Your Art Supplies Don’t Make You Any More Or Less Of A “Real” Artist – A Ramble

2016 Artwork Art Supplies and ''Real'' Artists article sketch

Although this is an article about making art and being an artist, I’m going to have to start by talking about candles (of all things). There’s a good reason for this that I hope becomes obvious later.

Shortly before writing this article, I got some LED candles. These look like real candles (they even have a wax exterior), but they use gently flickering LED lights instead – meaning that, although you miss out on that wonderful candle smell, you can put them pretty much anywhere without worrying about fire or dripping wax.

Needless to say, I placed a few of them around my room, turned off the lights and – wow – I felt like I was in a gothic movie from the 1990s! I’d almost forgotten how timeless, reassuring and atmospheric the glow of candlelight in the darkness can be.

And yet, it isn’t “real” candlelight. Far from being ye olde candles, they use modern technology which only existed within the past decade or two. But it doesn’t matter. The LED candles look like real candles and their beautiful glow in the gloom is virtually identical to real candlelight.

So, what does any of this have to do with making art?

Well, one common problem that beginner and intermediate artists (like myself) can have is the silly idea that you have to have the “right” art supplies. The foolish idea that you aren’t a “real” artist if you aren’t using very traditional and/or famous art supplies.

This is the ridiculous idea that unless you’re using expensive paints, high-end marker pens, famous image-editing programs, high-end graphics tablets, traditional India ink (with a dip pen), sable brushes or anything like that, then you can’t really call yourself a “real” artist.

The fact is that you don’t need extremely fancy materials – or even traditional ones – to make art that you can feel proud of.

"La Chanteuse" By C. A. Brown

“La Chanteuse” By C. A. Brown

For example, this digitally-edited painting of mine was made using four watercolour pencils of varying qualities (and varying brands), an inexpensive Pentel waterbrush, a Uniball waterpoof ink pen, cheap watercolour paper, an old image scanner, an old version of MS Paint and some ancient image editing software from the late 1990s…. Oh, and lest I forget, a couple of years of regular practice.

Out of all of these things, the last one is the most important. Thanks to regular practice – even if I only had a pen and a piece of paper, I could probably still produce something slightly similar. Like this:

"La Chanteuse (Line Art)" By C. A. Brown

“La Chanteuse (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter whether you use fancy art supplies or traditional art supplies. If you’ve had a lot of practice, then you’ll be able to produce reasonably good artwork using virtually any medium.

When people look at your art, they usually aren’t looking to see if you’ve used expensive, well-known or old-fashioned art supplies. To most people, it doesn’t matter. Your audience will be looking at your artwork on it’s own merits.

If your art looks cool, then it doesn’t matter if it’s been drawn using a cheap ballpoint pen or whether it’s been drawn using an expensive dip pen and high-end ink. It doesn’t matter if it’s been painted with watercolour pencils or traditional watercolour paint. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve used a traditional paintbrush or a modern waterbrush etc….

Going back to the beginning of this article, if you put a LED candle next to a traditional candle and asked someone to look at them from a distance, they probably wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. From a distance, they both just look like candles. Somehow, this seems like a good metaphor.


Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂

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