I’ve spent most of this month putting together a group of new greeting card designs to submit to publishers. I’ve found it quite a scary process so, to get me started with some enthusiasm, I paid a visit to the treasure chest that is our local Art Shop* and stocked up on some lovely new art supplies.
As any artist will know, the price of a new pad of good quality paper, a watercolour brush, a bottle of acrylic ink and one or two minor items made quite a dent in my bank balance that would need a lot of cards sales to fill. It made me wish, not for the first time, that I was a writer so that I could manage on just a notebook and pencil!
Art materials are invariably expensive, especially in comparison to what most of us earn from our art. The term, ‘starving artist’ wasn’t coined without good reason.
But there are ways to economise without jeopardising the quality of our work and I thought I’d list a few of my little money-saving tricks and hope that you will share yours –
1. Save unused paint. At the end of a painting session, you may be able to salvage unused paint by wrapping the palette loosely but securely in cling-film or a sealed small plastic bag.
2. Save on sketch pads. Make a pad of paper for trying out ideas by saving any sheets of A4 paper – junk-mail letters and so on – that have a clean side. Use a bulldog clip to fix them to a firm surface such as a rectangular place-mat, if you have one. If not, save the firm cardboard back of a sketchpad or any pad of art paper and use that for the backing.
3. Save on expensive watercolour or pastel paper. Sometimes it’s perfectly possible to use the back of a ‘failed’ painting.
4. Paint smaller. If, like me, you like to paint big, this will be quite a challenge but designing greeting cards at 5” x7” (or more often, 7.5” x 10.5”) has shown me that it’s possible to adjust.
5. Save on palettes. There are many items of packaging, especially in boxes of chocolates or biscuits, that make excellent paint palettes and, as they don’t cost anything, you can throw them away when you’ve finished and avoid all that tedious palette-washing.
6. Make collages! This is the cheapest way to make art that I’ve discovered. I often use remnants of gouache that have dried on the palette for painting the paper. It gives some interesting paint effects as well as cleaning the palette for me!
The only materials/equipment I need for my collages are:
- glue (an ordinary glue stick is fine!)
- a packet of coloured tissue paper from the stationers
- some backing card (I use some 300 gsm printer card that I bought that my printer wouldn’t accept)
- a sharp craft knife and spare blades
- cutting mat
- tracing paper
7. Use every ounce of your creativity to utilise what you already have! For instance, when I blew up my expensive A3 scanner – oops! – a neighbour kindly and ingeniously converted it to a light-box! But if you need a light-box but don’t want to spend the money, you’ll find plenty of instructions online for making one more cheaply. For years I happily used a desk-lamp underneath a glass topped coffee table.
I’m sure there are plenty of other ways to save money on art materials and equipment.
What are yours?
* Our local Art Shop and Gallery now has an online shop, with very reasonable prices. Just click on the line drawing on the home page to enter the site.