10 Unexpected Things in an Artist's Tool Box

Updated: Feb 23, 2020


Kate Moynihan Artist

The Bare Basic Artist, that's me.

Don't laugh, but I'm not a gadget-for-every-job, kind-of-gal. Instead, I prefer simple things. In watercolor, I like one dependable chisel brush for loose washes, and for smaller detail work, I prefer a sable round brush, that's it. Two brushes. In oils, to get all that texture, I use a palette knife. Simple.


For crafting colors,I like to use the three primary colors - red, yellow, blue. With those three colors, I get luscious greens, stunning violets, vibrant orange!


So what makes my artist tool box so unusual? Well, I like to experiment, try something new, and after 30 years of painting, I've found a few tools beyond my two brushes and palette knife.


10 Unexpected Things in an Artist's Tool Box

1. Needle-nose pliers -- The perfect grip for squeezing the last drop out of paint tubes.


2. Wood Shish-kabob Skewers -- I like the appetizer size as I find the 12" length is great for mixing paint.


3. Clear Acetate Presentation Sleeve -- In the plastic, I cut a stencil shape, such as flower pedals. Using a damp sponge, I lift unwanted, dry watercolor paint. By doing this, I regain a lighter value. This is perfect for adding depth to over-worked flowers, and other motifs such as tree bark, fence posts, buildings, boats ...


4. Rubber Cement. In watercolor we commonly shield the white paper before beginning to paint. We can do this with a commercially-made masking fluid which is applied with a brush. I use this mask, but when I want thick and thin, irregular and fluid lines, I reach for rubber cement. I let the liquid rubber cement drip on my watercolor paper, or sometimes, I cast my arm across the paper and let the liquid string this way and that. Once the painting is finished and dry,I remove the rubber cement which leaves interesting patterns that enhance the painting.


5. Cheesecloth, lace, dollies -- any fabric scraps with texture are in my toolbox. I like to coat the fabric with watercolor paint, press it onto the paper, dab with a paper towel to soak up excess moisture, and then peel off the textile. It's a printmaking technique that gives texture to the painting.


"Fish in Coral" Original watercolor by Kate Moynihan
I stretched the fibers of cheese cloth to get the background texture

6. Sand paper. I prefer to work on 300 lb. watercolor paper as the heavier weight is very forgiving when I need to scrub and lift color with a sponge. Sometimes, when the color is steadfast it takes something more aggressive to lift the stain. Out comes the sandpaper. With a fine grit, I can file away the unwanted color.


7. Two-part, five-minute epoxy -- a necessity if you want anything with a metallic finish to stay anchored in place. In collage work, I love to mix papers and metals.


8. Credit Card - NOT for shopping. In painting I use it as a tool for texture. The straight, yet semi-flexible card stamps and prints the most interesting lines, unlike those I can get with a brush.


9. My hands – Yup! I dive right in with all ten fingers to apply the acrylic matte media glue when doing collage work. It's the best way to get in all the nooks and crannies between the bits of torn paper. I know, technically my palm aren't "inside" the tool box, but don't you think since they wrap around the handle of the tool box, that's close enough to be a top ten item?


10. Goof-Off -- After all this messing around, most times I have more paint on me than on the paper. To ease my laundry woes, I keep a small can of Goof-Off, heavy duty remover, in the toolbox. A little dab on my soiled clothes, and then home to the washing machine. This trick makes clean up a breeze.

That's my 10 Unexpected Things in an Artist's Tool Box

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