Friday, December 30, 2011

Making the Most of Art Supplies

Making the most of supplies is crucial, considering the cost, but it can also be a step to furthering creative exploration. When I have paint left on the pallet after finishing a painting I use it. I keep stacks of small sheets of thicker than usual (110# acid free) paper on hand to create "waste pages". This paper will warp if too wet so with acrylics it's best to move quickly with big strokes to cover the sheet for future background use. If there's still paint left over I grab another sheet and have at it. It's freeing to feel so wasteful, using up sheet after sheet in a careless way. It's also a great way to unwind after working on a serious project that maybe required concentration; it takes painting back to a fun place. This can be continued until the watered down paint is only a wrinkling stain on the page if desired. Then, the real bonus comes in the treasure trove of potential art that can be discovered in those waste pages; backgrounds for smaller paintings, ACEO, book markers, collage and scrapbooking material, postcards, paper mosaic, etc. I've even had that pallet mud brown -- you know the color when all colors are muddied together -- turn out to make a terrific wood grain when torn into strips for a collage painting.

Image 1
 Here is an example of one of my waste pages in action. I'd finished working with Liquitex Heavy Body Acrylics. I brush scribbled a general abstract pattern onto the paper using the colors I had leftover, (see image 1).

Quite some time later I wanted to paint the antique tea roses that grow outside my studio and found this waste page to be an amazing match for a composition that was already sitting in a vase on the dining table! The resulting painting, titled Tea Roses in Little Vase, has a greater depth and spontaneity than it would have been able to achieve if I'd started with blank white paper. I really enjoyed the ease of having a background already prepared too.
Image 2

Buckled pages can be smoothed later by flipping over onto a smooth table top and wetting. Use a 1" to 2" wet brush and start from the center. Don't stroke back and forth too much or the paper will stretch out of shape. Just wet it evenly until the paper lays smooth and flat onto the table. Place one or two sheets of an inexpensive thinner paper like a 30% post-consumer recycled copier paper on top and weight it all down with heavy books for a day or two. Once the paper is dry it should lay flat for use as a painting or drawing background, sitting flat inside a frame later.

Image 3

Another bonus to using up extra supplies comes in the challenge of only using the leftover colors at hand. In this little self portrait (see image 3) I had a lot of blues left on the pallet and a half dried chunk of white not wanting to be wasted. Glancing in the studio mirror I quickly grabbed some lines with the loaded brush.
 Because the main goal is to use up the paint my brush was allowed more freedom than usual. The resulting image was a good deal more moody than I felt at the time, and more stylised than I'd perhaps have expected, but that's what adds to the fun.

So hold on to your pencil nubs and scrape the pallet clean for creative ways to gets the most out of your art supplies and get the most from them!

*Original art images ©Tree Pruitt, unless otherwise indicated. Contact the artist prior to ANY use.

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