How to Start an Art Practice Without a lot of Supplies

I meet a lot of people who believe making art requires a lot of time, material, space and/or talent. Actually making art only requires one medium and a little passion. People make art just with their cell phone cameras these days and you don’t even have to be a photographer to do that. What interesting compositions could be made by framing one’s surrounds, what painterly moods could be expressed just capturing the light of a particular moment?

For more tactile people all one needs is paper and a pencil or pen. One could draw on the back of paper out of the recycle, buy a ream of copy paper, find a notebook laying around the house, pick up a sketchbook or notebook at the store, use the inside of paper bags.

My sketchbook is a ream of cotton bond paper, it’s more expensive than copy paper but its takes watercolor paint a little better and is still a lot cheaper than buying sketchbooks. I keep these in a three ring binder but no one needs to be that fancy even. A folder, manila envelope, box. One could scan their drawings onto a computer, post them (or not) on social media, a blog maybe and then recycle the paper copies.

Obviously there is nothing wrong with buying a nice sketchbook or having a lot of art supplies. I’m just trying to make things as simple and flexible as possible so anyone who is stuck inventing entry barriers for themselves may be inspired to let that go. Drawing is the best foundation for all art in my opinion. Even if what you want is to make giant oil paintings beginning to draw will take you about halfway to that goal.

Honestly, if you don’t start to draw you may never make a single painting. If you keep a drawing practice the stage is set. You will, sooner than you thought possible, start painting. Or get carried off in some other art direction more fulfilling than you ever could have imagined.

The particulars of one’s art practice are never as important as we imagine them to be. What is important is this question: are you engaging your passion? It is OK to be passionate about nothing else besides wanting to be creative, wanting to find one’s voice, wanting to find room for passion in one’s life.

So what are you going to draw on your little stack of paper or the notebook you just pulled out of the bottom of the desk drawer? Even if it’s a little uninspired notebook, half-empty, with lines and old to-do lists it’s going to become a magical art-book the moment you make one attempt to express yourself in it.

 

Drawings can be made in a few minutes, we don’t need to wait for a lot of time to sit down and draw. Commercials, waiting for someone to arrive or text back, coffee breaks. Every time we see a social media post that irritates us it should be like a drinking game but instead it’s our cue to put down the phone and grab a piece of paper.

Starting a new thing and finding time can be hard, I won’t deny that. We don’t have get mad at ourselves or our circumstances. Nor to we have to get mad at ourselves for getting mad at ourselves. The moment we notice we haven’t drawn for a few weeks is the moment to congratulate ourselves for giving passion enough of a presence to remember. The moment we feel frustrated at how many other things we have to do is the moment to have gratitude that we have a strong passion that is going to take us on an amazing adventure even if it seems a little slow compared to the movies we love to watch.

Some people know what they want to draw already. Faces, cats, dishware, shoes, gardens, boats, birds, abstracts…some people know what they love that they want to talk about with art. Go to it. Do not obligate yourself to be good, it is more important to try, to learn. Whatever your drawings look like, trust that they are beautiful because you took the time to make them. Because they are a product of and catalyst for your passion. Because deciding to make art without anyone else’s permission or approval is a subversive act of faith in the worth of your life.

You can worry about making your drawings “good” later. Even better, you can continue to cultivate your voice and discover more of your own beauty.

Some people don’t know what they want to draw, they just know they like art and want to make their own. No problem. Draw something near you. Draw something in your imagination. Draw something that seems like something you would like to draw. Doodle, scribble, put the pencil down on the paper and make some marks. Get to know the marks your hand likes to make. You can decide later what to draw, the important thing is to start. Let yourself start the thing you want to do. Let it be incredibly imperfect. Let it be a tiny seed that looks nothing like the grand oak you would like it to be.

Next time we’ll probably talk more about ways to draw and why drawing works even if we don’t make pretty drawings. If this post inspires you to start an art practice let me know how it goes!

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