The Savvy Starving Artist

The Savvy Starving Artist 

Saving money on art supplies, practical tips for artists, beechhouse media, Mark Taylor
The Savvy Starving Artist

I regularly write new articles for members of our four wonderful art groups on Facebook, The Artists Exchange, The Artists Directory, The Artists Lounge, and The Artist Hangout. This week, we take a look at saving the pennies on art supplies and services because we all know that every penny counts when it comes to purchasing art supplies!

I’m Alive…

Yes, I am still alive, and yes, my kidney stones are still well and truly still with me, albeit temporarily if all goes to plan on the 13th March. I finally received confirmation that my surgery is all set and I have never been more ready for anything. After five months of kidney infections and visits to the doctor, I am ready to part ways with my two lodgers and all I need to do now is build up my strength and fitness and say a huge thank you to everyone who has been supporting me and sending me their best wishes over the past weeks.

It has been a gnarly few weeks and I have done very little other than sleep, take antibiotics and watch a little daytime TV. Oh my, daytime TV, that really is special isn’t it, no one should ever be subjected to it. The other downside is that I haven’t managed to spend more than a few minutes at a time on social media and I only managed to pick up a brush over the weekend for the first time in a few weeks to complete a few works I had started before being taken down by the rocks.

So apologies for not publishing anything at all over the past few weeks, this has been the first time in the history of this site when I haven’t been in a position to upload anything at all, let alone write a new article.  Thankfully I have a few pre-written articles in the bag which is how I am managing to bring you this one this week, but hopefully, and fingers crossed, at least one of the stones will be removed on the 13th and I will be able to get back to being normal, whatever normal is. In the meantime, I am going to attempt to stay awake long enough to get back to doing at least a little more social media and make a promise to myself that I will never subject myself to daytime TV ever again. 

I'm not quite out of the woods yet, so I am still taking it easy for now and following the doctor's advice, so if I have moments when I'm not around on social media or here, you will know that I am most likely fast asleep. My only hope now is that the surgery doesn't get cancelled and I don't succumb to any more infections between now and then. Having waited for five-months for the surgery already from an over-stretched health service now isn't the time to not do as the doctor tells me. This will also be the first time I have listened. 

The big question most people will want to hear is whether or not missing out on posting regularly affected my business page in any way, and the answer is yes it has. The overall views have been lower than low but despite that, I have seen my follower count on social media increase. If nothing else, that’s why I really do need to get back to social media, it’s hard to remain that hashtag relevant thing that we always have to be if you can’t be around to post anything. Facebook is cold, it really doesn’t care that you need to take time out to be ill.

The only other thing I have noticed on social media in the moments that I have been around are that the adverts have changed. I am now seeing ads for funeral plans and life insurance, told you it was cold, and for some reason, steam irons. At least I will be able to make sure the creases are out before they put me in the ground I guess, but it is good to see that Karen Meme is still showing up on my timeline hun. I think maybe daytime TV was made for Karen. 

As usual, I will be showcasing some of my recent artworks throughout, all of which today are yet to be published so you really are getting a heads up of what is around the corner! Keep an eye open on my Pixels site right here, and remember that whenever you do make a purchase you are supporting a truly independent artist. 

Bigfoot art, sasquatch art, Mark Taylor, Primal art, primate art,
Bigfoot Gifting by Mark Taylor - to be published very soon!

On with the show as they say...

So on with this week's musings, and rather timely given my latest round of irrelevance on social media, we take a look at becoming a savvy starving artist.

Art supply stores for anyone with a creative leaning are like sweet shops for kids. Filled with sugar and spice and all things nice and ooh, shiny, I need one of those too. They say of you give a man a fish he will eat for a day, give a man a fishing rod and he will eat for a lifetime, with art supplies, give me a paintbrush and I’ll also need the canvas, the paints, a tub of gesso, a shiny unicorn-shaped pencil sharpener and I’ll take two of those sketch pads along with a tub of whatever that stuff over there is because I appreciate the font on the label and I’m going to need the same again next week.

As an artist, shopping for art supplies is the equivalent of Kim Kardashian being handed a personal shopper in Harrods. So much shiny, and oh my gosh, how much did I just spend? Never mind, Ramen noodles, it is for the next two years. Hold on, they’re on offer you said, make that Ramen noodles for the next five years and let’s hope I finally emerge in between.

