Top 10 Items for Artists found in a DIY Store


Creative people all love a trip to the local art or craft store but did you know that there are loads of great art resources in DIY stores and at a fraction of the price!  Here is my top 10 items for artists found in a DIY store.  Take yourself on a creativity date and use your imagination in the aisles to see what other uses you can put the materials to.

 1 window scraper

Window Scraper
Window Scraper

Use sharp new blades in your window scraper for cleaning all sorts of spatters of windows and once a little blunt, fabulous for scraping down panels and canvases for repainting.


2 Methylated Spirit

methylated spirit
Methylated Spirit

Methylated spirit is fantastic for helping to remove acrylic paint from textile articles. Be careful with it as it id highly flammable but health and safety should be observed with all artist’s materials. Methylated spirit is also useful for producing interesting effects in acrylic paint washes.


3 Masking Tape

Masking Tape
Masking Tape

I have tried budget masking tape and branded tape and by far this one is my favourite.  The budget end isn’t tacky enough to mask a really clean line for artistic use.masking tape is a great help in keeping the edges of a canvas white if that’s your preferred look but, don’t forget not to leave the tape inplace for weeks on end as it will leave a sticky residue on your painting support.


4 Brushes


Yes, brushes!  Obviously the DIY store is a great place to pick up varnish and priming brushes but it’s also great for art brushes too.  Make sure you buy good quality like these as some of the real,y low priced ones can shed a hair or two.  If you like working large scale or fancy in interesting shaped crush to make some really interesting marks, then have a look at the specialist brushes, I personally love the sash brush as it holds a ton of paint. You don’t have to use a brush to apply paint, there are many other tools that create exciting marks and effects. Take a slow stroll around your local DIY store and seek out really interesting tools to apply paint or scrape it back with.  Plaster combs, those filling knives that look like the ones in the art shop for twice the price, giant sponges use your imagination and save a fortune.


 5 Primer


Yes primer!  Now if you’re concerned about longevity of your artwork or future yellowing, maybe this option isn’t for you but I have pieces for in my archive that are ten years old and look fine so far.  I do not use wall primer for my commercial pieces, but for my personal work and experimental work it is fine. Use a really good quality wall primer for a sharp white base to work on.


6 MDF Medium Density Fibreboard


You might have heard about all of the famous artists who love painting on hard wood panels, these are difficult to come by and require special preparation.  The modern equivalent is affordable, stable and can be cut to any shape or size and is very simple to prepare. I love the spring of canvas but the rigidity of painting on MDF is great and it provides a range of surfaces depending on how you apply primer.  Use a roller for a slick smooth surface, a sponge for more of a textured finish or a brush for a ridged effect.


7 Doohickeys and Widgets

Mirror Plate
Mirror Plate

That’s the technical term – nah! What I mean is mirror plates, eye screws, brackets and all of those little things for hanging, bracing and creating your masterpieces.  Mount mirror plates at the half-way point on each side of the painting and only one pair per painting!  Go to any professional gallery that does not use a bespoke hanging system and you will see the work hung like this.  I have a 4 x 5′ canvas hung with one pair and it’s fine and secure.


8 Lights


Lighting is really important where I live in the North of the UK. We have bright sunshine from 5am to 10pm in the summer, but by midwinter it’s not light until 8:30am and dark by 4:30pm! You will need lights for seeing whilst you work when it is dim, get a daylight bulb in a colour you prefer. Lights are also needed for photography to control the appearance of the artwork when you can’t photograph in daylight. Also, if you attend events and shows, you may need to supply your own lighting for display purposes. There is strict health and safety regulations and lights will need to be electrically tested, so many artists prefer battery powered lights for that purpose.


9 Adjustable Cable Ties

Adjustable Cable Ties
Adjustable Cable Ties

Do, undo, do, undo and so on.  If you need to hold it together or hang it temporarily these adjustable cable ties are incredibly useful.  The come in a range of colours and sizes and are adjustable and reusable unlike their permanently locking counterparts. I was introduced to these by a fellow artist Trevor Craggs at a recent event we did together.


10 Acrylic sheet, strong real glass or a smooth kitchen worktop materials (not your food one!)

A Smooth Surface

Have you wanted to try printmaking?  Go out to a DIY store and purchase a piece of glass, smooth plastic sheet material or kitchen worktop. You will also need a roller, lots of paper and some block printing ink or acrylic paint with additive in. Then, follow these steps:

  • Roll out the printing ink on the smooth surface until it is making satisfactory sticky noises and is evenly, but not too thinly, spread.
  • Lay your paper on the inked surface
  • Draw on the uppermost surface of the paper the back.  If you’re nervous about freehand drawing you can use another drawing as a guide to trace over.
  • Peel it off for a lovely textured print, you might like to invest in some gloves for this!  The prints will take at least 24 hours to dry but they often take longer depending on atmospheric conditions.  The ink has a slightly rubbery texture and the prints will stick if stacked together too soon.

