Time to go through the art supplies. My art supplies have weighed on my mind for a while now. Although English is where most of my studies have been focused, I actually double-majored in English and Art as an undergrad. So I had a huge collection of oil paints, acrylic paints, watercolours, drawing supplies and pads of paper. They were stored ugly-wise in these plastic drawers topped with an overflowing cardboard box. Nice, huh?
Actually, this makes me so sad, because although I feel that I love my art supplies and what they represent, I really wasn’t taking care of them. On the occasions when I felt like using them, it was a hassle to get anything out. The rest of the time, they were just an eyesore.
Of course, I took them all out and sorted them into groupings first (pencils, brushes, different types of paints, etc.). My ‘joy check’ for drawing tools was scribbling with them on paper, since the feel of using it gives me the clearest sense of whether I enjoy it. As with my other items that are related to a skill or a ‘profession’, like my academic books and papers, I discovered that thinking about these things from the perspective of joy was a useful exercise for reflecting on where my true interests lie. As with my academic books, I used to keep art supplies on the principle that more was better – more to experiment with, try new techniques, and thereby expand my skills. But I discovered, for example, that I don’t like drawing with harder pencils. I like drawing tools that are soft and make a dark, buttery mark. Had I taken an intellectual approach to ‘my style’, I don’t know if I would have noticed this technical preference.
I initially kept my oil paints. At the outset, I was planning to discard them, because they’re 10 years old and oil painting is smelly, time-consuming and really needs a dedicated (ventilated) work space, something I don’t have right now. The solvents used also make me uncomfortable to use in this time of my life, my childbearing years. But instead of owning this decision – to discard – I went to some art forums online searching for validation: I searched, ‘How long do painting mediums last?’, hoping to find that even if the paints themselves were still usable, all the mixing mediums were expired and I would ‘have to’ discard them. To my dismay, I read over and over that they were likely to be good indefinitely. Having thus outsourced my decision-making, I ‘had to’ keep them. So I did.
Then, Mike came to the rescue. You don’t need outside help for the KonMari method, and other people can be a hindrance if they sabotage your efforts or don’t respect your choices about what to keep. However, Mike has been a wonderful helper in this project because he’s more objective, and can listen to my stories and comment, ‘But what you’re describing isn’t really joy.’ (The longer the story and justification I have to tell, the less likely it is that the item sparks joy!) I told him my conflicted feeling about my oil paints. Really, it came down to two points: oil painting supplies are expensive; and oil painting – of all the media I’ve tried – is my deepest, most passionate love. I love the rich texture of the paints like soft butter, the way they whip up into glossy mounds like frosting when you mix them with mediums; the way of working with slow, balanced building of colours over the canvas; the luminosity of glazed oil paint that bounces light back at you, suffused with colour, exactly like stained glass.
But, as Mike pointed out, loving to paint with oils is not the same as my oil paints giving me joy now. This is the hardest type of admission, I’ve discovered. The admission is that that something you love, timelessly, is not a current source of joy in your life. But this is also a distinction I’ve needed to learn, because I love too many things to pursue them all at once.
Happily, given that my oil paints were still usable, I found a buyer for them on Craigslist. I am happy they won’t be wasted and that perhaps they’ll give joy to someone else. In the future, if I want to paint again, I trust I’ll find what I need. I did keep my brushes, however, because they give me joy and are still in excellent condition, having been scrupulously cleaned and preserved (well done, former self!).
I had a collection of acrylic paints, too, which I also decided to discard, and have a friend who wants them.
Now that that saga is over, and my art supplies now consist of a nice collection of drawing supplies and watercolours – things I can do in the space and the time I have right now – my art corner looks inviting instead of scary.
My oil paintings themselves are still at my mom’s house (the only remaining bastion of my stuff there) – except for the ones I actually sold or gave away previously. (I sold a painting once to a buyer I didn’t even know, who saw it at a show and contacted me. I am still shocked at this!) So I’ll go through them later on.
I also went through my various sketchbooks (which had already been hugely culled before), and a few loose pieces. I discarded a lot of mediocre watercolours (I was never good at that medium) and sketches. Four sparked joy now, so I’m going to close this post with a little art show. Funnily, none of these were meant to be finished pieces; they’re all doodles of ideas, but I think that’s what makes them so lively and enigmatic.