As an artist and teacher, I've often been asked by my students if they can use very cheap art materials instead of better quality materials from specialised art supply shops. So in response to this common query, I purchased watercolour pencils, a set of watercolour paints and a set of watercolour tube paints and watercolour paper in order to see how they performed. I went to a very cheap shop here in London, called, Flying Tiger and spent around and under £3 for each item.
I began with the watercolour pencils and I was immediately irritated as all the leads were broken and no matter what method I used to sharpen the pencils, the material they have used to make the pigment just crumbles away. So I used broken bits of the pencils to create the left side of the kiwi I chose to paint. The watercolour paper itself was strong but did buckle after adding some water. The surface of the paper is shiny which isn't very helpful when applying pigment and water so unfortunately the moment I added water to my watercolour pencil drawing, the pigment mostly washed away.
So I then used the top right section of the kiwi to try the set of watercolour paints which immediately generated more irritation the moment I added water to the paint cakes. The colour of the paint is utterly different to what it is once water is added so no matter how much you scrub the brush over the cake, you still have a very watery, slightly pigmented version of what the paint cake represents. The set does come with a small brush which was useless as the hairs all fell out so I used one of my own brushes instead.
I then tried the tubes of watercolour paint which had to be punctured by the reverse side of the lid in order to extract the paint. Some membranes didn't break at all no matter how hard I pushed to get the paint out. The paint I was able to use wasn't true to the colours stated on the tubes and then the result on paper was even more disappointing.
So I would say if you're wanting to use cheap art materials then you will not produce great artwork and the creative process which is an enjoyable part of making art, will be peppered with frustration at the inferior products. For just a few pounds more, far better materials can be purchased at art supply shops which will make a huge difference in the long run!
So to anyone purchasing art materials from Flying Tiger, I'd suggest only purchasing for casual gifts for people you don't admire or as objects to use in a still life. I plan to leave the materials I purchased out for the neighbourhood kids to play with.
I do love going to Flying Tiger as its a fun shop with other items of greater quality than their art supplies!
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My name is Franceska McCullough and I'm the owner and artist of Toothpickmoon. I'm interested in blogging about art materials, art events and conducting artist interviews.
*Disclosure: The links I'm using on this blog will only ever relate to the products I myself use in my own practice.