Just as we appreciate the finer brushes in life, we also appreciate a bargain when it comes to art supplies, but if you are anything like me then you will stock up art supplies like an extreme hoarder on a reality tv show. Last time I checked I had a years supply of Gesso because it was ninety-percent off, now I’m down to my last tub and it has only been three weeks.

And, if you really are anything like me then you probably also buy stuff that never realises it’s true value. Subscriptions are becoming increasingly the norm yet I have to ask, are we really getting the most out of what we payout for every month or year? Very often we subscribe to a particular service and we get a number of bundled benefits included but we often only ever use a tiny fraction of the services we could potentially access. You have to figure out what those additional benefits are as we might end up paying more than twice for the same thing.

What really bought this home to me was when I added yet another subscription to my ever-burgeoning list of essential life items and services to subscribe to, not realising that what I was now paying out for was also included in another subscription I have had for more than a year. In this case, it was for cell phone insurance but what I hadn’t realised was that it was already included in my business bank account as part of a package I didn't know I had.

So this week we take a stroll through some of the subscriptions that we as artists might have, either to use the services as part of our artistic workflow or because we just like to unwind after a long day in the studio by watching a mind-numbing box set on tv. Could we really be paying for the same thing over and over? Turns out I was and have been for a long time, but not anymore. I decided to carry out a much-needed subscription audit and managed to save myself a few more pennies which will come in handy when it comes to buying more art supplies so that I can once again become hashtag relevant, indeed if I ever really was!

abstract art, mark taylor, concentric art, conical art,
Closing the Gap - This one may or may not get a release, you decide!

The Adobe Subscription…

Like many artists I have a subscription to Adobe that I really cannot live without and I have tried many times to give it up but it is like crystal meth for digital artists. Now I really do get that Adobe always gets a tough ride when it comes to pricing but when I carried out my subscription audit I realised that the cost of the cheaper packages works out to be a lot less than I once paid for owning a physical copy with a perpetual license that I would need to upgrade and payout for again at least every couple of years, and I get a wider range of included benefits. It doesn't make paying out less of a pressure but it does make it easier to swallow.

Most of the cheaper packages have a range of bundled benefits, Adobe Portfolio is one of my most used services beyond Photoshop and you can access platforms such as Adobe Spark (Post, Video, and Page) for just a little more money than subscribing only to the Spark platform. The other benefit that is often overlooked is that you also get access to Adobe Fonts which you can use even in commercial work, this feature alone makes Spark Post come alive because you can add even more fonts than the stock standard Spark access gets you and you can create some really great images for use on social media.
For me, Adobe is a keeper and it has managed to survive another year on my subscription list. 

The Alternatives…

If it is just Photoshop or Illustrator that you need then there are other options. Serif’s Affinity Photo is about 80% of what Photoshop is and to be completely honest, it is the 80% of features that most people actually use. For less than fifty bucks you get a perpetual license to use it without subscriptions and if you are running it on the iPad or iPad Pro, there is very little to no difference from the desktop version. It is everything that the latest Photoshop CC effort on iPad should have been.

If you need to create vector-based art projects then Serif’s Affinity Designer is the answer to replace Adobe’s Illustrator. Again, there is probably around 80% of Illustrators functionality but I find it way easier to use than Illustrator and again, there is no ongoing subscription. If you are worried about file formats, both Affinity Designer and Affinity Photo can read and produce files in the Adobe format.

You can find out about Serif’s Affinity products right here

If you intend to stick with Adobe, see if you can lower the package to something a little cheaper, mix and match with Serif's products if they do what you need them to do, and take a look at the extra benefits that are included to see how much you could save such as from purchasing licences for fonts. You need to squeeze out the value as much as you can when you subscribe to anything and Adobe can be excellent value when you do this. Also, take a look at any email offers, last week I was offered a complete all-apps package for about 50% off, so it might be worth downgrading to upgrade again when the offers come through. Just ensure that you are signed up to receive any promotional offers.

spinning art, abstract art, Mark Taylor, Beechhouse Media,
Spinning by Mark Taylor - The original of this is a huge work, almost 100 inches square!

Office 365

Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint have always been the staple of any workflow and they’re essential tools to have at hand when running a business. I remember purchasing Microsoft Office on a disk every few years whenever a major version got released and was possibly one of the few people who were thankful that Microsoft began to offer Office 365 so that I could always have an up-to-date version running on my PC and on my tablet.

A few years ago I started to play with Google Docs, in part that was down to me using Google For Business and taking advantage of their low-cost cloud storage solutions. I became a convert, and today it is even better. There is a trade-off in some functionality but how many times a day do we use all of the features that the Microsoft products give us?
What I like most about Google Docs is that you can also use extensions, Grammarly being a staple when I write these articles just to keep my writing a little more focused and sharp. 

