There ws a time when I lived in Boston that there was almost nothing I couldn't get at one of the local art supply stores. My everyday store was Newbury Paint on Newbury Street. I was above the paint store. They had really good stuff and I got a nice discount. There was EJ Arden over by Mass Art School.. That's where I got the big stuff. An easel a drafting table and my big Artograph Lucy. There were other stores, Charrette in Harvard Square. The school store at The Art Institute where Mike Driscoll worked.
After I moved to New York. I lived at 31st and Madison where within 5 blocks I had 4 top notch art supply stores. Charette, Plaza, Iving Berlin and Sam Flax. I wanted for nothing in the way of art supplies. From the high end architect's tools to a kneaded rubber eraser. There was everything. I could tube down to Canal Street and visit Pearl Paint and climb the rickety stairs to find anything and all things art supply. I could go to NYCentral where they had every part for my Thayer Chandler airbrushes.
Alas today real art supply stores are as rare as good government. What there is now are well manicured and understocked big box craft outlets where the smell of potpourri is enough to kill a rat and the house brand product just plain suck. Today to get quality supplies we are left with online mega art supply web sites, Jerry's, Joe's, and a endless list of hard to use online catalogues. A few are rising to the top as far as ease of use but still.. I miss the smells and the creaky floors of Newbury Paint. I miss Louis at Plaza Art Material. I miss fondling the paint brushes. It was such a part of life.
Fear Not! For all you art supply geeks out there here is a great resource for when you need a hot wax or rubber cement fix. The Museum of Forgotten Art Supplies. A great trip down to the Canal Street of the internet.
I have many of the items in the museum and still use some today. In fact I think I'll go use the Proportion Scaler right now.
The site was created by the mad illustrator Lou Brooks, the lost son of Our Miss Brooks.
Update Saturday 12.13.14
The impetus for my writing this entry was having had to shop for basic materials on the internet. The art suppled online guys for the most part art pretty clunky in the ordering process. It's sort of like going to the dentist online. Anyway I placed an order which I was supposed to receive Friday via FedEX free shipping on the several hundred dollar order. Now let me explain that I live in the country. Not just the country but the country that high speed internet passed by. Asphalt passed by. We barely have a zip code. I don't expect an art store within even 20 blocks. There aren't any blocks. Here it is, late night Saturday, and no package. The tracking button from the online biggest art supply biz in the land says that the package could not be delivered because of weather conditions. Yes the sun was not shinning. I guess the driver was pissed because he/she had to work while all the pre-christmas bargains were awaiting them at the mall. Anyway I canceled the order. I'll drive to Hobby Lobby on Monday, about an hour away, to get the Gamsol I need. I won't let the political views of the owners of Hobby Lobby get in the way but I will be pissed that they only have third rate products for the most part. Just enough front line stuff to warrant the trip for a quart of thinner. I'll have to wait until I get into NYC after christmas to buy the dozen plus brushes that only this big store sells. After the Hugh Jackman matinee before the sushi dinner. Did I mention there's no sushi where I live either. If I had a time machine I could go back to Plaza art materials on Madison and Louis would have all my stuff for me at a nice professional discount. Then I'd have sushi.