I bought some art supplies this week. I buy most of my art supplies online these days. Either at dickblick.com or jerrysartarama.com. There are not many art stores left near me these days but there are still some art and craft stores like Michael’s out there.

The first art store I ever bought supplies at was a mall store back in the early 1980s. It was called Koenig’s Art Emporium and my store was part of a chain of art stores. Being an art store in a mall it was pretty expensive. I don’t remember if I bought any supplies at Koenig’s in high school since my first memory of it is buying supplies for my freshman year of college.

During the summer before college I was sent a list of supplies that I would need for my first semester. I dutifully brought the list with me to the art store and bought everything on the list. I remember the sticker shock. I think the whole list of supplies cost me around $200. To a kid who was working for $3.35 and hour that was a lot of money. It took me about 60 hours worth of work to buy those supplies.

The funny thing was that on the first day of classes I think I was the only student who had bought any supplies. No one else had bothered. Some didn’t even know that the list existed. My professor didn’t even know the list existed. Someone gave him a copy of it and then he went over the list and pointed out all the stuff we really wouldn’t need. The stuff I had already bought. Yikes!

I still have some of the things that I bought at Koenig’s that day so long ago. Off the top of my head I know the X-Acto knife (holder not the blade) I still use came from back then. I also still have the 18 inch metal ruler from that list too. The third thing that comes to mind is a flexible curve. That was always a useless art tool since it never flexes properly enough to make good curves but I’ve held onto it for all these years. It makes a good fidget toy if not an art supply.

Near that school was an art store that we students used to go to for supplies. It was in Monticello NY and, if memory serves, was around half an hour from school. That’s a half an hour drive so you needed a car to get there. Not a lot of the 18 to 19 year old students had a car so we had to wait until a friend with a car wanted to make the trip.

I can still remember the feeling of standing in that small store and looking at all the stuff. I don’t remember what I bought there except for a bamboo brush. The cheap kind of bamboo brush that’s meant for calligraphy but is really not very well made and inevitably scares students away from such brushes. I still have that brush too and even used it this past summer to make a bunch of textures in ink.

At my second art school in the mid 1980s we had an art store that we went to in New Rochelle NY. I can’t remember the name of it but it was also a chain art store. It wasn’t in a mall so it was a pretty big art store. I remember it being large and well stocked. It was more of an art store than today’s arts and craft stores but it still had a lot of crafting supplies in it.

The only thing I can specifically remember buying there is a particular Bill Alexander pallet knife. I still have it. Bill Alexander was the painter on PBS who had his own line of art supplies. These days people remember Bob Ross as the PBS painter (you can find a lot of his videos on YouTube) but he took over from Bill Alexander and even inherited his art supply gig. When Bill Alexander died they just changed the name on the supplies to Bob Ross.

After college there were a couple of local art supply stores that I bought from but I mostly got my art supplies in NYC. The local ones were the Koenig’s Art Emporium and a place called Rockland Art Supplies. The Koenig’s had moved locations. No longer were they in the mall but they were across the street in a strip mall in a bigger store. The Rockland store was in yet another strip mall nearby.

I remember the Rockland Art Supply store being the most expensive one. And that’s saying something because no art supply store is cheap. I only went there as a last resort because it was so expensive. A tube of paint that might cost me ten bucks some place else was fifteen bucks there. I think both stores closed in the late 1990s. The Koenig’s went first and the Rockland one a couple of years later.

I would also occasionally drive to the Pearl Paint store in Paramus NJ but it was the Pearl Paint on Canal Street in NYC that was my main art store in the 1990s. I used to take trips down there to stock up on art supplies. I’d either go at lunchtime if I was working at Marvel or take a special trip down just to buy supplies. Either way I had to carry my supplies on the bus ride back home. Sometimes I’d have big (24×36 inch) sheets of paper with me or even ten yards of sixty inch canvas. It was a lot to bring on a bus.

During the 1990s when I worked at Marvel it was in Midtown at 387 Park Avenue South there were a whole bunch of art supply stores around there. There were at least four stores within walking distance at lunch time. The only name I can remember is Sam Flax because that’s the one Marvel itself got a lot of supplies from. There was even one just a block or so down from Marvel but it wasn’t there for long.

All of those Midtown Manhattan art stores closed by the late 1990s. Even Pearl Paint which had been a destination store closed in 2014. There is a story that goes with Pearl Paint that I wan’t even aware of. Pearl Paint Story.

I started buying most of my art supplies online in the early 2000s. Not only because most of the stores had closed already but because it was easier and cheaper. I didn’t have to carry supplies with me on the bus from NYC or drive forty five minutes into NJ to buy supplies. I could order them from home and have them delivered. It’s tough to beat that but I miss going to art stores.