"If I Weren't So Stingy..."

Glorious Gold
This is how one of Julia Cameron's questions begins in her book THE ARTIST'S WAY. The question is: "If I weren't so stingy with my artist, I would buy her/him..." The reader is supposed to finish the statement.

Boy, that really struck home when I read it the first time many years ago, and each time since.
Reclining Nude
I'm awfully stingy with the child-like personification of my artist self. Although sometimes I take her shopping and buy her new tubes of paint, that's usually prompted by a great sale, not by timely need.  I can't tell you how many hours I've spent comparing cool travel easels online, deciding which accessories I could live without and then end up not buying one at all. I still own- and use- the wooden French easel I bought when I was 21.  I turned 56 today.  A little subtraction will reveal how many years I've traveled with that box.  All the hardware desperately needs replacing.

It took me until this year to buy the metal spirits can with the clamp-on lid I've wanted since I started painting in oils.  And I only got it because it was in Jerry's Artarama's Deep Discount Super Sale. 

Stephen and Ben Wenzel

Just today I dug all the sticky tubes out of the disreputable lunch bag I've been using to hold my paints and organized them in a VERY inexpensive (No, really- $6.98) plastic tackle box from WallyWorld. Well, at least I don't have to scrabble around and dig through the tubes to find the one color that's sure to be on the bottom and be the stickiest of all. 

My frugality is a sickness. And it's deeply, deeply ingrained. 

In contrast, I see fledgling art students come to their first class or workshop outfitted to the teeth. They've researched and bought the best. The best easels, best brushes (I could eat for three months on what some of those brushes cost), the best paints and a shiny new spirits can with the clamp-on lid. And they've never painted anything yet!  I sometimes wonder if they think the expensive supplies will paint the painting FOR them.

Online Workshop Painting
Somewhere between my stingy sickness and the stupendous supply splurge is some kind of healthy approach to equipping our child-like artist selves.  We need toys.  Okay, it's more like: WE NEED TOYS!  I know, I know, a cardboard box could entertain us as children for hours, but eventually we needed crayons and fingerpaints and an Etch-A-Sketch and a computer with image-editing software.  We need time to make messes and "waste" paint.  We need a palette knife so we can ladle on the gooey goodness of great color.  We need canvas and gesso panels and we need them in every size.  We need to scrape off the old dried-up paint from our palettes and squirt generous dollops of each color onto our fresh surface well before the time we actually need that color.  We need a few decent brushes. We need paint that does not have the word Hue in the name.  (Ok, I still have a few of those...)  We need to SHOP.  

Let's wrestle to the ground and hog-tie our sickening stinginess. This year I'm going to buy a great travel easel.....   I am, SO!  
Happy Birthday to my child-like and worthy inner artist!


Susan Roux said...

Is it really your birthday? I hope you gift yourself some really cool art stuff, even if you think it's frivolous!

Debra Bryant said...

Great insight to all us "stingy artists" who go without some of our basic artistic needs for far too long! Happy Birthday and DO buy that easel today and go out and enjoy it! *HUGS*

Blueeyes said...

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!! Yes I know all about the "stingy stuff"..I hate waste, so I only put out very very small amounts of paint & if there is any left I try to reuse it, when I should toss it out. Go & buy that wonderful easel, all those new colors you've been wanting to try.. you deserve the very best.
"Celebrating your day and the creative handiwork of God...so wonderfully displayed in you..

Barbara Pask said...

Happy Birthday to you sweet friend and you deserve the best of art supplies. Can't wait to hear about your new easel. Now go buy it! lol

Lisa Kerpoe said...

Happy Birthday, Susan! And thank you for the reminder that we need to indulge our artist selves every so often.

Dar Presto said...

Happy Birthday, Susan! Wishing you a great day, and a fantastic year. (And lots of toys.)

Charlotte Wyatt said...

Happy Birthday from one artist to another: Make this year the one that you treat yourself the BEST - including buying art items you WANT and not necessarily need!

Becky Brocato said...

Happy Birthday, Susan! I wish you toys!
Becky Brocato

Happy Little Trees Studio said...

Happy B-day! And I can so relate to this post!

Julie said...

Happy birthday! We're both July babies! Treat yourself - your work is beautiful and we'd all like to see more.

Sarah said...

Great post - I can relate to coveting a student's painting equipement, and yes, also to the scrambled together paint collection. We should all be more organized just in the interest of making life easy on ourselves, but that is just the creative temperament, I guess!

Barbara M. said...

Hi Susan,

I read this when I was on vacation and couldn't get enough computer time in the café to respond. How wonderful. I remember resisting doing watercolours because a full size sheet was $13.00. I totally understand what you're saying, and part of it is about deserving. Julia Cameron is right. Your inner child does deserve toys. Beautiful work as always, and good for you. You go girl!


Jo Castillo said...

Hope your birthday was wonderful and you are enjoying the new toys! Many hugs and best wishes!!!

I thought I had commented here. I am so frugal, too. Must be the way we were raised.

http://www.onpainting.wordpress.com said...

Finally a decent reclining nude painting. Right up there with Manet

Sadeu said...

Your paintings are very, very good, Susan : )