Penny-Pinching Artist – How to Save on Materials

Paint, Painting, Image, Design
Most people know now that personal financing will be getting tighter and tighter. Everything is going up in cost, including art materials. How are we to keep painting, whether we’re selling our work or not?
There are various ways that costs can be kept down. This article aims to explore and learn what some of these are.
Online Shopping (and indeed offline).
Always keep an eye open for discount offers. If you purchase from several online suppliers as I do, you’ll be on their mailing lists. When discounts are running, it’s an excellent time to buy things that are normally quite expensive, such as oil paints or very heavy-weight watercolour paper. If you can stretch your purse, consider bigger tubes of paint (such as 200ml) especially oils and particularly if they are the more expensive colors. The best brands will last for years (unless you’re painting huge yacht-sail canvases).
EBay is worth a punt, but note that many sellers are extremely aware of what things normally go for and, although their costs may appear lower, then they have to add the postage on. A tube of paint priced #2 or so lower than the standard may not prove to be a great deal of saving by the time you’ve paid #3 postage for that single product. Having said that, if you trawl frequently through the art supplies sections, you can come across bargains. I once bought a full set of Daler-Rowney pastel pencils for nearly half-price, only because the firm had made adjustments to the pastel formula and had ceased the present boxes of pencils.
Similarly, there are branded paints that are actually very good quality, but aren’t household names to the majority of people… these sometimes come up for sale and are available with no competing bids simply because most individuals aren’t comfortable with them.
Grade of Paints.
If you sell your work, you’ll probably prefer artist-grade paintbut it is not uncommon to find professional artists choosing certain student-grade colors for their work simply because they enjoy the colour or the handling of the paint. Student grade paints from the big names are generally good value; especially in acrylics, where they frequently come in large quantity.
Canvases.
Piles of canvases come from several areas in the East these days. You can purchase whole boxes of them at discounted prices from online suppliers, including eBay.
The 1 thing I’d note is the build quality. Many are OK; but some are badly assembled. I’ve had”square” canvases appearing anything but square. What happens is that if a single stretcher-bar is a little longer than the rest, a perfect square or rectangle is not obtained. The subsequent canvas looks absolutely awful when hung on the wall and it’s not fit for purpose… even if you’re a penny-pinching artist.
Dud canvas? Better still, invest in a complete roll of canvas. Expensive outlay but you’ll have the ability to cut off exactly what you want, when you want, and prepare it as you wish… and it could last you simply years.
Canvas Boards
Another way to save is to use canvas-boards. They last for years; I have canvas-board paintings in the 1970’s and they’re absolutely fine.
You can purchase boxes of them from some online suppliers and eBay isn’t a bad place to look .
And even cheaper…
MDF
Available in several thicknesses, the 3mm and 4mm sizes prove popular. Easily cut into any size (and shape) that you need, MDF needs sealing and priming before use. You can use a normal sealer followed by several coats of acrylic gesso, with light sanding in between. Bear in mind the edges as well. If you cut your own, use a dust mask, MDF does produce a good deal of flying particles.
However, MDF is not quite as stable as people believe. There is a problem sometimes with what’s known as substrate-induced discolouration (SID). There are a few options on the artists’ market that will deal with this.
Conservation experts aren’t convinced about the long-term stability of MDF, but most people are not necessarily going to be painting masterpieces that need to last for a few hundred years. Properly prepared, MDF is fine. Some artists find it is too smooth for their own liking. It is also possible to prepare a panel and then glue proper canvas around it; this may provide the additional tooth that some favor.
And actually really cheapskates…
Paper
It’s possible to paint oils on watercolour paper as long as you prime the surface , acrylic gesso is best. This forms a barrier, preventing (or certainly reevaluate ) destruction of this newspaper by the oils. How long it lasts for, I truly don’t know but I would suggest not producing a lot of trainings this way; just to be on the safe side. Acrylics on watercolour paper do not cause a problem.
There are now special papers offered for oil-painting; these seem just like watercolour paper but have been specially treated to manage the destructive properties of oil-paint. They aren’t always cheap per sheet… however… a complete sheet for six or seven pounds will cut up into whatever size you want, and you’ll receive several work surfaces for your money.
Hardboard.
The ideal hardboard is one without oils inside (untempered) but I don’t have any way of telling one from the other. If you use it, sand the surface first, use SID therapy and provide several good coats of primer.
Attempt to use artists’ primers rather than those from a DIY shop.
Making your own…
It’s possible to make rather good panels by gluing sections of cotton shirts or old bedsheets on MDF or hardboard. Use pva or an acrylic medium to perform the sticking. Wrap the substance over the edges and fix to the back, before adding a primer on the surface.
Acrylics can be painted onto plastic surfaces, opening up several ideas for the use of acrylic-sheet, perspex and other similar materials. One of the best places to trawl is, again, eBay, look for offcuts or someone selling panels.
Other Media… Watercolour.
Good quality watercolour paper can be costly. So why not consider the lightweight papers like 90lb? I’ve read about artists spreading water on both sides of the 90lb paper and just letting it stick flat–without any taping– to a very clean smooth board like formica or marble (an old kitchen work-surface would probably do). The sheet remains in place for a reasonable length of time. Other folks do not tape it, but only place bulldog-style clips to affix it to a board, allowing the paper to stretch, cockle and then dry without fiddly taping.
Pastels
There are options for developing many different surfaces that can make you less dependent on”ready-done” papers.
Gritty or grainy papers are extremely common now for pastel work. You can make your own tiled surfaces using several materials along with a pot of pastel-primer paint. There’s a tendency to using MDF also, painted and prepared with a gritty primer. Even metal and plastics will maintain a proprietary pastel-primer.
Otherwise, paint the surfaces with clear acrylic gesso. This medium actually has a fantastic tooth and a couple of coats will probably give you all of the grip you require.
If you’re keen you can purchase a bag of 4fine-grade pumice stone and mix it with white gesso, to paint in your surfaces.
I have known people use sandpaper from the hardware shop; yes it does work, but the newspaper is not acid-free. Pastel is however a dry medium, so if you really want to be experimental then get yourself a sheet or two of fine-grade sandpaper.
Eventually… PAINT SMALLER!
The main thing is that you are able to find ways of maintaining your skills alive when money is somewhat tight. If you can paint,… or perhaps just DRAW… during these times, you will have a collection of work ready to sell when the dark clouds draw out and things improve .

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