I work best with limitations.
When I have too many choices, I get over-caffeinated ferret brain and produce nothing. When I am limited, my creativity blooms. I call it "The Power of One." I've been developing skills and preferences for the better part of two years. I've tested dozens of products, and know which ones are worth the cash, and which ones are a little posh for my work and skill set. I chose to downsize to ONE Studio Bag (The canvas Harbor Freight rigger's bag) and fill it with...
Paper: Kiliminjaro 140# natural white watercolor, 12 x 9"(3:4 ratio)
Proper paper is my passion and priority. For now I am focused on working in a spiral journal format, so I purchased the 12 x 9" 140# Natural White Kiliminjaro with interleaved sketch paper because it is the closest journal on the market to what I anticipate creating*. Will the Kiliminjaro always fit my needs perfectly? No. But I know that consistently working on the same size/aspect and kind of paper will help my composition and painting skill level soar. I've already created 3"x 4" and 6"x 8" stencils. that allow me to quickly subdivide the page keeping the same aspect ratio. No more paper compromises!
*I am currently testing 9 different types of watercolor paper to determine my favorite "workhorse" paper. By the roll even expensive papers are fairly reasonably priced.
Paint: Da Vinci, Low Intensity Triad influenced gamut
What does "one" mean with paint? One color? One brand? I decided on one gamut housed in one palette box. Learning the difference between a limited palette and gamut masking from James Gurney's website made the decision to limit gamut instead of palette an easy one. I've been drawn to Low Intensity Triads since I started painting two years ago, and understand now how a pigment way outside a triad can easily be manipulated into that triad's gamut. I have a marked preference for Da Vinci paint, and a soft spot for Daniel Smith's mineral pigments.
Brushes: 1 Mottler, 1 Flat (Aquarelle), 1 Mop, 1 Round, 1 Rigger
Again, how did I want to define one? One brush? One brand? I chose one good quality brush of each type of brush I commonly use in a single small zippered case. My most expensive purchase, the da Vinci Series 36 round, was about $35. I already owned the mop and rigger, and purchased the mottler and aquarelle during the April art site sales for a song. My budget would have allowed top of the line or multiple sizes, but my brain intervened. If I get desperate, I have whole sets of synthetics in every imaginable size packed away in a teaching tote.
Pen & Ink: One of each type of pen I use, sepia ink.
This was WAY hard. I have a long standing love affair with pens and ink. After debating an upgrade to a TWSBI mini, I chose to keep my Pilot Metropolitan Fine nib (which works brilliantly!) and purchased the Tachikawa T-40 Holder with the Nikko G Nib to replace my gronky plastic holders. I purchased Noodler's #41 brown to use with both, and the Nikko G works with watercolor paint as well. I bought one sepia Pitt Artist technical pen, and packed away all of the other pen multitudes with either my office or stationery supplies. The Tachikawa will be my main weapon but there are times when a fountain or technical pen is simply more practical.
I've been using black ink for a couple of years, and I'm ready to take the linework down a notch. I like the look of both sepia and gray, so I'll start with sepia and work from there.
Extras: One of each, quality determined by frequency of use.
Yup, I did it! One mechanical pencil instead of a pencil case full. 1 pencil sharpener. 1 (divided)water cup. One triangle straight edge. One razor knife. One magnifying lens. Guess what? It feels wonderful!!!!
Working from a single studio bag with high quality, familiar tools has freed me. I'm excited about moving forward with my journals producing sketches and studies, my favorite work. Will I ever produce studio pieces? I honestly don't know. Right now, studio work holds little appeal for me, but if I ever do decide to pursue watercolor as art, I have a wealth of material to work from!
How about you? What sparks your creativity? Do you function best on the Power of One or soar when you have a wealth of material to explore and play with? Do you have other ways in which you limit yourself in order to free your creativity?