Don’t Let Bad Art Supplies Make You Think You’re Not a Good Artist

Living in a motorhome in the desert adds a few additional challenges to using and storing art supplies. I’ve shared my favorite space-saving art supplies, but I’m always open to trying out new things. Recently, I purchased a couple of budget sketchbooks on Amazon in my constant quest to save money and conserve space.

The sketchbooks claimed to be good for watercolor, and as I’ve been on a Karin brush marker roll, I thought they’d be a good choice for my budget, my space, and my medium.

I’d been using a set of gouache paint from the same manufacturer with a surprising amount of success, so I thought I’d give their sketchbooks a go.

A “watercolor” sketchbook that’s not at all appropriate for watercolor

Hoo boy was I wrong. I think I’d have more success painting on a roll of toilet paper than I did with this sketchbook. The color bled into areas with no water and didn’t allow the paint to perform its best. The color looks flat and the transition between colors is incomplete. Not even washi tape could stop the color bleed.

Just for kicks, I created a painting with the same watercolor markers and the same technique in my sketchbook of choice, the Strathmore visual journal.

The difference in the experience working with the paper and the end result was astounding. The paint only went where the water went, wasn’t flat, and allowed blooming and color transition where I encouraged it.

You might be thinking, “Duh Nicole, companies claim their products can do things they don’t really do all the time” or “of course a budget sketchbook sucks.”

Now THAT’S watercolor paper

But as an artist whose support and encouragement largely comes from within because (with a few exceptions, who are probably reading right now ā€” thank you for supporting me, exceptions šŸ’š) I’ve had a real lack of support from those around me, this experience got me thinking: how many artists buy supplies like this and think the results are their fault?

I am a reasonably skilled artist who was fortunate enough to receive formal training in art. Like many other artists, I’ve struggled for years with not feeling good enough or thinking of myself as not a “real artist.”

I’ve finally reached a place where I’ve worked through that horse mess and I can thank my inner art critic for trying to protect me and then move on and make more art.

For me, the experience of trying to paint on this sketchbook and failing miserably was mildly irritating and a little entertaining. I suppose I should thank this shitty sketchbook for firing me up enough to start writing again after a months-long hiatus.

But what about artists who aren’t there yet?

Thinking of myself 10 years ago, if I tried watercolor on paper like this I probably would have let it stop me from creating more art. I’d have thought I was a failure and that watercolor wasn’t for me. I’d have thought I wasn’t a good artist.

I want you to know that if you’re out there creating art, you’re a good artist.

If you show up for yourself and put pen, pencil, paintbrush, or (insert your art tools of choice) to paper, canvas, sketchbook, or (insert your media receiving/creating thing of choice) you’re a good artist.

If you created something you don’t like today, you’re a good artist.

If you tried something new and it didn’t work out, you’re a good artist.

If you feel like you need permission to create art, you have mine and you’re a good artist.

Don’t let bad art supplies make you think you’re not a good artist.

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