Allison Richter Wildlife Studio
Influences in my life and artBack in the day. A look at art school.

Back in the day. A look at art school.

Way back when I can remember going shopping with my dad for my college painting supplies. My dad is a fantastic dad. He has always been the cornerstone of our family. My dad worked very hard to provide an environment where what ever my brother and I wanted to try to achieve, my father and my mother would let us try it out. Let’s just say my childhood stint as a ballerina / tap dancer proved to be a very short lived few weeks as this is clearly not where my talent would shine. I was much more in tune with my mothers artistic abilities than the attempted floundering and stomping of dance.

My first painting class I was so excited. This was to be different from having to use the terrible tempera paint that high school provided, or having to sneak my mom’s acrylics from her workspace. Finally, my own set of paints that I could do anything with. My mind was buzzing with endless imagination.

Dad and Allison on the Okefenokee

Dad and Allison on the Okefenokee

Before I delve too deeply in my shopping trip that day, A little background on my father. He was a director of finance several decades. His life revolved around investments, where to save money, and crunching numbers. He continued this practice at home. He didn’t buy something new, we just fixed what we already owned. New things cost money. Even though my parents had the money to replace what ever broke, my dad considered this not only a waste of money, but this fueled a challenge to him to be able to fix anything that broke. Many things he fixed had quite a bit of duct tape, or piles of screws and nuts that he said were “factory extras”. In his defense, they did work once fixed. Just touches of glue or dabs of puffy foam sometimes were the new added enhancements to the repaired items.

By the time Sam’s Club came around, my father was truly in heaven so to speak. He could calculate how much everything cost in bulk. Our first trip to the club I remember him crunching numbers on how much the almost gallon jar of jalapenos were per ounce that he brought home. It mattered little that we couldn’t eat a gallon of jalapenos, only that they were about six penny’s per ounce.

Keeping this in mind, we recommence to the art supply shopping trip. We went to the art store where my dad decided the largest tubes of paint would be the better value. Fantastic! I agreed. The more paint I had, the better. Instead of a jar of gesso, he bought a bucket of gesso. I couldn’t imagine what I would do with a bucket of gesso at the time, but right on dad. This sounded fantastic to me. I’ll get to the actual gesso flub in another blog. Then we came to the isle where they sold the art supply carriers. They were so cool. I couldn’t wait to see which one we would pick out. When you opened them up, the cases would create little rising rows of plastic organizers in which you could put your supplies and tote all your stuff.

I was pretty engrossed in deciding which one I wanted, when I saw my dad. He had put the corner of his glasses in his mouth, and he was squinting at the boxes in disapproval. “Allison, that’s nothing but a tackle box! Just because they put the word art in front of it doesn’t mean that it’s something other than a tackle box.” I could see his brain gears turning in a tizzy. This is the stop in which my dad would get off the fun art buying trip. He had had enough of totaling the already piled high basket of paints and brushes I had on my arm. The art bin boxes had sent him over the accountant edge. Oh no, he was going to “fix it”. I cringed. I tried all kinds of angles from how nice they were to what lovely colors there were. I even tried the it would take more time, gas, and money to drive to another store. If we buy these here it would actually be saving him money. My tactics didn’t work. We bought the paints and brushes, then we went to none other than Home Depot.

Yep, Home Depot. My dreams of my cool art stuff started blurring a bit. I had paint and brushes so I could make plenty of paintings, but I started trying to fix in my mind how I was going to pass my Home Depot items off as better than other students items so I would at least blend. While at the home improvement store my dad decided that the other item we weren’t paying ridiculous art store prices for was turpentine. We headed to the isle where they sold the thinners, and suddenly my dad had a Sam’s Club glory moment. No longer were there tiny tins of thinner branded for art. There was a vast array of turpentine priced by the ounce. By the time he had done the math, my dad had figured that a gallon of thinner would be best. Plus, he didn’t see why one cost more than the other, so we bought the cheap one. It worked the same right? Just different prices for the same chemicals.

So I carried the thinner walking with my dad to the tackle boxes. Only there were no fishing boxes in here it seemed. Instead they had tool boxes. This delighted my dad. Tools. Everyone liked tools right? Tools, tool boxes, wires, lights that you clamp onto things, whirring, sawing, taping, he seemed overjoyed. Not only did they have tool boxes, but he guessed they were cheaper than fishing tackle boxes. Plus he could find one large enough to fit a gallon of turpentine in. Oh my.

So in the end I had my art supplies for class. My tool box with a gallon of turpentine and paints probably weighed at least 10 pounds. It was also larger than a kitchen sink. I worked hard on trying to look cool while dragging my new box full of supplies from my vehicle into and out of class. At least it gave me a distinct identity amongst my classmates. Plus, I can’t say I ever ran out of supplies that quarter. In fact, I still have and use a tube of black oil paint that we bought that day in the large value size.

I would like to thank my dad for providing me the art items I needed to begin this journey. Not only did it help me create some beautiful works, but it was also an education on how to pair what is needed with trying to find value and restraint when shopping.

Allison Richter – a national wildlife artist