When every penny counts, especially at the start of your career, where you spend your money matters.
Artists have long shouldered the stereotype of the starving artist. However, what might be more accurate is they are some of the best money managers out there. When resources are limited, a lot of time goes into researching where to get the best bang for your buck.
Eleven artists tell us the best 50 dollars they invested in their artistic success or career.
A Lunch Date
The wisest money I probably spent was asking an artist I admired and was becoming friendly with out to lunch to talk about business strategies and ideas.
In this particular case, I was just beginning to teach workshops and needed advice on how to proceed in that world. That lunch was a wise investment: we have become great friends, and I got great advice.
Another inexpensive, high-yield spend is an email newsletter service. It has always paid for itself by helping spread the word about my classes, new work, and shows.
- Jeanne Rosier Smith, Pastel Painter
Gosh, I guess in the items-I-can’t-live-without category, it HAS to be these Creative Mark faux sable brushes I’m crushing on right now! I just got two really, really nice long handled ones for less than sixteen dollars. I’m really hard on my brushes, and anything that will hold up to my treatment is a winner.
Free Bonus: And, of course, social media is a fabulous (and free!) way to keep me in the game – Instagram, in particular, is such a great way to reach out with visuals – I love it!
- Corinne Galla, Oil Painter
A Solid Art Inventory Program
Artwork Archive's program is great! I use it to keep track of where my pieces are at and which gallery or client has my work.
- Robin Antar- Artist and Sculptor
The Go-To Notebook
My sketchbook and notebooks have probably contributed the most to my art career over all these years.
I buy notebooks with leather or handcrafted covers and high-quality paper so I can use watercolor and acrylic paint, glue for collage, and I can write and draw with markers.
My all time favorite is 5" x 8" Pentalic Water Color Journal with 140lb paper.
- Irmgard Geul, Mixed-Media Artist
Couldn't live without social media—especially Instagram. Plus, it’s free!
- Amica Whincop, Visual Artist and Educator
That Picture Perfect Paint & Medium
In terms of materials, I discovered Golden High Flow paints a few years ago and absolutely love the intense vivid colors in their range. It is certainly worth paying for quality of pigment with paint but also fluidity.
With my printmaking, I don’t think I could live without using Golden pumice! It gives such a beautiful embossed grainy effect that I use time and again for skies and rock. I also love using pure silver leaf in my hand inked collagraphs. I lay this over my inked plate before I put it through the press, meaning that the collagraph print actually prints over the silver leaf, giving some remarkable effects. You can see a film of how I do this here.
- Clare Maria Wood, Abstract Painter and Printmaker
Educational & Community Resources
Subscriptions to art magazines like Professional Artist Magazine, American Art Collector, International Artist, and Sunshine Artists (for artists that do art fairs). That, in addition to Facebook & Instagram promoting and memberships to communities where I collaborate and discuss with other about having a professional art career have all been critical.
- Santiago Perez, Representational Figurative Artist
Plein air painting of Point Prim by @poppybalser
The Simple Things: a Sponge, Binder Clips & Spam Can
First, I have a sponge in my easel that I take with me. I find this is the most efficient thing to control the amount of water and paint in my brush. This works better than using rags or tissues which I run through quickly.
Pro Tip: cellulose sponges work better than foam ones.
Second, I find binder clips invaluable. I use them to clip down and flatten my watercolor paper, instead of masking tape. I also use them to clip my hat to my shirt so it doesn't blow away and to fasten my umbrella to my easel, so I can step back and look at my work. Additionally, they help at the edge of the easel tray so that brushes and pencils do not roll off my easel—they really are a useful multi-use item.
Thirdly, I have my beloved Spam can. The square tin fits perfectly in my easel tray, which has limited real estate for setting things. Using every square inch for mixing colors is important.
I initially did not think to remove the label from the can when I started posting photos online and quickly my spam can seems to have developed its own following. It was either $3.49 or free, depending on how you look at it. We did not throw away the meat that came from the can ... we did eat it.
- Poppy Balser, Plein Air Watercolour Painter
A Record of Your Works and Progress
My most cherished item that I could not live without would have to be my undergraduate sketchbook. Acting almost as a journal, the drawings in that sketchbook bring me back to what has been the most pivotal time in my artistic career so far. If my house were to catch on fire, that sketchbook would be the first thing that I would grab (after my wife and dog, of course).
Free Bonus: Networking has been the biggest contributor to my artistic career.
- Dirk Guidry, Painter
Tunes, Tools & Organization
Music, a handful of tools, and Artwork Archive. Artwork Archive saves me so much time and unnecessary worry about my inventory, and shows.
Free Bonus: Experimenting or trying new things. I try to do something new different from the norm, just to see what happens. The more you try new things, the better chance you come up with something unique.
- Randy Purcell, Encaustic Painter