A couple of weeks back I was asked a really good question on instagram… what materials do we use for all our arts and crafts projects. What are our favourite colouring pencils, markers and so on. I thought that would be a great post to use as we dive back into blogging with enthusiasm… to be honest we use only the very simplest materials available. If it isn’t simple, affordable or easily available then we don’t use it. It turns out that the simpler the materials you use the more you have to think about how to use them creatively and so produce great works of art, whereas fancier materials are often too specific and only for a particular type of project and are thus limiting.
Most of our art materials come from our local supermarket, that’s where we shop. If I am looking for anything more specialist, about once a year I do I big splurge and buy, for instance, acrylic paints then I head for CNA, not our local CNA it has nearly nothing useful in stock. CNA has certain flag-stores that are significantly better stocked and if you are in Cape Town then heading across the city to Canal Walk once or twice a year is well worth the effort for stocking up. Otherwise if I am looking for something perfectly arty like clay, foil paper, tissue paper or very special pencil crayons, and good quality art materials then there is a toy/craft store in Plumstead called Kidz-a-Peal that has excellent stock and always has something interesting, if not exactly what you had in mind, something very close to that.
Se7en + 1 Favourite Art Materials
- Paper: Let’s begin with something truly essential, that is often overlooked. We mostly just use standard A4 printer paper for all our artwork. Otherwise my kids use anything: newspaper, gift wrap, packaging… anything… for crafting. If they want coloured paper, I occasionally buy a stack of coloured paper, but they are never quite the right colour… they use watercolours to paint the colour they are after or magazine pages that might have the right colour on them.
- Pens and Pencils: For pencils we use classic red and black Staedtler’s… they sharpen well, the nibs don’t break endlessly and once your kids get over they “having to sharpen their pencil every three seconds” they last as well. There are other pencils on the market… much cheaper ones, and even plastic ones – I would rather buy each child one good pencil that does the job than ten dreadful pencils that the nib continuously breaks and totally distracts them from the work they are doing. As for pens… these Staedtler Biros are the win of the century… they are affordable and work wonderfully and we love them. There are few things more satisfying than sitting down and drawing with a biro – these ones have great results, no splodges or leaks, they are fantastic and by far our favourites.
- Watercolours: These are the medium of choice with my kids… we all watercolour a lot, at least once a day, everyday. We use these ADEL patty pans… everyone has their own set and they live on the kitchen counter. You do get much bigger, smarter and fancier versions of watercolours… but these colours are bright and easy to mix to get to the colour you are after. Also, they are small and simple and can be tossed into a backpack for hiking… we take a couple of brushes and water from their water bottles and they are good to go for art in the great outdoors. There are few things better than painting outdoors.
- Pencil Crayons: When I was a child Colleen pencil crayons were the absolute dream… while one to two of my kids have their own collection, our preferred pencil crayons at the moment are BIC pencil crayons. They have bright colours and they last and last. They do not spend the entire day sharpening them and they are robust, no broken nibs… again and again and again. Our absolute dream pencil crayons are Lyra pencil crayons… they glossy feel and spread easily, we have a small collection that we add a pencil or two to from time to time.
- Crayons and Pastels: Our favourite crayons have to be Crayola’s we were gifted with a large pack about two years ago and they are still going strong. My kids like to have them, but they just don’t love to draw with them… never have. If we do use crayons it is mostly the white ones from a pack and that is so that we can paint over them with food colouring water, which we use as a replacement for ink. Otherwise we use whatever pastels we can buy at the supermarket… in the stationary section, we use them for art projects, but the smudginess and lack of control means that nobody wants to use them for their everyday drawing.
- Markers: Markers are literally drawing heaven for my kids… they love markers and would use them for everything if they could. Crayolas are the best, there are a variety of nibs: brush, fine, fat and so on. These markers are indestructible and last forever, however they are hard to come by over here and when we do find them in a store they are ridiculously priced… the Rand/Dollar exchange is a real thing. Otherwise, the best markers for everyday use by miles are Sharpies for crystal clear colours and sharpness… and are also hard to come by and ridiculously priced for the same reason as the Crayolas. So we use BIC markers because they are easily available or Pritt markers because they are slightly more durable than the rest, and I replenish supplies at birthdays, or on special occasions.
- Watercolour Pencils Crayons and Such Like: This is one area where you get exactly what you pay for… if the price appears to be too good to be true, then it most likely is. The cheaper versions of these are nasty, the colours dull, and results scratchy. It is worth saving and getting a few good water colour pencils than splurging on a cheaper version. These are fantastic for school on the go… and we use them for nature drawing and map work as well… colour in with them and then wash over them with a wet brush to get the watercolour effect. They come in any number of bright and vibrant colours and are simply fantastic.
- Special Materials and Untouchables: All our art materials are “out” and available to use. I firmly believe that art materials that are packed away, like kitchen appliances, never ever get used. We keep ours out and they are definitely used. They have always been out, even when our kids were tiny… materials that are available to use are not a novelty and I found that most of our children saw them as “part of the furniture” something they used everyday and like lego, cutlery and books, and were treated with the same respect. It was only when introducing novelty items that I had to watch and oversea more carefully, and they to would quickly become part of the play environment. That being said, there are a few art materials, like the LYRA pencil crayons and the Pritt markers, that are slightly nicer and so not used for everyday school journals and such. I keep these in a “special” bag that they have to ask to use… they ask every day and always say yes… they like the idea of using something special when they are working on a a special work of art… and if special means in a pencil bag with permission then I am all for it.
I do have certain materials that I am less willing to share… I am a hopeless black pen collector and there is nothing worse than discovering one of the collection has been used to gouge a nail out of the workbench or worse, much worse. I would very much prefer not to share these. The Windsor Newton watercolour set, that I may have claimed as my own, from the father person’s desk… I confess I am very unwilling to share (!!!). And as for watercolour crayons we love them and these are by far my favourites… though as you can see from the next photograph, they are well and truly shared by everyone… there is everything to love about them.
And finally I did once spot these Djeco markers in a toy store and bought them because I love everything about Deco projects and materials… and they turned out to be a true win… I do hide them away. They have a brush nib at the one end and fine at the other and they have lasted two years of almost daily doodling. They are available here, but usually in independent toy stores rather than the where you would expect them amidst art and craft stores. If you do spot a Deco stand in a toy store, stop and take a look… their art and craft materials are lovely… their sticker packs are beautiful and unique and well worth collecting.
That’s it, our favourite art materials that we use every single day. Craft materials tend to be a whole ‘nother story.