Art Materials

In Art Or Music, Never Fight Your Materials

A few years ago a 30 year old friend of mine told me he was finally going to buy a guitar and take lessons. He went on to add, “it would just be a cheap one in case he didn’t like it or wasn’t good at it.” As an avid supporter of the arts, I am sure he did not expect my reply. I told him not to bother if that was how he intended to start his new hobby.

I am a firm believer in using the best quality art materials you can afford. If you use poor brushes or paints making art will become a drudgery. You do not ever want to fight your materials, or your musical instruments for that matter.

The materials you want to use are a personal preference depending on what and how you paint. It is important for artists to do their research, to look up different brands and the reviews by artists that use those brands. They must always keep in mind what they like to paint.

For example, I apprenticed for four years with a landscape painter who loved Winsor Newton for their greens and yellows. However they are not my favorite oils for portraits, they made my subjects look sallow.

When I moved away from landscapes, I started to prefer Sennelier Oils from Paris which I still use. Sennelier oils have this wonderful buttery texture. They also use a safflower oil that does not yellow. Their colors are luxurious but not garish.

Now I use Rublev Colours in addition to the Sennelier Oils. Rublev uses the same formulas as the Old Masters (ground from natural minerals and earths) in a linseed base. They are wonderful for portraits.

When artists start creating and selling their work, I’ve noticed they often resist spending money on supplies. What if the painting isn’t good enough to sell they ask? I ask back, “What if it turns out to be the best piece you’ve ever done and launches your career?” No matter how poor you perceive yourself to be as an artist, I always recommend setting aside ten percent of your sale for new materials. 

Setting aside 10% for your materials keeps your studio replenished but also sends a message to yourself that you are a professional and that you take your business seriously. When you own your art as a serious profession, you work harder. You’ll find yourself keeping more disciplined hours, better records, and less tolerant of interruptions.

My friend who finally got serious about learning guitar took my advice to heart. Rather shockingly, he spent as much on his guitar as some do on a small car. He loved the way it looked, he loved the way it felt when he picked it up. It became the perfect lover when he leaned it into his body. He loved the sound it made when he touched it. He practiced every free moment.

Four weeks later my friend was playing music for me over Skype from Singapore. In a year he was writing music. After two years he performed a solo at his company’s huge corporate holiday party. Girls finally paid attention to him. He loved making music. He told me how grateful he was for advising him to buy a good instrument to learn on. He said it was the best advice he had ever received!