Confession: I am an art materials junkie – I just love to have things that can be made into art.
There’s something about the potential of a new sketchbook, or fresh set of paints, that sets my heart a-flutter.
Now, I make some of my living from my art and have done for over a decade, but there’s only so many times you can justify yet another type of ink as a ‘business expense’.
So, how much should you REALLY be spending on materials and equipment for your art?
Here are five ideas to help you decide, whether you are making art to sell, or just for your own enjoyment.
1) Are you buying instead of actually making?
Face it, there are a LOT of nice products out there creative gorgeousness. Whilst it’s really, really good to try new things and push your repertoire with new techniques and materials, you need to be sure that’s actually what you are doing.
It’s easy to get sucked into the idea that we are creating, when in fact we’re mainly consuming. It’s important that your art shopping is hugely outweighed by time actually MAKING SOMETHING.
I have come across more than one person who has filled their ‘making space’ with so much stuff, they can’t actually get in there to make.
If you’re buying something, make sure you have plans to use it, instead of just sticking it on a shelf to admire.
Not long ago a kind person brought some art materials for The Art House from a relative who had died. It made me sad to see all the lovely unused things, now never to be used by the person who bought them.
Don’t be that person!
2) Can you make do?
Honestly, there is no need for 6 different versions of the same art material, instrument or other equipment. If you can buy one thing that does several jobs, not only will this save you time, space and money, it is likely to push you creatively, too.
My rule is that the more specialist materials and equipment require the most thought – much like kitchen gadgets!
3) Are you making do too much?
Your art is important – it is OK to spend money on the things you genuinely need to make it. Don’t be using the cheap offcuts of paper from work for your finished watercolours, or making do with rusty strings on your guitar.
If your creativity is to flourish, it needs commitment. Sometimes that means splashing out for a really good piece of equipment – and that’s OK.
Get what you need!
4) If you are selling your work – are pricing lower than your costs?
Now, I never recommend using either materials costs or time spent to price up art or craft, or any other creative offering.
That said, you need to make sure that, if you are selling something, your materials and equipment costs are being covered. Try to keep an eye on this as much as you can, and be honest with yourself about it.
5) Are you choosing based on your level of comfort, or letting others dictate your spending?
Family members, friends and partners may have a different idea of what is OK to spend. Art equipment is, sadly, generally expensive (all specialist things tend to be). Whilst I know that a good pad of watercolour paper costs around £10, this may seem crazy to somebody who never paints (it’s only paper, right?!).
If you are surrounded by people who don’t value art, you may find it hard to get a good perspective on how to budget for what you need.
Make sure you know other artists, and speak to them, to get the support and encouragement you need to invest money (and time and energy!) in your creativity. If you live near an arts space or centre like The Art House, then make sure you get along to any meetups, groups or classes to make the contacts you need. If you can’t get to a real-life community of creatives, join an online one like my very own Bubbling Well creativity circle, or one of the many fabulous online groups dedicated to different types of art.
How much do you spend on your art? Does it sometimes feel uncomfortable? I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments!