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  • Writer's pictureJoel Popadics

Art Store Confidential

Updated: Mar 29, 2019

I suggested to a student once, that he should purchase a good sable brush. I was a little embarrassed when I told him the price – sables start at $40 and some sizes can cost well over $100. Sensing my embarrassment, he said, “Joel, no worries, after all the best part of a hobby is buying stuff!”

I can relate, when it comes to buying art supplies I’m like a kid in a candy store. This is evident by how many paint tube ringers I own – three (no one should own more than one in their lifetime).

A paint tube wringer makes those neat little crimps and keeps your paint from drying out in the tube.

I was bummed out when Torch Art Supply closed many years ago, followed by Pearl, then devastated when New York Central Art Supply shut its doors for good in 2016. All were great art stores, but New York Central was special - it was an artist’s art store with a staff that really knew their stuff. Central was located at 62 Third Avenue and had been in business since 1905. They accommodated everyone from students to professional artists. They were knowledgeable without being condescending. Plus, they had a great paper department representing mills from all around the world.

These days (like anything else), if you know what you are buying it’s best to order on-line. Many good art supply stores can be found on the web - Jerry’s Artarama, Blick, Utrecht, ASW Art Supply Warehouse, and Cheap Joes come to mind. But, I do miss wandering aimlessly around a store looking at all the gadgets to improve our art.

Here’s some random stuff that I’ve purchased that you might want to check out the next time you’re at the store.

Reducing Glass

A reducing glass is a concave lens, which is a reverse magnifying glass. Instead of enlarging, it shrinks everything. It gets rid of all the clutter in your field of vision and helps you see the subject in a small way allowing you to focus on the major masses.

ASW carries the one I have and you can purchase it by clicking here.

Proportional Dividers

I bought my first proportional dividers just a few months ago and I have no idea how I got through life without one. I love to measure things when I draw and check my proportions. Proportional dividers help you to approximate the relative size of an object against other elements in your composition. Click here to learn how to use the dividers at the manufacturer’s website.

Pencil Lengthener

Don’t you hate it when a pencil gets down to the stub? The frugal among of us keep using it until our fingers cramp. But with a lengthener you’ll get your money’s worth out of any pencil. Click here for the Koh-I-Nor Pencil Lengthener at Dick Blick.

Shade Umbrella

I prefer to paint on a flat surface. But when I do, my paper is in full sunlight so I’m limited to work in a shady spot. An umbrella allows me to set up anywhere and still be in the shade. Click here to check out the Guerrilla Umbrella, which is the one I use.

Tube Wringer

Yes, you do need a wringer, maybe not three. It makes pretty little crimps and isn’t that fun? Plus, it keeps your paint from drying out in the tube and squeezes out every last drop. Click here to get a good metal one from Utrecht Art Supply.

Do you have a favorite gadget that you find useful? Let me know, I’d love to hear about it. Perhaps I’ll even get one for myself!

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May 07, 2019

Your blog is an awesome discovery for me, Joel. I’m tip-toeing into watercolor now and your observations are a whole lot of helpful.

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