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How to Make Your Art Department Budget go Further!

By The Arty Teacher - May 15, 2018

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.

Making a Sketchbook Last

In the first school I taught at, we had to make an A4 sketchbook last three years so that it covered the first three years of high school (KS3). There were a set amount of pages you could use each year. You had to make sure that students handed it in at the end of the year.

Charging Students

Some schools seem to be allowed to charge students whilst others aren’t. Creating a kit for your younger students and more extensive kits for your exam students may be something you could consider. An A3 sketchbook, folder and small selection of art materials might be the best way to spend part of your budget for KS3 (age 11 – 14).

What to Draw that Costs Nothing?

Looking at the shelves in my storeroom, 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.

How to Make Your Art Department Budget go Further!

A few of my favourite 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 artist 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.

How to Make Your Art Department Budget go Further!

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.

The Chinese face above is by artist Warren King. See my interview with him here.
You’ll also love my Card Construction Board on Pinterest where I’ve collected ideas from all over the web.

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 Artists

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, sometimes a piece of card can be just as good. Alternatively 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’.

Think Digital and See Your Art Department Budget go Further

Does your school have a computer suite or iPads that your students can use?  Many students love working digitally and there are so many Apps and computer programs to use.  You don’t even need to print the end product as you can use social media or your school website to publish the result.  You can learn about some of my favourite Art Apps in this blog post ‘Art Apps for the Art Classroom‘.

Seek other Funds

Where can you get more money from?  Sometimes your Head Teacher may have access to other funds and if you ask for something specific, they may be able to help.  Also, your Parents Association are often a great place to start.  If you don’t ask, you don’t get!

Fund Raising

Connect with other art teachers on social media and see how they raise funds.  Things seem to work differently in different countries.  Artsonia is popular with many art teachers.  It is the world’s largest collection of student art, published by teachers and students from around the world. Parents and family can view the art online, leave comments and order keepsakes featuring the artwork.  You will get a small percentage to the money raised from these keepsakes.

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.

These are just a few of the many resources available on The Arty Teacher.

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The Arty Teacher

Sarah Crowther is The Arty Teacher. She is a high school art teacher in the North West of England. She strives to share her enthusiasm for art by providing art teachers around the globe with high-quality resources and by sharing her expertise through this blog.

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2 responses to “How to Make Your Art Department Budget go Further!”

  1. some great ideas on here thanks for sharing

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