Part I: Drawing and sketching materials
There are some wonderful art products available these days. But the downside is that they are so expensive. I like to find ways to save money on these so that I can enjoy doing artwork without wastage and unnecessary expense. The following are some of the cost saving methods that I use.
I’ll start with drawing materials. I have tried many kinds and have made some expensive mistakes. When I was at art school I bought a set of 45 soft pastels that I used throughout the course. A few years later I decided to buy a larger, expensive set of the same brand in a wooden box. Unfortunately I became sensitive to the pastel dust and could not use them anymore. I gave them to Ellie but she also has allergies, so they are sitting on a shelf. If you have asthma or dust allergies, don’t waste your money on soft pastels. If this is not a problem make sure that you use any fume producing fixatives outside as these are quite toxic and may give you lung problems. A product is only worth buying if it is safe to use so check for health warnings before selecting an item.
Oil pastels are an alternative to the soft variety. These don’t produce any dust and you can buy them individually. One disadvantage is that they require a solvent such as denatured alcohol to blend them like paint, which can be bad for the health. My favorite oil based pastels are the type that can be used dry or blended with water. I bought a starter kit of 15 Caran d’ache Neocolors to try them out. If you are not sure about a product don’t get a big set at first. These pastels can be bought individually and I have added more colours. I put them all in an old marker pen tin that I found. It is always good to hang on to old biscuit tins and chocolate boxes for storing art materials.
Refillable water brushes work really well with Neocolor pastels as you can control the amount of water needed. You just wipe the brushes clean between colours so you don’t need many. I use Neocolors all the time for free drawings on large sheets of paper. They work well on thick paper, in a visual diary/sketchbook (with good quality paper) and are most effective on watercolor paper. Well worth the purchase.
Colour pencils can be used for detailed drawings or sketches. No matter what brand you choose, always buy good quality colour pencils as they last for ages and are versatile. You can create soft effects or build up layers with several colours. I still have the set of Derwent Artist pencils I bought at school. I used these throughout art school, although a few of the pencils are now quite short but these can be replaced. These pencils were the first artist quality materials I used. I remember saving up for ages so I really looked after them. To save on the price you can find second-hand colour pencil sets that have had little use on eBay or Gumtree.
Water soluble pencils are also great for sketching in a journal and Ellie has a watercolour set. I like stronger colours so use Derwent Inktense pencils for this purpose. They last longer than expensive artist’s inks. Blending can be done with refillable water brushes and you can combine these with other colour pencils. They add colour to pen sketches. I buy disposable technical pens. Refillable technical pens block if you don’t use these regularly and then you spend ages taking them apart and cleaning them with hot water and methylated spirits. I can do without the aggravation. The ink for these pens is also really expensive.
For larger areas of colour in works on paper, watercolours or gouache are popular choices. I inherited a couple of watercolour paint sets, one with tubes and the other pans. Some of the tubes had dried up so I replaced these with student grade ones to try out this medium. The pan colours were still soluble when water was added despite their age. A water dropper is a good water dispenser. I squeezed some tube colour into the empty pans. This is an economical way of creating your own refills rather than buying replacement pans.
Watercolours are great for transparent effects and wet on wet painting. I prefer strong colour and tended to use them more like gouache. I’m glad that I did not spend a lot of money on these paints because I am not really a water colourist. I did not replace the tubes when they ran out or dried up and instead purchased some gouache tubes. But don’t let me put you off. If you want to try out watercolour or only use it for journals where the work is not always exposed to light, an inexpensive brand is a good solution. Have look on-line to find a suitable type for your budget. You might be lucky and find a decent second-hand set.
When you want to try out a new art material check that it is safe to use, look at on-line reviews and demonstrations and initially buy a small starter set to find out if you like the product before spending more money. It is a plus if Drawing materials can be bought individually so you can add to your collection. Good quality pencils and paint pans or pastels to which you add water will have a longer shelf life than wet ones. And remember keep an eye out for any second-hand bargains or discounts.
In my next post I will talk more about paints and how to keep the price down.
This post needs a fun song so here’s the Canadian Band, The Barenaked Ladies with Drawing.