On a brief trawl of the web today I came across a request for top tips on buying art materials online. I have two main thoughts on the subject: (1) all the main decisions you make about your supplies, such as brand and quality, remain unchanged whether it’s high street or online and (2) do you really want to buy online?
I shalln’t add more to Point 1 at this time as I’d rather concentrate on Point 2. Why do we buy online? Probably because it’s cheaper and more convenient. The price difference can’t be denied – I recently bought a watercolour half pan in a local store and was horrified to find it was almost double the price of the internet equivalent. As for convenience, I won’t deny either that I enjoy having materials delivered direct to the studio rather than having to trek across the county to replenish supplies.
So perhaps no contest between the high street and the web, but what are the implications of spurning the local art shops? The obvious is that the local shop can’t compete and goes out of business. We may not notice until we need that replacement tube of paint NOW and find that although online supliers are quick, they can’t manage order-it-&-receive-it-this-afternoon. We may not notice until we need some product knowledge and find that our online store might be good on price but doesn’t quite cut it on advice. There’s no substitute for a knowledgeable individual who has actually used the product.
So do I buy online? Yes, if I can’t source locally. Some of my favourite makes just aren’t available in this county, or even adjacent ones. Do I buy locally? Yes, because I like to support local businesses and would hate to see my area devoid of specialist art shops. For me, it’s a balance between price and ethics without compromising on quality. Not just quality of materials but quality of life.