Some Questions about Art Supplies

November 13, 2007 @ 7:09 am | Filed under:

Martha asked:

I have a question…
Why use watercolors? Do you also use other art mediums for painting?
Oils? Pastels?
Also what about lead in the pigments? After all the issues with products from China, I’m being more vigilant about this and it’s nearly impossible to find non-china art supplies in my price range!

Wow, good point about the question of where our art supplies are coming from. I’ve been on the toy watch for a long time, but it honestly hadn’t occurred to me to look at where our paints were made. I know you can get German-made watercolors from Stockmar, but as you say, those are pricey.

Hmm, this bears looking into.

As for “why watercolors”β€”for me, there are lots of reasons. I’ve never used oils, but my sense is that they’re expensive and messy and harder to clean up…don’t you have to clean your brushes with turpentine or something? You see how ignorant I am on that subject.

We do use tempera paint sometimes, and my kids love the little jars of acrylics for painting those unfinished wooden things you can pick up cheap at Michael’s. (More made-in-China stuff? Probably. Sigh. Hadn’t occurred to me.)

But we like watercolors best for painting pictures, because of the luminous, swirling colors, the easy blending, the pleasure of watching the heavy paper absorb the translucent paint.

Oil pastels are a rare treat: again, their mess factor is too high for regular use.

My three oldest girls are taking an art class right now, and the medium for many weeks has been chalk pastels. They are really enjoying using them, and they’ve learned an awful lot about tone and shading and texture. I think chalk pastels are an easy medium to use for experimenting with shading techniques. And the cleanup is a snap.

(You can see where my priorities are.)

On the same post, Amy asked another excellent question.

Where and how do you store/display the finished artwork? I find this even more daunting than the creative process. How do you (any of you) respectfully manage the output of your oh-so-productive junior artists? I’d love to hear any thoughts.

Ha! On this topic, my thoughts amount to a dull buzzing in the head. Our current storage method is: pictures hung on the fridge, and a large and ever-growing pile of beautiful finished work on the laundry-room counter, waiting to be hung or stored or something.

When we moved last year, I had to sort through boxes and boxes of such treasures. I tried to pare down to the best or most adorable work, but it was sooo hard to part with any single painting or drawing, you know? The masterpieces that made the cut are now languishing in a box in the closet, most of them.

So I’d love to hear other people’s answer to this question.

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19 Reponses | Comments Feed
  1. alli says:

    Wow… never thought about the finger paints we use being made in china. (Fuller got a new set for his birthday.)

    I guess I should make my own finger paints… I already make the play dough.

  2. Jennifer says:

    I agree on chalk pastels being easy to work with. I did check my wooden cut out things from Michaels and they are made in China. πŸ™

  3. Rebecca says:

    We like chalk pastels also. They are very child friendly. πŸ™‚

    We use both Lyra and Stone brands beeswax stick and block crayons. I considered buying the Stockmar stick crayons next time around. You mentioned feeling uneasy about Stockmar and I wondered if you’d be willing to share your thoughts on that when you get a chance.

  4. GailV says:

    “…I have an uneasy feeling about Stockmar…”

    Well, now, THAT’S intriguing. Any chance of expanding on that?

  5. Jacqueline says:

    Suggestion re art work – take pictures. If they are digital you can store a lot. Not quite the same as having the original art but still a great way to store lots to keep for memories.

  6. sashwee says:

    About what to do with children’s artwork, I’ve heard some neat ideas about making greeting cards or post cards or wrapping paper out of them. If you are okay about possibly cropping them and about them eventually being thrown away by someone else. There are lots of possiblities if you are okay with seeing them as craft fodder. Swirly watercolors might become pages of a journal to write on or paste text onto.

  7. JoVE says:

    We also like chalk pastels and sometimes take them to art galleries with us. A portable pack of wipes is good for keeping fingers clean.

    I’ve also recently discovered watercolour pencils. I never realized that you could wet the pencil, or wet the paper and then draw, or paint water on later… Amazing and worth having those more expensive pencils from the art supply store. My mother-in-law has a cool thing in her pencil case that has a brush-like tip and a reservoir for water so she has water handy for that kind of thing when she is drawing out in the world.

    as for storage, I keep thinking that an inexpensive portfolio case from the art shop might be a good idea. Haven’t done it yet but….

    Also, if you ever see old map cabinets in a second hand furniture shop (or are lucky enough to be related to someone employed in a school or something that is renovating and getting rid of old map cabinets), I think they would be ideal. Large, deep (as in go back along way) drawers that are very shallow. You could have a drawer per child…

  8. Martha says:

    I found several interesting links about art supplies and the chemicals in them, not just lead!

    I’m torn between horror from the knowledge and wishing I’d never looked! πŸ™ Although, You’ll be glad to know waterbased does seem to be the safest products.

    The main reason I asked why watercolors (and I completely get the reduce the mess goal!) is because I have a child with mild sensory issues and the blending of the watercolors drives him nuts. It’s also a reason he doesn’t like to do very much in the typical “art” theme.

    As for art storage:
    We take pictures, or hole punch and place them in binders, and rotate what we keep on the walls.

    You could also easily make a portfolio to store them in and slide behnd a bookcase or whatever.

    Here’s a link for directions:

    At the end of the year, we keep favorites and toss/reuse the rest.

