How to test and analyze your acrylic mediums

What’s the best brand of acrylic paints?

I get asked that question a lot when I teach acrylic workshops.

When I was an undergraduate student at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, a professor I liked and respected touted a particular brand of acrylics as the “best.” So, I took her word for it and started using that brand over others. But there are lots of excellent brands out there and once I became a bit more experienced, I got curious about what made different brands of paint different.

The truth is there are a number of good paints out there and rather than telling you about the merits of each, I thought I’d show you how I test acrylic mediums in my own studio. The results are always interesting. And this empowers you to make your own informed choices about what will work best for you.

Share in the comments below what brands you like to use? Do you stick with one brand for everything? Do you mix and match?
Have you ever had a really (or really great) bad experience with a particular paint or medium? Do tell!

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Drawing Kit Giveaway December 2014

I’ve been cleaning up my studio and deaccessioning many of my supplies. I  put some of the nicest things aside to giveaway in the coming months to you, my loyal subscribers. Here’s a video I made talking about different types of charcoal and erasers and what they are used for as well as showing you the other goodies in the kit.

Here’s what you’ll need to do to complete your entry.
1. Like this video and mention in comments below that you are entering.
2. Share one of your favorite videos or blog posts I’ve made on social media and please mention in your post why you like the video.
3. TAG me on Facebook Michele Theberge artist
or Twitter @MicheleTheberge so I see it.
That’s it! Once you do those 3 things you’re in and I’ll contact you on January 7, 2015 if you’ve won. I’ll announce the winner in the next giveaway video.

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Tips and Motivation for Getting Organized

Did any of you get bit by the organizational bug recently?

Maybe it was the freshness of the new year. In January, I suddenly found myself wanting to straighten up and organize my office supplies closet. In the studio, I went through my boxes of drawings, drawers of supplies and tools. In my bedroom, I watched a bunch of videos on folding clothing and my freshly coordinated dresser is gorgeous to behold now! I even got renewed energy for purging and freshening up my paper files.

I find once I get the urge that it’s best to follow it in the moment.

But, what if you never get the urge?

What if your stuff feels a little out-of-control and you feel overwhelmed?

In polling many artists, I’ve found that organization can be one of the most challenging areas. I believe a lot of this has to do with the fact that most artists are right brain dominant. That’s not the part of our brain that organizes.

Please know that even if you feel out-of-control with this that you can change! And you can do it in a way that supports you and makes sense for you!

Take a moment, right now, and imagine an area of your life that you’d like to get more organized. Picture how satisfied, invigorated or accomplished you will feel when this has been completed. Imagine how it will make you more efficient and fluid in your daily life.

Savor all the benefits you will gain from this shift.

Maybe you’ve been shamed in the past for messy habits and have just given up. Most of the magazine images of organization are intimidatingly Martha-Stewart perfect. Your system doesn’t have to be magazine-perfect it only has to work to make you happy, satisfied and efficient!

Because  the visual sense is so dominant for artists many need to have things out where they can see them. Unless you have a workable system, this can lead to clutter and overwhelm.

Reflect on how the typical kitchen is organized. If you walked into a complete stranger’s kitchen and tried to make a cup of tea you could probably guess that the silverware is in the drawer and not in the cupboard above the sink. The tea kettle may be on the stove or an electric one on the countertop. Likewise, most people seem to put their teacups, mugs glasses and plates in the high shelves, and bigger, heavier pots in the lower shelves.

Why don’t we leave everything out and visible in our kitchen? Why not leave the orange juice on the counter in the frozen french fries and next to the stove? Why not just pile up the pots on the empty chairs? Why not just have a mound of eating and serving utensils on the table? After all, that’s where we’re going to use it next.

And yet some of us approach our studios this way. We leave everything out.

Now, this may work perfectly fine for you. If so that’s great! Read no further.

But, if you’re frustrated with the way things are set up in your studio, why not rethink it?

The difference between our studios in our kitchens is there are pretty established conventions and systems for kitchens. I’ll wager these have been developing over centuries.

As far as their studios go – we’re sort of flying free trying to figure out what will work.

Think about your space and how you use it. What materials and tools to you reach for most often?

Which materials and tools are used  less frequently?

Find places for your most used tools that are within easy reach of your workspace.

“A place for everything, and everything in its place” may sound like a cliché, but it’s actually some pretty useful advice.

If you have a place for everything and know you can always, always find your Conté crayons in the box on the top shelf of your tabouret, then, you don’t have to spend time looking for them.

When creative inspiration hits, all you have to do is get started. Not wade through a pile of mess before you do.

Part of this is also about establishing a cleanup routine. But that’s a subject for another post. (Let me know if you’d like me to write about that as well.)

Have you thought about using open bins for storage? Clear plastic bins are convenient, and I’ll admit I have some in my studio but, because of the environmental impact of plastics I am not a big fan of buying a lot of plastic if I can avoid it.

However, I have some white cardboard boxes with clear windows in them so I can see the contents at a glance. You could even make little windows for your cardboard boxes by cutting holes in them and taping acetate behind the hole.


I also spray-paint cardboard boxes white, because I like the clean look of everything in my studio being white.

It makes my drawings, paintings and installations stand out more clearly as the most important thing in the room.

Painting recycled cardboard boxes is an affordable way to create a clean sleek look in your studio.

Labeling everything is also hugely important. I use white artists’ tape and a permanent, felt tip marker as an inexpensive labeling system. Every thing has a place and everything in its place.

If there’s something in your studio that needs organizing and you’ve been putting it off, I suggest you start very, very small. Pull out your calendar right now, and schedule a 15 minute organizing date with yourself.

When it comes time to get down to it, set a timer and stick to only 15 minutes! If you have trouble with organization, chances are there’s a part of you that rebels against being forced to clean up and tidy. Perhaps your inner teenager? Knowing that you only have to go at it for 15 minutes makes it manageable and unintimidating.

That’s exactly what this video is about. Check it out and let me know your thoughts!

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How to Pack Light for Travel – Art Supplies

I will admit it. I am obsessed with packing light. Probably because I am on the road about 25% of the time the past few years and also because I’m mad for organization and streamlining. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a minimalist. I like to have all I need, all the comforts, amenities and as many of the fashion options and conveniences of home on a packable scale.

That said, I have no desire to lug any 3 foot (1 metre) canvases or 32 ounce (1 litre) bottles of pouring medium with me on vacation so I do pare it down quite a bit for travel. I usually work on paper with paint or gouache when I travel so I have the satisfaction of working with a brush and wet media which I adore but in a far more portable format.

I made a video for you showing how I have edited down my travel art supplies and how I pack them so they fit neatly on the top of my 22″ rolling suitcase.

What about you? Do you like to take art supplies with you when you travel? Do you keep it to a sketchbook? Or something more involved?

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Adding Texture to Your Paintings Using Ceramic Stucco & Flexible Modeling Paste

When I first switched over from oils to acrylics years ago – I was always trying to get away from the “plastic-y” look they had.

Then I discovered the array of gels and pastes that could take the standard paint texture from creamy to stiff to sandy to matte.

The two I show you in this video are still in my all-time favorites list.

Hope you enjoy it and let me know your thoughts! Have you used these before? What are your favorite acrylic gels? Any techniques you’d like to share?

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