Although this is a rambling article about art, I’m going to have to start by talking about music briefly. This is mostly because I got the idea for this article when I happened to find this really cool video of someone using two tesla coils to play the William Tell Overture which, surprisingly, was even more awe-inspiring than other videos I’ve seen of people using other random pieces of technology (like floppy disk drives etc..) as improvised instruments.
So, naturally, I wondered whether there was an artistic equivalent to this sort of thing… and there kind of is. I am, of course, talking about novelty art supplies. Although my own experiments with this have, at the time of writing, been limited to using MS Paint and a mouse to make “realistic” art (based on a photo, but without cheating) I have seen pictures and footage of things like people using coffee as a type of paint and things like that.
However, I am not talking about conceptual art here. Yes, this technically uses random objects to make things that are considered to be art by some people. But, for this article, I’ll be focusing only on drawings, etchings, paintings etc… made using unusual art supplies.
So, why are things made with novelty art supplies so awesome?
1) It’s a demonstration of skill: Generally speaking, novelty art supplies are considered novelties for a reason. If they were easy to work with, then they’d probably be “ordinary” art supplies instead. As such, producing even vaguely good art using novelty art supplies is a demonstration of skill.
It’s a demonstration that an artist knows enough about things like composition or shading to be able to make good art using awkward art supplies. It’s also a demonstration that an artist knows the basics of making art well enough to be able to adapt to using something unusual after a short amount of practice (and, yes, I’m somewhat set in my ways when it comes to art supplies, so it’s always astonishing to see other artists being more adaptable).
It’s also a good demonstration that being an artist is about practice and skill, rather than the tools that you use (something that can be easy to forget if you watch a few art videos where expert artists use expensive branded art supplies). Things made with novelty art supplies prove that a good artist will still be able to make art with even the strangest of materials.
2) It feels spontaneous: Ok, realistically speaking, if someone creates a cool piece of art using novelty art supplies, then they’ve probably done a lot of preparation and experimentation first.
They’ve probably made a few practice pieces and experimented with different variations of whatever they’re using until they feel a bit more confident with it. They’ve probably also looked at what other artists have done with the same (or similar) art supplies and taken a close look at the techniques they used.
But, seeing a video or a picture of this type of art being made gives the impression that the artist is spontaneously creating something with whatever random items happen to be nearby. It feels like they’re so highly inspired or have such a distinctive artistic vision that they just have to make art with whatever random things happen to be nearby.
In other words, it gives the impression that the world is filled with art supplies that no-one has thought of using yet. It gives the impression that everything and everywhere has the potential to be a studio of some kind.
3) It feels inventive: One of the things that I love about TV shows, films etc.. in the sci-fi genre is when the characters have to improvise gadgets, like they’re a futuristic version of “The A-Team”. Or when a character has to solve a crime (and, yes, many modern US forensic detective shows are basically sci-fi) or get some information by using some kind of strange technique that they’ve had to think up on the spot.
There’s just something… awe-inspiring about someone using something productively in a way it wasn’t originally intended to be used. After all, most inventions were originally created from things that weren’t originally made for the purpose they ended up being used for.
So, people using things that weren’t designed to be used as art supplies as art supplies feels inventive.
Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