Wednesday, January 21, 2009


Here’s an annotated list I pass out on day one; our class is the first to meet in the department this semester (only one in the building in the morning too), so folks get a little jump on everyone else hunting and gathering the required stuff.
This is sometimes a challenge in our town as there isn’t any store that is strictly devoted to art supplies per say; instead one has to crib together materials from a few different shops. We do have a Michael's Arts & Crafts, a Ben Franklins, and a JoAnne’s Fabric for chain stores, and most local professional artists rely upon on-line catalogs such as Daniel Smith and Cheap Joe's that specialize in specific tools of the trade.
Also, the purchasing of these materials can be staggered somewhat for those lacking the funds right at the onset, I always let them know well in advance what will be needed and by when. And this is a rather practical, bare-bones materials list; I have seen (and bought) staggeringly complicated and uselessly burdensome supplies, sometimes at several times the expense, that I’ve used only a little of in the class and never again afterwards, so I try and make this an approachable, functional assortment. Refining and exploring can be taken up in intermediate and advanced courses, but for now, this down & dirty/absolute minimum approach has worked well.
One additional element is teaching the time-honored technique of bumming stuff off of other people. Sharing is a lost art I try to resurrect, long as you pay it back eventually and don’t make a habit of abusing people’s generosity. Even still, as evidenced by the sheer bulk of materials usually abandoned at the end of each semester, I sure appreciate that such little value is placed on art supplies by some (fringe benefit - thanks for all the leftovers).

• Newsprint pad - 50 sheets min. (18x24") $15. Mostly used at first for in-class exercises and usually used up for the figure drawing portion of the class towards the end of the semester.
• Drawing paper - All-purpose ”sketch” (18x24”) $20. Majority of critique pieces are done on this.
• Drawing paper – 24 sheets (80lb. 9x12”) $20. Supplement to above, for smaller compositions and studies.
• Bristol Board – smooth (not vellum), 20 sheets (100lb. 9x12") $9. For use during the pen & ink portion of the class and
some miscellaneous experimental pieces.
• Sketchbook (approx. 8.5x5.5") $8. The ever-present repository for notes, reference sketches, thumbnails and roughs. Guaranteed, will be full by the end of the semester.
• Pencils - Derwent Sketching set (Medium 2H/HB/B/2b) $8 set. I’m not concerned at this stage to clutter folks up with the full plethora of available options, mainly examples from the extremes are used.
• Derwent Wash Sketching Pencil (ex:medium wash 4B) $2. These an indispensable for doing washes, as opposed to the old-fashioned laborious method, and great for quick value studies on field-trips.
• Erasers (ex: Magic Rub, Pink Pearl) $1 & kneaded $3. I prefer the plastic variety and get endlessly annoyed at the kneaded eraser – gum ones do the job better (unless one likes using them as stress relievers).
• Charcoal - compressed (not vine, as that just doesn’t deliver up rich darks), either soft & hard $3 ea./$10 box.
• white Conte crayon/pastel stick $4 + blending stumps $2.50.
• Pens - black ink, different thicknesses (ex: assorted ballpoints, Uniball, Flair, RazorPoint, Sharpies) $3.
• Microns - thick (.08 or.09) & thin (.02 or.01) $3.50 ea.
• Dip-pens - Speedball Sketching set $12.50. Or: big holder $2.50 + Hunt nib set $5 + crowquill tips $2.50.
• India ink – Windsor & Newton or Higgins, waterproof black $5.
• Cheapo brush – like a #8 watercolor round $10.
• Spray Fixative $10. A definite must: one sure way to irritate the hell out of the instructor while grading is to have charcoal smear all over the place and onto other student’s pieces.
• Portfolio $15. Just a basic cheap cardboard one will do, the deluxe leather ones are a little overkill, unless you need a status symbol.
• Misc: Masking tape (low-tack), pocket-knife (for sharpening – makes for a vastly more comfortable and contoured grip) drawing board (optional), tackle-box, and lastly, but most importantly: studio space with adequate lighting & good posture - something rarely mentioned and an absolutely crucial point; why on earth would you want to do something if it causes you pain?

A brief note about textbooks; I generally consider the current college racket an obscene ripoff these days, what with jaw-dropping price gouging, unceasing revised editions and mostly worthless return policies. Any student that shows up with a book gets told to promptly return it for a full refund and spend their money on art supplies instead (as they are already going to be shelling out at the minimum $175). This isn’t to say that there aren’t any extremely valuable and worth-while books out there, which I do occasionally bring to class and recommend, I just feel that at this level and in this instance it isn’t going to do them much of any good. Between handouts, the library, bookstores and the internet, the resources are there for the taking for those that are really interested, in lieu of that, the daily in-class exercises, demonstrations and discussions more than adequately cover the necessary topics for our purposes. There are certainly as many different styles of teaching as there are learning, and for some, especially those just starting out as a teacher or student, a strictly regimented by-the-book approach might work better, but at this point for this particular group I prefer a looser, more reflexive style that focuses instead on the hands-on production of work as opposed to reading, writing and theorizing about it. There will be tons of opportunity for that in the future, especially if they opt to continue art studies.
That said, I do strongly recommend "Art & Fear - Observations On The Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking" by David Bayles and Ted Orland, ©1993 Image Continuum, CA, for any student even remotely interested in picking up a book for this (or nay other) class. It’s cheap (around ten bucks), small (no pictures), and pushes some major buttons on why people do art, why they think they can’t, and also why they stop. A cult classic and a good “survival guide” - mandatory for any art major.

“Artists ought to walk a mile in someone else's pants. That way you're a mile away and you have their pants.” - Joseph P. Blodgett

1 comment:

  1. One point about kneaded erasers that got me back into them: Few or no crumbs. Other than that I like the white ones better than the Pink Pearls.