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Do you hoard your art supplies? Do you buy the “good stuff” and then find yourself waiting for the “perfect” time to use it? I do!! I’m going out on a limb here and guessing that I’m not the only person who does this. I’ve been working on it and have 5 ideas to share with you.

I think it’s usually my inner perfectionist that emerges and stops me from using my favorite art supplies. I will perpetually wait for the right time, wait the best idea to emerge, or delay until my skill level increases a bit more… you name it, I’ve used all the excuses in the book. I’ve been working on this and trying to use some strategies in my art practice to get myself using my favorite art supplies again. Today on this episode, I’m first going to do a deep dive into understanding why I hoard my art supplies and find myself instinctually holding back from using them. Next, I’ll share 5 different ways I’ve addressed this myself and how I made a change. I took off the pressure of perfection and started using the art supplies that bring me joy. 

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Episode Transcript

Hello, and welcome back to the Self Taught Artist Podcast. I’m Lauren, Kristine, your host. I’m very excited because the Self Taught Artist Podcast has almost made it to all 50 states in the US. I have listeners out there in 49 states plus Washington, DC, and I am only missing one state. So first thing today is I wanted to ask you, listeners, if you can help me out? It is my bucket list dream to have this podcast in all 50 states. So I did some research and looked at what’s the one state that I’m missing? And it’s North Dakota. So do you know an artist in North Dakota? If so, could you please share the podcast with them? In general, also, if the podcast is helpful to you, you could also just share it with any friend you have that loves art and painting or post it on your Instagram? That would be super cool. I’m really trying to get to all 50 states. So especially if you happen to have an artist friend in North Dakota. Let’s see if I can hit all 50 states. I’ll report back.

Alright, as usual, we’re also going to kick it off with our Review of the Week. This week, I have a Review titled “Great Podcast” from Art by Melissa Borland. “As a Self Taught Artist myself, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the podcast, you put everything in a very practical and concise manner. Keep up the great work.” Thank you so much, Melissa, I really appreciate your kind words. And I actually just took a minute to go and search you on the internet and on social media and you have some really dreamy sunset paintings and coastal artwork. So keep up the good work!

Today, we are talking about something that I’ve wanted to put on the podcast for a long time. Before I made it a podcast topic, I had to figure it out for myself. And it’s been quite a journey for me. So my question is, how many of you hoard your favorite art supplies? I know for some of you listening, you might be wondering what in the world I’m talking about! I figure for others out there like me, I’m guessing you know exactly what I’m talking about. You know, I go out and I buy really good paint – the premium stuff. Or, you know, I spring for a more expensive brush than I’d usually get. And it just looks perfect for my work. Or I buy a big, large professional grade canvas… and then I just save it. I save it for when I have a really great idea, or the idea for the perfect painting. You know, when inspiration just strikes me and I know that it’s the one! I I just get so caught up in thinking that if I’m using my best stuff, it has to be “worth it.” So I keep waiting for the perfect idea to come along, when I think I can make my best painting ever. Or when I wait for the perfect inspiration and idea to strike or for my skill level to increase or whatever the excuse is, I have told myself all of these excuses. All the while, my favorite art supplies sit prettily on the shelf unused!

I have a funny feeling that it’s not just me who struggles with this and finds themselves wanting to save their best art supplies, and wait for perfection. And that’s why I’m talking about it today. Hopefully we all can move past this together. And if you have any tips because this is something you’ve faced before and you’ve overcome it, or even if you’re in the thick of it right now, send me a message let me know if this is resonating with you.

Now, hoarding painting supplies is something I do all the time. Sometimes I don’t even notice that I’m doing it. But sometimes it’s really obvious. The most common thing I do is reach for my comfort paints, my cheap paint. Even though I have a whole box of Golden Paint, just begging to be used. It’s my favorite. My absolute favorite paint by the way. I treasure this stuff. I mean, Golden Artist Colors are simply perfection. Their pigments are so strong and the colors are so much more vibrant than my comfortable cheap paint. And I love them so much! But that also means I don’t use them very much. I think of them as this big privilege, I think about how much they cost, I think about how precious they are, and that stops me from using them. It’s a very strange contradiction, because I love it so much, and I want to use it. But I want to wait for that perfect moment, my inner perfectionist comes busting out and stops me from reaching for my Golden paints.

