My Favourite Art Shops, Tools and Tips
When artists get together we like to share info and tips about tools of the trade that make our lives easier and the shops that sell those tools or other places that offer great services and deals for artists. I know that many of you reading this post right now are artists and creatives as well, so I would love to share some of my helpful insider info and tips, I’ve put together a list of some of my favourite art shops and services, as well as some of the tools and brands I use on a regular basis.
1. Cass Art
When I’m in need of supplies I often go to Cass Art because they have a good selection of high-quality materials at affordable prices. In fact, they guarantee the lowest prices in the UK at all of their shops, and they are always having sales with discounts on art supplies. They sponsor many workshops and events like talks with local artists, painting and drawing classes for adults and children, and in-depth workshops on unique techniques like casting, experimental printmaking, and more.
Last year I entered a Mixed Media Art Competition in conjunction with Cass Art & Pebeo Products, I picked up a leaflet when I was visiting one of their stores in Kingston Upon Thames. I was delighted to find out a few weeks later that I was one of the winners and I was invited to exhibit my winning piece 'Buddha Nature' at A&D gallery in the heart of fashionable Marylebone in London. My piece was inspired by my travels around Asia and some of my friends from Singapore were in London that week and were able to come along to the private view all very exciting!
2. River Crane Framing by Sue Harper
I get my artwork and prints framed by Sue at River Crane Framing in Twickenham because she’s quick, efficient, very professional, and works by appointment only, which means she makes time to sit down with all her clients one on one to discuss each project. She recently framed two pieces of mine that were exhibited at the Artundressed Creative Nude Exhibition in Miami, and I couldn’t be happier with the results.
3. Canvases and Stretcher Bars
I go through a lot of canvases, and I usually purchase them online from either Harris Moore Canvas or John Jones Artist Surfaces. However, it can get a bit expensive with delivery charges for large scale canvases, so now I am in my new studio and have more space I’m starting to stretch them myself. My husband has agreed to help me make up the larger ones. It takes a little bit of time and effort and sometimes a few blisters but its more cost effective.
My favourite kind of canvas is actually a medium fine weave Belgian Linen from manufacturer Claessens, it's a beautiful surface to paint on. Claessens is a family business that was set up in 1906 and is carried on by the founders family - the descendants of Victor Claessens made a conscious choice to keep a small-scale approach to production and to honour the traditional methods for treating artist’s canvas. Nowadays, much of the work is done by machine, but the core of the production process has remained unchanged. This respect for tradition and experience has made Claessens a household name amongst artists, stretching far beyond the borders of Europe.
I have also recently bought a black primed canvas from Harris Moore, it has a gorgeous uber matt surface and I have painted a piece for an interior design magazine photoshoot with tropical palms on it. It's good to experiment with different materials.
I was also recommended to try a new kind of stretcher bar recently from an artist's facebook group I am connected with. I have just ordered my first set from www.wunderbars.com they make patented spring loaded stretcher bars and these are great for keeping that taught painting surfacewww.claessenscanvas.com/en/products/types-of-canvas
4. Paint & Pencils
Of course, a painter can’t do much without paint and pencils! These are just a few brands I use:
Caran D'ache Pencils. My first tin was given to me by my Mum and I’ve been using this brand ever since. I love the pencils that you can dip in water and they turn to paint, ( Prismalo Aquarelle) I also love the water soluble wax pastels called 'Neocolor II Aquarelle' for my mixed media work
Liquitex Acrylic Paint. Liquitex is a pretty well-known brand with a great range of colours and products like Artists Heavy Body paint, acrylic paint markers for finer details, and gloss medium varnish for extending acrylic paint into glazes.
Windsor & Newton Galeria Acrylic Paint. Another world-famous brand, Windsor & Newton makes high-quality acrylic paints in 60 different vibrant colours. I loved using the Windsor violet on my Liberty of London Painting
Amsterdam Standard Series Acrylic Paints. Amsterdam is yet another great brand that makes reliable acrylic paints, and they offer 73 colours to choose from in their Standard series.
When it comes to brushes I use anything from hardware store brushes to brand name brushes from any of the companies I’ve outlined above. I think it’s all about what feels right in your hand and what’s going to give you the effect you’re going for, whether it be fine detailed line work or thick swabs of paint that add shape and texture. I currently have quite a big brush collection, so I often just jump on Ebay or Jacksons another online art store I like to use to top up my brushes.
6. INVISIBLE LIGHT WEIGHT EASEL
Recently, I was given a great tip by one of the members I met at the Athena Network about an easel called the Invisi Lightweight Display Easel by Ken Bromley Art Supplies. This ingenious invention was created for busy artists who need to display their artwork at multiple exhibitions or pop up shows. It’s made from strong structural plastics and sits on a table to hold photos or canvases, but it also weighs next to nothing and can be packed flat and tucked into a bag. This is a great alternative to carrying around big wooden easels!