My Art journey started whilst I have been living back in the UK so I am only able to give the benefit of my experience in this country unfortunately.
When I started out I quite simply looked for the closest Art shop to my house, convenience is key after all! I found a small branch of Cass Art and to be honest, I fell in love with it then and I am still in love with it now. Whilst my branch isn't the biggest shop, they do have bigger, better stocked branches throughout the UK. Particularly in my home town of Bristol which I discovered very recently, much to my delight!
There are several, very good reasons that this is my supplier of choice. Firstly, their shops are very clean and tidy, everything is easy to find and I've always found their staff knowledgeable and willing to help Artists and Creatives with all levels of experience. Secondly, they have a loyalty scheme. For every £100 you spend, you get £10 off your next purchase. You'll find that buying Art supplies isn't a cheap game so you'll stack up the pounds very quickly and that little reward at the end will be most welcome!
My only critique is that you can't get points using their website, however, the store do advise that you can query this with their customer services department, particularly if you've made a large order on line. Thirdly, they have GREAT discounts! I've been to several other shops throughout London and I've found that Cass Art have the best prices. They always have discount days in store and online and often have deals on canvases and paint etc. I fully recommend stocking up when these days come round!
Cass Art - Soho
As you can probably tell, bright, loud colours are my thing! There are so many different acrylic paint brands out there to try that it's impossible to know where to start. Also, once you start down this road you'll find that paint is not cheap at all so I try to go for what's cost effective and has the best range of colours. I've tried and tested a few different types but have found that I've stayed pretty loyal to Liquitex and Golden.
Liquitex - I use their Heavy Body paint. I find that they are the best value for money in terms of quality, you can get some great deals at Cass Art with this brand. They have a great range of colours and are easily mixed to produce more exciting colours. Golden definitely has the edge with quality pigmented colours but Liquitex is a good second best and is kinder to your budget.
Golden - This is every acrylic artists 'go to' and by far the most instagrammable paint on the market! Unfortunately this means it can be quite expensive. The quality and colours, especially their gorgeous metallics, are unmatched!
Sennelier - I only have a couple of paints from the 'extra fine' range from this brand but they are beautiful and really smooth. I've also found a couple of colours that Liquitex and Golden don't stock.
Every Artist needs a good mixing white, this can be costly as it's your most used colour. I simply opt for a standard white acrylic from Cass Art's own brand, they're very cheap and come in larger tubes and go much further than the small tubes from named brands. I then use transparent white from Liquitex when you need something better quality when detailing with white in your piece.
GOLDEN Heavy Body Paint
Liquitex Heavy Body Paint
Winsor & Newton are my chosen brand for canvases. Mainly because that's what my local art shop stocks.... However, they've served me very well and I'm happy with the quality so I figure, if it's not broken, don't fix it, right!?!
Alert. Another plug for Cass Art here.... (I promise they aren't paying me)
Cass Art do some great deals on Winsor & Newton canvases! Linen is industry recommended for professionals but I find their Professional Cotton and Classic Cotton range are perfectly suffice and great quality for my work. They're already on their stretcher bars and ready to use. The canvas is tightly woven so the paint sits nicely on top and you don't find that you're spending an eternity trying to fill in all the little gaps!
Tip: Try their Cotton Smooth Canvas. It is DREAMY!
I have also used Cass Art's own range of canvases and was really surprised and super happy with the quality and how easy they are to paint on, definitely a perfectly satisfactory, slightly cheaper alternative.
I don't know about you but mixed media pieces totally terrified me at first. I had heart palpitations at the mere thought of ruining a fab acrylic piece with an unruly Posca Pen or some flyaway Gold Leaf! However, in an attempt at bravery I have recently started playing around with mixed media, I feel it adds an interesting element to the work as well as depth to the piece. Whilst not totally au fait with all the different methods I've tried, I have enjoyed experimenting a lot!
I can highly recommended Posca Paint Markers and Liquitex Paint Markers for adding detail to your art work. They are water based but won't bleed through paper and you can use them on almost any surface from paper to metal, fabrics, plastic and even stone.
