Drawing: Minimal Supplies

When I begin any of my journaling classes, I explain that we will be doing more than writing. Before I explain what it is we will do, someone will say, “This better not be about drawing. I can’t draw.” There is a lot of fear about drawing. Most people have their creative play driven out of them by fourth grade.

They are told what art is, and lessons are generally about precision and not making a mistake. Instead, art is about seeing and being. And making mistakes so you can fix them and learn to see better.

My big fear is that to be considered acceptable as a teacher, I better have a lot of “stuff.” Stamps and UTEE and templates; cutters and vinyl and foam; printed paper squares and ribbons and stamp pads in pigment and dye and chalk. But I don’t. I don’t have all that stuff. I have colored pencils, paints (acrylic and watercolor) and inks and some handmade papers and great drawing paper. And I often feel I have too much. (My sewing stash is growing).

I believe you can make art without a lot of stuff. Art comes from within you, not through stencils, transparencies and puffy paints. I’m not saying they aren’t fun, or that creative play should be sparse. I am saying you don’t need to break the bank and become an art-product consumer to be an artist. It’s not what you own, it’s what you do with what you have.

Preternatural Breakup by Justine Ashbee, © 2006

Here are two great examples of what I mean. Both of these people can’t NOT make art. They stand in the flow of time and art and the work pours out of them because there is no other choice. They have their own ideas of what art is, and the only tool either one of them uses is a Sharpie pen.

Justine Ashbee uses nothing except Sharpie pens and good paper. Her flowing lines and subtle use of color are incredibly beautiful art. She does it freehand. It comes from within her. It’s the flow of art. You couldn’t stop her creative work because it makes meaning. It doesn’t need to be supported with a million products.

Charlie Kratzer, the other artist, does a totally different kind of work. He decorated his entire basement with a black Sharpie. OK, it was more than one. It was $10 worth. The rest was his creativity, his ideas, his desire to decorate his life.

Kratzer is a lawyer, and started with one line in the basement–a line that began a mural around his basement wall. The mural is not just furniture and columns and wainscoting, although it is all that.

The art spans literature and popular culture, Picasso and Churchill. I could list all the things on the wall, but there is a wonderful video and article that does a much better job.

Being creative is not about owning stuff, buying stuff, or having a fabulous studio to store the stuff. Right now there it’s popular to have artists’ studios in magazines, along with descriptions about how this big, airy, wonderful space is exactly what every artist needs. Yes, it’s nice to have lots of space and storage, but thinking you need 300 square feet with special furniture before you can create is the same as thinking you aren’t an artist until you have six shelves of stuff. Creativity is making meaning in your life. Anyway you can. No excuses. Get busy doing one thing that you love. It’s fine if you think you can’t. Just get into the studio and start. The rest will wash over you and sweep you away in art.

–Quinn McDonald is a certified creativity coach who helps people discover they can make meaning in many ways. See her work at QuinnCreative.com

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11 thoughts on “Drawing: Minimal Supplies

  1. Quinn,
    This post struck a resonating nerve; I so appreciate your simplistic approach. We don’t have to have a lot to get started with anything we do; not even as artists. I feel seriously blessed to have the art supplies that are in my studio; I’m grateful for folks like you who share your art experiences and help others to discover their own. Thanks for your encouragement.

    I have chosen your post, Drawing: Minimal Supplies, for the #JournalChat Pick of the Day on 10/18/11 for all things journaling on Twitter.
    I will post a link on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, my blog and website Refresh with Dawn Herring, and in Refresh Journal: http://www.refreshwithdawnherring.blogspot.com/.

    The topic for #JournalChat Live on Twitter this week is using our journals to reflect our state of mind in our every day experience.

    Thanks again for your point of view of what is really needed in our creative worlds.

    Be refreshed,
    Dawn Herring
    JournalWriter Freelance
    Host of #JournalChat Live and Links Edition on Twitter

  2. I hope we can celebrate our creativity as part of a defence against rampant consumerism – rather than allowing it to become yet another thing we need to buy to be…

    Thanks for yet more ideas, resources and inspiration1

  3. I am reaching for the creative side of me that has been dormant, at least since the 4th grade, if not before. Such a joy. I am glad you reminded me to go with it and not get hung up on the bells and whistles or an expectation of perfection. I’m ordering your book next.

  4. I’m primarily a photographer, and I see the same thing in my field, that you can’t be a “real” photographer unless you have a big SUV to go off-road, a particular photo vest, this lens, that camera body, these software packages, that printer.

    As in art, it’s not the gear, it’s what you do with it. Often I’ll go out with just one lens, limiting myself to that particular way of looking at things, and it’s fun! I take photos I would never have thought of taking, see things a different way, compose differently, and work the unique characteristics of that one lens. The load is lighter, encouraging me to stay out longer, walk more, be more relaxed. It turns me into an artist rather than being obsessed with “must take every shot” and switching lenses all the time.

    Thank you for showing a similar side of the “less is more”/”less is enough” philosophy. –Carol Leigh

  5. Wow! Charlie Kratzer’s basement is awesome! Thank you for sharing that gem with us. I think it’s fascinating that people who have staid and “regular” jobs during the day can sometimes hide an amazing artistic talent inside. I suspect that more people are “artistic” than not; they just don’t trust themselves enough (or maybe don’t have the interest) to explore that side of themselves.

    (By the way, Quinn, I’m not sure that I let you know that my copy of Mingle arrived in the mail last week. Thank you for the giveaway opportunity! I will be posting about some recent “winnings,” including this magazine, later today.)

    • As someone who had a “day job” for years, I know that artistic talent will express itself one way or another. You are so right, they often don’t trust themselves or think that the aritstic side is not worth exploring, since it takes practice and their first try probably isn’t worth it.

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