Over the past few weeks, I've become aware of the impact of my art-making on the environment. It's not something I've ever really thought about before, but now I know, I can see loads of areas that I need to change to make sure that my passion is not destroying my other passion, which is nature and looking after this beautiful world.
Especially while I'm working on my new collection called "Footprints" which is all about capturing and showcasing the beautiful local countryside, it seems the right time to start implementing some changes to make sure that everything I do is sustainable and does not cause damage to the earth.
For those of you who don't know, I primarily use acrylic paints, and acrylic is literally just plastic. So as an acrylic painter, every time you wash your brushes, clean your palette, tip the old paint water down the drain, you are just putting more and more plastic into the system.
As a painter, I also mostly work on cotton canvases. The production of cotton is not great for the environment, as it uses a huge amount of water.
After learning about these things, I wanted to write a post on some changes I have made, and also some changes you can make if you are an artist too, to create a more eco-friendly art practise.
Cleaning your palette.
First off, I recommend getting yourself a glass paint palette. Not only are they large, and perfect for mixing your paints on, they are a great way to reduce waste as you can leave any left over paint on it, spritz it with some water, and cover it, which will mean the paint won't dry out and can be used again the next day. The less paint you waste, the better!
When you are done with the palette and it needs to be cleaned, instead of washing it in water, just allow the paint to dry completely, and then you can scrape it all off with a scraper. The scraped off paint can either go in the bin, or what I like to do is collect it all up in a jar and then use it for another art project. We are artists at the end of the day! We can find ways to use these unwanted materials so that they don't go to waste.
If you want to get yourself a glass paint palette, I got mine from Jackson's Art supplies, who also ship their products in sustainable packaging, so that's a plus!
Here is the link if you want to get one: https://www.jacksonsart.com/search/?q=glass%20&fq[category]=Glass%20Palettes&fq[category_id]=3755
2. Cleaning your brushes & tools
When you are done with your brushes and tools, before you stick them in the water, try to wipe off as much paint onto an old rag or if your like me, onto an experimental art piece. I always prepare either a canvas, or sheet of paper, called my 'waste paint piece', and I just swipe any old paint or residue from brushes onto this piece and try and create something interesting. I have actually created some pretty good work from this method, like this piece below.
3. Choosing your materials
When it comes to buying new canvases, it's good to just check whether you need them. Sometimes we have loads of old canvases lying around with artwork that we created 3,4,5 years ago that we would never sell now. It's easy to become precious about things, but actually, if no one is buying it and you don't like it anymore, then just paint over it!
If you need to buy new canvases, apparently it's better to buy hemp or linen canvases, which are easily available in online and in-store art shops.
Obviously since covid, we have all had to buy our supplies online, but if you can get to a shop in person, it saves all that extra packaging. If you sell your work, then it's fine, as you can keep the packaging to re-use for your own shipping.
4. Waste Water
After doing a lot of research, it seems that disposing of the waste 'painty' water is the biggest problem that artists are facing, because there doesn't really seem an ideal way to get rid of it. Some suggest letting it evaporate, but that would take ages and would mean you need a million pots to use. Others suggest letting it absorb into other waste materials such as pet bedding, or tissues, which I guess could work but it's not ideal.
I think as artists, maybe we need to change our mindset from "How can I get rid of this" to "How can I use this to create something?"
So that being said, I'm starting a new eco-friendly art project, which I started last week and will be writing a blog post on soon. Basically, it involves me using up my waste water to create a piece of art. It's a bit of an experiment, so there's no guarantee that it will work, but I wanted to give it a go and just see what happens!
I'm going to name the work (Potentially series of work) #wastewatercreations, and if you would like to join in with this project, I would love to showcase your art experiments on my blog post, and social media, so make sure to post a picture of your creation, tag me, and add the #wastewatercreations hashtag, and together we can all do our bit for the environment, and hopefully encourage and inspire other artists to do the same.
So these are my 4 ways to make my art practise a little more sustainable, and I hope this was inspiring and helpful to any other artists out there. If you think I have missed anything out, or have your own way of being eco-friendly, please leave a comment and share your ideas because I am interested to hear them!
Thanks for reading,