For the sake of my sanity and my bank balance, I have taught myself to strictly ration the time I spend browsing for art supplies. The tools of our trade, pens, pencils, brushes, sketchpads, paints, etc., have always been a source of fascination to me and I could happily spend hours browsing through the delights on offer.

I have even been known to pore over art catalogs and brochures looking for the magic ingredient that will solve all my artistic problems and change my life. Like the golfing ‘rabbit’ who is convinced he can get round in par if he could only find the right putter or new driver; I am forever searching for the ideal pen or perfect paper.

One of the ’perks’ of my previous post as Head of Art was the requirement to purchase materials for the department, allowing me to indulge my passion for art products with a clear conscience. It was during this time that I discovered there was no substitute for quality and I have carried this lesson with me into my career as a professional artist.

I remember many years ago reading an article by David Hockney where he explained that when his work began to sell for quite large sums he realised that he should stop using the cheaper paints and boards he was accustomed to as a student and use only quality materials which would stand the test of time. Work offered for sale should only be produced using materials tested for reliability and quality. On the other hand, work produced as preparatory studies, or for your own use, can include any media you like. One of the homework tasks I used to set as a teacher was to ask the students to make a self-portrait with anything they could normally find around the home.

One drawing I particularly remember was made with lipstick, rouge, shoe polish and mascara on a piece of fine grade glass paper. It had a unique quality which made it look as if it could have been found in Tutenkamun's tomb! Items like lipstick and eye pencils make very expressive lines and anything that stains i.e. red wine, coffee, turmeric, food colouring and so on will make a colour wash. You can also, for instance, make a lovely, subtle ‘drawing ink’ by diluting a carton of cold water dye in a jar.

Try it and see… there are no rules.



May 01, 2024 — Francis Boag