  9. Eileen says:

    We really haven’t used expensive art materials thus far, though I have recently had occasion to wish what we had used was nicer (we made a “Pin the Flowers on Juan Diego’s Tilma” for our Saint’s Day Tea Party that my 8yo dd painted. It came out so nice that I wanted to keep it on display, and wish it were made of nicer stuff!).

    I’ve often used our artwork for wrapping paper–the receiver (usually family members) often comment on what a nice idea that was, and they are free to toss or display as they choose :)–I set no expectation with my children either way, so there’s no hard feelings. πŸ™‚

  10. patience says:

    You must tell that long story about Stockmar!! Before I go to my local Waldorf fair this weekend and buy more pencils!!

    Ways of display art: make a book from the pictures, gluing them back-to-back or binding the edges with transparent tape, and using stock card as the cover, bound with beautiful ribbon.

    Hang a line of string either against the wall or across the room and clip paintings to it using nice pegs (this is what the schools seem to do).

    Get Daddy up on a ladder and stick the pictures to the ceiling of a child’s room using blue tack.

    Laminate the larger paintings or drawings to use as placemats at dinner time – or to send to grandparents for placemats. You can also make calendars of them in this way.

    Can you tell that I have an arty child who refuses to throw away ANYTHING? πŸ˜‰

  11. Lesley Austin says:

    Dear Melissa,

    I, too, will be waiting to hear more about your feelings about Stockmar. We used to use their beeswax crayons when my guys were little.

    We have always used these watercolors:

    …and they are the paints I will use someday when I take the time fulfill my Beatrix Potter dream of wandering the fields and woods with my jar of water and knapsack full of paints and paper and brushes! The paints are just lovely for every watercolor project we have done…and as pure as you can get, as far as I know. And I see that they offer the 100% post-consumer and hemp watercolor paper that I was going to mention. I haven’t used mine yet, but hope it will be a very nice surface and we won’t be tempted to use the ordinary-made-from-trees watercolor paper.

    Nova Natural Toys is where we used to get many things when my sons were young. The wooden figures filled our Noah’s Ark, and we bought many of the books they offer. I highly recommend them.

    I don’t have many great ideas on storage of all the beautiful art our children create….much of ours is stored in boxes in a closet and I hope for the best as far as their survival amongst the silverfish. But when my sons were little and painting alot, we always had a string from one corner of the room to another and would clothespin lots of creations on that string (on both sides!). It looked really pretty and festive and was easy to change out. I suppose if you don’t have the room (or high ceilings) you could hang a string against the wall and pin a stack in one place on the string and change out the one on top when you liked.

  12. Andrea says:

    Another idea for storage: Take digital pictures of the kids’ work and then send them to a company that will turn your pictures into a bound book (there are a whole array of companies listed here:

  13. Alicia says:

    For kids who *need* to see their artwork displayed, try the garage. Plenty of wall space and emphasize that rather than being relegated to the garage, these treasures are the last thing you see when you leave your family home and the first thing to greet you when you come back. They cheer up an otherwise dull and unattractive place. Your kids can “ohh” and “ahh” over them while you unload groceries. And they can exclaim, “Daddy, did you see the new picture by your trunk?!?” Laminating them would obviously help them look nice for longer!

  14. Amy C. says:

    Melissa, thanks for revisiting the storage/display issue! Reading your own answer, I’m giggling in recognition (so glad we have a big fridge), and I’m so thankful for the comments here.

    Patience, I also have the packrat kid (sprung from the packrat daddy), and I especially love the placemat idea. That might help my eldest put things away for a time, knowing she can get it back out for meals. We bought some cheap portfolios, so their work stays nice at least, but they’re reluctant to use them, knowing we’re not likely to rehang something once it goes in there.

    Great ideas all . . I knew I could ask here!

  15. Laura says:

    I keep my favorites, but I also use lots of Jack and Sophie’s artwork as love notes from the children to family and friends. Up until now, I’ve always done the writing, but Jack is learning to form letters now, so he’s doing his own. This has worked well for us on birthdays, Thanksgiving, Valentine’s Day, Happy Spring/Summer/Fall/Winter — you name it! The grandparents LOVE having new things to put up that the kids have done, the kids love to see their stuff displayed at relatives’ homes when we visit and I love putting their artwork to good use, sharing the love from miles away.

  16. Sue says:

    I take photos of art projects too. It’s particularly convenient now that it’s digital. If I want, I can set my computer to display the photos at random when it’s in screen saver mode. My youngest really likes to see his projects that way, and since his stuff is often three dimensional, it’s way more convenient too. The other thing I do is scrapbook some of my favorites. I love Evan’s rather tipsy looking Johnny Appleseed bag puppet, and my photo of him proudly holding up his first kindergarden self-portrait. They’re favorite memories that would probably long since have been lost to the endless need to pare down belongings to fit available storage space.

  17. Elizabeth says:

    For storing art, we hit on transparent report covers with separate plastic binding spines (#CLI 34227 from United Stationers are bigger and let you put in more pages). The covers are for 8 1/2 x 11 so they’re not perfect for 9 x 12 pages, but are still workable. Then your children have easily assembled and viewed “books” of their work.

  18. stayathomemotherdom says:

    Could you email me…I was looking for your email address and couldn’t find it. I want to ask you a question about homeschooling. Thanks.