7 Simple Tips for Artists on a Budget 

7 Simple Tips for Artists on a Budget 

Written by:
Kat Roberts
Jul 12, 2021

In the era of gig work and a nationwide devaluation of the arts in both culture and education, it can be more of a struggle than ever to get by as a working artist. That’s why we have compiled this list of tips for artists on a budget. We hope that you will be able to apply these to your own art practice to help make your work more communal, sustainable, and profitable!

For more tips from Chicago artists, you can check out our interview series and more tips here.

Use Shared Workspaces

Depending on your medium, space and equipment can be prohibitively expensive commodities for artists, but they don’t have to be! Over the last few decades, Makerspaces have cropped up in many cities to address the need for affordable facilities for artists. These spaces generally offer community use of tools and storage to members, and are much less expensive than renting out a studio space, plus they are furnished with amazing amenities like CNC printers, woodshops, and darkrooms, to name just a few. In addition to offering affordable amenities, these spaces foster community and collaboration, a breath of fresh air in a world where creating can often be a solitary and isolated way of life.

The inside of the Chicago art space, Pumping Station One.

No matter where you live, we recommend checking out Makerspaces near you. If you are in Chicago, we have a couple of favorites: Avondale’s Pumping Station: One starts memberships at $40 per month and offers need-based scholarships as well. The space furnishes tools and facilities for 3D design, metalwork, photography, and more. South Side Hackerspace, located in an industrial section of Bridgeport, is a 1,200-square-foot, collectively owned space that opens its doors to artists of all disciplines, but does focus more heavily on new media and technology-based work. This facility charges members $45 per month and includes a community garden on-site. 

Visit a Creative Reuse Center

Though not quite as widespread as Makerspaces, creative reuse centers can be found in several cities and are a great way to save money on art supplies, whether you’re planning to craft papier mache with family or looking for canvas and gesso for your working practice. Chicago’s TheWasteShed is beloved by local artists as a place where nearly any material can be found. 

The inside view of this art supplies thrift store.

They are also dedicated to reducing waste, and founder Eleanor Ray calculates that they saved over 45,000 pounds of supplies from the landfill in the last year alone. The Humboldt Park storefront also offers free art supplies to teachers, who must often spend their own money in order to supply classrooms. TheWasteShed is only offering curbside pickup at this time, so peruse their online store to see what’s available.

Search for No-Fee Submissions

It can be frustrating to spend time and money preparing a collection, then run into expensive application fees from galleries and journals when it’s time to find a home for our work. Sites like Artrepreneur and Submittable’s no-fee section can help you to search for journals, galleries, and even residencies around the country which currently have submissions open and do not require a fee to apply. 

 

Make Your Own Paints

Paint can be insanely expensive, and making your own is one way to offset this cost. Because of the time commitment involved, mixing paints is not for everyone, especially anyone in a time crunch. However, those who mix paint as part of their art practice often swear by it, not only for the cost-saving benefits, but also because of the heightened connection they feel with their colors and materials when they are producing them by hand.

Many buckets of different colored paint.

Another benefit of mixing your own pigments is the avoidance of chemicals that manufacturers often use to make large batches of paint more consistent. These additions can also have the effect of dulling colors, changing how paint handles, and sometimes even having negative health consequences. It is possible to manually mix watercolors, oils, and acrylics using just pigments and binders, and as your skills advance, you can incorporate found pigments from plants, bugs, and minerals into your work. 

Be Creative With Your Materials

Even if you’re not a painter, there is an almost limitless number of ways to save on money by using unorthodox materials. Whether it’s a sculpture made of willow branches, emulsion prints on recycled paper, or a sweaty pair of ballet shoes, some of the coolest art I’ve seen has been made using items that would be considered ‘trash’ in their original state. Get weird with it. 

Ballet shoes with crystallized sweat.

Art work by Alice Potts.

Market Yourself Efficiently and Effectively

The internet age has made self-promotion both easier and more stressful for working artists. Check out this article for in-depth tips on how to manage social media marketing without burning out. Some creative publicity ideas we’ve seen online recently include solo pop-ups at city parks, online raffles, and more. It also pays (literally and figuratively) to dive into the arts and music scene around you. When artists support each other, we all benefit, whether it’s by creating album art for a friend’s band, collaborating on photo shoots, or just having friends and supporters to organically promote new work when it comes out. 

Show Your Artwork In Your Community

Although the art market today is, in some ways, more global than ever before, we are also seeing a shift toward the purchase of local art. Why? Art curator Thad Mighell puts it simply: “People from [millennial and Gen Z] generation know that their dollars have buying power, so they’re trying to buy from meaningful sources and establish personal connections with artists.” From the jewelry we wear to the prints on our walls, younger consumers tend to search for goods made in their community, especially by people they recognize or know. For artists, this means that a focus on local galleries, cafés, and shops is a smart move right now. 

A volunteer hangs some art at Portage Park Elementary.

If you are a Chicago artist working in prints or giclees and seeking a local advocate for your work, see if our Shared Walls program is right for you! Artists accepted into this program are paid for their work up front, and will see it hang in local schools and businesses for years to come.

No matter what kind of art you’re making, or who it’s marketed towards, every artist deserves to make a living doing what they love. We hope that these tips can help you maximize your resources as you pursue your creative goals. 

If you are a business interested in showing the work of local artists, we can help with that, too! Book a free art consultation now to get beautiful work on your walls this summer. 

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Written by:
Kat Roberts
Jul 12, 2021

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