Creative people all love a trip to the local art or craft store but did you know that there are loads of great art resources in DIY stores and at a fraction of the price! Here is my top 10 items for artists found in a DIY store. Take yourself on a creativity date and use your imagination in the aisles to see what other uses you can put the materials to.
1 window scraper
Use sharp new blades in your window scraper for cleaning all sorts of spatters of windows and once a little blunt, fabulous for scraping down panels and canvases for repainting.
2 Methylated Spirit
Methylated spirit is fantastic for helping to remove acrylic paint from textile articles. Be careful with it as it id highly flammable but health and safety should be observed with all artist’s materials. Methylated spirit is also useful for producing interesting effects in acrylic paint washes.
3 Masking Tape
I have tried budget masking tape and branded tape and by far this one is my favourite. The budget end isn’t tacky enough to mask a really clean line for artistic use.masking tape is a great help in keeping the edges of a canvas white if that’s your preferred look but, don’t forget not to leave the tape inplace for weeks on end as it will leave a sticky residue on your painting support.
Yes, brushes! Obviously the DIY store is a great place to pick up varnish and priming brushes but it’s also great for art brushes too. Make sure you buy good quality like these as some of the real,y low priced ones can shed a hair or two. If you like working large scale or fancy in interesting shaped crush to make some really interesting marks, then have a look at the specialist brushes, I personally love the sash brush as it holds a ton of paint. You don’t have to use a brush to apply paint, there are many other tools that create exciting marks and effects. Take a slow stroll around your local DIY store and seek out really interesting tools to apply paint or scrape it back with. Plaster combs, those filling knives that look like the ones in the art shop for twice the price, giant sponges use your imagination and save a fortune.
Yes primer! Now if you’re concerned about longevity of your artwork or future yellowing, maybe this option isn’t for you but I have pieces for in my archive that are ten years old and look fine so far. I do not use wall primer for my commercial pieces, but for my personal work and experimental work it is fine. Use a really good quality wall primer for a sharp white base to work on.
6 MDF Medium Density Fibreboard
You might have heard about all of the famous artists who love painting on hard wood panels, these are difficult to come by and require special preparation. The modern equivalent is affordable, stable and can be cut to any shape or size and is very simple to prepare. I love the spring of canvas but the rigidity of painting on MDF is great and it provides a range of surfaces depending on how you apply primer. Use a roller for a slick smooth surface, a sponge for more of a textured finish or a brush for a ridged effect.
7 Doohickeys and Widgets
That’s the technical term – nah! What I mean is mirror plates, eye screws, brackets and all of those little things for hanging, bracing and creating your masterpieces. Mount mirror plates at the half-way point on each side of the painting and only one pair per painting! Go to any professional gallery that does not use a bespoke hanging system and you will see the work hung like this. I have a 4 x 5′ canvas hung with one pair and it’s fine and secure.
Lighting is really important where I live in the North of the UK. We have bright sunshine from 5am to 10pm in the summer, but by midwinter it’s not light until 8:30am and dark by 4:30pm! You will need lights for seeing whilst you work when it is dim, get a daylight bulb in a colour you prefer. Lights are also needed for photography to control the appearance of the artwork when you can’t photograph in daylight. Also, if you attend events and shows, you may need to supply your own lighting for display purposes. There is strict health and safety regulations and lights will need to be electrically tested, so many artists prefer battery powered lights for that purpose.
9 Adjustable Cable Ties
Do, undo, do, undo and so on. If you need to hold it together or hang it temporarily these adjustable cable ties are incredibly useful. The come in a range of colours and sizes and are adjustable and reusable unlike their permanently locking counterparts. I was introduced to these by a fellow artist Trevor Craggs at a recent event we did together.
10 Acrylic sheet, strong real glass or a smooth kitchen worktop materials (not your food one!)
Have you wanted to try printmaking? Go out to a DIY store and purchase a piece of glass, smooth plastic sheet material or kitchen worktop. You will also need a roller, lots of paper and some block printing ink or acrylic paint with additive in. Then, follow these steps:
- Roll out the printing ink on the smooth surface until it is making satisfactory sticky noises and is evenly, but not too thinly, spread.
- Lay your paper on the inked surface
- Draw on the uppermost surface of the paper the back. If you’re nervous about freehand drawing you can use another drawing as a guide to trace over.
- Peel it off for a lovely textured print, you might like to invest in some gloves for this! The prints will take at least 24 hours to dry but they often take longer depending on atmospheric conditions. The ink has a slightly rubbery texture and the prints will stick if stacked together too soon.
And a bonus 11, a garden studio!
This one’s on my wish list, I love working in my indoor studio but my artist’s heart is pining away for a garden studio space to fit out and work in! Who wouldn’t want one?
So there’s my round up, I use many hardware tools to make my stretchers, hang exhibitions, to store and ship my art but these are the ones I use for making artwork. I happen to recommend B&Q as they’re local to me, have an excellent range and have always delivered excellent customer service and advice. I’m planning a series of posts on making stretchers and preparing surfaces for painting, drop me a comment or an email if there is something you would particularly like to know.