I also love using oil pastels to create texture on the canvas. The best oil pastels are by Sennelier, however, this beautiful creamy texture comes at a price. I used the cost effective Daler Rowney Oil Pastel Set from Cass Art whilst trying out this new method before I invested in the more superior set. Be sure to seek advice on sealing and varnishing when you use mixed media.
Often with acrylic paint you'll find it's really bright and textured when laid on the canvas but when it dries the peaks become less pronounced and the colour is darker with a matte finish.
I like the colours in my work to pop out at you so I use Golden Heavy Gel High Gloss Medium mixed with the paint to produce a thicker, textured finish. When it dries the colours and chunky and glossy and jump off the page.
'Crackle' and 'Molding Paste' by Golden are next on the shopping list.
I think it's fair to say that varnish is tricky. It will take practice and patience to get it right and even then you'll probably have a wobble it's all gone wrong. However, panic not, invariably it will all work out just fine!
I started out using a spray varnish and quickly realised it was a terrible idea. It's hard to gauge your coverage and it stinks to high heaven (so I found out to my detriment and ended up having to have the windows wide open in the middle of winter!). I moved on to a brush varnish which I much prefer.
My favoured varnish is Liquitex Professional High Gloss Varnish, although slightly more expensive than some other brands it's well worth it. The varnish is odourless and it's brushes onto the canvas well, giving even coverage. I don't find it instantly sticky so you have a few more minutes to manoeuvre it around the canvas than some other brands. You will see air bubbles and pockets of varnish, especially on textured work, don't worry too much, usually they disappear when the varnish dries. I recommend cleaning the painting first with a soft cloth before varnishing to make sure any dust has been removed. I also use Winsor & Newton Galeria Gloss Varnish. This is better value for money but I have found it stickier than Liquitex so you need to work quickly with your varnish. Having said that, I find the finish is quite similar for both. I recommended using soft brushes but make sure there are no loose hairs before you dip into the varnish. My most important tip is wash your brushes thoroughly after use, once the varnish has dried in them there's no going back and you'll have to throw them in the bin!
The type of easel you use will be totally dependent on the space in which you paint. If, like me, you started out constrained to a tiny corner of your room or apartment then you will need to manage your space accordingly.
When I decided that the only thing that possibly made any sense in the world is that I should start to paint, my lovely sister sent me a gorgeous, table-top, box easel as a surprise in the post. It really was the most thoughtful and sweet present I've ever had (although I'm convinced it was so I'd stop harping on to her about it!). She chose Royal & Langnickel which you can buy very reasonably priced from Amazon.
When my confidence grew and I decided to paint bigger canvases, I did feel quite limited with my table top easel due to the weight of the canvases. As space is still quite an issue for me I resisted the temptation to buy an all singing all dancing studio easel and settled for a free standing Daler Rowney Lyra Studio Easel from Cass Art for a very reasonable price. I am totally in love with it, it's fits my purpose perfectly and also acts as a great stand for photographing my work, although I do have to be careful not to drip any paint on the wood!
As an Artist you realise just how important good lighting is, the quality of your pictures depends on it. After battling on with natural lighting for a year I researched the best way to take pics of your Art.
If you struggle with space and the prospect of filling it with light boxes and equipment is impossible, then I suggest getting a Neewer Ring Light which you can pick up relatively inexpensively from Amazon. I went for the 18 inch Ring Light as I generally work on a bigger canvas. The light emission is fab, you can take pictures using a smart phone or camera of your work through the centre of the ring and this will produce great quality photos for your website or instagram.
I couldn't not include my dreamy paint trolley.... because.... well.... it's just dreamy.... And let's face it, are you even an Artist on instagram if you don't have one!?
These are great for keeping all your equipment and materials organised and of course, it looks fab in all your insta pics! You can pick one up from Ikea or Amazon in a variety of different colours for under £50.
Tip: I like to recycle plastic washing detergent tubs and pots and use them to store my art materials!