When I took up watercolor as an adult, I dutifully bought what the instructor put on the supplies list. It cost a small fortune – more than the class. I totally understand her point. Using better supplies yields better results. I dutifully did the exercise (not paintings, exercises) on my top of the line paper with my top of the line paints. I was a bit salty about it, but I did it. So in the end I had the best results possible from very expensive paints on very expensive paper. Paintings of my car keys, and a still life that has been pulled out of the closet religiously since 1978, and a color wheel. You get the idea. I did what I was supposed to do. Class ended, so I carefully placed my precious treasures in the closet.
When I thought about painting, all I could think about was not wanting to waste anymore of these supplies. This mentality did me a lot of good as I am sure you can imagine. I left my paints, and my inspiration, and my guts in that closet for a long long time.
Now, I love the good stuff supplies, but it took me stumbling upon some good supplies at clearance pricing to be willing to play again. I needed to not worry about the cost and about the idea of 'wasting' it. The truth is, painting is learning. Even if you don't love your results you learned how to get those results. It can be a cautionary tale, or it can be a result you will use in the future, or maybe it will work out beautifully. Whatever happens - it is learning.
Now I see using only professional supplies as an investment. If I want the best results, I invest in the supplies to get them. I have found that having abundance of supplies available helps keep past 'waste worries' away. I spend big several times a year, so that my coffers are full and I do not have to worry about it.
So I tell my students – buy the best supplies you are willing to fail with. Be willing to experiment and be playful. Often the magic happens when you let your guard down, when you are no longer laser focused on producing a masterpiece to hang over the sofa. Let go of those expectations. Be willing to just learn and have fun.
Better supplies will facilitate better results. However, the best supplies in the world don't do any good in the closet. You should make the best choice for you.
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Melissa Tai is a lifelong creative, nature lover & tree hugger.