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To the serious artist I am a joke. No serious artist works with poster paint, what am I, five years old?

But before I justify working with this medium, a little history.

I started drawing in college, at Fresno City College. I loved the sensation of charcoal and nupastel under my thumb. I got accustomed to the way gliding my finger across the page created a softening in tone. It was almost watery at the edges yet the charcoal could be laid on heavily to create a uniform and dark color. I used primarily vine charcoal, though willow charcoal was nice and heavy for certain pieces. Eventually, I began to experiment with Pelican Ink but I still prefered (and still do) to use charcoal due to the fact that I can work the charcoal to create a specific effect, whether it be thick lines or gradations of tone. Thanks in part to positive feedback from my professors, I continued through intermediate drawing, and into beginning figure drawing.

I began to think of myself as "artistic" than gradually I just became "an artist", though I have not gotten into the fine art business (which led me to my current title of "poor, starving artist").

Recently, I was at a rec center where there was poster paint available. Being artistic, I raced to the little cart, fumbling with the drawer's handles, eager to play with it. It didn't occur to me that I should lift my nose at such a practice, that, if I wanted to be a "true artist" I would have to spend thirteen dollars for a tiny cannister of a single color of paint. All I understood was that the paint was free of charge, so long as I left it in the rec center for others to see, and also that they had pretty colors in that little art bin. I wanted to play with the brushes. I wanted to use the red paint. I had an image of some abstract piece already forming in my mind's eye and I wanted to paint it. Beside me, another female, artistic type, was busy staring at the table top and ignoring the free paint and paper.

"I have oils at home," she told me. I must admit, I was jealous. I suddenly felt really young and naive. I felt out of my league. I felt silly, standing there with my little plastic bristle brush and my little bowl of liquid colors and my little cup of water instead of turpentine. I sighed.

The recession hits us all in unusual ways. For myself, it means cutting back on my expectations, from drinking instant coffee instead of Starbucks to using bottles of poster paint instead of expensive oils. It's a money saving necessity. It's an artist's way of making colorful art without maxing out my credit cards. Albeit, I cannot sell anything I do in poster paint, any conoisseur would laugh and laugh until she or he gagged on his h'ors d'eouvres. At best, they might say, "How cute...now, do you have any real art?" But since I've never sold anything and am too ignorant to attempt to sell anything in the Art World, especially in this market, I don't mind working with poster paint.

So anyways, I just told the female oil painter, "cool" and continued with my abstract painting. I enjoyed the vibrant colors, the milky liquid viscosity, and the way it looked on the paper. I really liked that all the bottles said "non-toxic" and that I was not getting high off of the fumes, as is the case with gauche, and others. The people around me gave me compliments. It occured to me that the general, non-artistic population couldn't care less what type of paint I used, all they cared about was its visual impact. So, from then on, I used poster paint at the rec center. I used up all their free paper.

I borrowed money from my mother and went to Allard's art store. Parusing, I couldn't decide if I should try to be a "serious artist" and buy a limited amount of oils or just have fun with what I already knew how to use and mix: tempera paint. I also decided that I wanted to paint on canvas so that I could hang it up on a nail in my bedroom, to create my own personal ambiance. Also, I couldn't find a package of papers like the one at the rec center, since that would have been more economical as well as more productive: less cost, more fun, more paintings.

Again, I felt like a naive poser painter at the cash register, buying their nice canvas just so I could go home and "fingerpaint" all over it. I avoided eye contact, ran off with my paints and canvases, and set up shop in the backyard to start painting little self-portraits.

I have done a number of paper and canvas paintings and since then I can say I don't regret using poster paint, since it has a specific feel and look (and cost). Also, it has been beneficial since I'm a novice painter who should practice with the "small stuff" before graduating to better and more expensive paints.

To conclude, poster painting is fun, non-profitable, and my mom can hang my stuff on the wall now. Thanks for reading!

Coming soon: a serious blog on Basquiat and his contribution to art history.

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Comment by Kathryn Pedroza on September 9, 2010 at 9:57am
Art is not about the $, it is the experience. What it does for you the artist! I do my art for me and if other people enjoy it then it is a bonus! Never feel ashamed or the medium you use embrace it make it a new way to create your way to create!!! The people lifting their noses are hiding and not really experiencing the soul of an artist! Keep your head up and let your expression out however you feel inspired!!!
Comment by Johnny Otilano on September 8, 2010 at 9:19pm
I like your story reminds me of me when I'm just starting...I used oil base enamel house paint and mixed it with my cheap amateur oil paint which brought me here in United States in 1989...well I guess each Artist have to find a way in order for us to continue our passion...you are a serious and a born Artist that's why you didn't stop being Artistic even though you can't afford the expensive paint you managed to find the way to show your God given talent.

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