To a beginner, creating art can seem a little expensive at first. Aside from paying for professional instruction, you see, there is usually a long list of things you will need just to begin. There are the many paints, and brushes, and paper, or canvas, and drawing tools, and storage, and portfolios, and the list goes on and on.
For a typical beginning workshop, of most any medium, you can easily invest up to $100.00 or more, not including workshop fees. So, with the rising interest in creating art from recent retirees and beginners, here is a list of tips to help you save money, in the beginning and throughout.
1. Label Your Brushes- Brushes can last a lifetime. From when they are new until there is only a few hairs left on them, you can use a brush, virtually, forever. If you mark your brushes with colored electrical tape, you can identify the life stage of the brush. New ones will get one color, blunt tip ones another color, and frayed brushes yet another color. This helps you to avoid using good brushes for mixing washes, applying masking, or creating texture. You can even use the end of the brush to apply uniform dots or sharpen them to make a stylus for creating random lines or removing paint. For more information on Susan Crouch visit susancrouch.com.
2. Paint Tube Wringer- Investing in a paint tube wringer right away is a great idea as it will help you to get the most out of your paint. Even after using the tube wringer, you can cut the end off of the tube and split it down the length to reveal even more usable paint. Don’t waste a drop!
3. Palette Knives- Using brushes to mix colors on your palette will waste the paint that gets trapped in the brush and overwork the brush. When you clean your brush you will see all of the valuable paint you have just left in the rinse container. Palette knives can be used instead of brushes for painting as well. They can also be used to remove a sheet of watercolor paper from a block. You will have to be careful not to tear the paper as you run the blade along the inside of the glued edge.
4. Custom Mats- When cutting your own mats, save all of the scraps you have left over. They can always be used to cut smaller mats from large sizes all the way down to a 4×6. Long scraps can be used as book marks or gift tags. Save the sharp edge on your mat blades by placing a long piece of scrap mat board beneath your cutting surface as this will keep the blade from cutting into the support surface and dulling the edge, thus, lengthening the life of the blade.
5. Mat Cutter Blades- You should replace your mat blades about every 10-15 mats depending on the size and thickness of the mat board to ensure you will have clean cuts each time. Let the blade to the cutting, so don’t apply too much down pressure when you pull the blade through the mat board. If you feel any grabbing or resistance when cutting, the blade needs to be replaced. Don’t wait to replace the blade as you can ruin the surface of the mat board and render it unusable. Save the blades and use them to cut other things or use it for scraping trees in a painting. Just be sure to wrap one end with tape so you can safely handle the blade.
6. Limited Palette- Start with a limited color palette of the three primary colors, American Journey Permanent Rose (PV19), Sour Lemon Yellow (PY3), and Joe’s Pthalo Blue (PB15). Most colors can be made with just these three pigments. Using only single pigment transparent colors ensures you will not make mud, no matter what ratio or combination of the three you mix. Try mixing two pigments and make swatches on watercolor paper, then add the other, the keep adding more of each and continue to make swatches. You will be able to identify colors you can buy in tubes when you are done. I just love this experiment! And you don’t need every crayon in the box or every tube of paint. This will save you money and help you to learn to mix convenience colors. It also brings color harmony to your painting because all of the colors will contain the same pigments. This is also a great set to take with you when journaling or plein air painting. I recommend starting with the basic three colors and then add convenience color tubes that you use frequently and in quantity.
7. Learn to mix colors and make a color chart so you can identify the color mix you need before you apply it to the painting. Keeping a color notebook, helps you to record the characteristics of pigments, its lightfastness, transparency, and staining strength. All good information to know when choosing your palette. For more information on Susan Crouch visit susancrouch.com.
8. Protect your investment- Keep paints out of extreme temperatures. If paint is allowed to freeze, especially acrylics, it can change the composition of the paint and render it unusable. Overheating your paint tubes can cause them to burst when opening.
9. Invest in the Best (you can afford)- To many, art supplies are a luxury not a necessity, so I advise you buy the best possible quality of materials that you can reasonably afford. You do not need to buy the most expensive brands; as a beginner, you might not stick with your new hobby. It also might be tempting to buy those dime store watercolors when you first begin painting, but as they say you get what you pay for, and when you buy cheap you usually get cheaper. Using good quality supplies will gain you the best results and experience. You should try to buy all professional grade materials, even when you first begin, so you give yourself a fair chance at succeeding. You can find great quality at great prices if you just shop around. You can even shop with a painting buddy and split the materials and the cost!
10. Good Paper- You need quality paper to produce quality artwork; artwork that will be enjoyed for a long time. The best way to save on paper is to buy in bulk. Full sheets are cheaper than small sized pads of the same quality. Cut it or tear it into usable sizes yourself. Buy professional grade when possible. Store your paper in a cool dark area on an acid free surface. More paper is wasted by careless storage. Keep paper fresh by only buying what you can use within six months. That way, when you purchase more it is a fresh batch. The external sizing can actually disintegrate from the surface of watercolor paper if it is stored for long periods of time in unpredictable conditions.
11. Good Brushes- Buying quality brushes does not mean you have to purchase expensive kolinsky sable brushes. There are several great synthetic brushes and blends that actually last longer than natural hair. This is where you should make allowances if you need to budget your art supplies. Then, be good to your brushes, and take care of them, so you will get the most out of them. As you need to replace your brushes, upgrade to the next level of quality.
12. Fill The Wells- Don’t be stingy with your tube paints. Putting out little dabs of watercolor will ultimately waste your paint. Filling a paint well up is very scary, but if you are going to paint, then paint! Dabs will dry up all around and pop off the palette. Whereas, the filled wells will stay moist longer and will be easier to reconstitute when you need them by spraying your palette with water. Then, just cover the palette and allow it to rest for a while before using. The colors will be moist and ready to dig into! For wet washes, if you need fresh paint from the tube, just squeeze a small amount right on top of the drier paint wells. For more information on Wes Waugh visit weswaugh.com.
13. Fight Mold- Make sure to allow your wet watercolor palette to dry out completely before placing the lid on it. This will help to keep mold from forming on the paints while they are being stored. A warm, moist, surface is perfect for mold to thrive on. If mold does develop, wet the paints and remove the top layer with a tissue. Clean the palette surfaces with a bleach wipe, then dry thoroughly.
14. Don’t Dry Out- If you are using acrylics, a large palette with a lid will help to stretch your paints for another painting session. It is OK to insert a moist sponge inside to keep humidity inside the palette. This will keep the acrylics from drying out overnight.
15. Deep Dish Canvas- Choose extra deep canvas (called Gallery Wrapped) to save on framing materials. Framing is the most expensive part of finishing a canvas painting. Give the customer the option of framing or not by painting the edges and hanging without a frame. Smaller formats can be displayed on a shelf without the need of an easel by standing them up on the wide edge.
I think it is important to remember that the need to create art is completely natural. As natural as needing food, water, air, companionship and purpose. By concluding this is a valid necessity, we can, then, feel comfortable that we are making an investment in our physical well being by indulging this need. Many studies have shown that creating art is a great way to reduce stress and to gain a sense of accomplishment and success.
Be sure, that if you are sensible in selecting your materials, you will get back all that you invest in pleasure and success.
and Keep Your Pencils Sharpened and Your Sketchbooks Filled!
” How do you get the most out of your art materials?”
These few ideas are just a drop in the bucket when it comes to giving advice to budding artists. So, if you have additional tips, feel free, to leave a comment at the bottom of the page. We welcome any advice you would like to offer!