Starting out as an artist does NOT have to be expensive.

My fiance chuckled when he read that doesn't though. I promise. 

Who are you? A recent art graduate? A stay at home mom/dad looking to make some money on your art? Want to pursue art as just a hobby? A full-time employee in the business world looking to make a change? Maybe you are happy with the title of part-time artist (like me). I love my job…I’m an art teacher (obvi right?) and don’t plan on changing that anytime soon.

Simple question…Do you want to be an artist? Of course you do. I’m assuming that’s why you’re here. 

If you are anything like me you’re probably a bit overwhelmed trying to figure out how to get started. How do I pay for all these supplies? How do I use social media to showcase my work? How do I create a website? Do I need to pay for professional designers? I’m not tech saavy. These types of questions and struggles keep most people from even starting.

In this post, I am going to tell you how I got started and how it does NOT have to cost an arm and a leg. First of all, I’m a teacher. I don’t have a huge budget to buy the best quality paints, papers, and canvases. So…I didn’t…and honestly, I still don’t unless it’s a commissioned piece, showpiece, or other circumstances that warrant high quality supplies.

Think about it…your first clients or buyers are probably not going to be fine art collectors. They may not even be strangers. They will most likely be friends or family. I am willing to bet that most of your friends and family members don’t know the difference between high quality, expensive art supplies and the less expensive stuff. Use that piece of information to your advantage. Get your work out there, get your name out there, and get referrals. Once you’ve made a little bit of money you can then purchase more (and possibly better) supplies. With that said, don’t expect to make a ton of extra money for the first few months…even years depending on how motivated and productive you are. Your priority for a little while is to collect supplies, use social media to grow your following, and PAINT…or draw, or make jewelry, or sculpt, whatever your craft is…DO IT!…and do it as much as you can!

First…you need supplies.

USE COUPONS FRIENDS!! Sign up for email lists, be a preferred customer, let those pesky emails come to your inbox…you will thank me.

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Michael’s, Dick Blick, A.C.Moore, and a bazillion other stores have coupons all the time! 50% off regular priced items, 20% off your total purchase, and everyday value deals galore. Plan your buying around those deals. I can’t stress that enough. The other day, I got small professional grade canvases for $3 each. $3!!!!!! Holy moly guys…I bought as many as I could afford. When I buy paint, I wait for the 50% off coupons. Paint is expensive so start with sets. Ok, let me get into some must-have supplies.

  1. Canvases – I like the 1.5” thick but you totally don’t have to start with those. Get whatever canvases you want. They even come in packs!
  2. Paint Sets. I just bought this one the other day and love it. No it’s not heavy body and you have to use a little more of it in layers to get a vibrant color but go for it! Experiment with it. The range of colors is great! . My other favorite set that I buy whenever it’s 50% off is this one…Liquitex Basics If you aren’t painting huge (which I don’t really recommend when you’re starting out anyway…I’ll explain later…remind me) then this set will last quite a while.
  3. Brushes – Make sure you buy a variety of sizes and shapes (square, round, etc.). This set will get you familiar with the different types.
  4. Sharpies – A variety of black (ultra fine and fine point), colored, and even metallic for a little pizazz.
  5. A pad of watercolor paper. I use this for watercolor AND acrylic painting. I cut the larger pages into 4”x6”, 5”x7” and 8”x10.” *Make sure to find a paper cutter somewhere..don’t try to use scissors. Here’s my favorite.
  6. Most importantly, a sketchbook. Some of my favorite work has been created in a sketchbook. Scan it. Photograph it. If there’s serious interest, invest in a few giclee prints (take it to your nearest framing or printing shop). There is nothing wrong with making a print of artwork from a sketchbook. Shoot, you may even find the perfect buyer for the original. You never know.

A few more money saving tips:

  • Use paper plates or magazine pages as acrylic palettes. Throw them away when you’re done.
  • Always pour the least amount of paint possible…you can always add more but it’s nearly impossible to get the paint back in those teeny tiny tubes. Ha!
  • Buy your organization bins, containers, baskets, etc. from the dollar store, yard sales, use hand-me-downs, and the like.
  • Wash your brushes often and don’t leave them soaking in water too long. They WILL fall apart. Especially if you buy cheaper brushes to start. Believe me…I’m the queen of buying brushes and ruining them. Oops. That’s something I need to work on.
  • Use your smartphone and a free photo editing app to take great photographs of your work. Wait for natural light, snap, edit, and post. I’ll teach you more about this later. I also need to take my own advice. :)

BOOM! You’re ready to make and sell some art! Get started. I’m here to help. Reach out to me anytime! 

In a future post, I will share a few social media strategies to help build your following. I struggle with this too and need to spend more time focusing on it. We can build our following together! I will also share some easy peezy website building and blogging resources to get you started. I’m looking forward to it! Let’s do this!





Lindsay Elizabeth.