Spring Break is starting around the US, and the actual beginning of Spring is next week in the northern hemisphere. To honor the ritual of spring cleaning, today’s blog is on cleaning up your act; that is, cleaning out your art supplies and/or art studio.
I don’t know about you, but that’s one chore I tend to put off as long as possible. I like to have all the art supplies I need (or think I need anyway) on hand for any type of artwork that I could possibly undertake. That means I have drawers for:
- Pencils (all the HB numbers, of course) and markers (more than 100 colors!)
- Pastels (soft, hard, semi-hard, and oil)
- Watercolors (a limited palette of Daler-Rowneys in addition to a ‘grade school’ quality tin)
- All kinds of paper and tablets of paper for any and all occasions, many of which I have not yet undertaken and, truth be told, may never undertake (newsprint, drawing pads, acrylic, watercolor, markers, tracing—you name, I’ve got paper for it)
- Gels, mediums, retarder, varnishes--in matte, gloss, and satin finsihes
- Paint brushes, brushes, brushes, brushes
- Oil paint (a pretty complete palette but underutilized)
- Acrylics (my favorite medium and the one that needs most attention)
Then there are all the canvases stacked up and around that you forgot you had, so you bought some more. There are also the canvases that you’ve already painted but didn’t like the result, so you stuck them back “there” somewhere out of the way.
When I recently looked in my art supply drawers (my art studio is a portable, rolling stack of drawers), I was surprised how much “junk” there was that I had let accumulate. I understand why I, and probably you, too, let this happen. I like to tell myself it’s because my art is so important that I’ve got to get to it immediately. I like to tell myself I’ll straighten up that drawer tomorrow (or next week).
What actually happens is that I only get around to it when I go looking for that specific tube of cerulean blue paint, that rigger somewhere in the brushes, that 140-lb acrylic paper, and can't find it. It was right there last time I looked, but where is it now?
Only then, in desperation, do I give in to the big clean-up. I suggest at least once a year, and twice is better, of course, you go through your art supplies and cull out the really old, the used up, the dried up and dried out, the torn and tattered, the stained, and the beyond repair. Don’t forget, however, that pastels can be wiped off as good as new; pencils can be sharpened; canvases can be gesso’d.
Really put yourself into the task. Make those hard decisions. If you’re not sure, toss it, or better, donate it to an artist who may really need it. This, of course, is easier said than done. Like straightening up your house, cleaning out your art supplies or art studio is one of those things we don’t really want or like to do anyway, and especially when we’re told we need to do it. But if you schedule a morning or afternoon ahead of time so you can get used to the idea, then I think you’ll feel better about it.
To throw in a cliché or two, I “bit the bullet” and “put my nose to the grindstone” and “rolled up my sleeves” and “dug in” and cleaned up the place.
There, I feel better except for Today’s Image, which is a photo of my acrylic paint drawer—AFTER I cleaned it out. Oh well, the big fall clean-up is only six months away.