Making Art Without Going Broke

by Dawn Vinson

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Try these 10 tips to creating art without spending a lot in the process.

Less Is More

It does not take a lot of money to produce something beautiful. Sometimes having a plethora of supplies is actually a hindrance. Think before you buy. Do you really need all those things? Try limiting yourself. This can actually be very freeing. Choose one medium and explore it fully; buy only the basic colors instead of the complete set. Better still, challenge yourself to see how creative you can get without spending any money at all.

Become More Selective

  • Buy only what you truly love and will use.

  • Invest more money in tools than products.

  • Tools will depreciate in cost over time and will further enable your creativity.

  • Buy the reusable/refillable version.

  • Stock up on the pack mules of the art supply realm, such as glue, tape, thread, etc. They aren't sexy, but they work hard for the money.

Know Your Purpose

Most of us are making art for our own personal pleasure. It pays to keep this in mind. Before you spend money, ask yourself one simple question: "Do I really need the same stuff that the pros are using?" Most of the time, the answer will be "no". There are simpler, less expensive options for just about everything.

Make It Yourself

You can make many of your own art supplies. From books to ink to stickers to rubber stamps to glue, you can craft it. Many of these things can be made from scraps or salvaged materials (stuff you already have around the house). Don't know how? There is a wealth of information available, both on the web and in print; a visit to the library should prove fruitful.

If you've been frustrated in your attempts to make things before, consider this. Maybe you simply have not come across the right instructions. We all learn in different ways, so no one set of directions is going to work for everybody. Find the ones that make sense to you. It can make all the difference.

Learn to See the Possibilities

Trash and waste can be an artist's smorgasbord. Cardboard, Styrofoam, empty containers, and junk mail can become stencils, stamps, storage units, paper beads, or collages. Before you throw something away, think about how it can help you on your creative journey.

Use Every Little Bit

Tiny scraps can be just the thing for finishing a project. "Empty" bottles of ink can be filled with water and the mixture used for background. "Mistakes" can be recycled (good side up) or cut up and used as backgrounds for something else. "Waste not, want not" is definitely the name of the game here.

Find a Good Thrift Store (or yard sale or charity shop)

Many brand-new and good-condition tools and supplies can be acquired from secondhand venues, including paper, beads, paper trimmers, storage boxes, labels, and three-ring binders (among other things).

Make Your Hobby Pay for Itself

You might not be able to get rich off of your creative ventures, but you can surely make it self-sustaining. Make your own supplies, and then sell extras to people who don't have the time or the inclination to do so. Your local craft store might let you teach a workshop in exchange for a discount (or for money). Buy booth space at local crafts fairs, sell your creations, and keep yourself in art supplies indefinitely.

Ask and Ye Shall Receive

Sometimes craft supplies are available for the asking. Just keep your eyes open for opportunities. Look for something that someone else has an abundance of and is about to discard.

Three rules to keep in mind:

  • Always, always, always be polite!

  • Keep your request reasonable. Ask for only two or three of whatever it is. Let them be the one to say that you can take more. If they seem receptive, you can leave them your number and let them know that you are always willing to take whatever it is off their hands in the future.

  • Always accept a negative response gracefully. Don't stand there and rant or argue. If you really feel strongly about it, a polite letter to whomever's in charge just might inspire them to reconsider.

Always Check the Clearance Racks

Whenever you're out shopping, always take a few minutes to scan the clearance shelves before you leave. You never know what you'll find, and it most likely will only cost pennies.

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