by Brenda W. Clough
The first thing to do when you decide to make something? Go shopping! Only the highest and most abstruse creativity calls for no equipment at all — philosophy, maybe? Everybody else needs stuff. Mathematicians need gigantic number-crunching computers, spinners accumulate bales of roving, cookie bakers need icing bags and silicone sheets and sprinkles in colors. Writers? Computers, of course, but masses of research materials, books, artifacts, daguerreotypes of your characters, oh it’s endless.
But when I decided to take up oil painting again I really did have to buy oil paint. There was a time when the artist had to grind his own colors as he used them, that very day. It was a lot of work; that’s why Michelangelo had assistants. Nowadays you can buy the paint in tubes. But the tubes do dry out. There is an entire lore about how to get the paint out of a nearly-completely-dried-out $40 tube of paint, or how to cope if the cap snaps in half when you use a pair of pliers to twist it open. The best economy is to paint in oils all the time so that those costly colors don’t age out. Since I needed the full suite of colors I bought a beginner set of Gamblin brand, an okay level of quality. In oil paint you do get what you pay for (my old Grumbacher paints were decidedly student level) but on the other hand I have to balance that against the fact that I am not Leonardo da Vinci. Not every sweater has to be knit out of cashmere, right?
And how does the paint get onto the surface? Turner occasionally used his fingers, but he was famously eccentric. Painting with a palette knife is fun, and I have one — but this landscape doesn’t look like a heavily impasto subject, so I need brushes. My old brushes show distressing signs of moth damage, so new brushes are called for as well, filbert-shaped hogs-hair. These too are cheaper on Ebay, but the mineral spirits I have to buy right here in my town, because you can’t ship flammable liquids through the mail. A jar to carry these in, some canvas board I happen to have lying around from the last book cover I painted, and I am ready!