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The tools for awesomeness

We bring a rundown of all the right stuff to make your idea pop

By Professor Spork

Now, you might be a Fine Arts student graduated from Charukola, or a self-proclaimed artist who spends hours on the net looking up the best products and techniques to improve your knowledge and skills. But more likely, you're just one of those people with a semi-artistic inclination. You like doodling, you like sketching, you enjoy colouring, and once in a blue moon, inspiration strikes and it's all you can do to not drop that term paper you need to be working on and start drawing.

You'd think people like that have no use for what they teach in professional art schools, except sometimes these schools teach students things more practical than looking at a toilet seat from fifteen different angles. We can't tell you all the little tricks we learned, but we can hand out some of the most basic tips to help you realise your half-baked dream of becoming the next Van Gogh, missing ear and all.

A lot of you may be familiar with 'Grasshopper', a small store in Aziz Super Market which sells some of a nicest art copies and sketchbooks you can find in Bangladesh. Although popular, 'Grasshopper' isn't very well-stocked in terms of the big brands, such as Pelican. User reviews insist that Pelican is the best poster paint available, though the brand we usually use at school, Camel, is also pretty good. Camel's watercolours are also excellent. Childhood didn't let us down. However, note that Pelican is in very short supply; be wary of the ones available at New Market - they're probably dry and cracked. Speaking of, here's a tip to reanimate poster paint: add distilled water (it can be bought bottled from car workshops) and clear glue (you know, the ones in those clear plastic tubes). Art teachers at school may have suggested adding water to the dry paint, but that creates the possibility of fungus growing on the surface. If that's the result you're looking for (it might be; you're an artist), then by all means go right ahead.

You'll probably have better chances looking for Pelican at 'Haroon Enterprises', 'ABC', or 'Modern', three of the biggest store names in the Bangladeshi (or Dhaka) art scene. Haroon's is excellent if you need carrying cases for your supplies, and you shouldn't fail to find Winston & Newton brushes there, which professionals claim is the best brand of watercolour brushes.

Speaking of brushes, flat brushes are your go-to tools when using oil, fabric or acrylic paint. The rounder kind is used for watercolours. The natural, bristly flat brushes are best for dealing with oil paint, while the synthetic ones are better for acrylic. Unless you're seriously looking to go professional, oil paints are really not worth the trouble and money. If you want to work on canvas (available around every corner in New Market), try out the far less expensive fabric paint, available at the paint stores of Gawsia which is also perfect for adding the Joker to the Batman T-shirt that's just been missing something. But seriously, acrylic paint is a godsend when you need to colour materials to which other paints won't stick. You can use this stuff to work on literally anything, including water bodies.

Unlike thicker paints, watercolour doesn't leave many brushstrokes, just direction of swipe. Using rough drawing paper allows watercolour to dry in textures, which gives it character. Same goes for pencil sketches, or any form of artwork, really. One-sided rough paper is the way to go. It's not even expensive and is available in any stationary store.

For Oil and Chalk Pastel, Lyra is a widely available good brand, along with the rarer Pentel. And then there's Expressions, which offers artist's quality paint for a higher price. Whichever you choose, remember to fix it with a spray fixative to keep the colour unchanged.

Pencil sketches are highly dependent on material over skill, though not technique. HB pencils, popular among students, are often used for technical drawings. Line drawings are also good with these, though anything artistic should head towards 2B or higher. The bigger the number, the softer the lead of the pencil, with 9B being the highest available here. A common misconception is that the higher number indicates darkness of pencil marks, but all it actually defines is how easily the marks can be made. With a pencil sketch, where there are no colours involved, control of shading is the most important thing, so this can very well be the most important factor. An even better option is charcoal or graphite pencils. Raw shaped charcoal produces better swipes, but charcoal pencils are by no means bad. Unfortunately, once you pick up one of these, there's no going back to regular lead pencils, even when you need to. All pencil and charcoal sketches also need to be fixed to be stored properly.

Amateur artists are constantly erasing and redrawing, and this is highly problematic with a terrible eraser like 'Stellar', which leaves black, smudged evidence all over the page. Recommended brands involve the original 'Staedtlar', but supplies for these have gone down, and 'Maped' is also rarely available in markets, not to mention that even these don't produce the best results. What are available in any art store are soft erasers, available in 2B, 4B, or higher. These will rub off even crayon drawings, though they have a rather short lifespan.

You must be wondering why we're not offering info on colour pencils, when these are what you use the most. That's because it's 'Luna' over 'Faber Castell'. Duh.

This piece was nostalgic, and interpreted the topic in a brilliant way. The use of colours was very fitting for the given topic. Next week we have 'Make Up' as our topic. All submissions need to be sent in to ds.risingstars@gmail.com by Sunday noon. Word limit: 350-500 words. Good luck.

Paintballs, remember?

By Raisa Rownak

One sunny afternoon, she decided to visit her past; that old townhouse with many arms and legs. The one with the steep stairs and the blue paint, the one where the walls smelt like salt and where the windows let in less light than usual. It was home once.

Did she know that the house cried? It cried for her to run across the floor with her light feet, to tumble up those perilous stairs. In lonesome nights, even those blue walls heaved sighs as they grew greener with death every moment.

Purple was peeking in the horizon when she finally stepped in. The dead house gave out a merry chuckle, the ceiling showered her with warm dust, and the green moss creeping up the walls stopped dead. A smile broke on her face as she slowly walked towards the staircase. The railings had long fallen off. She laughed to herself as she struggled up those stairs in the dark, how she used to know these stairs like the back of her hand. The roof. She would fly plastic bags here because she never learnt to fly kites, sometimes the bags would get stuck in the foliage of that old mahogany. The tree still stood, so dead without the green. It had died waiting for little hands to rustle its branches for pieces of polythene. She came and stood underneath the leafless branches, and that's when she saw them. Stains of yellows, greens, blues and reds across the roof. Paintballs, how could she forget? Those balloons stolen from birthday parties filled with paint from the shop near school; throwing little balls of laughter, and Helen, how could she forget Helen? Her and Helen they'd always come dressed in white and go down wearing colourful pretty frocks. So many whites that had turned blue, green, purple and what not.

Helen fell off the roof trying to dodge a red paintball. She was eight and quarters.

The sun had gone down. She stood underneath the branches staring at the little girl that now stood before her. The girl, she could be no more than eight; wearing a smile so innocent, and those glistening eyes. “Hi Helen” - she wanted to say but her lips didn't part. Still that same Helen who last played paintballs with her in 10th of November, 1996, still that same white frock with blotches of yellow down the hem, still that same pink ribbon in her hair.

She still stood there like before, staring blankly at the bit of her past. She hadn't realised she was wearing a white kameez today, she hadn't noticed the red paintball in the girls hands clutched tightly.


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