TOOLS OF THE TRADE

Tools & Materials used by Amanda Michele Art

By far the most common question I get on social media is the about the tools/media I use to create my art. I’m a firm believer in it’s not the tools but how you use them so I’m happy to share my go-to art supplies that help me satisfy my creative urges. So below is exactly what is in my art kit plus a little bit of commentary to help explain why I use “this” instead of “that.”

I usually buy my supplies from Dick Blick or my local art supply store.  The prices at Blick are very good and there is always some sort of promotion/discount going around. Everything arrives quickly, in good shape and, if you need it, their customer service people are pretty friendly. And just so you know, I’m not affiliated with Dick Blick in any way and I get nothing for sharing this. It’s 100% my opinion.

 

WATERCOLORS

I’ve tried out a lot of watercolor brands and it’s taken me a while to pick out which is my favorite. How watercolor actually interacts with water and the page varies between brands and even colors, so it really depends on the effect you want. For me, I’ve settled on Grumbacher (either Academy or Finest) because of how most of the pigments handle a wash. They also are really easy to let dry completely and then re-wet on the palette so it feels like you get more paint per tube.

BRUSHES

I’m very hard on my brushes. Probably too hard actually considering how freakin’ expensive brushes are. Still, I have two main brushes that I use for all my wash work and they’ve withstood my abuse amazingly well. One is Dick Blick’s Natural Flat Wash and the other is Winsor & Newton Series 295 Flat Wash. W&N is a mix of natural and synthetic hair but I still let it even though I tend to prefer natural most of the time.

MASKING FLUID

For work like this or this, I use something called masking fluid or resist. The way it works is pretty simple. Masking fluid creates an impenetrable layer that your watercolor can’t get through. So if you want to leave a part of your painting paper white or just want the layer below to show through your paint on masking fluid. After it fully dries you can paint over it without worrying about it the paint going where its not wanted. The best part is after the paint is dry you peel it off the page. Seriously satisfying.

My all time fav masking fluid is Grumbacher Miskit Frisket. It’s neon orange which is kinda weird when you are working in colors that don’t mesh but it has a lot of good qualities that make up for the eyeball-blasting color. If you leave masking fluid on for too long sometimes it can stain. Of the masking fluids I’ve tried, Miskit Frisket stains the least. Which is is super important to me because I often work in many layers and layers take time. One last thing to note is that while they say that you can just wash the masking fluid off your brush with soap and water, your brush will never really be the same. I have one crappy brush that I use just for masking fluid.

PALETTES

Not much to say about palettes. I use porcelain mostly because I like the feel of it better than plastic. The nesting porcelain bowls are a great space saver and perfect for mixing colors but you also can’t go wrong with a good ol’ rectangular porcelain palette. It gets the job done.

PENS / MARKERS

For black marks, I use Staedtler Lumocolor Permanent Markers. I’ve used microns in the past but I like the “juiciness” of Staedtler and they last a long time. The amount of line work I do would bleed a micron dry in no time (not to mention tear up the tip with the paper texture) so for me, Staedtler is the way to go. I wouldn’t use them if I worked on thinner paper though because like I said, they’re “juicy.”

I hunted for years to find the perfect white marker and finally found it with Sharpie Waterbased Paint Markers. Sharpie! Who would have thought? They have just the right amount of opacity and you can do some great detail work. Every now and then I find I have to pump it to get the ink flowing but unless you are using your pens as much as I am you will probably be fine.

PAPER

Protecting our environment is important to me and since I work on paper, an easy switch to make was to start working on bamboo instead of traditional paper. Size depending, for both original artwork and prints I use Hahnemühle Bamboo Paper. It has a lovely texture and a nice warm tone to it. Honestly, since I switched I haven’t noticed a difference other than I feel better using a rapidly renewable resource. In my opinion, it’s worth the slightly increased cost.

SKETCHBOOK

I love to travel with my sketchbook. I love to stay home with my sketchbook. Basically, I just love my sketchbook. And apparently, other people do too because I’m always asked what type of sketchbook I’m using. Moleskine Watercolor Notebooks are perfect for offloading ideas and getting creative. I have both sizes and always travel with my little one (3½” × 5½”). There are plenty of pages and they hold up to a lot of washes without curling too much. Really I couldn’t live without them.

 


Did I miss anything? Feel free to comment if you have any other questions about the materials I use. I’m happy to share.

