Art Classes/Courses · Beginner Art · Resources and Materials

Why Less is More When it Comes to Materials

I wanted to write this post because I see so many beginners fall into the trap of buying too many materials at first.  When the term starts I usually get several learners who ask what do they need to buy, this is understandable because you want to be ready for the course with all the right materials.  I have some important advice for you that I think makes sense, so read this before you start spending!

Don’t Panic

Many learners do get very anxious about materials and worry about getting the exact shade of paint or a certain brand.  Some of this happens because an art tutor has given out a list of very specific materials.  I don’t agree with this idea because when you get a list that is so exacting it is usually the brands, tints and colours that your tutor uses.  You maybe different!

I never follow lists like this to the letter and as a tutor I don’t give out materials lists like this.  The truth is there are a few options, treat a materials list as a general guide.

Buy As You Go

Often you don’t have to get all the materials at once.  On my courses I advise my learners to buy the materials after I have done the ‘acrylic talk’ or the ‘oils talk’ because I am able to advise and save them costly purchases.

I know how easy it is to get carried away in art shops and want to buy everything, but try to hold off, when you are more knowledgeable you will make better purchases.

Don't get distracted by the less than essential materials
Don’t get distracted by the less than essential materials

Spend on The Basics 

Starting art is a bit like building a wardrobe you want to get the basic pieces first before you get into the fancy things.  So forget the varnishes, mediums, gloss finishes, gold leaf and the other ‘fancy’ items.  Spend wisely on the basics and by the basics I mean pencils, a good sketchpad, a soft eraser and a plastic folder for storage.   I have written a post on what I consider the essentials for the beginner see What are the Essential Materials for Beginners?

Spend on the basics
Spend on the basics

Only Buy the Primary Colours in Paints 

When you start painting you should be learning how to mix colours so you only need to buy the primary colours.  The primaries are red, blue and yellow and a white.  I don’t like to use black in painting because you can make dark colours with the primaries.  You will learn much more if you don’t buy all the colours but mix your own and it will save your pennies too.

Learning to mix colours is an important part of painting
Learning to mix colours is an important part of painting

Also see my posts on colour mixing if you would like to learn more about colours How Can I Learn about Colour?

5 thoughts on “Why Less is More When it Comes to Materials

  1. Came across this blog via sketchesbynitesh, glad to have found you.

    I’ve fallen into that trap of buying the next exciting new tool that will surely make the difference? Which of course it doesn’t… if you could buy experience in the shop then that’s what you should buy. Unfortunately that’s not available in ready made boxes so putting in the hours is the best policy.

    I’m still guilty of buying more ‘stuff’ than I will immediately use but at least now I insist on using what I’ve got before buying more ‘stuff’.

    Another one is art books. I think I may have done a post on this a few months back. But that can be a costly exercise and with a majority (yep, I’m saying it) of the ‘Learn to’ books being nothing more than a couple of useful tips probably available for free on the web padded out with the authors own gallery. If you find that particular artist inspirational then go ahead but generally you’ll be better off learning for real rather than with secret tricks. Here’s a not-so-secret tip on that; spend more time practicing art than reading about practicing art and I give you my cast iron guarantee that you’ll improve more 😀👍🏻

    Excellent blog Rebecca, I look forward to coming back and reading the rest of it (in-between practicing of course 😉)

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