I didn’t even know I had a great aunt Greta (twice removed). But I was happy to take the call from her lawyer, the executor of her estate. Now I am the lucky owner of a 5,000 square foot studio loft not far from our home.
It is a quiet space but when I open the floor to ceiling French doors, the birds’ twittering can be heard from Central Park below. The ceilings are high, about 18 feet and, but for a few graceful, sculpted columns, the space is open and expansive with freshly painted white walls and well varnished, wide plank floors. The most notable feature is the enormous skylight overhead that floods the room with sunshine on even the gloomiest days.
Greta, who apparently enjoyed my drawings when I was six, also left me an open ended, unrestricted trust fund for art supplies and furniture, so I have been busily organizing and shopping for the past few days.
First, I had my friend Dean help me plan out the space. We covered the eastern wall with cork for pinning up drawings and things torn out of books and magazines. Next to it, we erected twelve foot high bookshelves with one of those sliding ladders. In the corner by the door, I have a seating area with a Mies leather couch (for afternoon naps) and three Eames chairs and walnut stools. There’s a large kitchen and we just had to have some of the counters redone (I love to draw at the kitchen table) and a new fridge with an ice maker installed.
There’s another wall for storage with oak flat files and cabinets for storing supplies. I have two different drawing tables, one of which is a BF23 from Italy and can be angled, and raised with a foot pedal. I have a wooden print rack and several taborets that roll around on the floor and hold pens and stuff. They’re delivering the G5 Mac tomorrow afternoon and the server, which will hold my MP3 collection. Then the guys from Harvey Electronics just need to hook the system up to the Niles Audio AT8700 speakers they installed in all the walls and we’ll have Miles playing in ever corner.
So, off to the store.
Let’s start with watercolors. I want all the colors that Daniel Smith makes, every series, big fat 15 ml. tubes. Then I’m also going to try out a few other brands, so I’ll get all three of the Maimeri sets that Catherine Anderson advertises. I’ve had fun with the Dr Ph Martin’s transparent liquid watercolors I own but I want to move up a notch to their Hydrus colors so I’ll pick up all24 colors they make. I see Schmicke makes powdered metallic watercolors – they could be fun to use in my journal so I’ll take those: rich gold, pale gold, copper, silver and aluminum. Here’s something called Ox gall Liquid; no idea what its for but I like the sound of it. In the basket.
Next, I want the best brushes money can buy. Really great watercolor brushes always spring back to a natural, razor sharp point and I think male Kolinsky red sable is considered the best (they’re made from the tips of animal tails which is mildly disturbing but maybe they just trim off the tip and it grows back like a lizard’s. In any case, I’ll ask the lawyer if the trust fund can make a contribution to PETA or something). Here’s a #14 brush for $311.95. I’ll take three. It’s by Isabey and they’re nickel plated. But the #14 is pretty chunky; for safety’s sake, I should get the whole line, 00 though 12. And, for fooling around with, maybe those Squirrel quills. And a 2″ squirrel wash or two. Oh and some fun brushes: a few of those filberts and fans, a set of lettering brushes and those weird angled tear drop brushes.
I’ll need some good new palettes, the big English glazed porcelain ones. Grab half a dozen. That watercolor bucket looks interesting – it has water basins and palettes inside it and there are holes in the hadles to keep brushes upright. Oh, and this Rinse-Well thing is cool. You fill the big bottle with water, it fills a basin with clean water and when it’s dirty, you press a button and it flushes it into a hidden reservoir. Cute and just $30. I need three. Might as well get this Sta-Wet palette with the lid that seals the paint like Tupperware. It seems a bit fiddly and I can always just get fresh paint but, oh, what the hell… in the basket.
Watercolor canvas? Apparently it has a special coating that takes the watercolor, you can lift off mistakes or even wash the whole image off the surface and start again. It doesn’t rip or shred and comes in huge rolls so you could do paintings that are 4 and half feet by 18 feet! Wow.
I also need loads of Fabriano Artistico watercolor paper. I want to try the hot press too and both 140 and 300 lbs. I love the Canon Montval Field books for journaling but also want to try out these Michael Rogers books with 140 lb. cold press acid free paper. Take a half dozen of each. This Nujabi journal looks good too: 25 130 lb. deckled pages in a Royal blue cover. In the basket. Lots of empty pans and half pans and an enameled steel box to hold them. Some nickeled brass palette cups. Check. One of these steel tube wringers that squeeze out paint. Check. A few dozen empty jars and squeeze bottles. Check.
