Frequently, I am asked what are the items I recommend any painter, new or veteran, have in their collection. After a couple of years and moving countries there are some tools I have found invaluable. Without further ado, here is they are!
Without a doubt this is my favorite and most used piece of equipment in the house. Only my lamp comes second. I didn't start having back problems until I was working a 9-5 studio job in cheap office chairs. Boy, did they do a number on my back. I never realized the importance of a chair that supports you until I bought this one. Now, how bad were my back problems? Pretty bad. It got to the point where within a half hour of sitting in my chair my sciatic nerve was being strangled so my legs would go numb, my lower back would get tight to the point I couldn't bend over and I got shooting pains down my leg. I knew I had to get a new chair.
The Aeron is the original and official ergonomic chair. It is the chair that every other ergonomic is designed off of but they do a really poor job in comparison to Herman Miller's design. You will notice the difference immediately. It actually supports my weight so I don't have to and is fully adjustable with a front to back tilt, height adjustment, how easy it is to lean back, and the angle of the lumbar support. You can even find headrests that attach as well as foot stools for it. THE. BEST. CHAIR! You can either buy them ready made or design your own to your specific needs. The two I've bought I have designed with arms off.
I bought this lamp after moving to Australia but this is now my super favorite lamp. I take it to conventions and classes here in Ozlandia and everyone always asks where I got it and how much it was. Well, it's spendy but before you scoff at the price let me just describe how bright this is. It comes with a plastic grate on it that is coated in silver paint. With that piece on it falls in the "my neighbors can see it from the other end of the street" bright. With it removed (easy to do, just remove a few screws) it falls on the "Astronauts on the ISS can see it!". Seriously, this lamp illuminates the entire room like no other lamp. It's a triple daylight bulb lamp. I feel like I've been painting in the dark without it.
I don't necessarily have a specific recommendation on this one, however I do have this set from Ikea in my studio. Having a set of drawers in your studio, within arms reach, means you have a ton of storage space UNDER your desk. I think most of us have experienced table tops just filled with items. To the point where you box in a small patch of desk space for actual painting. For me, with ADHD, that is incredibly distracting and over whelming. I have to have a pretty clean and clear workspace. That means in my drawers I have my paints in the top, sculpting and prep tools in the second drawer, pigment sets and super glue in the third drawer, additional cutting matt and brushes and airbrush tools in the fourth drawer and my last drawer has my projects I'd like to complete in the next year. When I need something I pull it out, use it and put it back. It means a much more organized desk space and one that is easy to clean dust off of regularly.
4) Cordless Pistol Grip Dremel
This is the one I have but it is a few years old and now retired. Still a great product! In the US there is this model available on Amazon. I like this style because you don't have the cord getting in the way, the pistol grip is more comfortable and allows more control which is very important for our very fine work. They aren't too expensive either.
This is probably my ultimate secret: where I get my brushes on the cheap. I mean really, less than $14 for a brush plus free shipping?! That is cheaper than most other brushes that claim to be it's equal. I was doing orders for batches of 10-20 before moving. I currently have a several year supply for both my husband and I. This is our most used brush. We rarely go smaller than a size 2. For Aussies, I highly recommend making a friend in the US who you can ship orders to and have them ship them on to Australia. Considering the average price of one of these brushes in country is $45AUD, it is well worth the hassle and wait time.
Other options for brushes and retailers to mail order from are (Aussies, these will be your best bets unless you have a US postal address to ship Amazon orders to):
Raphael Kaerell Synthetic Sable Brushes (good for 2 Brush Blending, not detail work)
Everyone should have a respirator and wear it during priming. And if you want to get into airbrushing then a respirator is a must! Home Depot in the US or Bunnings in Australia carry them. They aren't expensive and they are vital to maintaining health. I am not talking about dust masks either. That won't cut it. You need one with cartridges rated for organic vapour filtering.
I use this tape to mount all of my projects to unless they are pinned in the feet then I use a jeweler's vice (next on the list). For the most part the minis I paint are on bases or have large enough feet that they can stick to the tape no problem. Typically, I put the tape on an old spray can lid, then stick mini to it. This is how I've painted large pieces including the Mammoth for Privateer Press. It works. It's cheap. It's easy to clean up. (See mini below for an example of using this tape for mounting)
If you are someone who prefers to put pins in the feet of their minis then this is the option for you in terms of holding the mini safely and securely without having to attach it to a base. I never knew these existed until a friend of mine went to Chinatown in Seattle one day, saw it, thought of me and picked it up for about $6. I use it fairly regularly and definitely take it on travels with me. It's easy to use, durable, cheap so I won't get upset if it gets lost or damaged, you can clean paint off of it easily and I *ALWAYS* get questions about it when I take it to class. The one I linked will ship to Australia for relatively cheap. I recommend doing a bulk order on this item for friends if you are overseas. Otherwise, for US buyers, this is a good option though Amazon has a couple different models to choose from. You may see some models that have a wooden wedge in the bottom. While this is okay, I prefer the model with a screw in the bottom. It seems more secure to me.
Always, always, always have a sketchbook handy on your desk. Your sketchbook is where you should keep your ideas for future projects, notes for commissions that include paint swatches, and freehand design practice before you put it to the mini. I use my sketchbook all the time. It's invaluable. And then you have a written log to reference later.
10) Surgical Scalpel
I prefer a surgical scalpel to an X-acto knife 9 times out of 10. I bought a few handles for about $2.50USD each and then bought two boxes of 100 blades in two different styles (style 10 and 11) for about $10USD. After 2 years I have barely made a dent in those boxes. The scalpel blades are sharper and do a better job of cleaning as well as cutting things like plasticard. Amazon.com will be your friend in this search in the US. In Australia Ebay is the place to look. Lots of things ship from Hong Kong dirt cheap!
Well, that's it for now. I hope some of you find this list helpful. I did try to gear it towards my Australian audience since people seem to have a difficult time finding things here. The US and Europe have it so easy in terms of finding supplies!