Half of my art supplies are pristine. Fresh. I almost hate to spoil them.
I think my studio space had been neglected in the same way that my kitchen space had been up until about a year ago when I seriously began struggling with my health. Food was making me feel awful. I won’t go into the details, but I went through a series of most unfortunate events that led to issues that I am trying to heal now.
In my kitchen, I felt unsure about what foods to cook with, what was healthy for me, wondering if it was just my getting older that was causing problems, and trying to figure out what might make me feel good. I couldn’t eat anything packaged and restaurants were out of the questions, so I was left to cooking four, small meals a day using only a limited set of whole foods. I needed to expand my cooking skills ASAP.
It was an ayurveda cookbook by Katie Silcox that changed my whole outlook on food and how to live life with the rhythms of nature. In the book, the author described her kitchen as a place that was well loved and there was evidence of this all the way down to the beet and spice stains on her cutting boards. It sounded like a beautiful mess to me. I wanted that.
I can’t say that I’ve learned to love cooking. I don’t. And I would rather go to a restaurant most nights and be waited on. Getting dressed up and going out is fun! Besides, I miss Greek food and guacamole fiercely. What I have learned is that I can be imperfect in a space, make a mess of it, and come out the other side being healthier and more joyful. Cooking simply brings me joy now. It’s a whole other way to be creative. I come from a family of great cooks and bakers. I know a lot of people say that, but here’s some evidence of my own:
I think I’ve been blessed with this formidable health issue - IN THE MIDDLE OF A PANDEMIC - to be able to apply this growth, wisdom, awakening…whatever it is…to other parts of my life including being an artist. In fact, mostly being an artist. Being a graphic designer was a safe space for me. I could hide my perfectionism. On a computer, it’s hard for others to see what you’re working on while you’re doing it, changes are easy to make, there is an UNDO function for literally everything, and deleting failed concepts is instantaneous. The studio space is trickier. Vulnerable, if you’re sharing it with others, and doubly hard if you’re a perfectionist.
Perfectionism. That’s nothing to brag about or an excuse to abandon ambition. It just doesn’t work for me anymore. Actually, perfectionism has been working against me my whole life because it injects anxiety into every task where there could be peace. Perfection is a peace breaker based on unrealistic expectations. It’s also a lie because it’s unachievable. I asked an acquaintance and fellow artist once what he thought of a drawing I did. He was handing out advice to a group of artists that had gotten together as an informal critique group. He said to me, “it’s too perfect”. The other ladies in the group gave him some serious side-eye, but I knew he was right. My drawing was lacking spirit.
I grew up in an environment where high achievement earned me approval, praise, and attention. “Good Girl-ism”. Then, perfectionism further sustained a path to safety, survival, and independence. My path is now steering me toward inner peace and not chasing what Buddhism refers to as “Hungry Ghosts”.
Now, my supplies are being loved in my studio nearly everyday. I collect what I need in order to create nourishing, spirit-filled art.
My supplies are pretty typical. A few are old school. My chosen water container is perhaps unconventional: too short to leave a brush in, too odd to mistake as my drinking glass, and too small to let the water sit too long without being changed several times during a project so that the water stays relatively clean. Most of my brushes are Simmons, Black Gold, or Daniel Smith. My watercolor paints are also Daniel Smith. Daniel Smith is a local company, so I like to support them. I have a good number of watercolor paint colors, but not an overwhelming amount - about 40 colors. Only a few of those are brown, because I prefer to mix my own browns. Basically, I choose colors that have excellent lightfastness and no granulation. I like texture in my art, but from the brushwork rather than from paint sediments. My electric sharpener is invaluable to me as is the extra soft clean-up brush that I still have from high school. Here is a link to my Pinterest Boards for pictures and descriptions of many of the supplies I use including drawing supplies, painting supplies, and papers: https://www.pinterest.com/karenjimenezartist/boards/
I want to end this with a note about paper in general. I think paper is an amazing invention. I love the varieties in weight, color, feel, texture, size, tooth, and even the smell. I am in love with papers’ ability to absorb water and the way it holds materials in line and form. I could go on and on, but it’s papers’ flawed, fragile, and unforgiving nature that make it most special to me. It is the opposite of perfection. It is whole and real and timeless.