And a bonus 11, a garden studio!

Garden Studio
Garden Studio

This one’s on my wish list, I love working in my indoor studio but my artist’s heart is pining away for a garden studio space to fit out and work in!  Who wouldn’t want one?

So there’s my round up, I use many hardware tools to make my stretchers, hang exhibitions, to store and ship my art but these are the ones I use for making artwork. I happen to recommend B&Q as they’re local to me, have an excellent range and have always delivered excellent customer service and advice. I’m planning a series of posts on making stretchers and preparing surfaces for painting, drop me a comment or an email if there is something you would particularly like to know.

Basic Artist’s Tools for Sanity

Creative Rules for the Road

Basic Artist’s Tools for Sanity

We all love having the best equipment and fancy gadgets, but sometimes this can kill creativity and by returning to pared down back to basics tools can be the best thing for our artistic sanity.

It means we can travel light and are ready to create at the drop of a hat.  It also allows us to put our history aside be it the art we’re known for or other obstacles to creating freely.  It’s like the new perspective we get when we return home after a holiday, especially one spent in the wilderness.  The simplification of tools actually helps foster creative energy by focusing on the basic, necessary skills of looking, seeing and drawing.

Hugh Lofting quote -
Hugh Lofting quote –


The practice part of a creative practice matters.  Think of that word practice – it’s about constant improvement of our skills whether practical, cognitive or creative  We have to commit to practicing our artistic skills and honing them so we can express our ideas in the best way possible.


Creative Rules for the Road


Make it a Joy Ride! – try to put positivity before negativity

We must promise to do ourselves no harm at all stages of our artistic path.  We must commit to fostering our creative selves and understand the growth can go through slow times and then quicken without warning.  Many powerful works of art come from negative emotions, but they can impact on your development and well-being if focused on solely.


Pamper Yourself – We must pander our creative soul

We have a duty of care to ourselves to pamper our creative souls and take ourselves on visits that will enrich our imaginative resources.


Set Boundaries – Your creative practice is important

We also have to know I limit and set boundaries. Creatives tend to forget that their work is important and we have to protect it from other people’s needs or opinions


Respect our Needs – We also have to respect ourselves

We have to try to overcome or minimise self-defeating behaviours that we use to divert ourselves for making our best work


Listen to our Feelings – Feel them and let them go

We have to learn to respect our feelings as change occurs and that we may feel fear or anger and other strong emotions this these are really and indicators of our growth.


Presence is the Best Present – Stay in the present

It’s important to remember to dream of the future and acknowledge the past yet shed negative baggage that we may have learned to carry in life. We must remain in the present as its the only place in time we have influence over.


Creative Rules for the Road
Creative Rules for the Road


Tactics to Overcome Creative Hiccups


As artists, at times along the creative journey we falter and find our minds chattering fearful thoughts. Self-defeating ideas begin to surface when we encounter this chatter but there are a number of strategies we can use to overcome this.


One of the best is recommended by Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way: A Course in Discovering and Recovering Your Creative Self. She religiously uses the morning pages and writes three A4 sheets of free flowing mental-chatter every morning in order to clear the mind of toxic thoughts. I return to this technique when my productivity has slowed.  I can’t say I stick to the three full A4 pages per day but I write three pages in an inexpensive reporters notebook securing the past day’s pages under a thick rubber band. It’s a wonderful strategy as it’s so subtle, then after a few days your mind becomes clearer. You become bored of the same anxious self-taught talk and it becomes easy to refocus on your creative activities.  I do not look at what I’ve written for quite some time afterwards as I find it’s counterproductive to resetting my perspective.


Other people prefer to keep a more visual daily journal choosing to college, draw or write about their life and what’s on their mind. Many artists act on the insights later but like to work through them and store them in a private sketchbook. This is particularly suited to people who have about half an hour to an hour in the day to devote to journalling and may work for you.


Don’t feel supported by those around you? Why not try being your own cheerleader?

Another strategy for providing encouragement and accountability is sending yourself messages from the future.  Try FutureMe, it is a free service and can be useful.  It sounds crazy but it’s a lovely suprise to cheer up your inbox and you do forget what you’ve written!


Lots of people like digital methods including Pinterest and other online mood board and journalling programs but I think the hand-made engagement is important for this sort of work. So, once you’ve tried one or more of my artist sanity savers and cleared out the mental clutter why not begin a small creative project?


Begin Simply and Small


Start with a small step. Begin by looking around your everyday environment and pick one object to draw.

