Elizabeth Briel, Travel Artist

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Why I Can’t Afford Cheap Art Materials

Studio Supplies

Studio table

I’ve always been preoccupied with the materials I use in my paintings and prints.  It’s been such an obsession I’m writing a book about my travels to discover different papers for artwork.

This week I stopped by an art store to replace some painting supplies I’d left in Bangkok.  Past the oils and watercolors I found their acrylic paints. Most were Australian brands I didn’t recognize, followed by a rack of your international standard Windsor & Newton; while they’re a high quality brand, I’m always on the lookout for something more interesting.

“What are your best artists’ grade acrylics and gesso?” I asked the clerk, a hipster in his late 20s with floppy hair and a ready smile.

He motioned to the Windsor & Newton and Australian brands and said, “These are all about the same quality. As for the gesso, well, gesso’s gesso. It’s all the same.”

Er, no it’s not. Student-grade or discount gesso has cheap fillers and an uneven texture I wouldn’t let near the custom-made paper I use for my paintings.

When you’re a student, it’s fine to use student-grade or discounted art supplies. But if you’re selling your work, you can’t afford to buy cheap art supplies.  The artist Kesha Bruce recently discovered her early acrylic paintings have been cracking on collectors’ walls due to the poor quality materials she’d once used.

A professional artist needs to know chemistry as well as the many other skills you don’t learn in art school, like writing press releases. Who knew?

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