The penny-wise painter

A sudden enormous spike in our rent has led to a detailed examination of our budget, and—you knew it was coming—my art supply habit has got to be tamed (as in caged, bound, and sedated).

I love art supplies, especially papers and paints. Worse, I love the good stuff. Kolinsky sable brushes, Arches watercolor paper, belgian linen canvas. And to be perfectly honest, good materials really do make a difference.


Once I chanced on an small  exhibit in Oaxaca of the drawings of David Alfero Siqueiros, one of Mexico’s most famous muralists.  And you know what? Many of those sketches were done in pencil on plain lined notebook paper. And they were wonderful. Genius can work in any medium.

A long time ago, Roz Stendahl wrote in a post, The Myth of Scarcity,

Creativity does not believe in scarcity. Creativity doesn’t believe in “perfect pages.” Creativity has only one great need: to make more stuff.

I’m learning to understand that creativity also doesn’t believe in “perfect supplies.” In fact, it may be possible to be hampered by those fine sketchbooks and art papers. So I’ve decided to begin a year-long exploration of affordable art materials. Aside from stretching my art supply budget, I think I’ll be stretching my creativity muscle, and I’m interested to see what happens to my work. (Don’t worry, I’ll still be splattering expensive paint on fine watercolor board with my deluxe brushes, but maybe not as much.)

I know that a lot of people are in the same budget zoo. I’ve been reading the digital reams written on budgeting blogs like Mr. Mustache and Cash Cow Couple (evidently words are rarely budgeted) about how to squeeze a nickel  so I’m going to share my experiences in artistic downsizing in a new semi-regular posting called the penny-wise painter.

What about you, dear reader? Do you have an art-supply beastie living in your budget?

7 thoughts on “The penny-wise painter

  1. wonderful spiritual practice: living simply. One of my favorite art journalers, Lynne Perella, does a great deal of her work on recycled yellow mailing envelopes with cheap craft acrylics. That’s what I use and they are wonderful. I also switched from Moleskine journals to cheaper ones, glue two pages together and gesso everything to be able to use wet media. Gessod’d brown paper bags can also be bound into art books. I’m trying to practice the three R’s: repurpose, reuse, recycle! Blessings on your journey.

  2. I’m a firm believer that in the master’s hands wonderful things happen. I’m sure your talent will blossom even if on cardboard. 😉

  3. I find I am a lot more prolific and spontaneous when I use less expensive materials. Case in point: Cheap sketch book–20 drawings and a few washes; expensive sketch book–0.

    1. Oh yes, there is that twist of our minds that makes us be precious with our expensive materials, and do our real work with our cheap materials. The real work comes when there is no fear or caution.

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