Let's talk art supplies. If there is one piece of advice I implore you to take from my years of living life at the end of a paintbrush and 7 years as a professional artist and oil painter, it's this...
If you have any inclination to sell your art and want to be taken seriously, using professional, artist quality supplies from the get-go will serve you well.
"But I can't afford to buy the more expensive materials! If I spend more, I won't make as much money when I sell it and besides, I'm still learning."
I know, I know. We've all been there.
BUT. Try stepping into your buyers shoes and ponder this...
Imagine you are renovating your home. You've saved carefully for that one striking piece to finish it off and you employ a carpenter to make a beautiful bespoke cabinet. You choose this particular carpenter because you like the colour and type of wood he uses. You haven't seen his work up close before but you've seen that he sells his pieces online and so you decide to take a risk.
So, you tell him what you want, he quotes and you think, "ok that's quite a bit of money but its an original and so I will invest my hard-earned cash into it." A few weeks pass and you finally get your commissioned piece...and its a disaster.
The cabinet is crooked and its the wrong size from what you requested. The paint is cracking, the screws are rusted, and its made of pine and not oak like you thought it would be. When you query it, the carpenter shrugs "well, if I use the more expensive professional materials, I won't make as much money and besides, even though I call myself a carpenter and sell my furniture online, I feel like I'm still learning and so I use student quality materials."
OMG. Sound familiar?
We wouldn't except this from a carpenter, or any provider of luxury goods we buy for our homes, so why do you think its ok to use student or inferior quality materials when you sell your original art?
If you are going to cut corners or make art for practice, GIVE it away. Dear Old Auntie Flo and your other family and friends will absolutely love hanging your art, even if it's going to fall apart or fade in a few years.
Just don't sell it. Please.
Your future reputation is on the line.
Artist quality supplies and materials may cost you a bit more (less than you think sometimes and many art shops offer repeat offender discounts!) I know its hard to fork out $15 on just one tube of paint in the art shop when you can get a whole friggin 12 box set for just $4.99 (complete with a pretty ribbon, in aisle 27, next to the paint your own garden gnomes and Halloween specials) at the local mega-mart craft store.
But you know what? Save your penny-pinching for the supermarket. The cost to your future sales when using inferior materials is at risk. Get one person complaining online about your poor quality and you could lose sales for a long time.
Good reviews and testimonials will get you new buyers. When people trust your quality and see value for what they are paying, you will get collectors...that is, people who come back to buy more pieces. There is nothing better than return customers and return customers will always bring friends with them!
I've had MANY return customers on both my webpage and at my representing galleries such as Bluethumb.
My testimonials have spoken of the quality finish and professionalism clients receive. Quality Matters.
Why You Should Use Artist Quality Art Materials
- Artist quality materials will (mostly) be archival. Archival means longevity and durability. I write 'mostly' because they will only be archival if you are following technical advice, material knowledge and environmental factors to ensure archival longevity. Student quality materials are mass-produced, using inferior materials and pigments and are NOT archival. You get what you pay for...fading and cracking will be your enemy.
- Artist quality Stretchers and supports will be stronger and shouldn't warp. Their Angles should be sharp and correct. There's nothing quite so bad as a beautiful painting on a warped stretcher...no matter how beautiful, your eye will always be drawn to the fact it just isn't straight or hangs oddly on the wall.
- Artist quality canvas will be double primed (or even triple primed) with archival gesso and be of a heavier weight, therefore offering a tight canvas for application of acrylics or oils. Tight canvas is a joy to work on and remains tight even in high humidity. Guess what student quality canvas is primed with? Yep...house paint. Chalky, chemical laden and not a great ground for your oils or acrylics. Art Spectrum Artist Gesso is what I use.
- Framing can be done cheaper on artist quality supports. Yes, cheaper. If a framer is given a stretcher that is warped, they will need to re-stretch the piece before framing, effectively doubling your frame costs. Ouch. Believe me, I've had this happen with one of my very early pieces and it really hurt the finances.
- Artist quality professional paints offer better colour and adhesion and are archival when you follow the correct application. Quality speaks...you will never see a brighter colour than that which is made with dedication and refined pigments. You will need to use less paint when its made of quality pigments, thereby saving you money once again. See where I'm going with this? Short term pain equals long-term gain!
- Professional acrylics dry truer to colour making repainting easier with less layering needed....look at that, another cost saver.
- Want to be forever struggling with your art? Inferior pigment, fillers and poor quality will leave you as blue as your faded paint. Cheap stuff behaves and looks cheap. Hello Struggle Street.
- Artist grade meets all the industry standards, are competitive across brands vying for your dollar, giving you durability, awesome pigments and a whole lotta magic. Try comparing an artist grade and a student grade paint tube and you will notice a missing batch code on the cheap stuff. Colours vary from batch to batch and professional standards will acknowledge and account for this with a batch code system, therefore making our lives easier when sourcing that perfect product or colour.
Look, I know its hard to pay more when there is cheaper on offer, but please consider stepping up a quality notch next time you need to replace your art supplies. They produce far better results and really do increase sales value. Let go of the battle with inferior products and see your art improve with just a few extra dollars spent...then sell with confidence, knowing you are doing the right thing by your clients.
My Motto...Get happy not crappy.
Got any questions? Fire away! Sign up to my monthly newsletter
for tips, tricks, support and advice.
P.S. I am not affiliated with any supply company or shops and have written this post purely as a service to other artists wanting to live their creative dream.