Cost-wise it is a little less than Office 365 if you take one of the paid tiers of storage, but you can also use Google Docs for free. I only pay the extra because of that storage capacity and it is also really easy to manage my own domain email addresses.

For me, Google Docs is giving me everything that I need right now and even taking into consideration the extra cost to run Google for Business, it is providing better value. To find out more about Google Docs head over to this link here

Note Taking Apps…

I can’t live without a reminders and notes app on my phone. I have no idea how I survived only armed with a notebook and pen, especially when I could never find the pen.
A couple of years ago I took on yet another subscription to cover my needs, I used an app called Bear which I have to say is still one of the best notes apps available on iOS. This year I didn’t renew my subscription simply because there are stock apps that now do the same thing, not quite as well, but they usually come preloaded on your device and they don’t cost a penny. Ultimately I just want a timely reminder about something and I don't much care if the graphics are slightly less pretty.

Up until iOS13 on the iPhone and iPadOS on the iPad, the stock Notes app was a pretty tedious affair. It was clunky and almost impossible to search for something that you made a note of a couple of years before. When iOS 13 got released, the stock Notes and Reminders Apps on iOS also had a makeover and now I have to say that it is extremely unlikely that I will ever go back to paying for a subscription again. Search now works as you would expect and at the end of the day, it's a reminders app. There's a balance, reminders app or more art supplies?

If you are a non-Apple user, there are plenty of options that cover Windows, Mac and Android that you don't have to buy into a subscription-based platform to use. Google Keep is a great app that works across multiple devices so that your notes are always in synch, and it comes for the grand old price of free and it now even has a dark mode. Google Keep is one of those products that really should be better used than it already is. Worried that it's Google? Google is embedded in pretty much everything everyone touches these days, I think it's too late to be concerned and I trust Google to protect my data way more than some of the code factories that are out there publishing the same app over and to gain rankings in the App and Play Stores.

My advice, you don’t have to pay out for a subscription for note-taking and reminders apps anymore. The stock options on iOS and Android are getting close to perfect and there are plenty of other options such as Google Keep which you can find right here

Alternatively you could just go back to paper and pen and if you do, all is not lost if you want to digitize your notes in the future. Post-It have released an official app that scans Post-It notes (it works with cheaper brands too thankfully) that scans in the note and transforms what’s written to editable digital text, although as with any optical character recognition software, the results are only as good as your handwriting ability. The downside is that Post-It is only available on iOS, so if you are running anything else then you need to look out for any decent OCR based apps, there are plenty of them around and your scanner might have this function bundled in with its included software and drivers.

Password Managers…

Everything we do online needs a password these days and when you start to factor in the requirement that every password should be different for each service, the only way to manage and remember them all is to either write them down which defeats the object or use an encrypted password manager.

Dashlane, Last Pass, Keeper, KeePass, are all pretty solid affairs and they look after every password in a secure way. The downside to great password managers is that most of them require a subscription which kind of ties you into a service forever more if you want to carry on accessing your passwords, so this is one area that is really difficult to skimp on, and neither should we. Passwords have become the basis of all life in recent years. I also think passwords are a problem when I put on my cyber-security hat but that's another conversation entirely, alas to say, there are better options than passwords.

OneSafe+ is the only option I can find that doesn’t require a continuing subscription and for a one-time price you can store as many passwords as you need, it will even suggest strong passwords for you to use. The app is only available on the Apple App Store, so for other devices you probably will need to carry on paying a subscription but if you are using iOS then it is a reasonably solid offering that also works with Apple Watch. Remember that if you are running iOS, then keychain is built into iOS and it has the ability to create complex passwords so that you never have to type them in again, my advice is to still make a note of them somewhere else because technology can and does fail.

Looper, abstract art, Mark taylor, Trending art, circle art,
Looper by Mark Taylor - Another 100inch square original that will be available in smaller sizes!

In the studio…

I mainly create digital art but when I do go back to traditional art I can turn the studio floor into a different colour every twenty-seconds. Laminate flooring is ideal because there are so many styles that can really lift the creative vibe. Having a clean and tidy space is essential for some artists, although some prefer the lived-in creative look. If you are in the let’s keep everything tidy camp, then replacing a floor can be expensive and paint doesn’t always lift out when you try to clean it.

