I recently watched an accomplished artist on YouTube creating her illustrious florals in a meager composition book she purchased from a dollar store. While the medium was thin and flimsy, it was far from wanting under the hands of such a skilled artist, which prompted this article about a subject I’m passionate about: the art supply does not make the artist. I want to open your eyes to the prospect of creating gratifying pages with minimal, inexpensive materials, which can be easily found at unconventional budget and thrift stores.
While there are many extravagant art supplies that beautifully deliver what they promise, we have to realize that not every paint, for instance, finely ground to perfection by hand in Paris has the abilty to match our current strengths and weaknesses. After all, we are for the most part, novice and intermediate level art enthusiasts, distinct from the adept Cezanne and Matisse. The key is to experiment for ourselves what works best for us as individuals. Cost-effective paints can easily meet our expectations and match our knack, particularly for art journaling. While we can watch hundreds of YouTube tutorials, what may work well for an instructor might not work well for us. For example, if you’re one who loves a paint’s opaqueness, a luxury brand will do nothing for you if it’s transparent. Here, reading a product’s labels is a must. Many inexpensive paints will deliver for you if they’re marked, “opaque.”
On the other hand, I’ve discovered some of my favorite art supplies in the school aisle at the Dollar Tree. They carry some wonderful neon-colored paints that are advertised to be opaque, but because of their low budget quality, their watered-down consistency is exactly what I needed as a wash over journaling and collage. The best paints I’ve found are under fifty cents at Walmart. It never ceases to amaze me the pigment in the Apple Barrel brand of fluid acrylics. Have you tried their Flamenco Red? You could paint a barn with one coat if you had enough of it! And their large bottles of fluid white are highly pigmented and thick enough to pass for some of the most expensive white gessoes. I believe we’re drawn to many expensive paints because of the beautiful hues that have been pre-mixed for us, but I believe we can create the same shades with a color wheel and a palette board.
As for collage, if your preference is to attach and seal both the undersides and tops of your papers, no doubt you’re going through a lot of sealants, and an expensive, thick gel medium endorsed by many skilled artists may not be for you. Fluid decoupage is available in many inexpensive brands and can save you hundreds over the course of a year. Beautiful collage papers can be found in the gift aisle at dollar stores and are available at a fraction of the cost of trendy ones that lure you in at fancy boutiques. Most of the time you’re using them for background and are going to see a small portion of the print anyway.
Washi tapes for the most part are hit or miss, and they’re expensive, and I think that’s why many artists are making their own. We are drawn to some of the prettiest tapes and are disappointed when they don’t stick well and curl up the moment you apply them. Yet, the Dollar Tree hardware aisle carries some of the stickiest masking and printed work tapes that can be cut down or torn to size. You really have to use your imagination in your trial and error analysis until you uncover what you love using, no matter what it is, because art is truly meant to be enjoyed.
As a white gel pen afficionado, I’ve tried many an expensive pen to write in my journal. While a number of gel pens are made for doodling, they may not give you the smooth effect you crave for cursive writing in your journal. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve indulged in those expensive writing tools that are locked behind glass cases, only to have them skip and run out far too soon. I tried far too many luxury brand writers before discovering my favorite white, Uniball Signo pen that can be purchased just about anywhere for a couple of dollars apiece. I’ve found some of the best black mega bold ink pens from the Dollar Tree; they write like butter and last for months.
I believe there are some amazing art supplies you’re drawn to that are one of a kind gems. Save your money for those pieces, such as that gorgeous yard of vintage wallpaper on Etsy that can’t be found anywhere else. That brayer that silently flattens wrinkles and rolls paint on like butter. The spray fixative you can use indoors because it doesn’t smell or contain toxins, but really works – all priceless! Again, you just have to experiment and discover what suits your style of art, which in my opinion, has nothing to do with cost.
My point is you don’t have to go broke to become a good artist. Your creative talents are not contained in a fancy bottle or overpriced brush, but will rise up out of passion, prudence and practice.
If you don’t want your journal pages to stick together, use acrylic paints that are marked, “matte.”
Leverage your favorite art journal pages by photocopying them and laying them down with decoupage as a background.
Organizing or cleaning your kitchen utensil drawer? Instead of throwing away or donating unused, odd tools, use them as mark-makers in your journal. Just dip in paint or ink and experiment – such fun!
Can’t squeeze out any more paint from your tube? Cut it in half and the amount of paint left will surprise you!