There are many artists who worked on simple everyday subjects such as: Avigdor Arika, Danny Gregory insert other artists


To go with your Artist’s Sanity Saver all you need to begin creating with is a very simple Artist’s Kit.  A pencil or a pen (any) and a sheet of paper, doesn’t matter if it is A4 copy paper, newspaper or old packaging.  We are minimising risk here! It’s often best to start with very inexpensive materials so that you don’t worry about ruining things or wasting money, that’s a definite creativity killer. I prefer to keep my sketches in sketchbooks so I can keep a roughly chronological sequence of sketches and ideas.  My favourite sketchbooks are made by Pink Pig, they take wet or dry media and have a fantastic spiral binding. I’ve tried and do use many others which are also fantastic but these are really my favourite.

© 2012-15 Eleanore Ditchburn, Small pencil crayon drawing
© 2012-15 Eleanore Ditchburn, Small pencil crayon drawing

You’re just getting going. You will find your own favourite tools along the way, but for now use what’s to hand – and begin.  If you’re feeling brave draw with a pen, every line adds something to the image as you draw. Try to date each drawing on the back, you’ll be surprised how they pile-up once you get into a regular drawing practice. It’s also fantastic to see how your skills will develop over short periods of time. After a few weeks you will see vast improvements in your ability to see and sketch.


Why don’t you

pick up a pen or pencil and write your mind chatter away and acquire the sketching bug. It is the best way to begin recording ideas and get going on your creative patch. Look out for my 30 day start Art signup bonus I am developing, it will have lots of tips like this just to get you over that initial starting point. I’ll be covering techniques, where to find inspiration, tips on becoming more professional as well as lots more inspiring content.

What is a Work of Art? Meaning, Form and Content

What Is an Art Work- a quick pinnable guise to the key elements from

What is a Work of Art?


So you have great ideas and you’re all fired up to get to making something creative. What is a work of art? What counts? What things go together to make up a work of art?


We used to draw distinct lines between what painting, print, sculpture is and had a very deep divide between art and craft. Thankfully, now we don’t subscribe to those strict divisions, we’re all a bit more easy-going.  That means we can make exciting new hybrid art, but it makes it much more difficult to answer apparently easy questions like: What is a work of art?


What Is an Art Work- a quick pinnable guise to the key elements from
What Is an Art Work- a quick pinnable guide to the key elements from

What are the Elements?


Let’s take the example of a painting to think about.   It’s not so easy to come up with a definitive explanation but generally we all agree that a painting consists of paint adhered to a surface. Woah, that leaves a lot of scope for flexibility out there depending on what you stick that paint onto.  The paint itself is made up of pigment, medium and binder and it is applied to support.




Pigment is the substance that colours the paint and can come from natural of man-made sources.  The pigments come in dry-form and can be used to make oil, acrylic, or water colours, pastels and all f the other beautifully coloured media we can create with.  The natural pigments come from the earth (earth colours) but have also been made from urine, burnt bones and many other sources.  The man-made pigments  are made chemically and come from metals.

Most people do not grind and mix their paints anymore but are happy to pop into their friendly art supply store and buy some ready-made tubes of paint. It is really worth making friends with a dedicated art supply store as the is a lot of knowledge in there and they are really happy to share it with you.  They also often have exhibitions and you might need some gallery space, it is also a fantastic way to meet other artists and they are a veritable haven from the bustle of the high street.

Mediums and Binders


how do we stick the pigment to the surface? That’s where mediums and binders come in and here we run into another confusing area.  In art circles, medium comes with three meanings!

  • Medium describes the Iiquid used to suspend the pigment particles in paint. So oil can be used in oil paint, water in watercolours and acrylic uses a sort of synthetic plastic to be water soluble until dry.
  • Medium can also apply to the additives used in paint to alter its consistency and drying times.  Mediums can also be used to extend or thin the paint because it is too thick when it comes out of the tube to use as it is. Some types are used to achieve special effects such as iridescence, gloss, textures, impasto etc.  There are lots of mediums in the art store which are very useful.  Often artists who work in oil prefer to mix their own recipes (that’s me). I’ll explain in more detail about specific mediums and their uses in a later post and I’ll do a handy fact sheet you can keep.
  • Medium can also refer to the type of materials the artist uses in their creation, we’re talking paint, bronze, plaster, paper, wax and so on.
3 Art Definitions for Medium What is a Work of Art?
3 Art Definitions for Medium


So we’ve looked at the paint, pigment, medium and binder. But what about the surface it sits on?  In artist lingo it’s known as the support. It’s usually materials like paper, canvas or wood panel, but also include walls, hide, papyrus, silk, metal, found surfaces and more.  This means that images projected onto buildings would be considering the wall as their support just as the prehistoric artists at Lascaux used the cave walls as their support.




The way the materials we looked at above are arranged together go to make up the form of the artwork.

  • What size the work is.
  • What it’s made of, the medium, the support.
  • What type of work it is.
  • The physical qualities of an artwork.

The term form is also used to describe the representation of an object in the painting, for example a male nude or an urban landscape.