Laminates are usually fine to clean with a good quality floor cleaner, the downside is that laminate flooring can quickly become expensive. There is a way do get that new floor though without spending a heap of extra money and I think the effect is better than anything you could buy off the shelf. It's more arty, it has a designer feel, and it saves you a heap of cash if you get it right.

Independent flooring suppliers usually have spare laminate boarding sitting around in the backroom and if you don’t mind mixing and matching wood effects which I think gives a space a more modern and contemporary look, you could create a floor for less than half of the price, maybe even a tenth. 

The only consideration is that you really need to make sure that whatever laminate is available comes from the same manufacturer so that it has the same interlocking system. If you don’t mind having an older version of laminate flooring then even some of the big DIY stores sell off odd packs as they replace the old stock for new.

Paper and Paint supplies…

Paint and paper are perhaps two of our biggest outlays as artists and when we eventually do find a combination that works well together, the costs of continued use quickly add up. It’s difficult to change manufacturers when we are used to working with their products because the outlay just to test out the products from other manufacturers are usually eye wateringly expensive and especially if they don’t work out.

Many of the top manufacturers do offer sample packs so that you can test them out before you commit to going down that particular route. Just check the corporate websites and usually, they will have a link to their free samples, others might need you to email them to make a request, but if you don’t ask, you don’t get. Last year I bagged some Bristol board and a dozen pre-cut mats, a few brushes and a couple of years ago I bagged a 12-month Adobe subscription for Beta Testing one of their apps.

A few retailers such as Jacksons sell sample packs which can be great for smaller one-off projects or just to test out rather than committing to buying a full pack, so whilst these aren’t completely free, they’re worth it in terms of giving you the confidence to make the switch to alternative materials. You can find the Jackson's website right here. There are companies just like Jackson's all around the world but I have to say, I could spend a fortune on the Jackson's website.

The cost of free usually comes at the cost of signing up with an email account, something that Google Mail was designed for, and you also need to consider that in some instances, the companies might charge for shipping but the cost is usually a lot less than buying supplies that you find you can’t use later. Stick to well known organisations whenever you provide any details and be extra careful when promises that look to good to be true are made because they usually are.

If you are looking for general craft supplies and have local retailers close by, paying them a visit is usually the best option. Most art and craft stores carry massive ranges of stock and when new products need shelf space, the older products either get relegated to the backroom or sold off at a discount. I managed to pick up three 500ml tubs of Gesso recently for 90% off.

Get better at managing your inventory…

Most of us will have older works that as yet haven’t found their forever home but what do you do with them?

Overpainting and re-prepping the canvases is one option but I only ever do this as a last resort. I am the original art hoarder and still have a few works that I produced back in the ’90s.

What you should be doing is keeping a really thorough inventory of everything you create. Your art should ideally all be documented but the really important thing is to know exactly what you do have. I had a client a couple of years ago who wanted something very specific but couldn’t quite stretch to the cost of a commission. When I looked through my inventory I noticed that I had already produced something very similar to what the client wanted and was able to not only make some space at home but make a client’s day by giving them what they wanted there and then and at a price they could afford.

The thing is, if we don’t know what inventory we have we are never able to do things like this, and we also forget the value of art that is simply sitting around and gathering dust. There’s another reason though, not only is this art the equivalent of money sitting around, it is also essential to list it on your insurance and add into a live portfolio if it is relevant to the gig you want. 

My inventory is simple, it lists the title, the medium, size, wholesale cost, and retail cost, and for my digital works, the exact file location and storage drive and where it is backed up in the cloud. My live inventory of sold works includes the same details along with where I posted it online, where it is available online and who the current owner is if known. This can really help buyers in the future too if you are ever asked to provide any details of provenance.

sold art, abstract art, Mark Taylor, beechhouse media, art gallery,
The title of this one is SOLD! - You wouldn't believe how many times people congratulated me on selling it, it has sold well but it is a title, folks!

Making better business cards…

At one time I would spend a heap of money having business cards produced but they would only ever tell the recipient how to contact me, they didn’t remind them of the style of art I produced, most are way too small and can look cluttered when you try to cram a lot of information in and it loses the message.

