I love art supplies! Our Createful Studio is lined with shelves and containers filled with art supplies for people who come there—and my home studio isn’t exactly empty.
I’m one who believes we need many options for our mixed media work, and loads of art media and art tools can be a very good thing.
With that said, however, there is also the phenomenon of an unhealthy relationship with art supplies. Either buying too much—or not enough—which in either case has little to do with the art supplies, in my opinion. So I thought we’d start here by getting these issues straight. When should we be growing a personal collection of art supplies—and when perhaps we should not.
I’ll leave you to think about that in this post, and then next week in Part II I’ll give you a little guide for how to buy art supplies in a way that will feed your art making soul.
Joy is the litmus test.
Does your art supply collection give you Joy?
IF…your growing collection of art supplies is part of your art making life, that is, you love to create and eventually you have every intention and a reasonable chance of actually creating something with the art supplies you buy and collect, then there must be joy there.
IF…you are happily creating in your art journal or making other work regularly from week to week, and you want a larger collection of options—papers, stencils, stamps, for example—options are great! Then there is joy there.
IF…you love to collect things and you build collections over time of things you love to use in your art like found objects, metal, or papers, for example—there is probably joy there in the collecting as well as in the creating.
Does your art supply collection give you…something else.
It might feel like joy to go to the art supply store and buy a bunch of stuff—but when you get home, do you feel something else? Sometimes you aren’t aware of another emotion until you look more closely.
Some telltale signs:
IF...you keep adding to your art supplies collection—but you never (hardly ever) sit down and actually make something. This is very common, so don’t worry if there’s a ring of truth here.
IF...you just love to buy things—so why not art supplies? You intend to use them, yeah, someday, but oh boy you just love those packages of washi tape, those beautiful colors of new markers, those cute stamps…You find yourself at the art supply store a lot. And in fact maybe you seem to feel happier when you're buying art supplies then when you’re actually using them…
In either case your Inner Critic probably has you in its grip, and if you look closely you might see that you're buying but not creating because of fear. You might be afraid of what you may not make. That Inner Critic has you convinced, maybe, that you'll "fail." But you want to create—badly.
"Maybe someday," you hear yourself say as you buy more and more art supplies….
If there's some truth here, I would recommend at least temporarily suspending your art supplies purchases—and work on this fear thing instead. It begins by understanding the Inner Critic, which lives in all of us. I talk about the Inner Critic here and here. I recommend reading both posts because the Inner Critic is something all creatives must learn to handle.
The next step is to face that inner demon in a way that feels safe—and freeing. One powerful way to create without risk is to art journal. A lot. I talk about art journaling extensively in the Resource Library. Another way is to take classes online and in person. If you're local, our Art Fix classes really help people kick their Inner Critic to the curb.
You don't need many art supplies to begin, and then, once you unearth your natural and amazing creativity (you can and you will!), you can buy art supplies again—but this time for the joy of creating instead of as a substitute.
One last type of relationship with art supplies
You don't purchase art supplies at all.
IF...you love to create, but you don’t make any budget for art making in your life—not for art classes, not for time to create and certainly not for purchasing art supplies, you might be denying yourself.
You might have allowed yourself a few bottles of paint...some Mod Podge...some crayons.
But IF...you want a few other things to add to your collection—a few more paints, Matte Medium instead of Mod Podge, some stencils would be nice, a few good pens, a heat gun maybe—but no, you don’t allow yourself to make those kinds of purchases.
So many women don’t invest in their interests, passions and hobbies! It’s not practical, right? There are “better” ways to spend that money—on others, probably.
I call this out as unhealthy because yes, if money is tight you might not have a lot to spare. Survival first, people! But if there is even a little extra and you’re not spending it on something you love to do…you should ask yourself why.
I am here to tell you that if your heart calls to create, you should find a way to honor that call. You don’t have to spend a lot. You may only want a minimum collection of art supplies—and that’s okay as we’ll find out next week—but you should invest in a collection of some kind if you want to create mixed media.
Okay, so that’s it for now.
Think about what I’ve said. First ask yourself why you do—or don’t—grow your collection of art supplies. Is it out of the joy of creating and collecting—or might it be something else?
If it’s something else like fear or substitution for what you really want—or denial of what you want altogether—allowing yourself that truth is truly the first step.
I’ll give you some great ideas for how to grow an art supplies collection—for joy and for your creative soul—next week, so stay tuned.