I also have this come up in canvases, I have a few big 18 by 24 really professional canvases that I bought with hopes of hanging them in my living room. And 18 by 24 is pretty big. For me, that’s a treat to get to work on an 18 by 24 canvas. I do use 18 by 24 paper on occasion with no problem. But that’s because it’s paper, I see it as cheap and less pressure than my nice professional canvases. As a result, these big 18 by 24 canvases have sat blank in my closet for probably a year now. What am I waiting? For perfection. And guess what? It’s never going to come! There is no perfection in art or in our art journeys. It doesn’t exist!

So I told myself, I had to stop waiting for it and get moving. I have been painting for years. And every time I paint, I improve. I don’t think I’m ever going to get to a point where I’m done learning about how to paint. And that means my art will continually be getting better. And so there’s never going to be an ideal time to use these paints, or use those canvases, or any of my art supplies that I’m waiting on. I can also never plan the perfect painting in advance. Sometimes inspiration just hits me mid-painting, and that’s the one that becomes a masterpiece, not on purpose, just all on its own. So it’s a big fallacy that there’s going to be the perfect project or the perfect time.

I had to come to grips with this so that I could make a change. I didn’t just have this episode so that I can tell you I have a problem. I also want to come to you with solutions. So I have been working on this and have a few different methods that I’ve used to get myself to stop hoarding, to stop waiting, and stop trying to be a perfectionist every time I am painting! So let’s go through them.

I have about five different thoughts or little changes that I’ve made that have helped me to move on from this behavior. Okay, so the first thing is realizing the sad reality that my paint, my beloved Golden Paint is drying up every single day. Yes, it’s well stored, and it’s kept in great conditions, but that’s just the way world the world works and how science works. Paint has a limited lifespan. Even in the tube sealed and kept at a cool temperature, it’s drying out ever so slowly. So the first thing I’ve done is just started reminding myself of this during my studio time. I have a post it note and it’s right next to my easel, which is kind of the center of gravity in my little home studio. And it literally says on it, “the paint is drying up.” And that’s my reminder about using it. Because what a shame, it would be if this paint that I love so much dried up and never got to be used! That would be way worse than using it on a subpar painting to learn that I could then enjoy and look at. It’s premium, fabulous paint that I adore. Its purpose is to be out in the world on canvas or on paper, or on jean jackets or wherever you paint! It’s purpose is to be out there in the world making people smile, and I’m holding the paint back from its mission, and that’s not fair. So That’s the first thing I’ve done is one, put the sticky note up next to my easel that reminds me, my paint is drying up and that would be really sad. I need to use it before it dries up. So that means I need to use it, now!

The second thing I’ve done is to physically put away all my cheap paints. I hid them away in a drawer, and I can’t reach for them so easily now, I actually have to work at it. So if I do find myself going to get them, I have to walk a few steps, open a drawer or open a box. Just this physical separation gives my brain a bit of time to reason with me and I can remind myself, yeah, the paint is drying up, I do have to use it, it deserves to be used. Physically putting the paints away, has just made a big change in that when I’m in flow and I’m painting and I’m excited about what I’m doing, I reach for what’s nearby. So when I put my Golden paints right here on my table next to my easel, and make them the easiest things to grab, and the only things I have to grab, I use them a lot more, let me tell you! Because when I get in the mood to paint, it is a full focus, in-the-zone activity. And I do not like rooting around through drawers to find what I need. And that’s that’s why I have also this pegboard that displays all my colors really pretty. So I can grab exactly what I need at exactly the time so that I can keep painting. But really getting my Golden paints out closer to where I work making that the focus and putting away the cheap paint so it’s actually harder and slower for me to go get them – that’s working.

The one exception I give myself to this, however, is that I will let myself use the cheap paint for grounds (which is when you prime your surface before you paint in a certain color.) Or, if I’m making an underpainting, where I know I’m just blocking out shapes and where I want things to go and I might change things around. Those two things are great uses for the cheap paint.

