Five Favorite Tools No. 1: Pamela Baron

I'm excited to announce that today I'm launching an ongoing series called Five Favorite Tools. 

Like so many, I spend a great deal of my days thinking about the best way to balance my time, and how to structure my art practice so that I can fire up my creative brain efficiently when I have time to work. I've recently come to realize just how important having the exact right materials at hand is to this aspect of my practice-- specific brushes I love, and that feel great in my hand, paint that I can't wait to squeeze onto my palette, a messy palette that I want to jump back into, my favorite paper. When I sit down to make art, the physicality of these materials activates my senses, wakes me up, and makes me want to get started.

In thinking about these questions, I became curious about the ways other artists approach their tools and materials. What are the tools that are super familiar? Which ones are essential? What tools make someone want to dive into their work, and why? Are there special or rare tools that are particularly important? These particulars are super interesting to me, so I decided to delve a little deeper by asking friends, fellow artists and other creatives to participate in this project. I asked the generous folks who said yes to send me pictures of their five favorite tools and answer a few brief questions. Then I illustrate the objects, and share them with you every other week here on my blog and over on Instagram.

Though I'm just getting started with this project, I'm thrilled and fascinated by what I've received so far. These talented, wonderful, imaginative people have sent in thoughtful and thought-provoking descriptions of their tools, and why they matter so very much to what they do. I can't wait to share them with you.

So, without further ado, let me introduce you to the Five Favorite Tools of Oakland-based artist Pamela Baron.

©Lindsay Gardner


I am fortunate to have gotten to know fellow Oakland artist, Pamela Baron, in the past year. She makes delicate and whimsical watercolor and ink paintings, and is well known for her detailed paintings of funky Bay Area homes. Here, Pamela describes her five favorite tools, why they're important to her and how she uses them. 

1. My brushes. I use Raphael 8404 Kolinsky Sable brushes almost always in the 3/0 or 2/0 size. My work involves a lot of details and line work so I need the precision of a kolinsky sable brush.  I usually have about 3 or 4 of the same brush that I rotate between. I also have one junk brush with firm bristles that I use to mix paint. My brushes live in a small ceramic house that I found in a vintage store when I first moved back to the Bay Area in 2011. When I saw it in the store, I couldn't believe that I found something that looked like one of my paintings come to life.   

2. My paints. I am obsessed with Schmincke but I also use Daniel Smith on occasion. I discovered Schmincke in college (well, watercolors in general) while I was studying abroad in Rome. In my terrible Italian, I asked the local art supply shop owner what his favorite product was in his entire store and he gave me a pan of Schmincke watercolor. I spent that summer falling in love with watercolor. I love the vibrance of the paint and how thickly I can paint it if I want. This set is special to me because I have been coveting it for YEARS and just this past November I was finally able to afford it so I bought it for myself as a birthday present. I do a lot of mixing in my palette for my own artwork, but for my clients, all paint gets mixed in tiny jars and labeled.

3. My sketchbook. This is a new obsession for me and I am still on the hunt for the best sketchbook with watercolor paper in it.

4. My Fluid Watercolor Pads. I love to experiment and I go through paper rather quickly so this is the most economical watercolor pad I've found. I also like their orange covers. I used to use Arches, but they were so pricey I felt bad whenever I made something not good with them. I find that I paint more often with the Fluid pads. For special projects or for house portraits I use Sennelier watercolor pads which are the best.  

5. My black Acrylic Artist's Ink by Daler Rowney. I put it into a glass jar with an eyedropper top. I think most people assume my black line work is a pen, but it's brushwork with my 3/0 brush. I squeeze a drop or two from the dropper into a bottle cap and run my brush along the ridges to get the perfect amount of ink on my brush. My husband brews and enjoys beers so I have an endless supply of them. (It's also nice to think of him during the day while I work.)