 

 

 
 

MONTHLY ART CHALLENGE / MARCH

Monthly Art Challenge / Amanda Michele Art

MARCH
EXPLORE IMBALANCE

You know that feeling you get when you’re balancing on something, maybe a paddleboard or a small boat, and suddenly you realize that you’re starting to tip to one side. As fast as that feeling hits you, you throw your weight to the other side to try and right yourself but your movement is too fast and strong. Your attempt at correction made things worse and now you’re tumbling over into the water. I thought about that feeling a lot during last month’s art challenge.

I thought this challenge would be like the last two, Find Unexpected Colors and Embrace Subtly but it turns out that actively trying to bring Imbalance to my art is a struggle that goes against my nurture. It was much harder than I anticipated.

Monthly Art Challenge / Amanda Michele Art

Each piece I created felt like I was forcing myself to tip the boat. The first few pieces of the month didn’t turn out well but slowly that fear tipping over and getting wet went away.

Monthly Art Challenge / Amanda Michele Art

Now that the month is over and I reflect back on this challenge, I don’t think I will take on imbalance as intensely but use it strategically: combining February and March to “embrace subtle imbalance.”

Monthly Art Challenge / Amanda Michele Art

 
 

MONTHLY ART CHALLENGE / FEBRUARY

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FEBRUARY
EMBRACE SUBTLY

The end of February marks the end of the second of my monthly art challenges. Transitioning to the focus of “Embrace Subtly” was surprisingly difficult coming off of January’s challenge to “Find Unexpected Color“. My brain was still in color mode.

My goal with these challenges isn’t to work on them for a month and then abandon them but to layer them into my process month by month. With each new month and each new challenge, that prompt becomes the focal point and past challenges are the supporting players. That’s how it was supposed to go, in theory, but I found that layering in that extra focus was harder than I would have imagined.

 

Amanda Michele Art

 

Still, I eventually found my groove. I started all in before balancing more of the subtle with the strong, training myself to ease up a little with the unexpected colors I keep finding.

The reason why I wanted to incorporate subtly into a monthly challenge is because I saw in my work a tendency toward intensity. As an artist who explores dichotomy, it didn’t make sense that I was ignoring this fundamental juxtaposition.

 

Amanda Michele Art

 

At the end of the month, I can say I’m fully embracing subtly. The fact that the beauty of these elements only whisper on the paper and rarely appear in the photos I share gives me a strange delight. I’m good at documenting my work for social media but these subtle parts are just for me and whoever is lucky enough to see these paintings up-close and personal. I think that’s pretty cool.

 

Amanda Michele Art

 

 
 

DECEMBER / JANUARY SKETCHBOOK RECAP

Amanda Michele Sketchbook

“Whether you succeed or not is irrelevant, there is no such thing.
Making your unknown known is the most important thing.”
— Georgia O’Keeffe

 

December and January were busy travel sketchbook months. From my studio desk to the dining room table just before Christmas and then to the snowy woods of Hudson, NY, there was a lot of inspiration to be had.

You can really see the cool and earthy colors of winter shining through. Also, January was the first month of monthly art challenges. The challenge was to find unexpected colors and the color combos in my sketchbooks really reflect that.

Amanda Michele Sketchbook
Amanda Michele SketchbookAmanda Michele SketchbookAmanda Michele Sketchbook

 
 

MONTHLY ART CHALLENGE / JANUARY

Amanda Michele Art

JANUARY
FIND UNEXPECTED COLORS

One of the things I miss most about art school is the challenge of it. There was always a new thing to learn and to push me out of my comfort-zone. Six years out, self-directing my own work is obviously much freer and more enjoyable but sometimes the lulls between each breakthrough can feel infinite with that extra motivator.

This is why I started these monthly art challenges. At the end of 2016, I looked at my work and process honestly and thought of ways to push my boundaries. What traps do I fall into over and over? What are some weaknesses in my work? What would be flat out scary to do? Over the course of 2017, I will give myself a new challenge for every month and document my growth and struggle.

I decided to start off with the most fun challenge on my list: Find Unexpected Colors. I love color but as Monet said, “Colour is my day-long obsession, joy and torment.” I felt that a lot of my work, although colorful, was rather obvious and I wanted to take it to the next level, mature my color choices a bit and surprise myself (and viewers) with the combinations.

