From professional painters to weekend hobbyists, nobody wants to be a starving artist. It can be tough to save a buck at the art supply store, but not impossible. Here are some ideas for buying wisely, and getting the most out of your supplies:
1. Don’t buy the cheapest materials available. Surprised? It’s tempting to buy the 99-cent paintbrush or the value-pack of paints, especially when the prices on the good stuff seem totally out of line. Unfortunately, cheap art supplies are no bargain. You’re not doing yourself any favors when you buy brushes that shed hairs in your painting, paints that don’t blend right and will crack or fade within a year, or paper that will soon turn yellow and brittle. Always buy the best you can afford–after, of course, cutting coupons, waiting for sales, and comparison shopping. There are great deals to be found online (and if you pool orders with artistic friends, you can all save on shipping and handling!)
2. Recycle failed projects. Okay, your drawing of Aunt Mathilde turned out looking like your Uncle Bert. There goes a five-dollar sheet of paper. Right? Maybe not. The easiest thing to do is to turn the paper over and try again. You may also want to cut it up and use the smaller pieces for testing out new colors, techniques, or sketches. Perhaps if there’s an area of the work you do like, you can mat and frame it, cutting off the rest. Maybe another medium is the answer. Some watercolorists draw over their failed paintings with pastel and end up with a great mixed-media work! Feel free to try something new. That disaster you created just might be the beginning of something exciting.
3. Clean and store your supplies properly. If you’ve shelled out a lot of money for art supplies, you certainly won’t want them going to waste. Wash your brushes carefully in warm, soapy water (not too hot–you don’t want to loosen the glue holding the bristles in.) Let them dry bristles-side-up. If you use good pencils, don’t just throw them in a drawer. The leads may break inside, and you won’t know it until you’ve sharpened down to that point and a chunk falls out. Store them so they won’t rattle around. Be sure to put the caps back on your paints, glues, and everything else. If any of the contents has slopped over onto the jar or tube, make sure to wipe it off. Otherwise, you may never get the cap off again after that stuff dries! Store your paper lying down, not standing up. Try keeping it away from places where it can get slopped on, bent up, or exposed to sunlight and great changes in humidity.
4. Swap supplies you don’t need/want with other artists. So you thought you’d try those new metallic acrylic paints but it turns out they’re not for you. Now what? Give them away to an artistic friend or art student. Who knows? That person may have something to give away that you want. If not, take heart: you’ve just done something nice for someone.
5. If you’ve got it, use it. Don’t let your materials sit around for years. Markers dry out. Paints may separate. Glues stiffen. When you do use your supplies, don’t be afraid to use as much as you need. Some of us money-conscious types only squeeze out a little paint at a time, afraid to waste any. Then we wonder why our paintings are so weak and colorless! If you have this problem, invest in palettes and containers that seal in leftover paint for later use. And then use it! If nothing else, make abstract designs or practice strokes with it as a warm-up during your next session.
Creativity is not just for art projects. With a little imagination, you can find many ways to enhance your work and save money.