For those of us who are artists, art supply stores are magical places with all the raw materials that inspire us to create. Tubes and bottles of brilliant colors, mind boggling assortments of pens, colored pencils, and markers, papers thin enough for tracing or heavy enough to absorb watercolors, brushes of every description, adhesives for every surface imaginable, spools of armature wire just waiting to be shaped into something, books and magazines that instruct us in our technique... Yes, art supply stores are a wonderland, until we get to the register to pay. And then, if you're like me, you wish all those lovely supplies weren't so expensive, even after getting a student discount and using a coupon.
As it turns out, there are a few things you can save money on by avoiding the art supply store altogether. There are several items for your studio that you could actually pick up from the drugstore. Also, if you happen to be making art in a location that is far from an art supply or hardware store, the local drugstore--an establishment that is often open 24 hours--could come to the rescue.
eye droppers - Eye Care Aisle
Sometimes you just want to add a few drops of water or Turpenoid to thin the paint on your palette. And eyedroppers are the perfect tool when you want precision and control. The nice thing about the ones from the drugstore is that they are made of durable rubber and glass, and can be taken apart and cleaned.
spray bottles - Hair Care Aisle
An indispensable tool for ceramicists and painters alike, a plastic spray bottle can be used to apply a fine mist of water to clay that is drying out too quickly, or to water-based paintings for paint that is drying out too quickly.
makeup sponges - Cosmetics Section
More than just a beauty supply, latex (or latex free) makeup sponges can be use to smoothly apply paint to small areas of a painting. I use them to create highlights, and they fit very well into crevices.
makeup brushes - Cosmetics Section
This essential tool for powdering a pretty face can also work very well to create pretty pastel and charcoal drawings. For a fraction of the cost of the ones sold at art supply stores, the synthetic bristle brushes still do a great job of softening, smoothing, and blending.
rubber gloves - First Aid or Home Health Care Aisles
Many of the chemicals found in the paints so often found in our ArtBins contain harmful chemicals like cadmium, chromium, and lead. It is imperative to protect yourself from exposure, and one way to do this is to wear gloves. And even if you prefer using non-toxic materials, it's still worth not having to clean the dried glue and paint off your hands. Unlike household cleaning gloves, these fit tightly and allow for more dexterous use of your hands. The drugstore is a great place to purchase disposable latex gloves in bulk.
nail polish remover - Manicure aisle
Are you guilty of paintbrush neglect? I am. Fortunately for delinquent painters there is a last-ditch solution for acrylic paint-hardened brushes that is less toxic than what you'd get at the hardware store: nail polish remover. Since you're not getting it for your manicure or pedicure, you can skip the kind that's fortified with vitamins or scented with a nice fragrance and get the pure acetone version. If you're not too particular about your brushes (and if you were neglectful enough to let them get encrusted in paint, I'd say you're not) you can soak them in nail polish remover for a while until the paint dissolves. It's also useful for getting paint off of metal studio furniture. Just be careful because it's flammable.
rubbing alcohol - First aid aisle
You can create some fascinating effects when you use rubbing alcohol with acrylic paints, and you can also use it to remove dried acrylic paint from brushes or clothing. As with the nail polish remover, be careful because it's flammable.
hair dryer - hair care aisle
If you're working with water-based paints or glues and want to speed up the drying process, why not give a hair dryer a try? I keep my old one at my studio for just this purpose. You may want to do a test run first to make sure that the paint and or paper will not have an adverse reaction to the heat.
Do you rely upon any drugstore art supplies that aren't listed here? Please share in your comments.