 

Amanda Michele Art

 

It started out harder than I expected. There were so many paintings I added layers to only to be bored with my color choices once the paint dried. It was rough. But then I thought about the process of finding the colors. That they didn’t have to be made up. They were out there ready to be documented like a scientist would. So I started writing things down and take pictures whenever I would find an unexpected color combo “in the wild.” This kept me thoughtful when picking colors instead of just going with my gut in the moment of creation. It’s too easy to pick the expected choice when it’s the first thing to pop into your mind.

 

Amanda Michele Art

 

Once I tamed my impulsive color choices, the rest came easier. I was surprised actually with the ease each piece came to me and how the whole process seemed to open up. This is just what I wanted from these challenges, a chance to discover something new about my artmaking by pushing it in uncomfortable ways. I feel a freshness in my work and I’m excited (and still pretty terrified) for the rest of the challenges. They only get harder from here.

How are you challenging yourself this year? Do you have an art challenge that I can add to my list? Let me know in the comments!

 

 
 

EVERYTHING YOU EVER WANTED TO ASK ABOUT COMMISSIONING A PAINTING

Commissions by Amanda Michele

So you want to commission a painting. Hooray! You have this vision for the perfect work of art for your space. The size fits perfectly on the wall, the colors are exactly what you need to compliment the decor and when you look at it, you get this magical feeling, one that you can only get when you know that this work of art is one-of-a-kind-made-just-for-you special. You have this vision. But how do you make it happen?

A lot of people have no idea what to expect when they commission an artwork from an artist and many are too afraid to ask, so it never happens. Bummer. I wanted to try and answer all of your burning questions about commissioning a painting from me so you don’t have to experience that awkward “now what” moment, and together we can make some beautiful art.

 

HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?

I’ll start with the question you really wanted to ask. Don’t worry, I totally get it. Art is often seen as a luxury and only for a select few. I see it as a necessity that should be available to anyone. That’s why I try to offer my work at a variety of price points. Custom work is in the top price bracket, but it depends largely on size and intricacy. Some of my pieces include detail work that takes hours and hours to complete. So, in short, it depends on what you want. Below are some average price ranges based on size excluding shipping, framing and rush jobs:

SMALL (8″x10″ – 11″x14″ range) = $250 – $500
MEDIUM (14″x16″ – 24″x24″ range) = $400 – $800
LARGE (22″x30″ –  30″x40″ range) = $700 – $1,200
EXTRA LARGE (30″x40″ or larger) = $1,200+

I ask for a nonrefundable 1/2 payment up-front and the rest (plus shipping and framing) upon completion. Custom work takes a lot of time, planning and communication. It’s more work than the original pieces that I create on my own, so the price reflects that. With that in mind, check out the original pieces I have available here. Maybe the perfect artwork is already waiting for you.

 

HOW DO I MAKE IT MY OWN?

Every commissioned piece is made in the style you would expect from me but, along with my own personal touch, the other greatest influence comes from you. I want each custom piece I create to feel like it was made just for you and only you because it was. Literally.

There are the obvious things that you can choose like color and size. Some people have sent me examples of my own work and requested something similar but with new colors while others have been more freeform. If you want to send me pictures of the house that you grew up in because you want a painting that abstractly reminds you of home that is 100% perfect too. I am all about creatively interpreting the essence of things, feelings, locations, moments in time or whatever you can dream up.

No matter the customizations, we will talk in detail about what you are envisioning so when it’s time for me to get down to work I will know exactly what you have in mind. Throughout the process, I will touch base with you either to review sketches, compare colors, or share progress photos. All this communication makes it so when the work is finally framed and hung on your wall, you will feel like it’s truly yours.

 

DO YOU OFFER FRAMING?

Yes! I typically use Framebridge to give you a wide variety of framing options that fit your decor. They’re super easy to use and I highly recommend them. They are also very reasonably priced. You can check out their website for prices. Basically, all you have to do is choose your style of framing (Don’t worry I’ll walk you through it and give you suggestions) and then I’ll take it from there.

 

HOW IS IT SHIPPED?

All original works on paper are shipped flat and protected with lots of cardboard. The size of the work changes which service I use: USPS for smaller stuff and a professional shipping company for the larger work. International deliveries are very expensive to ship flat so you have the option of having it sent in a tube if you prefer. With ever commissioned piece, I get an estimate from the shipper so you know all the costs up-front.

