Fun Artsy Sh*t to Do When You're a Broke AF College Student

Artists are starving because people don’t understand the value of their work and are, therefore, unwilling to pay them a fair wage for their services. They are also starving because art supplies are expensive as hell, and this situation is only exacerbated for artists currently pursuing (pricey) postsecondary studies. Fear not my fellow makers and dreamers, as I have compiled a list of fun artsy sh*t to do when you have very little money to spare for supplies.

  1. 1. Adult Coloring Rendez-Vous

    In recent years, adult coloring books have risen in popularity. The concept is pretty simple; they're coloring sheets that are more intricate than those for kids. It is not, as one of my friends joked, "adult" as in X-rated, but "adult" as in slightly more complex than the kids' variety. You can either buy a coloring book from a bookstore or print out coloring sheets from websites that offer them online for free, like this one: https://www.justcolor.net/. It doesn't get much cheaper than that. Many people color in order to relieve stress, but coloring can also just be plain fun, which makes it a good group activity. A friend and I have recently established a tradition of coloring together at the end of every week, during which we also review the highlights of our week. It's a great way for us to get updated on each others' lives while also de-stressing, so I would highly recommend it.

  2. 2. Crafty Thrifting Adventure

    I visit thrift stores quite a bit, and while I usually go looking for clothing, I also quite often find unused vintage craft and scrapbooking supplies for dirt cheap. I highly recommend digging through the "miscellaneous tchotchke" section of your local thrift store as you can find quite a few vintage crafting gems there, like cross-stitching kits, flower-pressing kits, scrapbooking supplies, Polaroid cameras and their film, unused greeting cards, etc. Take a friend along with you and challenge yourselves to create a piece of art using only what you find while thrifting. If you're feeling super ambitious, consider picking up some fabric and a sewing pattern, which are also pretty common thrift store items, and making your own piece of clothing. Not only are thrifted craft supplies ridiculously inexpensive, but they also have a gorgeous vintage aesthetic -- imagine 80s tapestry-like floral greeting cards, vibrant 90s geometric scrapbooking paper, and 70s gold lurex fabrics. I cannot recommend thrift-based crafting enough.

  3. 3. Henna Tattoo Get-Together

    Getting a group together and having a henna night can also be fairly cheap, depending on where you buy your henna powder. My recommendation would be to visit a local Indian or Middle Eastern grocery store, where henna is usually much more reasonably priced than in large chain stores. I would avoid buying henna kits because they're usually overpriced for no good reason; making henna paste for skin application requires very few ingredients and tools, so it would be a lot cheaper to buy all the things you need separately rather than in a kit. My personal favorite henna powder is Jamila henna powder, as I find it to give the darkest stain and to be the most finely sifted of all the brands I've tried. I urge you to avoid most pre-made henna paste cones that are sold in stores because they are usually loaded with preservatives and potentially dangerous chemicals in order to make them last longer on the shelf. If you wish to buy premade cones, only trust sellers that tell you that their cones have an expiration date, otherwise you may very well be buying a cocktail of chemicals. Here are some instructions for making henna paste for skin: https://www.shopbeachcombers.com/How-To-Mix-Henna-Powder-s/1328.htm. If you have something like a henna sleepover, make sure to wrap your henna tattoos in some kind of cloth or towel after they've dried in order to prevent the spread of dried henna chips all over your house (been there, done that). I recommend having everyone henna each other in the same way that you would sign the cast of someone who had broken their arm in grade school. Sign your name on your friend’s arm to symbolize the influence of your friendship on their character and being. Or just draw a flower like a normal person.

  4. 4. Crayola Calligraphy Tutorials

    Like adult coloring books, calligraphy and hand-lettering have also recently become more popular. Brush markers can be relatively pricey, but that doesn't mean you'll be barred from the beautiful hobby that is hand-lettering because of the low balance in your bank account. You can actually use standard Crayola markers to hand-letter because the tips are very similar to those of professional brush markers. If you're a beginner calligrapher, I would recommend practicing with Crayola markers before investing in some fancy markers because that way you'll have way more financial leeway for trials and errors. Moreover, hand-lettering tutorials are widely available for free on Youtube, which brings the total budget for practicing this craft to about 1$, including the Crayola markers you can find at the dollar store. For starters, check out this tutorial for crayola hand-lettering: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bXZRv4yqjsU.

I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about these inexpensive artsy activities. Let us know if you decide to try any of them out!

*Disclaimer: As we are in the midst of a pandemic, we do not recommend going out and doing these activities in groups. We strongly urge you to practice social distancing in order to “flatten the curve” and to wait some time until this outbreak has subsided before meeting with others. If need be, you can partake in these activities with friends through video chat.