Do better materials make you a better artist?
Many different types of brushes, paint, and artist materials are available to the beginner painter. But many artists wonder, “If I had better tools, would I be a better artist?”.
At Evolve, we answer this with a resounding “No!" Being a better artist is about what you bring to the easel, your effort, what you’re willing to experiment with, and how creative you are with the tools you do have. But those tools will never make you any better than you were before.
However, the kind of artist materials you use can make your work worse.
Choosing the right artist materials when you are painting can make a big difference in your painting practice. So keep reading to learn how tools affect students of all levels!
Are Your Tools Holding You Back?
While high-quality materials won’t make you any better of an artist, they certainly won’t make you any worse. However, if you’re using low-quality materials, they can stand in the way of your success.
Let’s say you have a perfect technique, and I give you a low-grade paint and low-quality brushes to work with. The technique, though applied perfectly, might not actually work with the materials you are using.
And so the student, who doesn’t know any better, starts augmenting their perfect technique to make up for the shortfalls of the tools. They change what they are doing to get a result with the worse material. And so in doing that they begin watering down and degrading the quality of their technique, bending a pristine approach around bad tools.
Using low-grade paint, with less pigment and more oil, or low-quality brushes will affect your paintings, even if your approach to painting is flawless. You begin to make adjustments for the poor performance of your artist materials.
And so your entire approach becomes wrapped around these terrible materials that are in the way, steering you off course every time you use them.
Quality Comes With a Price Tag
High-quality paint and artist materials are often passed by due to their price. But while these artist materials are expensive, they pale in comparison to the value of your time wasted.
If you apply the same care and skill to two paintings, one done on quality canvas with excellent paint, and one done on inexpensive canvas with oiled down paint, the difference between the two will be clear. One will be much better for the materials used, and the other weaker.
Your time is valuable, so why not invest in materials that will help your work, instead of hinder it?
Your time is valuable, so why not invest in materials that will help your work, instead of hinder it? And now you will have a painting that is sellable, made with quality, lasting material.
Low-grade paint will cause issues in chroma when color mixing. The paint, not densely enough pigmented, will not hold up well when other colors are added. But when you compare a student grade paint to a brand like Old Holland, you will see that much less of the quality paint is needed in color mixtures compared to the student grade paint.
Because student grade paints are less pigmented and supplemented with excess fillers, more paint is needed in order to paint. But quality paint will go much further because of its dense pigmentation which causes it to be stretched with medium and still hold up its chroma. This simply means you need less of it and the paint will last longer.
There are many professional grade paints that are made with care and quality, worth the investment rather than wasting money on student grade paint.
Student Grade Materials
My students often wonder if they should purchase student grade paints because of their inexperience. But I always urge my students to use the best materials they can afford.
When students think, “I’m a student, so I’ll use student grade paint”, the result is a student grade painting. This thought process prevents students from pushing their work to a higher standard and sets a downward cycle.
Students should, instead, be thinking that because they want to be a professional, they need to use artist materials that will help them get there. If you wanted to be a professional baseball player, you wouldn’t practice every day with a plastic ball and bat. You would get yourself to a place where you could use the right equipment so you are not compensating and forming bad habits.
Student grade materials can hold students back from growing as artists and can create bad habits. Investing in the proper artist materials will ensure this does not happen.
Better tools definitely don’t make you a better artist, but they won’t hold you back. Using lower quality paint and brushes forces your hand. You have to compensate for the inadequacies of the artist materials.
When a student begins to compensate for weaker tools, they are forced into bad habits. Also, the level of inconsistency in low-quality products can become a nightmare to negotiate. Not knowing how your material will function from painting to painting makes for very inconsistent results and stunted learning.
Students need confidence in the tools they use. Not having to worry about how your paint and brushes will function allows you to focus on more important things. Instead, you can focus on technique, without being held back by low-grade artist materials.