If you live in New York City we can arrange an in-person delivery. I LOVE to meet my clients!

 

HOW QUICKLY CAN YOU MAKE MY CUSTOM PIECE?

How fast a piece is completed depends on a few factors such as size, intricacy, how many other projects I’m currently working on and how quick you respond during the commission processes. I’m ready to hustle to get your art in a timely manner so on average a custom piece will take about 1 month to complete. Faster than that is possible, but you will be charged a rush fee since I will basically work around the clock for you.

There is a limit to how fast a piece can be done, though. Please keep in mind that supplies need to be ordered, paint needs to dry and, while doing pen work, I need to take breaks so my hand doesn’t cramp up and die.

 

WHO OWNS THE RIGHTS TO THE FINISHED PIECE?

The legal answer is basically me, the artist. When an artist creates a work, even a commissioned one, they retain the copyright. There’s a lot of murky middle stuff which is explained very well in the Art Law Journal if you want to dive in deeper. Honestly though, I’m not a lawyer (no matter how many true crime books I read) so all I ask is that you respect my work and if you’re about to do something that may be questionable or you’re concerned about it, just contact me.

 

CAN I GIVE YOU A PHOTO OF EXACTLY WHAT I WANT?

Speaking of copyrights… I’m assuming you want to commission a piece from me because you like my artistic style (gee thanks!) so it’s safe to expect me to bring that creativity and style to any piece I create. I’m not a copy machine and I will not replicate another artist’s work (Please see my blog post Copycat or Why I Won’t Paint that for You) but if you have a work you like, can communicate why you like it and you are open to having it interpreted with my own flair please don’t be afraid to send that along. There is nothing I want more than to make your art dreams come true.

 

CAN I RETURN MY CUSTOM PIECE FOR A REFUND?

I have never once had this happen. With all the communication during the commission process, there are plenty of opportunities to pipe up if you feel like a piece is heading in the wrong direction. So talk to me! Tell me if you really had your heart set on more blue or something. If it’s within my power I will try to make it work for you.

But basically, the answer is no. When a custom piece leaves my studio it’s officially yours. I work very hard to make sure you are not only happy but ecstatic with your new artwork and the best way to do that is open communication.

 

I’M READY! LET’S DO THIS!!

Okay, that’s not really a question but I love your enthusiasm! If you’re at all interested in commissioning a piece of art from me just send me an email at hello@amandamicheleart.com. Same thing if you have any questions that I didn’t answer here. I’m excited to make some art with you!

 
 

2017 CALENDARS

Amanda Michele Art 2017 Calendar in Pink

 

New year, who dis?

Goodbye ( and good riddance ) 2016! Hello 2017!! Time to get your new year started with a 2017 calendar. Every year I put out an at-a-glance style calendar featuring a few of my favorite paintings from the previous year. This year, I featured three of the monochromatic pieces from my “Invocation” series but if you would like to get one of my other artworks on a calendar, don’t be afraid to ask. I got you covered.

 

 
 

Books for Artmaking / Part I

Amanda Michele's Books for Artmaking Part 1

 

I love books. Fiction or non-fiction it doesn’t really matter. Books put words to the feelings I have but can’t explain, which is probably why I like books about the creative process so much. This is certainly not a definitive list of my favorite books on artmaking but it’s usually what I recommend to people first. Ironically, they’re all super quick reads with the longest of the three clocking-in at just 165 pages. So grab a cup of tea, snuggle up on the couch and let’s read some books!

Let me know your personal recommendations for books to inspire creativity in the comments. I’m always looking for new page-turners.

 

ART & FEAR
BY DAVID BAYLES & TED ORLAND

“What you need to know about the next piece is contained in the last piece. The place to learn about your materials is in the last use of your materials. The place to learn about your execution is in your execution. Put simply, your work is your guide: a complete, comprehensive, limitless reference book on your work.”

This book was required reading in art school and I’ve re-read it several times since. It really takes those feelings of fear that you have as an artist and normalizes them. It’s not just about fear though, it’s practically a roadmap to the artist brain. The authors take on jealousy, self-doubt, uncertainty, the vision vs. execution gap and craving approval. There really isn’t anything new here. It’s literally everything you’ve already known or felt over the course of your creative life put into the words you could never find yourself or you just never realized that that was what was going on.

