In the studio: Basic inventory
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:
• 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.)
• yarn (cheap stuff)
• 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 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.