How much is that squirrel in the window?

After sending in the check for my class in late November, I didn’t hear anything back from the school until last month, a week before the class was set to begin. In a hand-written envelope, I received — absent of anything else — a materials list whose items were partially obscured by fading printer ink. My check had yet to be cashed.

 The Art Academy, Inc.

    Adult Oil Study Techniques Class
    Materials and Supply List

The art supplies listed below can be purchased as a kit at the art supply store Wet Paint, 1684 Grand Ave., St. Paul, at a discounted rate. Please purchase Gamblin oil paints.
Do not buy student grade paints.   This oil painting kit is an investment and will last for many years.

Required Paint

• Titanium White, 150 ml tube
• Portland Grey Light
• Portland Grey Medium
• Portland Grey Deep
• Ivory Black
• 3 Sets of 3 – 9”x12” canvas boards (for a total of 9 boards)
Brushes, Mediums, etc.
(If you have purchased oil painting supplies for our Traditional Drawing and Painting or Renaissance Drawing and Painting Techniques and Beyond classes you should already have these brushes and mediums)

• Silver Bristion round #0 (or equivalent)
• Signet round bristle brushes, #0, 2, 4, 6 (or equivalent)
• Signet filbert brushes, #1, 2, 4, 6 (or equivalent)
• Signet flat brushes, # 2, 4, 6 (or equivalent)
• Richeson watercolor brush, #1 (or equivalent)
• Richeson watercolor brush, #0 (or equivalent)
• M. Graham Walnut Alkyd Medium, 4 oz.
“The Masters” Brush Cleaner #101
• Richeson 36×36 cm brush mat or any other brush holder
• Richeson #894 palette knife
• 1 pint Gamsol
Household Items

• Shoebox or Tackle box to hold art supplies
• Roll of Paper Towels (to be left at classroom). Bring a new roll every session.
• 3 small jars with tight fitting lids

This seemed like a lot of materials to me, and I mentally calculated how much Aunt-money I’d have left once the school got around to cashing my check. I had no idea how much art supplies might cost, but I didn’t like the sound of “investment.” I did like the sound of “discounted rate” however, and Wet Paint is right down the street from me, so I decided to do the moral thing and purchase my new supplies locally rather than buying them online. Take that, Amazon!

Wet Paint, on Grand Ave., Saint Paul

Art stores are exciting places, but at age 48 I still can’t help caring that I’m never going to look hip enough to seem like I belong in one. I took my 11-year-old daughter, Olive, with me for support, and we were approached almost immediately by a guy who very clearly did belong there, offering to gather up our inventory. This struck me as a good idea, because it would’ve taken hours for clueless us, and because it gave me the chance to look around at the sea of wonders I was anxious to dip my toes into. Glue made from rabbits! Four-hundred-dollar brushes made from sable! One-hundred-dollar brushes made from squirrels (Siberian blue ones at that)! I didn’t care to think of the adorable little mammals who sacrificed their outer coverings for the sake of someone’s ideal brushstroke, but there’s something very beautiful about the tradition that must be involved in creating something so unique and perfect, so opposite of mass-produced. I can imagine the fourth-generation artisan, um, gently shaving the squirrels to gather those fifty perfect hairs, which will then be used to create someone’s perfect painting, to be hung in someone’s perfect building. So much beauty.

A squirrel-hair brush from Wet Paint. So cute!!

My new brushes, however, were made of good old-fashioned synthetics, and wouldn’t be creating much beauty, at least for awhile. I met the Art Dude up at the counter, and realized quickly, as I watched the computer screen flashing its totals, that –for better or worse — the expediency with which this task was getting done came at the price of doing what I always do: picking out the cheapest option. Instead, my heart did a little flip-de-doo as he read me my total: two-hundred and sixteen dollars. Gulp.

It was only when I got home that I realized what my new kit didn’t contain: color. Apparently, painting like the old masters meant going back to the time when the world was still in black and white!

Back before God invented color

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s