Sometimes, It’s About the “Stuff”

Yay for Moleskine notebooks and other great art supplies!

This time of year seems like the perfect opportunity to talk about consumerism in our culture and question whether it has gotten out of hand. But since I don’t have anything original to say on that topic, I won’t bother saying anything at all.

But I will write about “stuff”–my art stuff, to be exact.

The other day I went to the store to buy some Moleskine journals. Those Moleskines aren’t cheap, as I’m sure you’ve noticed. And it was the week before Christmas, so I had to fight to find a parking space at the store and then stand in line to pay. My wait gave me ample time to ask myself, “Why are you doing this? What makes this notebook different than any other?” Yet I wasn’t able to articulate, even to myself, what exactly justified their price and my effort. So I just headed home with some new Moleskines and was happy.

By the time I got home, I had changed to wondering why I get so much satisfaction from art supplies–and not just my journals and notebooks. I love new paintbrushes, and paints, and fresh colored pencils, and pens I can uncap for the first time. This feeling would be easier to understand if I told you I enjoyed these tools whenever I use them, but the truth is that it is more than that. I like knowing they are there at my art desk waiting for me. I enjoy arranging them and rearranging them in my art cabinet. I can’t wait to wander all the aisles of an art supply store, even when I have gone there to purchase one thing and one thing only. I just like “stuff.” And I don’t think I am the only one!

I had a friend who suggested that these feelings might be rooted in “creative avoidance.” I.e.–The idea that if you are feeling uninspired and lack confidence in your creativity, you can at least enjoy the tools of creativity without actually using them (and perhaps failing). Hmm. Maybe.

Or it is that we, as artists, are looking for newness and novelty? After all, it’s easier to buy a new sketchbook and pencil than it is to learn to draw somthing new or in a new way.

Neither of those explainations seem totally wrong, but they don’t seem totally right, either. I am not sure what causes us to connect with objects, but when one of my boys wants to sleep with a new toy of his right on the nightstand next to him, I somehow understand. In fact, maybe I’ll slip one of those Moleskines under my pillow tonight.

A Commercial Announcement

Ahhh, sweet shopping surprises!

For some, it’s the perfect pair of pants. For others, it’s the ideal decor item for their home. For me, a beautiful blank journal is what’s  irresistible.

Of course, when shopping, it’s the unexpected find that is sweetest. It’s those times when you’re out and about to accomplish some mundane task, but are savvy enough to recognize the treasure waiting for you–that’s what really shows your shopping skill. (After all, it’s not the same if you just find what you are looking for.  Where’s the triumph and surprise in that?)

So… Just the other day I was at Marshall’s trying to find a birthday present for a four-year-old girl that I don’t know very well, who I was determined not to spend more than $20 on, and whose party was the next day. I was goal-oriented, yet uncertain. So I wandered the aisles of the store, even after I had chosen a present for her–you know, just in case there was something better hiding behind the next corner. You know how Marshall’s is.

And somewhere in the gifts/stationery/home office aisle, I came upon these wonderful journals, the best shopping surprise I’ve had since I spotted that shirt for $9.98 at Banana Republic a few months ago. Wonderful Italian papers on the covers. Heavyweight paper with the color and texture of eggshells inside. Made in Italy, and with that elegant “tall and thin” ratio you see so often used for European magazines. (They measure 9×13″.) They were just $4 each. As another editor at work would sum it up: *swoon.*

There were three on the shelf; I bought two, not wanting to be greedy. (Who knows, there could be another journal artist in my neighborhood who also should experience these beautiful books!) I hurried to the check-out, probably passing by the perfect pair of pants.