I’ve never used a Mahl stick to rest my hand on while painting. It’s very Rembrandt looking. In the basket. And a thing called an Artist Leaning bridge, a transparent shelf that sits right on top of your page so your grubby paws don’t get on the work.
Here’s a very cute and must have item, the art traveler, a combination back pack and stool, with aluminum legs and lots of pockets and padded straps.
I like these huge art bins with the casters on them, full of individual boxes that neatly stack. Even a pocket for my wireless phone. Do they have to be such an ugly shade of purple?
I’m getting a huge paper cutter for bookbinding. I am used to the arm cutters (which could live up to their name an sever a limb) but am intrigued by the Rotatrim that rolls the blade along a bar. They have a massive 54″ one here that’s a bargain at just a little over a grand.
I need pencils: These Faber-Castell Polychromos come in a box of 120 colors and , for some reason, a CD-ROM. I like the idea of pencils so sophisticated you need to use a computer to work them. I’ll take the matching Albrecht Durer Watercolor Pencils too. In a wooden box, just $300 a piece. I’ll also need an electric eraser, just in case I ever make a mistake. These triangular TrioColor pencils looks interesting. Oooh, and these color pencil easels that organize everything in rows behind elastic straps and Velcro closures. Very nice.
I want to try some new media too: Encaustic crayons that you apply with a special electric iron. British scraper board for beautiful cross hatched drawings tat look like engravings. I’ll take some in black and some in white. And foil too. Oh and a set of cutters and scrapers you need to work on them.
No pastels. I never like drawing with them and I never like the look of pastel drawings. Except for Degas. And Lautrec.
Some gold leafing. I’ve used cheap stuff and it’s very dramatic but I’m going for the real stuff this time, 22k Double Gold and Pure Palladium too. The perfect way to class up a humble line drawing.
I’m going to have to order some clay for sculpting but I might as well pick up the armature set, the metal mesh and the riffler tools for shaping. This rotating sculpture stand is cool. It goes up and down and has a little adjustable shelf for tools. And this clay gun extrudes different shapes of clay, like a grown up play do maker, only in steel. Ultimately I want to get a welding setup and a kiln but this’ll do for now.
I love pure pigments, no idea what to do with them, but I want a few jars of them sitting around: Sennelier sells a nice starter set for just $1250 in a handsome wooden box.
I want some gouache to try out for the first time. This Lukas brand looks sort of interesting but I think Roz urged me to get Schminke. Better ingredients, less chalky and dull.
Now that I have all this space, I’m going to do some oil painting. I have painted on canvas before but always hastily, using a dining room chair as an easel and acrylics because they dry fast. I’m intrigued by Williamsburg paints. They’re made here in New York by an artist who based his recipes on research into the paint houses that supplied Monet and Cezanne. I’ll need 150 ml. tubes and the colors go from $25-145 so I should probably get the whole range, looks like about 150 colors. I can’t stand the smell of turpentine and how it gets into everything so I better get some Turpenoid and a citrus based thinner.
Brushes: If in doubt, buy the most expensive. In this case, more Kolinsky Sable. I’m getting a set of flats, of rounds, of filberts and of liners: grand total, a mere $1802.15. Hang on, these color shapers look like fun. They’re silicone brushes which I can use for applying and scraping paint, sort of like more elegant paint knives. But I should get paint knives too. Here’s a set of 60 different ones for $450. Done. Oh and a smock. Here’s a nice black one, cotton, lots of pockets. And though I won’t be getting a beret to go with it, I like this life sized human skeleton made of wood. Beautiful, and look, life sized posable manikins. They have men, women, boys and girls. A lovely family for just about two grand. And a posable giraffe too. Other miscellanea: a reducing glass les for looking at my canvas without having to step back and … duh, an easel, I’ll get two: one for plein air, a french easel that folds up into a little box to strap on my back like Van Gogh did. And then a big one made of oiled oak wood with cranks and shelves and casters. Here’s a nice one, called appropriately, the Manhatttan and it’s just $1707. Greta would approve.
Finally, canvas, double primed cotton duck to start with, and then a roll or two of Belgian linen and loads of stretcher strips and canvas pliers and a really good staple gun. And a few maple panels for painting on too, the really thin kind, satin smooth. Oh, and a Bob Ross video, maybe “More Joy of Painting”.
(This grotesque fantasy of excess was inspired by the arrival of Jerry’s Artarama catalog in our mailbox. In the real world, I ended up buying a bamboo sketch pen, for $1.79).