Google+ House Revivals: Why Should I Swatch My Art Media?

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Why Should I Swatch My Art Media?

Do you swatch out your inks, pencils, crayons, and paints? For years, I didn't bother. It wasn't a big deal, because I only used two brands of marker and one brand of colored pencil. I used them so often, I didn't need to swatch them.

Over time, however, I started using other types and brands of media, and things started to get confusing.
Sometimes, I would buy a new pack of markers paints, and they would go unused, because I didn't know what to expect from them, so I'd just grab my old supplies.

I also found myself reluctant to bust into a brand new set of media, because they were just "too precious" to use on a daily basis. So, my media filled space in my life, but didn't bring me any joy.

A couple of years ago, I decided to buy small set of Lukas water colors to give as gifts to the artists in my family. At the same time, I decided to buy myself a set. It seemed like a nice touch to create a swatch sheet to tuck into the gift paint tins, so I carefully opened my own paint set and used it to create the swatches. The colors were beautiful, paint was smooth and a little transparent and richly pigmented. I was in love. 

Next, decided to swatch out a set of lonely Yarkas. The were gritty and opaque and some of the colors were not what I'd expected. Still, they were lovely. 

I've always been a Chartpak girl, when it comes to markers, but Chartpaks have a strong odor and they are very expensive, so, when I found some Spectrum Noir markers on sale, I picked them up. By this time, I was on a roll, and swatched them out immediately. I was glad I did, since the colors turned out to be very different than the colors represented on the pen caps. I liked that the colors were liftable, and that the colors can be built up by layering.

When I found a pack of Brea Reese markers on clearance, the first thing I did was swatch them. Some artists keep a swatch book, where all their swatches from various media are kept. I'm way too lazy and disorganized for that. I store my swatches with my media. Some folks might find it annoying to have a swatch sheet folded into their watercolor tin or pencil box, but I find it super convenient.

The reasons I love creating swatches:

  • It's intimidating to bust into a perfect new set, so swatching keeps our supplies from becoming too precious.
  • We can learn about the unique qualities of the media through blending, layering, and lifting.
  • We can learn about the opacity or transparency of the media and whether it's a bit gritty or smooth.
  • We can familiarize ourselves with colors and color names for different brands. Do they use industry standard names and numbering systems or do they use fun names, like Pirate's Gold or Kissing Booth?
Sitting down with your media, studying the labels, experimenting with techniques, examining the colors and qualities -- this will help you get the most use from your supplies. At some point, maybe you won't need your swatches for reference anymore, because you will be so familiar with your supplies -- and that's okay, too. In fact, that's the whole idea.

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