What can you do in the art room that costs practically nothing? What can you create when you have no budget left? Most art teachers have to manage on a really tight budget, so here are some ideas from The Arty Teacher. If you like just one of them, it might save you a few cents or pennies! This blog post looks at drawing resources, recycled and 3D projects, collage and different surfaces to paint on.
What to Draw that Costs Nothing?
Looking at the shelves in my store room, I notice that a majority of my drawing resources were free. I have jars of unwanted bunches of keys, pine cones collected in France, a tray of beautifully shaped perfume bottles – all donated or mine. Also shells from various countries, star anise from the supermarket (cheap, not free), feathers, ropes and rusty chains. Fabulous! Asking your fellow teachers or texting your friends is a good place to start to build a collection.
A few of my favorite items to draw are as follows:
I have a collection of crushed coke cans which I found on the roadside (much to my children’s embarrassment) or crushed under my car tyres on the drive. A good tip (or cheat) when you draw these is to allow students to draw around them first. They are so flat having been crushed that this is possible and really helps students make a great start to their drawing.
Ears of Wheat collected when on a country walk are also great to draw. If you are in the countryside, what grows near you?
Beautiful, glass marbles. I have a big jar of these now and they were all donated by students who no longer wanted them. Make an appeal today, your students may surprise you! They are great for making connections to the artists Sarah Grayham and Gordon Smedt. I have a free presentation on these two artists here.
Why are Recycling Projects a Good Idea?
Recycling projects, by there very nature are cheap. You have to be willing to put in the work to collect junk and rubbish or be confident that your students will do this, but it’s worth the effort. The artists Tess Felix is well worth looking at. Her amazing portraits made from sea debris are so inspiring.
I can’t claim that this amazing colour wheel is mine, but I love it! It was created by a class where each table group had a colour to collect and it had to all be recycled! Genius! Free and an amazing display.
Can You Really do 3D on a Budget?
Clay, wire, mod-roc and plaster are often prohibitively expensive, but cardboard is free. Card Construction is a favourite of mine and can be highly skilled. Yes, you’re going to need masking tape and gum strip to join it, but, as these inspiring pictures show, you can get amazing results.
Paper Mache is another inexpensive way of working. You may consider something as simple as a paper mache bowl, or something as ambitious as the creations by Will Kurtz.
Collage artist Derek Gores uses recycled magazines, labels and digital materials to make these amazing collages. Sandhi Schimmel creates artworks using junk mail – we can all too easily collect that! Use these artists to inspire a project and the materials will be free. Just add glue!
Can’t Afford Canvas? No problem!
When you or your students can’t afford a canvas, beg, borrowing or stealing a piece of wood or hardboard may be your first port of call, but there are plenty of other surfaces to paint on. Paint on a chair, or a pebble or a broken violin! Paint on leaves, paint on coffee cups, paint on spoons or keys! Look here for arty inspiration! Click here for my painting a fish on a pebble stage-by-stage instructions.
Altered Books is definitely an area to explore to make your art department budget go further. You can use old books as sketchbooks and as a final piece. The books below I made with students many years ago and they used the front and back cover of a book and some of the pages from within.
Investigate some names on my Artists Listed by Theme page, under ‘Altered Books’.
I do hope you find some of these ideas inspiring and cost-effective. I’m certain that if you integrate a few of these ideas into your department’s planning, you will make your budget go further. If you have an idea to share, please comment below.