How to: Be More Eco Friendly as an Artist
Can You Make Eco-Friendly Art?
As a student, I used to make the most un-eco-friendly art. With student loan and bursary to spend on materials, I’d go mad buying paints, solvents, mediums and loads of paper. As I have always been quite prolific with my artworks, there have always been stacks on canvases around me, as well as, bottles and bottles of paints. As I have got older, however, and money has been tight, I am more open to the world in terms of where things come from, I try to be less wasteful in every aspect of my consumption. This is now trickling into my spending on art supplies as I try to create more eco-friendly art. I have put together a few tips and ideas of where to start, it’s not an easy one, with the nature of creating artwork, but there are definite ways to create more eco-friendly art.
Make more considered paint choices:
The capsule collection of colours – I get really drawn into those sets of every colour paint and get bought them often (which is still much appreciated). However, there are always colours in them that I’ll never touch. They end up either getting wasted in the testing process, mixed away into a massive glob of colour that I’ll then paint over, or will just sit and never be used. I have been making art long enough now to know what my limits are with colour and what I need. When I shop for paints now I keep my choices down to the colour I know I’ll be able to work with and get those in larger quantities.
Mixing “staple” colours – black, white and perhaps primary colours are good to have in larger quantities too obviously so you can mix them into everything else you need. I tend to get a lot of white paint in every shade rather than tonnes of black or primary colours as this suits my work better. Of course, everyone is different.
Formulas you love – again, I will be about all sorts of paint as gifts and this is always appreciated. However, when it comes to buying my own supply, I have a rough idea of the brands of paint I like to work with and never stray too far from oils and acrylics. Whatever your practice is, you’ll know what you need – try to find the formulas that have resulted in your best work and avoid what’s on offer or on sale.
Enough that you need – my tendency when I was younger was to buy as much paint as I could possibly afford and use tonnes of it. The waste was huge, I am ashamed to say. I do love very thickly painted artwork and that chunky, sludgy effect that comes from using loads of paint, but I am more professional about this now. Buying and using paint for the sake of it is often not the way to go. The only exception to this would be for your staple colours, I just hate to have too much “stuff” hanging around my home as I am still painting in my front room!
Re-use and gift your eco-friendly art:
Smaller artworks – can these be used in any way, sold or framed? I make quite a few tiny “test” paintings and love to see how they come together as a product when framed. This saves on a lot of waste whereas in the past, I might have lost them or they may have been buried under piles of other work.
Gift tags and greeting cards – can your off cut painted work be reused as gift tags? I like to stick a few painted cutoffs down and create cards for friends and family too.
Craft paper for kids – if you have kids or know kids. Can your offcut paper or painted paper be presented as craft paper for them? Providing they aren’t covered in poisons or chemicals. Try wrapping them together with string and add a bundle to gifts or their activity packs.
Recycling your old art supplies:
Bottles and tubes – make sure they are cleaned out of any paint or liquids. If your local council don’t recycle your specific plastic bottles. Head to your nearest recycling bank. Buying larger quantities will mean bottles last longer, creating less of a demand for smaller sized plastic bottles and tubes.
Plastic wrapping – not currently recycled but check recycling points at local grocery stores or supermarkets where you may be able to deposit them there.
Paper and cardboard – if they are stained with grease or paint which they most likely will be, it’s most likely that you’ll ned to drop them in your curbside recycling bins near your home or in communal areas.
Reusable tools for eco-friendly art:
Maybe it’s the “adult” in me, but I am getting more and more into tea towels as we speak! That might be the lamest thing I’ve ever said, but they are an essential item even in my art kit. I have a bunch of them, good pallet knives, an array of jars and ramekins from different things. I have a reused marble chopping board for mixing colours with which is delightful. They are all items that are easily cleaned and reused very often.
More tips on creating eco-friendly art:
Further reading, this article.
Making art outdoors, my blog here.
Bulk purchase simple tea towels.
Further reading and good advice.
Eco-friendly art supplies.