Art Week - A Dilemma and a Plea: On Hoarding

A friend of mine mentioned her dilemma on Facebook.

And since I've known her forever, I'm totally throwing her under the bus here.  Not because her dilemma is unusual, but because I hear it all the time.

In fact, I've lived this problem.

Z said that she buys all the things, but is then too afraid to use them for some reason.

Oh, girl.  I hear you.

For me, that fear falls into a few different reason categories:

  1. I spent a lot of money on them, so they're now "precious".  If I use them up, I'll have to spend more money on more of them.  
  2. I'm just going to mess them up.  I don't feel like I'm worthy of using such precious, beautiful, pristine things to slop around with my negligible skills, or just for practice.  I should save them for when I know how to draw better/use the medium better/won't be wasting them.
  3. I don't have the time to use them.  I have other things I do much more often, and I bought these things largely as an aspirational piece, because I see what other artists are doing and want to do that, too, or because I think that if I own all the things, I can automagically do all the things.
They're all perfectly good reasons/excuses.  They've all got a valid basis, really.  

But here's the thing I want to beg you to do, folks:  USE THEM ANYWAY.

Yes, they were expensive.  But I'm here to tell you: most art supplies aren't used up in a day.  Or a week.  In some cases, years worth of use.  Up 'til the tornado ate them, I had certain supplies that I had for more than a decade.  And those are supplies that I regularly used.

And now?   I have, say, watercolor tubes that I bought two years ago, use literally all the time, and haven't even made a dent in.  I'm using them up, for sure.  But the incremental use is so tiny that I'd need to literally stop sleeping and do nothing but paint with that color to use it up soon enough for it to be a problem.

Obviously, some things are more easily consumed than others.  Pens will run out.  Markers will get used up.  Books get full.  But if you're like me, those pens and markers are more likely to dry up than get used to death, and I'm probably going to buy more supplies anyway because shiny.  The chances of me reaching the bottom of the art supply pile and not having anything but a stick and some mud with which to draw on the side of the house is so laughable that I'd guffaw out loud...if the pile of drawing pens wouldn't fall over and crush me if I moved that much.

When you don't use them for fear of scarcity, you're not letting them do what they were created to do.  They were made to make marks, hold words and pictures, and flood color onto a surface.  They were not made to live in your drawer.  You're cockblocking your art supplies, and by proxy, your creativity.

Yes, you're going to mess some things up.  That's how learning works.  You make a whole lot of crap before you make things you like looking at.  It's called practice for a reason -- you have to make practice (n) a practice (v) to get from here to there.

And since the materials you're using are kind of integral to the thing you're practicing, you have to use those materials in order to learn how to...uh...use the materials.  It's sort of circular, there, but it's true:  practicing with inferior materials won't teach you how to use the thing you're hoarding.  It'll teach you how to work with inferior materials.  Or, worse, if you don't practice at all, you won't learn how to use ANY materials.

Why did you buy them again?  TO USE THEM.  So do that.  Your practice is important.  The crap you think you're producing is an important step.  You're so worth it. 

Yes, things take time.  It's kind of how time works.

Funny thing is:  whether you take that time to actually use your stuff or take that time to stare at the television fretting about not using that stuff -- the time's still spent.  Might as well use it on the good stuff.

Which brings me to the only reason I'll ever advocate for ditching things: the crowd.

The stuff you bought because XYZ artist uses it and you thought you needed it, but you tried and hated it for your own artmaking?

Throw that nonsense out.  Or better, donate it.

Either way, life's too short to spend mental energy making excuses for stuff you've tested and don't like using.  There are way too many areas we all have to deal with in this life that are unpleasant...your artmaking shouldn't be one of them.

The same with stuff you might want to learn how to do someday.

Either try it, love it, and use it...or try it, hate it, and ditch it.

Those are the options.

Stuff that sits in a drawer isn't art.

It isn't doing you any good.  It's not a magic wand that will spontaneously create works of staggering genius when you're not looking.

You have to use them.  You have to give them direction.  You have to use them as the tools they are to practice your way into skill.

They won't bite.  Or won't bite that hard, at least.

Go.  Make something.  The world needs your voice and your vision.  Use your tools, and make that happen.

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