Don't Throw It Away

beginners supplies

I have the frugal instincts of a 90 year old grandma who grew up in the great depression and can't seem to let go of anything. My husband makes fun of me for cutting open tubes of lotion so that I can scoop out every last glop. I was using the handle of my toothbrush just the other night to flatten and push any remaining toothpaste up to the top of the tube, and he took it away from me and called me ridiculous. But I don't care, in fact I'm trying to lean into it. And I prefer to call it sensible.

Now it won't surprise you a bit to find out that I rarely throw anything away from my painting practice either. Failed paintings, cheapo supplies, everything saved for "just in case." I'm particularly glad I held onto some supplies really early in my painting journey too, because the first time I tried what is now my favorite brush, I hated it!

I had picked up a 100% sable brush in a bargain bin in a local art supply store for under $10. Sable is touted as the best material for watercolor brushes, so I figured at that price it certainly wouldn't hurt to try it. But oh my god, when I got it home and tried to use was a disaster. It was so floppy! I hated it and was grumpy the rest of the day because I had clearly been misled by the internet experts. Well after a bit more practice I got that brush out again, and it was like night and day. I had enough experience at that point to appreciate how much water it held compared to my synthetic brushes. And it actually came to a point! Now I was hooked and glad I hadn't given it up forever.

Being the miser that I am, I also bought cheap watercolor paper at the big box art stores at first. I knew to get 140# paper, but I hadn't learned that the material that made up the paper was also important. I struggled with that cheap paper for months. It was so frustrating trying to follow along with tutorials and not seeing the same results as the examples. The paint moved, dried, and absorbed differently than everything I was seeing from the teachers. Eventually I switched over to full cotton paper and started seeing the results I wanted.

Once you go to the good quality paper, it's nearly impossible to go back, so I had multiple sketchbooks of the crappy paper just taking up space. Or so I thought. These sheets have actually become a supply I keep by my side at all times. I use them to do notans and value studies because all you need for those are the most basic shapes and value guideline for a more detailed painting. It's also great to test colors out on, to see if they're the right blend or value.

My hoarding tendency isn't entirely unplanned however. I actively kept a lot of mediocre paintings because I had an inkling in the back of my mind that I'd want to try collage someday. I've started tearing and cutting shapes out of many incomplete paintings to make collages and mixed media art. Landscapes and imaginary worlds seem to be the best subjects to make from my random stash of old paintings.

I also use failed paintings for card making. Almost every painting has some redeeming quality, and cutting that small section out and putting it on a blank card makes it feel like less of a total failure. I always have a large stock of handmade cards on hand now. I've also given sets away as gifts, because receiving a custom, handmade gift is fun!

Now that I've been painting for over two years, I can see how keeping literally everything could become a bit of a problem. I don't have unlimited space to store it in after all! I'm already getting a bit overwhelmed by multiple stacks of paper surrounding my art room, so I definitely can't keep this rate up for another decade. Do you have a good system for determining what to keep and what to thow in the trash bin? Let me know in the comments or email me here!

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