Tools a Mark Maker Loves Most
Artists are usually ardent collectors and lovers of art supplies. Rae Missigman, author of Paint, Play, Explore: Expressive Mark-Making Techniques in Mixed Media is certainly one. In her studio, vintage pots, tins and containers overflow with brushes, pencils, inks, mark making tools and more. She loves being surrounded by the tools that enable and empower her to create. She shares the top ten art supplies that she would not want to live without, and starts with her insights on how to stave off the temptation to buy-buy-buy your way to creativity.
New or Old or Both
I rarely replace my supplies for new ones, but instead cycle through my favorites, adding to them one paint color, one pencil, one creamy pastel at a time.
In avoiding the temptation of always having what is new on the art store shelves I find myself staying true to my style, creating with the tools and colors that are unique to my work.
I have always been a firm believer that you have to observe and experiment with a wide assortment of supplies before you can really speak to what your favorites might be. Once I discovered what my go-to’s were I set out to work with them every day. I encourage you to explore a variety of tools–to really dig into what they can offer you as an artist and become acquainted with each one–before curating your own special collection. And now on to my top ten favorite art materials!
1. Paint Brushes
I have jars and tins full of paint brushes in all shapes and sizes. The one thing that nine out of ten of these brushes have in common is the budget friendly price point. Whether I am scrubbing paint onto a canvas or leaving them to soak in a water jar overnight, I am hard on my brushes. By opting for these less expensive tools I am free to use them as I choose with out worry of ruining them in the process.
This might be the most basic mark maker I own and it could well be my favorite. Whether I am scribbling, making marks or journaling, pencils are a workhorse of a tool and I use them to begin and end all forms of mixed media projects.
3. Art Papers
There is this delicate foundation that almost everything I create is built upon and it is paper. My favorite papers are those that I collect and repurpose, such as deli paper, metro maps, and brown bags. Nothing is off limits and I will recycle almost anything once. While I reach for these most often, my collection also contains a healthy assortment of vintage papers, book pages, magazine sheets and copies of my own artwork.
4. Mark Makers
I am a mark maker by nature and so I will reach for just about anything to use as a tool for inking, etching and scrubbing. Small twigs and bits of cardboard, the end of a paint brush or pencil top, palette knives, metal files, and old pen nibs are some of my favorites when adding a unique set of marks to my work.
5. Water-Soluble Pencils
The combination of both saturated and movable color makes these one of my go to art tools. I reach for these unique pencils when I want to add tinted shadows or create colorful etched marks in paint. When packing my “on-the-go” art kit these lightweight and travel friendly tools are the perfect substitution for paint or ink.
6. Oil Pastels
These are the colorful tools I employ to create deeply saturated layers of color on the backgrounds and foundation layers of my work. They blend easily and come in a wide variety of hues. Pastels are soft, chunky, and blendable, making them the perfect choice when I am sketching faces as they allow me to easily manipulate the added color.
7. Waxed Linen Thread
I love to hand stitch my own art journals. Whether I am working with paper, fabric, or leather, this pliable and colorful thread allows me to create stitches that are strong, smooth and forgiving in nature. I love the age old feel it adds to even the most modern stitched projects.
8. White Heavy Body Paint
The most reached for paint on my cart is this heavy bodied medium. It is my go to paint for mixing color, adding texture, layering marks and etching into all of my canvas work.
9. Grease Pencils
These durable and budget friendly pencils are amazing tools that allow me to build layers of marks that stand up unfailingly to wet mediums such as paint and ink. Grease pencils come in an assortment of colors, but I reach for the black and white most often as they pack a powerful punch when adding a bit of contrast to a colorful piece of art.
10. Paint & Ink
Color plays a significant role in my work so I find that acrylic paint and ink are the two mediums that I reach for most often when creating. Acrylic inks are permanent, deeply saturated and highly fluid in nature. I use a mix of high flow, fluid, and heavy bodied paints, all of which come in a wide range of colors and are permanent when dry. These tools are what I reach for to build layers of color and marks in all of my pieces.
Find Your Favorites
Art supplies are key to creating but with so many to choose from it can be difficult to know where to start when it comes to curating your own list of favorites. My advice? Observe what there is to offer, explore the tools you have, and experiment daily. There is no better way to fall in love with your supplies.
Rae Missigman is an artist-instructor and a mixed media powerhouse. She is also the author of Paint, Play, Explore: Expressive Mark-Making Techniques in Mixed Media.