How to start playing with New Art Materials

Does your newly bought paints sometimes stay in the wrapping they came in? Do you hesitate to break open the pretty stickers you just got? Or do you keep buying new, fun material without actually using it? Then I’ve got a few ideas to kick you out of those habits right now!

How to start playing with New Art Supplies & Craft Material when you're hesitant or need a push - article by iHanna
Many times when we buy new art material we don’t start using them right away for some reason… We buy something new eager to use it and then – a year passes and it’s not even unpacked! There could be a lot of reasons for this. There’s the lack of time, commitment, no room or space to spread out your work – and sometimes even a fear of the unknown.

Maybe it’s like the new notebook with its white pages, where you hesitate because you worry that you’ll be messing it up? Or maybe you are waiting for the perfect idea… Maybe the waiting happens because the materials are just too pretty to use, or maybe because you lack the time to really dig in? You keep them out, look at them and then a few days passes… They then disappear into a pile of old papers, to be re-found weeks later and make you wish you’d started sooner? This happens to me sometimes. I’m sure you too have lots of good excuses.

To avoid this stall to happen I am trying out the new habit of using new material right away when I come home. These are my three favorite strategies. I hope you’ll try them out too.
I Photograph New Art Materials

1. Start in a Ceremonial Way

I love the concept of what’s called Evidence Pages. It’s like get-started-ceremony where you open your notebook (or diary, art journal or sketchbook) and use all new materials to document the buy (or gift). Do it as soon as you can, preferably the same day, when you get home. Just get something down, glue in the labels and package paper information. You don’t need to create a drawing or a pretty page, just do something to get started. Just “start to use” your material. Tape down a few strips of that new washi tape, paint swatches, test drive your different pens – and note down some details if you want to (like cost, shop name, why you got it and if they’re anything like you imagined they would be). Now, they’re “in” your stash!

I make this kind of page in my diary, but you could totally start a whole new notebook dedicated to trying out new art materials. I love the ceremonial kick start to my new relationship with the material this gives me. I don’t create the page to “be pretty” but that doesn’t mean a Evidence page can’t be pretty – they often are. For example, I really like my Washi Tape Evidence Pages!

2. Snap a picture

So I document the things I buy (and that I get as gifts). Not only by making an evidence pages, but also by photographing them! I lay everything out on the floor as I unpack the most recent shopping bag and snap a photo of the new things I got for myself. Most of the time, the new items consist of art materials, pens and/or books. That’s just the way I role…

New stuff May 2013

I can not remember why I started this habit, but now I do it all the time with the new things I buy, not just art material. Here is one picture of new stuff, photographed in 2005:

New new for me me

I think of it as a quirky habit, but it actually helps me too. It’s part of the ceremonial way of “making it my own”. It also documents what month and year I bought something, so that when I come upon that photo again I know how long I’ve owned that particular set of pens or that special polka dot tissue paper. That tells me if I have used it a lot or not at all, how long it lasted etcetera.

3. Remember your New Materials

Photographing, using and yes, even writing down how much money you spend on creative materials alone might help to remind you what’s in your craft shelf. And remembering what you have is the absolute best way to using it. When it’s out and about you will want to use it – right now! Don’t box it up, don’t store it away.

And don’t buy any new material if you know you’ve got something unused at home! Apply this rule and you’ll never want to keep an unused piece of fabric in your home again – who knows when the haberdashery has a sale next? This is a hard rule to follow, especially if you buy craft materials to use later, like yarn, clay or beads… But you know you’re a hoarder when you have bought another new thing without even opening the package of the previous shopping sprees!

Bonus Advice: Do not let it hold you down

If non of these ideas have gotten you started within two weeks of purchase the problem is something else. Maybe you buy things you don’t actually need? Or you bought it “in case you’ll need them some day?” I try to avoid this problem as much as I can by not buying in excess, the world is already on over consumption!

I think this will keep being the struggle for me: I need a lot of things to create, because I create a lot of things – but I don’t want to be weighted down by material things. So when I do splurge, I want to make sure I will use the things I buy. Hence this crazy post.

I’d love to know what you think.

Is this an issue for you, and how do you deal with it? Is getting started easy, fun and always what you expected, or do you too, sometimes hesitate and wait? I’d love to know if I’m the only one who both loves and hates the result of shopping?

6 Responses

  1. I am guilty of buying supplies and tucking them away. In fact, I have a wonderful set of Neocolor watercolor crayons that I have not ever used. Crazy. I think for me that sometimes I see a video or attend a class and get excited about the product. Then I get it and forget it. I like your idea of an Evidence Page/Notebook. Perhaps adding what caused me to buy the particular supply and adding the website or YouTube address, would help to get me to use those supplies. Thanks for the great idea.

    • Well I know the feeling, that’s why I wrote this post. But I love water-soluble neocolor crayons, I think you should go get them out right now and start using them! They’re way to awesome not to be used…

      Good luck and enjoy!

  2. I always test out my purchases right away too. I love your idea of documenting them as well with a bit of writing along with the “testing out”. – will be doing that with future purchases! Great post, Hanna!

    • Thanks Patricia, glad you liked this blog post and could get something out of it. I think making notes about what you use and how is super helpful not just with new materials, but with experimenting and learning new things too.

  3. I am often guilty of this, too. I used to take photographs of my recent purchases, but have fallen out of that practice in the past year. Thanks for the inspiration to start photographing our great finds again…and I love your evidence pages idea! Some of the supplies I buy are for specific upcoming projects – and for those, I can put them in a special project supply box so when I start that project, I have all the special supplies at my finger tips. But when my purchases aren’t for a specific project, I think I’ll start trying your evidence pages idea to help get me over the hurdle of braving the unknown and alleviating the “what happens if I mess it up” feeling. Thanks for this great post!

  4. Some materials I buy stay unused for a while, but I don’t mind. They are usually fabrics or pretty paper or embellishments just waiting for the right moment. For instance just this week I started a journal cover with some fabric that I had not used yet. I like having choices at hand and sooner or later it does all get used. That’s just how I work.

    But then there’s the mark makers. Paints, pens, markers and such. Those need to be used as soon as possible. Trying out the lines they make in a sketchbook by doodling, making colour charts to see what they look like. With a tin of pan watercolours I will often include a colour chart so I know what they look like used. It helps to break them in and stop them from being so pristine and new. Making charts and test pages is also very relaxing to do.

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