A common cause for complaint among artists is the high cost of supplies. It’s not unusual to spend thousands of dollars a year on supplies. It’s this cost that leads a lot of artists to abandon art as a career. It’s this cost which also makes a lot of people complain about the cost of art works. While most artists can recoup the cost of materials in selling a piece, they often have to cut the price of their labour down to the bone. A good example of supply cost is turpentine – both of these cost $10.00:
The small bottle is Winsor & Newton distilled turpentine, 2.5 ounces / 75 ml. Ten bucks. Is it better? Yes. At least it used to be, it has become increasingly suspect (mostly detected by smell. It no longer smells pine-y fresh). What it has is a name, one established enough that they can stick any price on their products, and people will buy it. (Obviously, I’m included there – I bought it.) I don’t use turpentine a great deal, so it’s easier for me to go with the cheap stuff. The temptation to cheap out is always there, but that is problematic too, because you do get what you pay for. An example:
Prismacolor coloured pencils, and Derwent blender and burnisher. Prismacolor is my preferred colour pencil, and they cost $2.00 a piece. That might get a shrug from most people, and if all you needed was one pencil, that might be an appropriate response. When you need 5, 10, 20, or more pencils, well…it adds up quickly. What about a set? I should mention that I don’t shop at Amazon or Walmart, but even at Walmart, a set of 150 Prismacolor Premier pencils costs $163.50. (The list price is $312.00). Online art supply – Dick Blick, the set is $151.00 + shipping. Same with Jerry’s Artarama. Prismacolor is far from the most expensive in coloured pencils, too. I won’t even look at Caran D’Ache ($292.00 for a set of 76 luminance). The pricing is the same when it comes to drawing pencils. I have an assortment of pencils, Staedtler, Koh-i-noor, Faber Castell, Derwent, and Sanford to name a few. And yes, all those pencils have specific attributes and effects, so going cheap on pencils isn’t an answer either. The price of good quality markers is very high, for a limited amount of colours, usually in the neighbourhood of $40.00 to $50.00 for 24 markers. I don’t want to even discuss the cost of brushes – that alone can utterly break you, along with the cost of canvas and, oh, paper. I love paper, and a lot of it I just dream about. The cost is prohibitive, especially for things like large size, single sheet Arches 300 lb cold press.
Quality matters, so the next time you’re contemplating buying an art work, please keep in mind that artists aren’t just mindlessly putting an ‘outrageous’ price on their work. We should be able to earn a living wage and be able to continue buying supplies.