Friday, August 28, 2015

The Artist’s Toolkit

There are those, in this world, who feel an extreme compulsion have the right stuff. Not just any stuff, but those special items related to specific tasks. You know what I mean—the latest, greatest, best-of-the-class kind of gear for whatever the task. “You cannot simply leap into something without the proper tools,” they tell you. “We must go buy the Williams Sonoma proofing basket and baking stone if we want to make authentic homemade bread! It’s just not the same without it!” Nervously you think where is the nearest Williams Sonoma? After several hundred dollars and a trip to Amish county (for the freshest of ingredients), you are the proud owner of all the special tools necessary to make an authentic hearth loaf (which might taste better if it had not cost so much.)

Much like cooking, golfing, and other activities, there are those of the mind that an artist must have all of the proper tools. Only the finest tools will do—this is essential to the process.
I, too, believe in having the “right” tools. Only the finest materials for me, as you will see below.

And so I give you Kelsey A. Smith’s Fraktur Toolbox.

Exhibit A: Watercolor Brushes
I cannot do without my good brushes—cheap ones simply do not compare! Experts say these brushes need to be replaced as they begin to deteriorate so that neat and tidy lines can still be achieved. This particular brush is my very favorite. I would tell you what kind it is, but I don’t know because the paint has fallen off.

Exhibit B: Watercolors
I’m very particular about brands. I use Grumbacher, Cotman, and Essentials irregularly. The quality of the watercolors is, I have found, directly related to the sale price and number of coupons applicable.

Exhibit C: Good Quality Ink
Research is essential. After hours of intending to do research on ink kinds and qualities, I impulse bought this French ink two years ago at a paper store. If anyone reads French, I would be interested to know what it actually says on the label.

Exhibit D: Toolbox(es)

These are incredibly important-I cannot stress it enough. Hence I chose an “antique” tempera paint box to store my watercolors and palettes in. But the finest container I have is the cylindrical box my loose-leaf tea tumbler came in. Only the most specialty box for me. Not only does it store my brushes upright, but the lid doubles as a shorter holder for better selection as I paint. Indeed, I fail to see how any watercolor artist survived without this particular container. Ridiculous that the art stores don’t carry them...

There are other essential items, like palettes, pens and paper, but as fascinating as an examination of them might be, I cannot give all of my secrets away, now can I?

A Non-Satirical Note: I really do pay attention to quality of certain items in my work, in case I had any of you worried. But I am also a firm believer in making do with what I’ve got. Some of my tools are quality, and others are more haphazard in selection. I do what I can, with what I have, and try not to take myself too seriously. That, to me, is really what folk art is about: making do with the talents and tools we have to make a corner of our world just a little bit more beautiful. 


  1. Kelsey, loved this post! It reminds me of how years ago I wanted an antique look to some signs I was making for my print publisher. Good old instant coffee brushed onto the paper worked beautifully. No fancy-schmancy stuff. Making do is fun, isn't it! Sometimes the inventive things we use end up being THE long-term perfect material. :-)

    Smilin' atcha....

    1. Thank you, Diane! It is always a lot of fun, and a good challenge for the creativity.

  2. So fun and so true! Sometimes quality tools matter a lot, and other times, making do works just fine. :)

  3. The perfect post Kelsey! We need what "works the best" for the job . . not necessarily the most expensive. The "best" for us :-) People think I might have a crazy fancy sewing machine. . . but I only need one that goes forward and back . I love your bent paintbrush . . . my favorite needles have a similar curve . . . worn, used and a perfect fit!

  4. great post, le de the means the dregs in English

  5. by the way I found the ink on amazon of all places!

  6. If people saw the "tools" in my workroom they might be surprised. "Making-do" is my motto. I would rather spend more on fabrics and antiques!

  7. Loved this post! If more of us "lived simply" we'd find the joy in the creating not the having. I am not a designer just a stitcher of cross stitch and wool applique. I do not buy every pattern I see; I am selective. I didn't go out and buy Valdani thread; I use the DMC and overdyes I've had for the last 10 years. I enjoy!

  8. Love this post <3
    If only our throw away society could grasp this!
    Blessings, Patti

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