Thursday, December 5, 2019

Wishlist vs. Bugdet: The Eternal Struggle

Paper! Pens! Paints! The lust for more art supplies is positively indecent! How to cope when the budget and the wishlist aren't at all compatible?

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     If you're arty or crafty then you're as guilty as I am of wanton shopping for what  we all refer to as "essential" supplies. Mmm-hmmm. Doesn't matter whether you're a beginner, a part-time for-fun arty-farty, or full time professional, the lure of shiny new products sparkling in hobby store aisles, snuggling seductively on art store shelves, or winking cheekily at us from websites designed to feed the desire for creative crack to our feeble inner paint and paper addict.


     All too familiar. Youtube is arguably the greatest social media platform ever created and is an invaluable source of education and inspiration, but holy Tim Holtz, Batman! It's the very devil on the shoulder of anyone with a square inch of shelf calling out to be over-filled. All those videos....all those tutorials....all those LISTS and LISTS and LISTS of supplies. There. Right there. This kicks off the inevitable 12-step process...

     It goes like this: Step 1: Watch Youtube tutorial/process video
                                Step 2: List AAAAAALLL the supplies.....
                                Step 3: Open a new stores... (JUST TO LOOK!)
                                Step 4: Temporarily lose all awareness of self and have a convenient gap in time
                                Step 5: Act surprised when the postman delivers an undeniably unreasonable                                                                                   number of packages
                                Step 6: Open them in a flurry of excitement; hug/lick/drool on every item
                                Step 7: Find/make a space to display/store/hide every item
                                Step 8: Stare at art desk/journal/canvas/out of window for half an hour
                                Step 9: Make a cup of tea/coffee/gin
                                Step 10: Eat cake. It's always cake.
                                Step 11: Walk past the art space without looking at it
                                Step 12: Open up the computer.....repeat steps 1-12 know it's true. My own studio breaks down to 10%: stuff I use all the time, and 90% stuff that gathers dust. Phrases like, "it was a bargain", "they were on sale", "it was cheaper to buy three and get the offer", "this is DEFINITELY the last one...", have been all too common over the years. 

     The stash builds up, along with a guilt complex and the intimidation factor that accompanies the stacks of tubs and packages, tubes and pads and those little boxes of compartments and tiny drawers that were supposed to help when everything was fiddled and faffed  with into colour groups, themes and sizes. Inspiration all but disappears, buried under teetering towers, hidden behind precarious piles, nervous of expectation, experiencing a disconnect from the eternally flaky artistic muse.

      ....The cycle has to be broken. Finances - and space - aren't endless and common sense just has to win out. Clear the clutter. Make a wish list, not a shopping list. Don't buy more 'til you've used some of what's already there. We all forget that these wonderful supplies are designed to be an extension of our imaginations - it's their purpose, their raison d'etre. We deny them their full potential by leaving them, ignored, pristine in their packaging, uniform in their production....waiting.

     Don't get me wrong - my wish list on the Jackson's Art site is a gajillion miles long and would easily bankrupt a good sized continent, but it's just that: a WISH list. I'm off my twelve steps, have broken the cycle and I spend now only to replace what I've used. I buy what I need. I use what I have. I still WANT...I just redirect. How I achieved this is a longer topic for a different post, but the discovery of how much fun it is to make art from very little has been a saving grace - and I'll prove it.

     I had a conversation with a friend I met recently on 'Art Journal Junkie', a facebook group filled with inspiration and talent, about making something from nothing and we challenged each other to make art solely from scraps. Only rule was it had to be about our pets! Awesome! In order to begin, I looked at ONLY what was on my work table - nothing else - and this is what I selected:

Bargain sample paint pots from a local supermarket chain (Wilko's here in the UK). They are cheap as chips and as good, if not better than any crafter's acrylic on the market (less chalky, more vibrant and generally very good for lightfast qualities, given that they're meant for decorating walls)

Three Golden acrylic colours...will ya look at the state of them.....

My trusty indian ink and nib pen, with lovely splooshy flexible nib which is still uber fine when I need it to be....

One colour of Treasure Gold gilding wax and four colours of mica powder...

Papers selected from these scraps, left over from a previous project...

Two brushes - a #2 filbert and a #1 liner,  a uni ball 1.0 black gel impact pen, a Uni Ball Signo 1.0 white gel pen, a Wilko black gel fine liner pen, a Derwent Inktense pencil - Bark colour, a Faber Castell Pitt pen (permanent carmine #126) and two Stabilo fine liner pens in brown tones...