You will also discover artists talk about the formal elements of an artwork. These are the elements that work together to make up a composition. They include things like balance, direction, movement, scale etc, and together these formal elements are known as style (cubist, naturalist, abstract for example).

The formal elements interacts together to produce interesting artistic effects.

3 Art Definitions for Form What is a Work of Art?
3 Art Definitions for Form




Thinking about our example of a painting, we know that paint can be applied in many ways.  The substance can be opaque or transparent and we can add mediums to it to change the nature of the substance. Some media require specific steps to apply them like working in print making or oil paint.  Some are much more flexible like acrylic paint and the humble pencil.  It’s how they are used, applied and put together that combines to form technique.


This is where many beginners stall, they get caught up in techniques and forget about actually doing the art.  Techniques are important to be familiar with and some will help you excel later on,  but  they should not get in the way of the heart of the art.


Cognitive Meaning and Content


Most artworks, even those that claim to be purely representational have some form of cognitive content.  Cognitive content includes reading the meanings in the work whilst thinking about:

  • symbolism
  • emotions
  • themes
  • narratives
  • intellectual ideas

The meanings are uncovered by using the clues in the material, technical and formal qualities of the artwork.  We can add personal or outside knowledge to form a reading of the work.

So, What is a Work of Art?

We know that a work of art is

  • made up of physical properties of the media or medium used
  • the form that those media take
  • the content and meaning that we understand by looking at the artwork

I hope that helps to make it clear what a work of art consists of.  Now, go and make some art!

Peter Yates, Review of Exhibition at The Hatton Gallery, Newcastle upon Tyne




Peter Yates – Hatton Gallery

I visited the recent exhibition featuring Peter Yates  at The Hatton gallery, based in Newcastle upon Tyne.  I love the graphic work of the mid-twentieth century and was unaware of this artist.  His work is full of pure joy for city and country spaces.  Peculiarly, it was through a chance meeting with his future architectural business partner that led Yates to be so closely associated with the North East of England.

fill (1)

I had no idea how many buildings they designed and have developed a new appreciation for their severe Modernist form which I think is still under appreciated today.  This extreme form flattening is reflected in his prints, paintings and drawings which have a vibrant use of colour contrasted with textured elements suggesting natural areas.  Yates was largely influenced by Le Corbusier and Berthold Lubetkin who proposed the combination of the ‘rational and the poetic’.

So if you are in the area, why not explore some of the architecture?

Links to sites about Peter Yates architect and artist

Peter Yates’ Website


Tyne & Wear Museums, The Hatton Gallery, finishing 8th May 2015.

Ryder and Yates (Twentieth Century Architects) (20th Century Architects) at Amazon


Daily Painting – Artistic ideals and artistic reality!

Toscaig Pier, work in progress © 2012 onwards Eleanore Ditchburn

Daily Painting –

I do paint every day, it’s just I don’t finish them every day!


What was going through my paint crazed mind when I thought that I could join the daily painting crew and finish this painting in a day?

Toscgaig Pier in progress, Eleanore Ditchburn, Daily Painting project
Toscgaig Pier in progress, Eleanore Ditchburn, Daily Painting project

I was aspiring to a small painting a day as wonderfully done by Carol Marine in Daily Painting: Paint Small and Often to Become a More Creative, Productive, and Successful Artist, but in a moment of crazyness forgot about the long process of layering I use.  I haven’t done a painting in the direct manner for quite a while which is the best technique for daily painting practice. Perhaps it’s time to get out of the studio and do some plein air painting, it’s the absolute best way to make art about landscape.  The main thing is I’ve enjoyed making the paintings and have a whole series in the offing which are available at the Love Your Market event at Monument soon. I’m really enjoying the sunlight and longer days bringing everything to life including the beautiful colour effects created by laying one pigment on top of another.

It has sparked my creativity

My solution is to work on many, many works at once and bring them all together as they develop. That’s the way I like to work but I’m popping an artist’s date for some outdoor painting soon.  Which brings me to the second madness of the day!  Why did I even open a tube of oil paint in my non-studio clothes or without full body protection? How many pieces of clothing have I ruined by being over eager to start work … too many to count that’s how many 🙂

Maybe I’m not cut out to join the daily completist painter brigade – yet but I do love to use my creative talents every day.

Prints Shipping from

Long Sands, Tynemouth 13 x 18 Oil on Panel Eleanore Ditchburn

I am aware that some of the products ship from the US, but most of them are fulfilled in the UK or Europe. The ones I could identify as originating in the US are :
Framed prints (not unframed)
Acrylic prints
Phone cases
Cushions to English Pillows to Americans

Just be on the lookout in your cart and remember you don’t always get clobbered for import duty, sometimes it’s just a little extra charge so please don’t let it put you off owning some great art!

ThanksDeep Breath