In praise of inexpensive materials August 10, 2010
Robert Genn Dear Rodney,When buying art materials, it's almost always wise to get the best you can afford. This is particularly true for supports--the surfaces you work on. Nothing is as disappointing as paper that yellows after just a few years, or cotton canvas so thin and threadbare that it wouldn't pass for a prison bedsheet. At the same time, quality and high price don't always come first when it comes to pigments. There are many cheap colours, particularly earth colours, where the raw materials are so readily available and dense enough to begin with that they work well for most jobs. Further, the fillers, extenders and other additives that go into a lot of cheaper paints can actually be a benefit in sullying the garishness that comes easily in high-density, expensive pigments. A lover of Golden Acrylics (I'm not on their payroll), lately I've been adding squeezes from the fat tubes of Winsor and Newton Galleria (student quality) and even Chinese Pebeos that come at a fraction of the price. But it's not about saving bucks. It's about volume of paint and the potential for juicy creativity. Expensive paints bring out your resident miser. Cheaper paints, used discretionally, are more likely to be lathered on in abundance and bravura. Fact is, for some of us, inexpensive materials bring out the magic of playfulness. Take my friend Toni Cavelti. One of the most honoured jewelry designers in Canada, he's spent a lifetime working with precious diamonds, rubies and emeralds. In his workshops, gold and platinum were the metals of choice. Now retired from serving the rich and famous, Toni has made a new career making sculptures using 1.5 mm iron wire that costs him less than ten bucks a roll. FYI, we've put a short video of Toni and his work at the top of the current clickback. http://clicks.robertgenn.com/jack-shadbolt.php In paint, the most important thing is the binder or medium. In acrylic media, rough stones and pieces of found junk can probably be held together for millennia if there's enough binder. I wouldn't skimp on quality acrylic medium. In oil, you can think about the admixture of quality materials with student materials, as well as appropriate amount of the current, not too smelly media designed to take the place of the popular (and yellowing) Linseed oil. In watercolour, particularly, you need to be aware of the fugitive nature of some pigments. Reading the permanency guide on most labels will keep your colours the way you want them. Best regards, Robert PS: "I work in a very humble material and that suits me just fine." (Toni Cavelti) Esoterica: Questions regarding the mixing of paint brands on the same painting often pop into this inbox. While there are some variations in the molecular makeup between the different manufacturers, they seem to me to be homogeneous, and getting more so. In acrylic, favour a quality medium or gel--it will carry most pigments. Materials permanency expert Mark Gottsegen warns, "All the fillers, extenders, and other ingredients used in 'professional' paints--oils and acrylic dispersion paints--have homogenized what we get in stores today. They are necessary, in the case of the acrylics. They have made today's oil paints into white bread."