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My materials and the ONE thing I CANNOT live without


My materials and the ONE thing I CANNOT live without

Barbara Graham


Whatever your medium, we all get like a kid in a candy store when it comes to buying new materials. I am sooo guilty of stocking up on pretty much everything that catches my eye, and for a while at College, I bought whatever I thought I needed - after all, I’d spend £27k to be there, I wasn’t going to let £15 for a tube of paint hold me back! The result is I now have hundreds of tubes of paint, brushes, different pastels, inks, pens, grounds and more - much of which is gradually becoming useless as they harden and dry out over time.

As I started on my painting journey again after a 5 year break, I have made one rule for myself - not to buy any more stuff until I’ve used up what I have.


Rules are meant to be broken right?

So here is a run down of what I DO and DON’T spend money on - where to splurge and where to save.


Paper - buy good, heavy weight paper that can take a beating so I'm always looking for a weight that is at least 250gsm. If you are in the UK, Cass Arts do some great own brand watercolour paper which is available in COLD Pressed (slightly textured) or HOT Pressed which is smooth. I prefer the smooth paper for my acrylic paintings, and the textured paper for watercolour - but this isn't set in stone and it a matter of personal preference.

Sketchbooks I'm using her are a Daler and Rowney mixed media a3 pad - I’ve had it lying around for a while and it needs using up so I may use a different pad when that one is finished. For a smaller pad that I carry around with me I use an A5 watercolour sketchbook by Hanmuhler - it's only 200gsm, but Hanmuhler are literally the best paper manufacturers around and I'm in love with effects I can get with watercolour, ink and neo colour pastels on this paper. I’ve filmed full flip throughs of my current sketchbooks which you can watch here


Paint: now this really can come down to personal choice and buget. I bought so many materials when I was at college that when I began on my painting journey again I had to make a promise to myself to not buy any more and just work with what I've got. For this reason I'm currently working with a mishmash of liqutex basics acrylics, daler and roney sysetem 3 paints (which are very fast drying) and I'm gradually introducing different acrylic mediums as I get more involved in trying to create different finishes and textures in my work.


Brushes: again, buy cheap. I have a real mixture of brushes of varying sizes and qualities. Some cost me a couple of pounds, others cost me £50. I actually can’t remember which are the expensive ones now. I guess some are nicer to hold. Some are meant only for watercolour and others just for oil. I don’t really stick to that. For me, it is whichever brush is going to be best for the kind of mark I want to make. Brushes take a beating and life is too short to worry about it.


My BEST recent discovery and what I absolutely cannot live without: Murphy's Oil Soap. This stuff is incredible for cleaning off hardened paint, acrylic and oil. I've lost count of the number of times I've discovered a dirty brush that has gone hard with thick paint residue. Soak it over night in this magic stuff and it washes clean off. Need proof? This is the video that gave me the idea