|Photos courtesy of 'The Mudge."|
Being an artist is interesting. While an art pencil may seem pretty dull (pardon the pun), artists typically have a bunch of other crap at their disposal – most of which is pretty nifty. Like faucet wrenches, some artist tools are highly specialized and don’t get much use. The same tools, however, are indispensable when needs arise. A lot of small items share the space of my ten by ten-ish “studio” space, along with two enormous wall easels, a large studio easel, a drawing board, a couple of stools and some tables.
To satisfy the curiosity of those who’ve asked and to expand the horizons of those who haven’t, here is a look at the stuff that populates two of my small art tables. For all of you: Please pardon the organized chaos. And yes, I know where everything is. Unless it’s lost.
1. Kneaded eraser: These have several uses, first of which is to erase drawing marks without leaving crumbs behind. They are also great for relieving stress by mashing them in your hand, and for creating small sculpted heads when inspiration strikes. You can tell this particular eraser is old because it is dark gray – when new, they are a light, bluish-gray. To keep them clean, you simply knead them until the drawing material is worked into the eraser.
2. Technical pen: These glorified fountain pens come in various sizes for the different weight lines they create. A fine wire slides inside a tube to bring ink to the point. Computers rendered their drafting use obsolete (another pun), but I still use them for illustrating.
3. Extra X-Acto blades: You never know when one will get dull or break.
4. Technical pen ink: It’s like India ink, but formulated to a smooth, non-clogging consistency for tech pens.
5. X-Acto knives: Used to put a fine point on pencils and for a lot of other general use.
6. Utility knife: Used for basic cuts on mat board, foam-core and any other dense material that X-Actos can’t handle.
7. Pencil extender: This one started out as an adjustable eraser tool, but was later used to hold pencil nubs.
8. Pencil nub: Art pencils cost more than a buck apiece, so I get as much out of them as possible.
9. Paint can opener: Duh. I use latex wall paint on murals, so this guy is kept handy.
10. Pencil sharpener: Double duh. Because I usually use an X-Acto knife to sharpen pencils, this is mostly ballast.
11. Yoda Pen: Uh, I don’t have a clue.
12. Tech pen wrench: When a technical pen goes dry or needs cleaning, this little piece of plastic is the first choice. Then a pair of pliers, then vice grips, then the trash can.
13. Chip brushes: I use these cheap 1-inch types for large areas on murals. Otherwise, they sit around looking pretty, or get swiped for kitchen use.
14. Paint brushes: This is death row for my brushes. Most come in with long handles that get lopped off before use. I don’t use very large brushes, and I only use “rounds” and “filberts.” When brushes have worn down too much or start deviating from perfect form, they get unceremoniously pitched.
15. Palette knife: This guy is used either to move paint around on the palette or to scrape dried paint texture off the canvas. I don’t paint with it.
16. Pliers: Old paint tubes with encrusted screw caps do not argue with this tool. Ever. My vintage pliers also sport a screw driver on one arm.
17. Alkyd paint tubes: I use this quick-drying oil paint instead of traditional oils. I also use a limited palette. From left to right, colors are: Indian yellow, Cadmium yellow medium, Naples yellow, Cadmium red medium, Alizarin crimson, Burnt umber, Burnt sienna, Prussian blue, Sap green, Titanium white and Yellow ochre. The next two – Pthalo blue and Pthalo green – are rarely used. I do not use black paint because it “kills” all other color. Instead, I mix a color from two deep colors to make something much deeper than black. Cool, huh.
18. Extra paint: More of the above waiting in the wings.
19. Wall easel: This is a corner of one of two giant, temporary easels each set up in my studio to accommodate 8 feet-wide paintings.
20. Sand paper: Used to sand rough edges of paint brushes whose handles have been lopped off.
21. Horse hair drafting brush. I either use this or a large, clean paint brush to wipe off eraser crumbs while transferring drawings to painting surfaces.
22. Tack hammer: I’m too lazy to put it back where it belongs, but I used it once to stretch a canvas old-style – Belgian linen and copper tacks.
23. Portable easel: It was a gift from my parents during high school and still finds uses, though not for painting.
24. T-square: Yeah, I’m old school. The wide straight edge is wonderful when cutting mats.
25. Two containers of wood glue: I use this stuff when building painting surfaces. Because it can’t be allowed to freeze, I bring it inside during the cold months.
26. Etching plate burnisher: This thing hasn’t been used in years because I haven’t done etchings in years. But I might one of these years, so it keeps me company.
27. Burins: For the same reason, these engraving “chisels” stick around. Made of hardened steel, they teach copper plates a thing or two.
28. Agate burnisher: I’ve used this thing almost nearly once. It has a smooth agate stone on the business end for burnishing gold leaf. I’ve never used real gold leaf and certainly can’t afford it now, so there the thing sits.
29. Pouncing brush: Every crafter who’s ever done stenciling knows what this animal is for.
30. Drypoint stylus: Another etching tool made of hardened steel, it is a beautiful tool sporting a spiral twist.
31. Pen handle: This is old, OLD style. I’d have to do some digging to come up with nibs for this dipping pen that’s used with India ink.
32. Paint solvents: I waffle between Grumtine, with it’s retro, citrus odor, and an odorless, brush-cleaning solvent.
33. Liquin: I used to mix my own painting medium using one of Rembrandt’s recipes, but this off-the-shelf medium is perfect for thinning thick paint and for glazing.
34. Gold oil paint: With sacred pieces, this is sometimes used for nimbi.
35. Gold marine paint: This is a different, pricy alternative for select projects. A quart of this costs more than $60, although, hmm, the equivalent of the smaller tube (above) probably costs much more than that.
36. Brush-cleaning jar: If I’ve learned one thing about oil painting, it’s this: You don’t need gallons of solvent to clean brushes. This jar has made it through several large projects with only adding a half-cup or so of solvent. It has a small piece of hardware cloth just below the surface. After a paint-laden brush has been wiped thoroughly with a rag, the brush is rubbed over the hardware cloth and then wiped on a clean part of the rag. Particulate paint matter settles to the bottom of the jar, displacing the clean solvent and raising its level in the jar. Less than one drop of solvent is used in the process.