Whether you want to make your money go further, or you are into recycling, what are your methods of stretching your art material dollars?
Below are some of mine:
Sales and use coupons. Obvious, but if you’re not a natural born shopper, (I’m not!), you need to remind yourself. Stock up on things that won’t go bad before you can use them up, especially if you have the space. Use sales and coupons on the good stuff!
Avoid “False Economy.” A $40 jar of specialty paint that dried up, waiting for you to think of “something special” to use it on, is a sad thing. Special is Right Now.
Also, expensive paints, mediums, brushes, and canvases, are often easier to work with, more archival, and in the case of paints, more richly pigmented. So it can actually cost as much or more to use cheap stuff. Time is a factor that should be considered in economy. A material that slows you down isn’t economical.
Not everything needs to be archival to the point where it’s still pristine 500 years from now. As long as things are priced right, the art is good, and the buyers know what they’re getting, make use of recycled materials. Sometimes you can find masonite and playwood scraps, or second hand store items, that make perfectly good art and sculpture materials. Do seal wood before painting, it helps paint adhere and helps keep the resins in the wood from discoloring the paint. I like GAC 100, made by Golden, as a sealer. It’s what Ampersand who makes artists panels recommends for their bare masonite (hardbord).
Use acrylic mediums to extend expensive paints, especially to build texture, if possible.
Have a set of cheaper, or older worn brushes, for work that’s hard on tools. Save your best precision tools for when they are really needed.
Buy some good brush cleaner with one of those half off coupons. Most any soap will do in a pinch, but my favorite is the tub of Masters brush cleaner, and some airbrush cleaners for dissolving acrylics are nice, too. With a good coupon I can get a tub of Masters that lasts me a long time, and not feel like I have to be stingy with it. Some of my favorite good brushes are over 20 yrs old.
Save short stumps of colored pencils, etc, for a travel sketch kit. You can use a pencil holder if they are too short to hold. They travel well, don’t break usually, and if you use them up or lose them it’s no big deal.
Capture your work with a digital camera or scan it. Even if your recycled, unconventional art begins to fall apart, you can sell reprints indefinitely with a good high resolution digital image.
Reuse your own art. Paint over things! The old masters did it, and gessos and primers do a good job of hiding and sealing off old work, so you can repurpose the canvas or board. Use broken ceramics to make mosaics. Cut up old drawings you were going to trash, and make collages. Make sculptures out of found objects including some of your work that you were going to discard.
Buy what you will use up before it goes bad. I’ts false economy to buy large containers if they dry up on you.
Keep supplies organized and visible. When you can see what you have, you tend to use it up, and not buy stuff you didn’t need yet.