In the studio: Basic inventory

Published by Lori Pickert on November 21, 2007 at 02:24 AM


A reader asked

Okay, so if you had to give a list, for a mama of say, three young boys. A list of great art materials that one must have (in addition to all the great stuff you listed in your last post) What would it be? We have a few oil pastels, some chalk pastels. Some watercolor and tracing papers. Some acrylics and watercolors, a BIG chunky pad of drawing paper.

But here I am with THREE 40% off coupons from [a big-box art store], and I really want to get some good quality stuff for creating and hide it away for Christmas. Ideas?

Great question! To review, we talked here about starting the year with some basics, which you can offer in large supply:

coloredpencildraw.jpg• pencils

• pencil sharpener and white vinyl eraser

• paper (copy paper is great for everyday drawing: bright white, nice texture, and 500 sheets to a package!)

markers (various colors, thin and thick)

clipboards (one per kid, for taking drawing materials on field trips, in the car, on the couch, in the yard, etc.)

• kid scissors

• white school-type glue

• old magazines, maps, found paper, leftover gift wrap — anything collage-able

• clean recyclables (boxes, cardboard tubes, plastic lids, etc.)

popsicle sticks

• yarn (cheap stuff)

paint-1.jpg • masking tape

• natural items: leaves, twigs, pinecones, acorns, shells, etc.

• large pad of easel paper (I like the double pack they sell at Staples)

watercolors (I prefer Prang; they are more expensive but last a long time)

tempera paint (you can get by with just primary colors plus white to start)

• good drip-proof paint cups with lids (if you put a different brush in each cup it will minimize mixing/dirtying the paint — although that is inevitable, so give them a small amount to start ;o)

With these items, you've got the basics for drawing, painting, collage, and building structures.

Tomorrow I’ll give an advanced list.

In the meantime, with your 40% coupons burning a hole in your pocket, my suggestions for enhancing your studio (thinking of getting the most out of your coupon) would be:

• large set of high-quality brand colored pencils (they offer much better and more varied colors than the basic Crayola set)

• very good-quality electric pencil sharpener (when you use a lot of pencils, this is a blessing to get them all back into shape again quickly)

easel-1.jpg• set of Derwent or similar drawing pencils of different weights — excellent for observational drawing and encouraging drawing in general

easel if you don’t already have one (preferably two-sided with a shelf — i’ve found these on sale at school-supply stores and big-box stores)


• large pads of nice drawing paper

• perhaps a large pack of tempera paints, if they sell them bundled (maximizing the coupon!)

It's difficult to think of pricier items for stocking the art studio, since most things are fairly inexpensive! The above are more long-term investments. For more of a short-term thrill, check out my Holiday Gift Ideas for Your Child Artist.

Finally, one of the most important things you need for your basic art studio is a place to make art. This isn't necessarily something you can buy at a store.

You need to have a space where your children can work and you won’t be a nervous wreck about them destroying the table, the floor, the walls, etc. Maybe all you need is a plastic tablecloth to throw down under the easel, and you're fine. Or maybe you need a table where you won’t have to worry about glue or paint leaving its mark.


This problem extends to the co-op and classroom as well, where some groups have carpeted rooms (!) and no safe place to paint.

We have had great success with garage-sale wooden tables, sawing the tables off to make them the appropriate height for the children who will work there.

Plastic tablecloths can be used to protect floors but they can be slippery — I like good old-fashioned canvas dropcloths. You can buy them at any hardware store or big-box lumber or home renovation store.

Whatever your solution, it’s no use stocking up on great supplies if you’ll hesitate before saying yes, we’ll make some art today. Ideally, art supplies are always available and there’s always a place to work.



Comment by Molly on November 20, 2007 at 10:06 PM

Lori: I am just loving this mini-series you have here and getting so much out of it. Also, since I'm in here all the time, thought I'd just go ahead and add your blog to my 'inspiration' sidebar. It is entirely true. Happy Thanksgiving! - Molly

Comment by Lori Pickert on November 20, 2007 at 10:25 PM

hey molly :^) thank you!!

i hope you all have a good holiday, what with the teeth and illness and all. ;^) we stay home for the holidays; we travel just a very small distance to my mom's for thanksgiving and family comes to us on christmas. perfect. i like being home at this time of year.

the boys are "off school" the rest of the week, so we are in a holiday mood today! i think we'll spend the week cleaning and decorating and making some gifts.

thank you again!

Comment by mary on November 21, 2007 at 03:45 AM

Such a great list. Sketch books and canvases are on the holiday list. I do also like to use liquid watercolors with my girls. We put them in ice cube trays. We also use a plastic relish tray with 6 or so sections to lay out all the collage materials. I think mine was a dollar.

Comment by Lori Pickert on November 21, 2007 at 02:50 PM

thanks, mary! i'd like to see pictures of your collage set-up. :^)

Comment by Damart on March 24, 2008 at 09:09 PM

I find all the information very usefull and love the comments on small children, tips and info about leting them explore on their own and to give encouragement to become creative.

Thanks for creating this blog!


Comment by Lori Pickert on March 24, 2008 at 09:30 PM

dama! so great to see you here! :^)

thank you so much, and i hope to see you around more often!


Comment by Barbara on November 21, 2008 at 04:34 PM

what a valuable blog!! I have been reading and soaking it all up today :) Do you know where one might find an easel like the one above??

Comment by Lori Pickert on November 21, 2008 at 04:37 PM

thank you, barbara! :^)

i’m afraid i don’t remember where we purchased the easel, but i know we have purchased them before from sam’s club and discount school supply. :^)

Comment by Dave Johnson on December 24, 2008 at 01:33 AM

This site is incredible! We plan to start unschooling next summer, and the things I'm reading here make more sense than any other homeschool site I've found (probably because of my ER leanings). It's so good to hear examples of how this works in reality, and is certainly bolstering my courage for the days to come.

Comment by Lori Pickert on December 25, 2008 at 03:40 AM

dave, thank you! and good luck with your unschooling adventure!

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