I ditched business cards entirely last year and now hand out art cards. On the front there is an exclusive print of a piece of my work, it’s signed in case one day I emerge or whatever it is the art world thinks we are supposed to do, and on the back I have details of my websites, social media, and my contact details. Each card is either 6x4 or 7x5, and that is for a reason. I thought about what happens to the business cards I get handed, they all get bundled together and rarely ever looked at again unless they're interesting enough to remember. Having something slightly larger means that they don’t usually get bundled with another hundred business cards and the art on the front acts as a reminder of my style. Right now I have six designs that are exclusive to those cards and they can’t be purchased as prints. There are only a limited number of each available, usually twenty-five which means there’s less waste and if I need to change anything I can. I do the same thing for thank you cards when buyers purchase directly from me with another six designs.

Be Savvy…

Art supplies are expensive and a trip to any art supply store even more so. If we can save a little and often it means there’s a little less pressure during those quieter months of the year when art is moving a little slower than we would like. It also makes you a little more resilient to any downturns in the economy. Just because art sales slow down doesn’t at all mean that subscriptions and art prices go down, they never do and if we can save a few bucks here and there it means that there is a little less pressure down the line when we need to make major purchases to keep up with demand and more importantly so that we never have to reduce the price of our art to keep it moving because that just sets a new default value.

So check what you are paying for that might be covered in your payments or subscriptions to something else, carry out a subscription review periodically to make sure you are still getting the best bang for your buck, and don’t be afraid to test out alternatives, or even mix and match the best things with cheaper alternatives.

Want to know one of my biggest expenses last year? Paper towels. I switched to washable cloths picked up from a discount store and so far I have saved nearly a hundred British pounds by not buying paper towels for cleaning my brushes. I swapped out buying grey watercolours for the rare moments I still use them and instead just mix ultramarine blue with burnt umber which gives me a brilliant greyscale palette, and I switched to cerulean blue to paint watercolour skies instead of ultramarine blue, because not only do I find that the skies are more subtle, the paints are also usually a little bit cheaper. I also spent a fortune on books, not realizing that a Kindle Unlimited subscription included many of those I purchased and a few more that I always wanted to read.

There are plenty of ways to save a little here and there, mostly it is about trying things out, speaking to other artists and learning from their experiences, and don't forget to ask about any offers and discounts when you next pay a visit to the art supply store. If you are a savvy starving artist or not-so-starving artist, there's little need to go down the route of only ever buying low-grade art supplies, although mixing these with more prestigious brands is also something to consider for certain elements. But starving artist is a term that people seem to love to use, the reality is that the term is really nothing more than some romantic label mostly, and it’s definitely not always helpful to an artists career to be labelled or label themselves in this way. What you can be is a savvy starving artist though because knowing how to give your clients the best value and the best art is a way better label to have. So if you have any great tips to save a little on creating art, as always, feel free to leave a comment below!

About Mark…

I am an artist and blogger and live in Staffordshire, England. I regularly write a new article for members of our four wonderful art groups on Facebook, The Artists Exchange, The Artist Hangout, The Artists Directory, and The Artists Lounge.

You can purchase my art through my Fine Art America store or my Pixels site here:   

 Any art sold through Fine Art America and Pixels contributes to the ongoing costs of running and developing this website and making sure that I can bring you independent writing every time and without any need to sign up to anything! You can also view my portfolio website at

 You can also follow me on Facebook at where you will also, find regular free reference photos of interesting subjects and places I visit. You can also follow me on Twitter @beechhouseart and on Pinterest at

If you would like to support the upkeep of this site or maybe just buy me a coffee, you can do so right here


  1. ya the subscriptions creep in like a zombie mob. Hope the stone extraction goes well.

    1. Thanks my friend, hope all is epic with you too, and yes, those subscriptions just keep on coming, O2 next I guess!

  2. Great post Mark. I do love your new contemporary pieces. I still am an Adobe devotee but I'm going to check out Affinity since I've heard you recommend them before.

    1. Thanks so very much Colleen, there is Photoshop CC for the iPad Pro which is slowly becoming a little more similar to the desktop version and it’s included in the Creative Cloud subscription but Affinity Photo really is everything Adobe should have done with Photoshop on the iPad on its release. I use Affinity when I need to do some psd work on the iPad Pro when away from the desktop, have to say the 1.8 update recently has changed the game massively. Haven’t used Adobe Illustrator in almost a year now, I just use Affinity Designer. The contemporary pieces were created in MediBang Paint on iPad Pro, each is 10,000 x 10,000 pixels at 300 ppi, and for my next symmetry works, take a look at iOrnament Pro, released last week and oh my wow, some beautiful glowing gem and emboss effects and coupled with iOrnament Creator, a really powerful and professional symmetry tool! Really cool, just created a stained glass window with it for a church I’m painting in Procreate! Hope you are both keeping well xx


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