Monday, 11 June 2012

Art Supplies New York City

Now, as I mentioned in a previous post, Peter Cox sent me a very long materials list for his workshop - mainly of things I did not have. He had a list of preferred artists oil paint brands - which did not include Winsor and Newton. As you could potentially fail the classes I went to at University if you didn't have the right stuff, I just presumed I had to try and get it all - which took care of the first couple of days in New York. Then, on turning up to the class, it was apparent that virtually nobody had paid much attention to the list . . . that'll learn me!

View New York Art Supplies in a larger map

To look on the bright side, I now have a lot of bright new shiny colours, made by all sorts of different brands, so I can compare and contrast. In the process of buying them, I also have become fairly familiar with several art supply shops in New York, and had several fun hours wandering around them fiddling with all the lovely things on display.

Vasari Paints was the first I visited. I almost missed it, as it is many floors up and along a rather winding corridor full of various artist types. Not what I was expecting at all. Some galleries I never did find, possibly as they are similarly up floors and not clearly indicated. When I got there, there were two people deep in conversation, but the wall full of boxes of paints told me I was in the right place after all. So I had a look at the paints, until the conversation was interrupted for the chap to tell me off for touching his paints. Ooops. So then I stood and waited. And waited. And waited. Eventually I asked if I could buy something and suddenly he sprang into action, till was produced, paint was wrapped (red umber - in the list as absolutely necessary, and certainly seems a useful colour for cooler, dark flesh tones). Still not sure if this was a case of manners being lost in translation . . .

Next (after walking down the Highline and eating a NYC version of a double nougat - ice cream stuck between two cookies.) was New York Central Art Supplies. This place looked very ramshackle from the outside, and fairly dark and dingy inside. But had a more than adequate range of paints as well as some oil painting boards, so I was able to get get most of what I needed. Their specialty is paper - up some hard-to-find, narrow stairs there is a huge range of papers from everywhere, on two racks of boards that can be flipped. You decide what you want, then tell one of the many nattering staff behind the desk and bobs-your-uncle. That first day it was packed out (with about 3 people), so I went back during my last weekend - by then I knew I was at my weight limit, so wouldn't be able to buy any paper, but spent quite some time looking at them, and noting down the ones that might do in my eternal search for a good mid-toned watercolour paper. The one I did identify they didn't have in stock in the colour I wanted, but I do have an alternative to try out sometime soon. Will go back just for this place.

Near to it is an Utrecht store - which seemed to be aimed more at graphic designers etc. Didn't visit others in the chain (although there is one near Blick), so don't know if they are different

The little shop on the ground floor of the Art Student's League was the next stop, before the first class begun, as I hadn't had the strength to buy all the ingredients for the medium - or identified a bottle to put them in. They came up trumps, and indeed seem to have a very good, focused range of materials, all aimed at professional artists. Indeed, with the exception of Lee's Art Shop across the road from the ASL, I saw very little student quality materials at all. (Lee's was about the standard of Miller's in Glasgow - adequate, but aimed more at the craft market)

Another place I visited (for Noodler's ink ) was the Fountain Pen Hospital . If fancy pens are your thing, this is the place. And if not-so-fancy pens, or a big range of inks, is more to your liking, this is also your place.

Next up should have been Soho Art Materials , as it came with good recommendations from the rest of the class, but I couldn't find it. After looking twice. Oh well. So I went to Pearl Paints instead. Probably the biggest shop I went to, with a nice big range of sizes of oil painting boards (including ovals), as well as gessoed boards etc. Spent the best part of an afternoon there, looking at all the brushes/pencils/papers and so on.

My favourite of all of them was Blick . It was a bright, open shop, with plenty of room and clearly laid out. The range of oil paints was impressive, as were the watercolours - although they didn't sell pans and didn't have Daniel Smith's range (no-where I visited did. One of the major disappointments of the trip.) Even their bags seemed sturdy. If only the store was at the bottom of my road . . .

Obviously I have missed a few places out - does anyone out there have other recommendations, for the next trip?


  1. thanks for your comment on my blog. This is a great one for me... though why would I want to go to an art store?!?
    I have found at least 7 good sounding tearooms!!! And enjoyed Tea and Sympathy last time I was there!

  2. Personally, I can't decide if proper bookstores, art supply stores or museums are my favourite places on earth. Sad, really.
    I must have just missed Tea and Sympathy - although I had lunch at the Jane Hotel, at the other end of Jane street, which was rather nice (and was french cafe themed). One of the problems I had was that I did not have much internet access when I was there - and I had no idea that tea (and proper cake) would be so hard to get, so hadn't researched it. Had never been out of europe before . . .