is there an AA group for art supply addiction? Maybe it’s a niche in the market!)

However, I have a point with this story. What I failed to see back then, was that if you’re a clever art supply buyer, you buy supplies a piece. Because…every brand has its own color intensity and quality. Some color pencils are waxy, some are bloomy…you may want either for different colors and effects…but not the whole box of them! Some pencils are soft, some are hard…I love soft…so I bought myself two huge sets of soft pencils. Only to find out I actually needed some hard pencils as well, for detailing. So, more spending…and lots of soft pencils lying about unused. I will use them one day, but they are a burden in my crammed studio and space IS something worth considering!

I learned the same lesson with water color…I used to buy sets of (half) pans. I guess it was the lure of the immediate view on the colors in the open box against the dull tubes in the racks that made me buy a good many sets of pans (loved to try out brands and compare so why not buy them all?).

My Van Gogh travel kit.

But one day I needed a certain color I couldn’t mix with any of my pans..a certain pink. In the store that color was only in stock in tubes. So, I bought one. I didn’t very much like the pasty consistency of the wet paint, and found it harder to mix it into a watery color. And believe me when I tell you that the first time I used it, I ‘cleaned’ my palette and wiped away the unused paint with a cloth!!! I was used to doing that with acrylics and it didn’t occur to me that water color paints were to be treated differently! That I was wiping away a treasure.

It was by accident that the next day I forgot to wipe away the paint. When I saw the dried up paint the next morning, I tried to wash it away with water…and guess what eureka experience I had!!! Yes, one can be that stupid when logic is just not on the track your train of thought is riding on! So I had discovered that when using watercolor from tubes you can let it dry and use it like pans!!! But on a palette you prefer…with colors of your choice…with much more space to mix colors…and colors lasting a life time…Hurray!!!

I got some money for my birthday and immediately dashed off to the Art Supply store (where else?) and bought myself some lovely colors of Cotman and Winsor and Newton Artist’s (whatever brand carried the loveliest and most light fast color) and a cheap plastic palette. To date they are my favorite:

My Reeves palette with Cotman and Winsor and Newton Artist’s water color paints.

And what’s more…what I liked a lot about working with tubes, was that I could decide to use different brands at the same time. I wouldn’t need to have all my sets of pans wide open on the table, I could fill my palette with colors of different brands. I just had to look which brand offered the prettiest and most lightfast of colors! I have unbelievably bright Yarka colors, next to some fab Cotman, Schmincke Horadam and Winsor and Newton Artist’s colors…without having cracked my ribs for the expense of whole sets! I even put my white and flesh colored gouache in there. It’s fab!!!

What I’m trying to say here, is that you can buy the prettiest boxes of sets…but trust me, if you want to take good care of your finances (which any aspiring artist can’t but do), you want to buy single colors, not sets…for all the advantages it has!