My favorite parts have acted as a helpful guide to figuring out what my art is really about and to push me forward at each stage of my artistic development. That’s why I’ve re-read it so many times. Each re-visit is like a spotlight on a part of my creativity I didn’t even know existed yet. Basically, while you’re reading this book, prepare to nod your head repeatedly and feel infinitely less alone the next time you sit down and start making.

Buy it here.

 

WABI-SABI
BY LEONARD KOREN

“Beauty can be coaxed out of ugliness. Wabi-sabi is ambivalent about separating beauty from non-beauty or ugliness. The beauty of wabi-sabi is in one respect, the condition of coming to terms with what you consider ugly. Wabi-sabi suggests that beauty is a dynamic event that occurs between you and something else. Beauty can spontaneously occur at any moment given the proper circumstances, context, or point of view. Beauty is thus an altered state of consciousness, an extraordinary moment of poetry and grace.”

Wabi-sabi is a Japanese aesthetic, philosophy and even way of life. It’s the inherent beauty of things that are ugly, broken, ephemeral or incomplete. There’s truthfully no direct way to explain wabi-sabi in English since its a way of thinking and uniquely Japanese but the author tries and what results is a mix of definition and poetry.

I didn’t finish the last page of this book and go out declaring myself an expert in wabi-sabi but, as an artist, I try to pull inspiration from everything. These musing on the beauty of imperfection will shift your view on the natural world, open up a new well of inspiration for artistic creation and help you understand the beauty in the imperfectness of your own work.

Buy it here.

 

THE WAR OF ART
BY STEVEN PRESSFIELD

“If you find yourself asking yourself (and your friends), “Am I really a writer? Am I really an artist?” chances are you are. The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death.”

I first heard of this book on the Creative Pep Talk podcast (Seriously, if you haven’t listened to this podcast I highly recommend it.) and the way that Andy J. Miller talked about this book I knew I had to read it. The title is not merely just a clever turn of phrase; it’s literal. There is a battle raging. One side is your creative dreams and every piece of art you are meant to bring into this world. The other is the Resistance, the internal roadblocks that keep you from making work.

The Resistance’s only job is keeping you from your creative calling. It’s the Resistance that says, “I’m tired today,” “No one will like this anyway,” “I can start that tomorrow.” I like the idea of the Resistance as a thing I can fight instead of just an amorphous feeling. Every day I put brush to paper I win a battle against the forces that are trying to stop me from reaching that vision inside me. Naming this force and understanding it, has helped me to push it aside when it rears it’s ugly head, not just with making art but with other areas of life too.

Buy it here.

 
 

OCTOBER / NOVEMBER SKETCHBOOK RECAP

Amanda Michele Art Oct/Nov Sketchbook

 

“Lend your ears to music, open your eyes to painting, and… stop thinking! Just ask yourself whether the work has enabled you to ‘walk about’ into a hitherto unknown world. If the answer is yes, what more do you want?”⠀
— Wassily Kandinsky

 

The trend of my color usage mirroring the seasons has continued on into October and November’s sketchbooks. A lot of browns, greens and yellows creeping in and I’m honestly thrilled about it. I feel my sense of color expanding and growing and, in a way, maturing.

October was a busy month so sketchbook time wasn’t a strong of a focus but November was a bit freer and while at Thanksgiving in Arkansas I had a chance to do some sketching in my grandparents’ backyard.

 

Amanda Michele Oct/Nov Sketchbook

Amanda Michele Art Oct/Nov Sketchbook Amanda Michele Art Oct/Nov Sketchbook Amanda Michele Art Oct/Nov Sketchbook

 
 

MINI ORIGINALS

In This Moment #1 / Mini Original by Amanda Michele Art
I like art that is approachable. Art that you can feel connected to even if you aren’t sure that you “get it.” Art that you can make your own even if you aren’t your stereotypical art collector. That’s why I wanted to make these mini-originals, a collection of small-scale one-of-a-kind artwork.

Each piece is 5″ x 7″ and just $45 — 20% of that purchase price will be donated to the ACLU Nationwide. And this is just the start, more are on the way. Which of these do you want to start your own art collection with?

In This Moment #2 / Mini Original by Amanda Michele Art In This Moment #5 / Mini Original by Amanda Michele Art In This Moment #8 / Mini Original by Amanda Michele Art

 

 
 

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