The Arty Bit

The benefits of shopping locally with Barry Whitehouse

The Benefits of Shopping locally with Barry Whitehouse of the Artery in Parson’s Street,

During the recent recession, art shops nationally went into decline as more ‘savvy’ shoppers left their traditional bricks and mortar suppliers in favour of online shopping with a belief that the internet had all the benefits of retail shopping all carried out from the comfort of your own home. Many shops downsized or closed altogether. However, lately, traditional art materials shopping has seen a resurgence as more and more people recognise the benefits.

What are the benefits?

Just being able to handle a product rather than view it on a screen has multiple benefits. In a virtual world it is hard to feel thickness, texture, or to see the exact colour, all of which can be discovered within seconds of being able to handle it.

The benefits of being able to ask for advice on a productmay be found online, but can take a lot of searching, particularly if you do not know exactly what you’re looking for. Many American terms are very different to the names of items over in the UK. Your local art shop owner however, may be able to answer these queries straight away as they delve into their own knowledge and experience.

There are social benefits to shopping locally. Being an artist is often a solitary existance, but visiting your local art shop and talking to others with a similar interest will improve how you work. Whilst there you may meet other artists and be able to share ideas and discuss future projects.

Art shops offer a communal hub for all artists. They offer a space to buy materials, seek advice and to show off your successes. Hopefully you will leave feeling valued and enthused. The earliest art shops were set up by the likes of Winsor & Newton, Rowney, and Reeves, some as early as 1783 and are names we are still familiar with today. A well-used shop is one that is set for success, and whilst there is nothing wrong with purchasing online, still show your support in your local art shop and help them thrive too.

Here is a directory of some your local independent bricks and mortar art shops. Why not pay them a visit?

  • The Artery, 21 Parsons Street, Banbury, OX16 5LY, 01295 275150,
  • Broad Canvas, 20 Broad Street, Oxford, OX1 3AS, 01865 244025,
  • Kendrick Street Gallery, 20 Kendrick Street, Stroud, GL5 1AA, 01453 756936,
  • Picturesque Framing & Art Supplies, 4B Smith Street, Warwick, CV34 4JA, 01926 495589,
  • Chrome Yellow Arts Ltd, 38B High Street, Leamington Spa, CV31 1LW, 01926 338491,
  • Strand Arts, 12 Grosvenor Street, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, GL52 2SG, 01242 253907,
  • Arty’s Art Shop, 129 Station Road, Amersham, Buckinghamshire, HP7 0AH, 01494 728121
  • Cotswold Art Supplies, Church Street, Stowe-on-the-Wold, GL5 1BB, 01451 830522,


The Art Surgery , Basic art supplies to help get you started

 Walking into an art shop can be a minefield as there is so much choice. It can be impossible to know where to start.

Here are my top tips for buying the basics:


  1. Start out with the best you can afford. It is often a mistake to buy the cheapest items and then upgrade when you improve. Cheaper items may not have the same pigment, or quality and may in fact hinder your progress! If in doubt, start off with mid-range items. Most of the bigger name brands have three ranges – a budget range, a ‘student’ range, and artistic quality items.
  2. Find an allrounder paper. Bockingford watercolour paper can be used for watercolours, acrylics, pastels, and pen and ink. Using it will save you having to purchase a pad for every medium you want to try. A good weight is 300gsm, and choose a cold-pressed (NOT) surface. It will certainly keep the costs down, and you can paint on both sides. For practice paper, Goldline produce a 100 sheet lighter weight watercolour paper pad for around £16.
  3. Limit your colour choice. It is better to learn how to mix colours from a limited palette than to rely purely on the wide range of colour choices available. No matter what medium you want to try whether it is watercolours, acrylics, or oil paints, far greater harmony will be achieved in your work with fewer colours. I recommend the following colours to get you started: Lemon Yellow, Cadmium Yellow, Cadmium Red, Alizarin Crimson, Ultramarine Blue, Cerulean Blue, Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna, and White (not needed for watercolours). As long as you have a warm and a cool tone in each colour it will give you a wide range of mixes. From the colours above it is possible to make several thousand colour mixes (including glazing).
  4. Don’t get bogged down with brushes. An easy mistake when starting out is to buy the biggest brush set you can get, only to find after a few a months that you are only using the same few over and over again. Instead choose wisely and get just four or five brushes. I would go with a large, flat (1-2”), a large round brush, a smaller round brush, a detail brush or rigger, and a filbert shaped brush. Nylon is more affordable and can be used for any medium.


You can probably get set up with all the basics with a budget of around £35.00, and as long as you look after your purchase they will last quite a while. The only thing you will need to replace often is your paper.