April 2024: Use your supplies (up)

April 2024: Use your supplies (up)

If I could offer one piece of creative practice advice it would be this: Use your supplies. Think of them as experiences – like a concert ticket or a birthday cake – not a collection of treasures. We're never meant to keep them. Plus, they don't last forever even if we'd like them to: paints and pastels dry up, paper sizing expires, erasers crumble, pens get chewed by cute dogs.

Plus, making art is how we learn. Our supplies are ours teachers and our classroom. I think art education is maybe 20% information and 80% hand-feel and practice. And these only happen when we steadily take our colors and push them around on paper.

We can learn some color theory, but we won't develop our own taste and our own color voice until we try out lots of colors in lots of combinations, and listen in to see how we respond to what we see.

The reason that I have to say this out loud so much - use your supplies freely! - is because left to my own protective impulses, I'd just keep everything like little treasures, waiting for a properly great idea to strike. I'd want to make their use as efficient as possible – the most good art, using the least amount of paper to get there.

I would guess that the resistant voices in each of us have their own unique histories where they learned their caution. After all, how do we learn that it might be better to do nothing than to make a mistake? When did we learn that if we let something precious go it may never come back to us? When did it start to seem that our voice is finite, and that if we spend it on this we may not have it when we need it? That we must say/make something just right the first time we try or we'll regret it? Or that things are more beautiful when they are new, before we make them our own? Or that seeing what something becomes means the loss of our dream of what it could be? or this? or that?

a crinkly color study

There are many parts of me that are totally swooned by the idea of use your supplies, but there's one part in the back of my mind that wants to put on the breaks, or at least throw as asterisk on there: but don't use them up. It think it's a young part of me, who has always been afraid of running out of things and wants to make sure I have what I need. This part of me wants me to eat my cake, yes, but even more, it wants to have it in case I need it in the future.

recently used up one of my favorite colors of watercolor, and a kind of expensive one at that.