Lastly, Aleen's Matte Decoupage medium - as good as any swish, high priced, rootin' tootin' gel medium. You can see how well-used everything is... Not shiny, just loved.

     None of these things are awesome. None of them are going to have their own Facebook page, but they all do a fine job, and to me, art's about the creativity and imagination that comes from using what you have to hand, not so much having the latest and greatest, cost-a-kidney trend-setter collection which can often make things a bit too robotic, too smooth....less challenging.....not so individual. That's just me - I know it's not the same for everyone, but this post is about using what you have to create something - anything, not languishing in a haze of wishlist based 'what ifs'.

     For a background I used an old piece of backing board which I'd been using as a test scribble mat as I figured any marks that showed through would just make things more interesting. Now - I hadn't intended to blog this so I don't have masses of process pics, so bear with me and I'll do my best. 

     I used the Wilko's cheap acrylics to layer a splooshy painty background with my fingers and used the handle of the paintbrush to  make lines and texture swirls:

     A little mica powder sprinkled on the wet medium added more texture and sparkle, then a touch of gilding wax picked out some raised lumps and bumps so that it caught the light. The shape of the cat and its eyes were made by using the decoupage medium to glue torn coloured paper pieces into the desired shape. I like layers and a bit of textural  'oompf' so I was pretty chuffed to have the playful mosaic effect of the paper coming through.

     Black Indian ink picked out facial features and outline and I had fun smudging it with kitchen roll to add black marks to the background. The teal and yellow Golden paints added highlights and brightened up the cat's immediate background to help her stand out, and the titan buff Golden paint gave her a nice white mouth and chest, just adding to the colour of the background papers. Just adding a teeny touch of teal or yellow here and there did well to pull the picture together, with all its patchy colours.

     I wanted to leave the original paper colours to come through, so I only added the inky Pitt pen carmine shade smudged here and there to make the oranges a little richer, then making happy marks with the Stabilo pens and gel pens to create 'fur' effect and whiskery whiskers.

     A few strategic dots and lines for highlights... I wanted her face to have character! A little carmine pen ink and white gel ink smooshed together with the liner brush make the perfect pink for nose and ears... And she was done! And I had immense fun as well!

     So....what think you? Worth rummaging through your 'bits' box, grabbing a few bits and bobs and having a go at creativity over collecting? Make use of your awesome hoard, your staggering stash, and make art - and make space for the shiny, sparkly new releases that your favourite companies are guaranteed to tempt you with in the coming months? Even then, maybe you could be more picky, a little choosy about what you buy. Put a little aside for a fabulous day out with family or friends... A little treat to brighten your heart and  inspire your muse!

     I'd love to hear from you so feel free to say hello and leave a comment either here or on facebook, introduce yourself and let me know how you cope with your stash building vs muse freeing experiences. See you soon, de-stashed and covered in paint and glitter - with cake! - Shroo xxx


  1. I only recently discovered those tester pots! They have such gorgeous colours! Love your final piece ^_^ And lovely to see your process.

    1. They are an AWESOME money saver and they look great - so bright! Me loves bright! Ooooooo! Would love to see you do a collage piece.....big skull.....tombstone.....zombie....something festive? Zombie inna santa hat? xxx

  2. Super post and so very true! I love watching YouTube videos, but I d find that although they inspire, they also dull me creativity. Sad but true! This cat of yours is a beauty! Would love to see the image as a greeting card. TFS!

    1. She's already found a new home :) I do loves me a collage though so I can pretty much guarantee more are on the way ! xxx

  3. Wow! You know me so well! 🤣🤣🤣. Love you kitties!

    1. See, I just KNEW it wasn't only me LOL! xxx

  4. I loved this and your creative painting, time to search through some dusty stock of STUFF ��

    1. Thank you 😊 ...and yes! Time to shuffle through all that fabulous arty stuff and make something awesome!💕

  5. fabulous..... and do I have a stash, and a hidden stash and another hidden stash. Enjoyed this very much. I am sending my group along to visit you.

    1. Thank you! 😻💕 Yes...the hidden stash...the one that whispers at us 'til we end up going all Gollum... "My Preciousssss"! Welcome,fellow hoarder of arty awesomeness - we can beat this! 💕🤗


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