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Artists Face Costly Supply Questions as They Pursue Their Vision

by Parker Montour

Buying materials is one of the main artist struggles. The price of materials are outrageous and we all know you can’t make art without supplies. If being a freelance artist is your profession, you can’t create the art for money if you don’t have supplies.  

When buying acrylic paints, a bottle of paint could range anywhere from $3.00 to $16.00 for a single two 2oz tube. Artist’s Loft is a low quality art supply brand. At the art supplies store Michaels, they sell a 4oz tube of paint for $4.00. While Golden, a high quality paint brand (also sold at Michaels), sells a tube of 2oz paint for $16.00. At that point you have to decide quality or quantity. The quality of the paint makes a difference when it comes to painting.

Tempera paints are an acrylic alternative. Tempera paint is inexpensive and a good medium choice for beginner painters. Tempera is soft and great for paint mixing. On the other hand, acrylic is expensive and permanent. Acrylic will not come out of clothes. Many nice shirts have been lost to the terrors of acrylic paint.

Oil paint has similar pricing problems. At Michaels, the brand Artist Loft sells 2oz tubes of oil paint for $6.00. When it comes to high quality paint, especially oil, even the color can change the price of a product. The more common the color, the lower the price. Winsor & Newton, a very high quality brand, sells 1.25oz tubes of light green oil paint for $17.00. They also sell 1.25oz tubes of cadmium red for $37.00. Now oil paint can last for a very long time. You don’t use it straight from the tube like acrylic. You mix it with thinners to extend the paint. Not mixing will use up the paint exceptionally fast and keep your paintings wet for ages. Oil paint repels water. It is oil. When cleaning palettes, brushes, or stains on clothes, use mineral spirits or paint thinner. Water will do nothing but make a larger mess; oil is denser than water.

Along with Acrylic, tempera, and oil paints, watercolor as a thin paint option. At Michales, there is a large selection of watercolor to decide on. You could purchase a pan of water color from $7.00 to $55.00. Artist Loft watercolor is poor quality and is similar to Crayola. You can buy a large pan (type of watercolor)  for $5.00 at Michaels. Koi, Prang, and Royal Talens are the major art pan brands. Koi is around $60.00, Prang is around $20.00, and Royal Talens is around $30.00. When it comes to tube watercolor paint, Winsor & Newton is the top brand, around $15.00 for a 0.17oz tube.

“I always use watercolor,” said junior Miles Scott, “The colors are nice and soft. Gives off an aesthetic feel.”

There are also decent quality paints that are not as pricy as Winsor & Newton and Golden and are better quality than Artists Loft. Gamblin oil paints has a large selection of colors in 1.25oz tubes for $11.00. Academy sells 3oz tubes of acrylic paint for $7.00. Royal Talens also has a line of good watercolor tubes for $6.00.

“The prices for art supplies are completely outrageous. I only use the best for my art but I put a lot of money into supplies,” said Walkersville High Art teacher, Christine Stovall. “I put a lot into buying canvas, supplies, and paints. The price of my art goes up with the price I spend on supplies. Art is a very expensive hobby but it’s very enjoyable. I love it.”

If you are interested in painting, the cost doesn’t stop at just purchasing paint. When it comes to brushes, you do not have to buy expensive brushes to create high quality art. Bushes are different for each medium. A watercolor or oil brush would not work well with acrylic. The bristles are different for each brush. Softer bristles work well with watercolor, while acrylic is a stiffer paint, therefore needs stiffer bristles. “Acrylic brushes are designed to cater to the viscosity and drying time of acrylics, (as well as the rougher handling of the brush), while watercolor brushes are optimized to work well with the fluidity and delicacy of watercolor paints and techniques.” [1]

The only problem with cheaper brushes is the bristles falling out, but you’ll have that problem with any brush. It’s always ideal to have a large selection of different size brushes. Different brushes create different paint strokes and textures.

Paint palettes can range from $5.00 to $30.00, but buying name brand palettes aren’t necessary. Purchasing a pallet depends on how large you need. Paper, glass, blocks of wood, or any plate (sub for a paint palette) works well for mixing paints. Palette knives are used to mix paint colors together. Plastic cutlery could be used as a cheaper substitute.

Having a canvas is a necessity for using oil and acrylic. It gives you thick material for heavy paints. Acrylic or oil on paper will soften the paper too much and weigh it down. Canvases are usually a decent price. The larger the canvas, the higher the price. Canvas panels are the same as a normal canvas, but thinner. It is canvas paper on thick cardboard or wood. Canvas panels generally come in packs of five or six and are less expensive than normal canvases. Canvas pads are sketchbooks or pads of paper designed for acrylic. Michael’s sells canvas pads for as low as $8.00.

Whatever you do, do not throw a canvas out if you hate the painting on it. “Gesso is a white paint mixture used as a ground for acrylic painting and oils. Linen is stretched for canvas, then painted with gesso to provide a smoother and more resistant surface for the paint to pushed around on.” [2] Gesso is a great way to resurface an already painted canvas. A few layers of gesso will bring a canvas back to its former glory. Canvases are not expensive but they really are not cheap either. Wasting a canvas because you hate the painting is not a good enough reason. Just paint over it —  it’s that simple. Gesso can be bought at Michaels for $8.00.

Lots of artists like to use easels when painting but easels are expensive. Although, easels are not a necessity. Instead of painting on a flat surface, easels angle the canvas upward. Easels can range anywhere from $8.00 to $1,500.00. An average size easel (average being the easel is high enough for you to stand and paint, [floor easel]),  is around $60.00. If you go for a small easel (tabletop easel), the price is around $20.00. Keep in mind that smaller easels can only hold so large of a canvas. Purchasing an easel depends on your needs as an artist.

Overall, you can generally buy a large portion of art supplies at Michaels, AC Moore, Hobby Lobby, or Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft store. A great solution to purchasing high quality art supplies for less would be to shop at Blick Art Supplies[3] or even Overstock [4]. Blick Art Studios sells art supplies for less the original price. 2oz of acrylic Cobalt Green would originally be $22.00 is sold at Blick for $13.19. You can purchase supplies online at Amazon but the price will be similar to Michael’s, though Amazon does have a much larger selection.

“I think art supplies are pretty expensive depending on what you’re looking for, which sucks since I’m poor. I tend to use Reeves acrylic paints because you can get a fairly nice set of them for a reasonable price. My favourite medium is digital art, even though it’s the most frustrating. My digital art tablet was definitely the most expensive thing I’ve gotten, but it was definitely worth it. I suggest you practice every day. As an artist it’s good to try different mediums to work place art block or when you’re stumped. That usually helps me,” said senior Chara Roberts.

Art is a pricey hobby, but definitely worth it if you have a passion for it. Painting takes time, effort, and practice to expand your skill. As far as hobbies go, painting is a fantastic way to spend your time. Painting can be relaxable (depends on how many hours you’ve been working), and it doubles as a stress reliever. Pablo Picasso once said, “The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.”



[1] https://www.art-is-fun.com/can-you-use-the-same-set-of-brushes-for-watercolors-and-acrylics/

[2] http://www.creativebloq.com/art/8-top-acrylic-painting-tips-artists-31619738

[3] http://www.dickblick.com

[4] https://www.overstock