A while before I wrote this article, I was reading the news online when I happened to find this interesting art-related video on BBC News. The video is about an artist called Max Zorn, who creates these amazingly cool pictures of film noir-style cityscapes using nothing more than layered packing tape.
This, of course, made me think about the role that art supplies play in being an artist. Of course, every artist needs materials to work with, but a good artist can create interesting art regardless of the materials that they use.
This isn’t to say that you should work in mediums that you aren’t comfortable with, but that – unless you’re using unusual materials (like packing tape) – your art supplies shouldn’t define you as an artist. In other words, you shouldn’t get too obsessed with art supplies. You should focus more on the skills that you can use with those art supplies. After all, most types of skills are independent of any specific brand (but not type) of art material.
For example, virtually all of my art skills are drawing-based. What this meant is that, before I seriously got into making art, I’d mostly make art using ballpoint pens and/or HB pencils. When I got more interested in making art, I moved on to using inking pens/ rollerball pens, 4H pencils and coloured pencils (and digital tools). When I discovered watercolour pencils in late 2013/early 2014, I now make art using waterproof ink pens, 4H pencils [for planning], watercolour pencils and digital tools.
If the only art supplies I had to work with were a cheap ballpoint pen, an eraser and a generic HB pencil, I could probably still make a vaguely decent drawing. Likewise, if I moved on to using fancy expensive marker pens, then I’d still be able to produce similar-looking art by using my pre-existing drawing skills. Regardless of the quality of my art supplies, as long as they are pens and/or pencils of some kind, then I can use them to make art.
If you look at a lot of art-related videos on the internet, you’ll probably notice that at least a few of them have had donations from art supply companies. Either they’ve been given free materials to review (which are later added to their general art supplies), or they’ve been given free materials with the hope that they’ll be shown off in one of their videos. If not, then they’ll probably have a favourite brand (every artist does) and they’ll probably mention or show it a lot in their videos.
If you’re relatively new to making art, then it can be tempting to think that you’ll be a better artist if you, say, buy one particular brand of markers or use one particular brand of pens or paints. You won’t be. The only way to become a better artist is through practice and learning.
Yes, particular types of art supplies will make your art look different (eg: I now vastly prefer the look of watercolour pencils to that of coloured pencils), but particular brands won’t have that much of an effect. So, if you see a cool-looking art video online that prominently features a particular brand of art material, then ask yourself “what generic type of art material is this?”
For example, if you see a cool-looking art video that shows off one brand of watercolour pencil, then the thing you need to look for is “watercolour pencils” – regardless of brand.
For every type of art material, there are many different companies that make the same thing. For example, I can think of at least seven companies that make watercolour pencils. Although the precise nature of the pencils’ colours and quality may vary very slightly, they are all still pencils that turn into watercolour paint when exposed to water.
The important thing is that all of the many brands of watercolour pencils (or any other type of art supply) all require exactly the same skills to use. So, try not to care too much about branding and focus more on building up the skills that will allow you to create great art regardless of what brand of art supplies you happen to be using.
Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