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Interview with Stephanie Pui-Mun Law
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Art Supplies: Quality vs. Expense?
Art Supplies: Quality vs. Expense?Ask an Artist
by Annie Rodrigue
Is it really true that the tools you use can make a difference in a work of art? I was under the impression that the execution was more important than the actual material.
When I look at it, I think there is a little bit of truth on both sides. After talking to a lot of illustrator/comic/animator friends, everyone seems to have their own opinion on the matter. Some will tell you that the final result is the only thing that matters; others will say that they feel they cannot accomplish certain things if they don't have good quality tools; and then others will tell you always to work with archival material.
But here is my point of view on the subject: it really all depends on what you wish to accomplish with the artwork. Is your goal to learn a new medium? Or is it to sell your work? Or maybe you just like sketching with whatever you stumble upon in your drawer? All these are very valid reasons to do art! Choose what fits your needs!
If You Want to Learn a New Medium
Learning a new medium often requires a fair amount of investment. And you are often finding yourself in a store without really knowing what to buy! Should we buy what's cheapest? Or should it be the priciest? We want what's best without investing too much, because we are not quite sure if this medium will actually be something we will enjoy! Start by asking around. Do you have friends that use the same medium? Maybe they would be willing to let you try with their own material or even go shop with you to help you pick the best solution depending on your budget. Be careful with cheaper material, though, especially if it's to try something new. Often, pigments in paint will be much duller or the paint will smear. Cheaper brushes might not last for very long and you might end up paying more for brushes than if you had just bought the pricier one instead. Cheaper paper might warp or not take the new medium you are using at all! And these are just a few examples. Cheaper material might make you hate a medium that would otherwise be fabulous to work with if you had the right tools.
If You Want to Sell Your Work
Now this is tricky. I personally would rather work with archival, waterproof and lightfast material so that it allows my client to purchase an artwork that will last for years. But buying material that fits all these needs can be very pricy! But don't forget that if you use stronger, better, archival material, you can and should adjust your prices accordingly! But, in my opinion, you should always go with what makes you comfortable. If you are in the business of art, chances are that you have a tight budget to follow, and the material you can get might not always fit the highest standards out there. But if what you pick gives you a great piece of artwork and the end result is satisfying, then I think you are on the right track. Also remember that you can always give your client instructions on how to take care of their new original work of art to prevent any problems that could occur over the years.
You know what you want to use, but you have limited revenue? Remember that the internet might be a great place to shop! You might end up finding great tools at bargain prices! Group orders might also help you save a few pennies.
Also, remember that even if you have been in the business for years, and know your tools, don't be scared to try new things. You might actually find a better, stronger, more efficient solution for something you have been taking for granted for years! I recently changed all my nibs and pen holder when I realised that what I was using wasn't of very good quality at all; yet, it was all that was available in my art store! But then, I tried some nibs and pen holders I found online and fell in love with them! You just never know.
If You Want to Create for Fun
One solution might be similar to picking up a new medium: if you still want to hang your work of art and want it to last a little, you might want to consider paying a little more for your material. But if you don't really want to invest in anything, there are plenty of very cheap ways to create art! You don't want to pay for paint? Some people out there paint with tea and coffee! Your kid's got lots of coloring pencils and wax pencils? You might be surprised what you could accomplish with them! I've even seen a friend of mine do an animation with a muffin and other food lying around! And you know, sometimes the good old white sheet of paper with carbon pencil really does the trick too! Be creative!
Of course, I cannot stress enough that even if you have the best tools available, there is just so much that you will be able to do without practice. Make sure you give yourself enough time to get used to your new tools.
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