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I had a dream... I was Picasso!
October 6, 2010 10:20 AM   Subscribe

I had a dream I started painting again. Help me renew this hobby cheaply and correctly.

Ever since I was a kid I loved nothing more than to get behind an easel and paint for hours on end. It was all I did in high school, and all I did at home. You should have seen the carpets in my bedroom. Covered in paint. I even took classes at the University of the Arts (here in Philly) in high school. Fancy! However, when I started working full time and got adult responsibilities (and didn't go to art school), I stopped painting. I figured there was no point if I was never going to go anywhere with it, right?

Last night, I had a dream that I was painting again. I was extremely happy in the dream, and woke up missing that part of my life and myself. I now understand the value of having rewarding hobbies outside of work, so I'd like to start painting again. I haven't painted in at least 3 years, maybe 4. I don't even remember which brushes are best for which paint. I don't even remember if that matters! Help!

Can you point me to some simple guides on the web? As I said, it was all I did in high school, so once I start reading I'm sure it will all come back. I just don't know where to start. If you have any general/simple/common sense advice (aside from 'Just start painting',) please share! If it's important, my two favorite mediums were watercolor and oil. Acrylic never did it for me.

Two bonus questions:

My mom works at a craft store and gets a 40% discount. Is this my cheapest option for obtaining supplies, or is there a place online with rock-bottom prices? I'm on a budget right now, so saving money on this is pretty key.

I'm in Philadelphia. Are there any workshops/classes available in this area on the cheap? I'm talking very cheap; I was student at the community college, but even taking a class there would be too much for me to spend right now. I used to be fairly talented, but obviously it's been a while.

Thanks in advance!
posted by two lights above the sea to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (8 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
 
Congratulations! I'll bet you're in for a lot of fun and fulfillment. Don't get too hung up on being good, at first; just enjoy yourself.

Here's a great, in-depth guide to the ins and outs of watercolor. Tip: don't buy the cheapest watercolors; there's a real difference to the more professional grades.
The Wet Canvas forums are a nice place to find support and information for artists at all levels (but really good for beginners).
posted by TochterAusElysium at 10:30 AM on October 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


Oops, just to note, I made a mistake about my mom's discount. She gets a 25% discount at her craft store. Thanks again.
posted by two lights above the sea at 10:34 AM on October 6, 2010


I am so happy you're getting back to it!

my general/common sense advice:

- those cheap brushes that come in packs(like the loew cornell ones, not the kindergarten craft ones)? buy them. you should splurge on the more expensive brushes later, but if you're getting back into the hobby, it'll probably take a while to figure out which brush types you love the best again.

- paints. hit up the usual craigslist and freecycle type venues - art students and jaded parents are getting rid of art supplies all the time! if you're buying new supplies, try to buy as many different brands and types as you can the first time. you might actually LIKE the cheaper ones, but you won't know until you use and compare them. it won't hurt to combine a pricier blue with a less pricey red, but you'll find out pretty quick which you prefer using.
posted by sawdustbear at 11:56 AM on October 6, 2010


A million years ago I worked doing inbound telemarketing (order taking) at Dick Blick - an art supply company.

I remember selling introduction and starter kits to and having great conversations with people who we getting back into painting. You might want to nose around on their website to see if there's a set that'll work for you in a good price range.
posted by elmer benson at 12:11 PM on October 6, 2010


Watercolors are awesome.

This is the watercolor kit I started out with, and still use for traveling and the like: Winsor and Newton Cotman Half Pan Set. That and a small watercolor pad only set me back $30, and I had fun for months. They're not professional grade pigments, but W&N Cotman paints are good paints.

You can find similar sets on Amazon and other stores for cheap as well.
posted by spinifex23 at 1:11 PM on October 6, 2010


Fleisher Art Memorial offers free classes.
posted by WeekendJen at 2:04 PM on October 6, 2010


Cool! I also returned to painting (after nearly 20 years) because of a single, happy dream of doing it again, and now 10 years later, it's my primary activity and main purpose (take that, all you "dreams are meaningless neuronal accidents" people!). Fortunately I'd kept most of my supplies and thought I'd not forgotten anything. But I had, of course, and discovered that both my hands and my eyes were in a different place than where I'd left them… Not a problem, really, just a surprise, and the changes were as entertaining as the stuff that appeared unchanged, like reconnecting with an old friend or moving back to an old, loved neighborhood and finding it all better than ever.

Anyway, to your questions:

I'd say visit a library, soonest. Or a bookstore. There are so many well-produced beautifully illustrated how-to-paint books on all media out there; I'd suspect that an hour browsing through any reasonable collection would go a long way towards sorting out what you specifically want to start up with again and what media seem most congenial to your memories.

Watercolors are certainly less demanding, logistically speaking, than oils. They don't smell or involve dangerous solvents, they wash off most surfaces, and paper is easier to stock up on and store than stretched canvas.

Ditto on the WetCanvas recommendation, regardless of which media you settle on; it's an ideal place for beginner guides and friendly answers, well sorted by media and well-managed. Well, the watercolor area is; I haven't really explored the others; ditto with my other recommendations—I know the watercolor parts, but I'm mostly extrapolating beyond that…

If you go with watercolor, Handprint's definitely worth checking out, but it's as exhausting as it is exhaustive and can absolutely be overwhelming, so don't let it bog you down. It's an astonishing and invaluable creation. (And incidentally a text-book demonstration of the power of the Internet; the guy's take-no-prisoners testing of ALL the available watercolor paints single-handedly shook up that industry.) But there are NO quick, simple, easy-to-find answers there, and it's a lot more science than fun…

Dick Blick almost always has the lowest online prices, I've found, so definitely check them against what your mom can get. But I'd suggest you get on the mailing lists for catalogs and sales from Daniel Smith, Jerry's Artarama and Cheap Joe's as well, especially if you like browsing catalogs. Each has many exclusive items and brands. Dan Smith's got a wonderful, innovative watercolor sampler: little dots of 66 different dried paints for $5; incredible deal. And Cheap Joe sells very smart test packs of assorted watercolor papers.

Synthetic brushes just keep getting better and better; I'd say there's little reason to invest in any natural brushes, at least at first.

Welcome back!
posted by dpcoffin at 10:02 AM on October 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


I have to second the 'dots' that Daniel Smith sells. I've gotten a few as samples when I've went in to buy paints, and it's a great way to try something new out. And I love Daniel Smith paints.

I didn't know about the Cheap Joe's Paper Samples, I'll have to try that out.
posted by spinifex23 at 10:05 AM on October 9, 2010


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