Number three, this is a pretty dramatic one and you have to really stick with it. Otherwise, it doesn’t work. But I also created a “use it or lose it policy”. I instituted this policy that pretty much as it sounds, if I don’t use the paint, I lose it. So if I don’t use a paint, I have to throw it away. Let’s say I want to use Quinacridone Magenta, and I use my cheap Quinacridone Magenta instead of my good stuff. Well, I have to throw it away. That’s the rule. And I know that I have to stick to that rule and that promise I made myself. So that stops me. That freaks me out because I do not want to throw away my premium beloved Golden Artist Colors paint, believe me! That makes all the alarm bells go off in my head. Because the thought of doing that is so uncomfortable and so ludicrous. I saved up my money to buy this tube of paint, I would never want to throw away a tube of Golden Artist Colors Paint or really any art supply ever. So that means I better start using it!

Number four: remember, it takes very little paint. For most painters, especially me, I use a lot less paint than I think I need. I I use a two ounce tube of paint for a long time and many, many many paintings. And ever since I’ve started these new policies of forcing myself to use my good art supplies, I’ve been much much better about it. Okay, but I have been very surprised about how far the paint goes. When you use the good stuff it lasts. The pigments are strong. I actually am using a lot less acrylic paint than I think I will. Yes, I am using up my acrylic paint, but really slowly. This paint is going to last me a long time. I’m not going to have to go buy new paint anytime soon. And guess what? By the time I do, at that point I will have saved up more and then I can go buy the more expensive paint again. So I remind myself of that: actually the better paint or the better quality the art supply, generally, the further it goes and the longer it lasts. Sometimes, quality really does win the day. And for me, that’s true in my painting. And especially with these Golden paints.

I also have a few tricks for extending Golden paints, like mixing them with different mediums, for example. That can help them go further and stay open longer, so that I can make sure that not a drop of the Golden Acrylic Paint is wasted. I’m still very much a good steward of my paint that I love so much. It really does last a very long time because the paint is so good, I don’t have to use a lot of it to get the effect I want. I don’t need to make layers and layers and layers of yellow in order to get that vibrant pop. I use less because it’s better quality.

Alright, the fifth thing that I’ve done is I’ve put a moratorium on buying new art supplies until I use what I have, or at least the majority of it. I love collecting art supplies, I adore it. I have a bunch already, but I still love going to the art supply store. I enjoy having tons of canvases, paper and paints! You name it, I love collecting it and I love having it here so it’s ready when inspiration strikes. I made a rule that I can’t buy more until I use what I have and I’ve actually been very good about following this rule. I even passed up on the buy two get one free canvas sale that Michaels had in April (that normally is a sale event where I do a lot of damage and buy a bunch of canvases!). Instead, this year when that sale rolled around, I used that weekend and I made an inventory of all the sizes of canvas I have already purchased and have already here in my closet ready to go. I said I cannot buy more until I have used the majority of them. So that’s what I’m doing. I almost caved but I’m happy to report I stayed strong.

Now, I know this topic may sound a little silly and I might be a little melodramatic. But, this is actually something that I gave a lot of thought to because I just had to get over this fear of using my good, expensive paints – the good stuff! I just had to get over that fear because it was also crippling me in terms of how I used it. I didn’t want to use it up and I was afraid to paint or I was afraid to try new things, and that’s not the purpose of it. I bought it so that I could love it, and use it and enjoy it! And now thankfully, I’m able to do that. I still do treat it as the special art supply that it is, whatever it is that I love so much. I mean, look, the people around me know that if I have a palette full of wet paint, especially if it’s my good Golden Paint, I am not going to respond to you! I’m not going to talk to you until I have used up that paint and it is not there sitting out on my palette ready to go. If it’s there, if it’s out, I’m painting and I mean business!

It’s it’s also given me a lot of joy to free up and let myself get rid of this inner perfectionist and actually just enjoy the good stuff that I saved my money up for and I spent on and I love it, I truly, truly do. I hope for anyone out there who similarly has a nice brush or a nice bottle of paint, or a nice canvas, a bigger canvas, whatever it is that you have tucked away in your closet… Go ahead and use it! Give yourself permission to use it, to try it, and just start because perfection is never going to come! It doesn’t exist! By definition, as a Self Taught Artist, I’m always learning. So that means every painting that I work on, that the next painting is going to be even better. So that means I should just use it now. I don’t want it to dry up!

Thank you so much for coming on this journey with me. I hope that this helps somebody out there. So if that somebody is you, you can send me a note on Instagram at LaurenKristineArt. And as always, if you have a moment, leave me a Review. They always make me smile. Awesome. Well, thank you so much, everyone. Have a great week. I’ll see you next week. Happy Creating, my friends!

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