Save on Materials and Create Your Own

Art, Watercolor, Color, Colorful
Most men and women know now that personal finances will be getting tighter and tighter. Everything is going up in cost, such as art materials. How are we to maintain painting, whether we’re selling our work or not?
There are a variety of ways that costs can be kept down. This report aims to explore and learn what some of them are.
Online Shopping (and indeed offline).
If you buy from several online providers as I do, you’ll be on their mailing lists. When discounts are operating, it is a good time to buy things that are normally quite expensive, such as oil paints or very heavy-weight watercolour paper. If you can stretch your handbag, consider bigger tubes of paint (such as 200ml) especially oils and particularly if they’re the more expensive colors. The best brands will last for a long time (unless you are 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 prices may appear lower, they then have to add the postage on. A tube of paint priced #2 or so lower than the standard may not end up being a great deal of saving by the time you’ve paid #3 postage for this single product. Having said this, if you trawl regularly through the art supplies segments, you can come across bargains. I once purchased a complete set of Daler-Rowney pastel pencils for almost half-price, only because the firm had made adjustments to the pastel formula and had ceased the current boxes of pencils.
Likewise there are branded paints which are actually good quality, but are not household names to the majority of people… these sometimes come up for sale and are available with no competing bids simply because most people aren’t familiar with them.
If you sell your work, you’ll probably prefer artist-grade paintbut it’s not unusual to find professional artists choosing certain student-grade colors for their work only because they like the shade or the handling of the paint. Student grade paints from the big names are usually good value; particularly in acrylics, where they often come in large quantity.
Canvases.
Piles of canvases come from several places in the East these days. You can buy whole boxes of them at discounted prices from online suppliers, including eBay.
The one thing I’d note is the build quality. Many are OK; but some are poorly assembled. I’ve had”square” canvases looking anything but square. What happens is that if a single stretcher-bar is a little more than the rest, a perfect square or rectangle is not obtained. The resulting 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? Cut off the canvas and use it to make a panel; or just practise on. Better still, invest in a complete roll of canvas. Expensive outlay but you will have the ability to cut off precisely what you want, if you want, and prepare it as you wish… and it could last you only years.
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 buy boxes of them from some online providers and eBay is not a bad place to look either.
And even cheaper…
MDF
You can use a standard sealer followed by several coats of acrylic gesso, with light sanding in between. Bear in mind the edges as well. If you reduce your own, use a dust mask, MDF does create a good deal of flying particles.
However, MDF isn’t quite as stable as people believe. There’s a problem sometimes with what is known as substrate-induced discolouration (SID). There are some options on the artists’ market that will deal with this.
Conservation experts aren’t convinced about the long-term stability of MDF, but most of us aren’t necessarily going to be painting masterpieces that will need to last for several hundred years. Properly prepared, MDF is fine. Some artists find it is too smooth for their own liking. It is also feasible to prepare a panel and then glue proper canvas around itthis may provide the additional tooth that some prefer.
And actually really cheapskates…
Paper
It’s possible to paint oils on watercolour paper so long as you prime the surface , acrylic gesso is ideal. This creates a barrier, preventing (or certainly delaying) destruction of the newspaper by the oils. Just how long it lasts for, I really don’t know but I would suggest not producing too many masterpieces 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 the same as watercolour paper but have been specially treated to handle the destructive properties of oil-paint. They aren’t always cheap per sheet… however… a whole sheet for six or seven pounds will cut up into whatever size you want, and you will receive several work surfaces for the money.
Hardboard.
I am not sure about this one. The perfect hardboard is one without oils inside (untempered) but I have no means of telling you from the other. If you use it, sand the surface , use SID therapy and give several good coats of primer.
Attempt to use artists’ primers instead of those from a DIY shop. I know this is a penny-pinching article but these primers have fungicides and other chemicals in that may react with your paints.
It is possible to make rather good panels by gluing sections of cotton shirts or old bedsheets onto MDF or hardboard. Use pva or an acrylic medium to do the sticking. Wrap the substance over the borders and fix to the trunk, before adding a primer on the surface.
Acrylics can be painted onto plastic surfaces, opening up several ideas for using 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 such as 90lb? I have read about artists spreading water on each side of their 90lb paper and just letting it stick flat–with no taping– into a very clean smooth board like formica or marble (an older kitchen work-surface would probably do). The sheet remains in place for a fair length of time. Other folks do not tape it, but simply place bulldog-style clips to affix it to a board, allowing the paper to stretch, cockle and dry without fiddly taping.
Pastels
There are options for developing many different surfaces that will make you less dependent on”ready-done” papers.
Gritty or grainy papers are extremely popular today for pastel work. You can create your own tiled surfaces using several materials along with a pot of pastel-primer paint. Consider using the primer on mountboard (which is conveniently acid-free), or other thick card. There is a trend to using MDF as well, painted and ready with a gritty primer. Even plastics and metal will hold a proprietary pastel-primer.
Alternatively, paint the surfaces with clear acrylic gesso. This medium actually has a fantastic tooth and a few coats will probably give you all the grip you need.
If you are 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 isn’t acid-free. Avoid the rougher grades, the grain will consume your pastels in minutes.
Eventually… PAINT SMALLER!
The main thing is that you are able to find ways of keeping 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 away and things improve .

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