Colors, conservation, sustainability, The Art of Ecology

On the Path to Zero Waste Artistry

As an artist who focuses much of their time on conservation and the betterment of the environment, I find it surprising how much waste an artist produces unintentionally! From the empty paint tubes, to the plastic covering my canvases, to colored pencil shavings, to the fabric scraps from creating my Halloween costumes – there is so much waste!

In 2019, I have made it my goal to be a more conscientious consumer and to be careful and purposeful about the art supplies that I use and what I end up getting rid of.

Speaking of, did you know that I’ll be hosting a DIY Zero-Waste Gift Wrapping Event at the Bucks County Audubon Society in New Hope, PA on December 16th, 2019 at 6pm? This event is perfect to dip your toes into the Zero-Waste pool, enjoy some holiday cheer, and reduce your landfill waste this holiday! Register for this BYOB (and BYOGifts!) event here. $10 admission covers all eco-friendly materials, a Furoshiki gift-wrapping tutorial, and light refreshments!

This photo was made using upcycled, reused, and sustainable materials! The glow sticks used are non-chemical, the lensball is sitting on a mirror that I accidentally shattered and now use for light painting projects (and mosaics - see below!), and what you don't see behind that crazy color is a large sheet of glossy black cardboard, perfect for subdued reflections, that was upcycled from a picture frame box!
This photo was made using upcycled, reused, and sustainable materials! The glow sticks used are non-chemical, the lensball is sitting on a mirror that I accidentally shattered and now use for light painting projects (and mosaics – see below!), and what you don’t see behind that crazy color is a large sheet of glossy black cardboard, perfect for subdued reflections, that was upcycled from a picture frame box!

Here are some tips for those of you that are arts-and-craftsy as well!

  1. Make your own paint – Did you know that in ancient times (think Byzantine era), paint was made without chemicals? Shocking – I know. They used an egg based paint, and the process of creating it is so simple! All you need is the pigment (in the form of chalk pastels), water, an egg, and something to grind down the pigments! By going this route, you can easily store your DIY paints in cute glass bottles (I find mine at Thrift stores!!!), or only make what you need.
  2. Donate leftover fabric scraps – So many animal shelters and clinics are in dire need of rags! Simply hem squares (or rectangles) of leftover materials and put them in a box to donate to the local shelter.

    This jar was once a Pickle jar and those tiny mirror pieces was once a rather large mirror that I had set up in my basement (I had a mini in-home gym set up) and one day my yoga ball got away from me and the mirror shattered... Don't throw them out - use them!
    This jar was once a Pickle jar and those tiny mirror pieces was once a rather large mirror that I had set up as part of a mini in-home gym and one day my yoga ball got away from me and my mirror shattered… Don’t trash it – use it!
  3. Upcycle when possible – Did you accidentally break a plate? Keep the good pieces for a mosaic! Did you rip a pair of jeans? Turn that fabric into shorts or even create a cute denim stuffed animal as a gift (or keep it yourself)! You’ll be amazed at what art you can create with old household objects.
  4. Purchase loose canvas – Individually wrapped canvases are torturous to someone who tries to avoid unnecessary plastic! By purchasing a large roll of canvas, I can either stretch it over a wooden frame myself, or I can just clip it to a large sheet of upcycled cardboard and paint on that! I find that this is a really great way to paint because then the painting is now thin enough to cut out (I can create unique custom sizes) and stick in a standard frame!
  5. Use beeswax crayons – Typical crayons, and even some colored pencils, are made from synthetic wax. Avoid that and keep an eye out for beeswax crayons or colored pencils that are just sticks of color (not like a wooden pencil). If you use the whole stick, you have nothing to sharpen or throw away when it’s finished!
  6. Create natural dyes – There are so many beautiful colors that you can create with nature. I once made a wreath using purple (kinda pinkish-purple), golden-yellow, and green dye – all made from veggies and spices! Purple cabbage, turmeric, and spinach make great dyes. Click here for a great list of what plants make pretty colors!_mgj5300

    I created a wonderful octopus paper mache and used 5 paper-based egg cartons, 10 old wire coat hangers, 3 large sheets of old brown wrapping paper, and 4 whole newspapers.
    I created a wonderful octopus paper mache and used 5 paper-based egg cartons, 10 old wire coat hangers, 3 large sheets of old brown wrapping paper, and 4 whole newspapers.
  7. Get into paper mache– What better way to reuse and get rid of old papers than by turning them into beautiful works of art?! This can use up so many old newspapers, phone books, college notebooks (why do I need my old Biostats notes?), or even old to-do-lists! 
  8. Use wooden art tools, not plastic – Don’t get those plastic brushes or mechanical pencils! Find ones made out of wood or bamboo!
  9. Think before you crumple it up! – Did your drawing not really come out the way you wanted? Can you turn your paper over and still use it? Did you rip it or smudge it? Is there something that you can glue on top that will hide the mistake? Many times, I have noticed, if you take a look at your mistake and think about it before getting discouraged, you may find that it was a happy accident and you can roll with it, or you can figure out a clever way to redeem it.
  10. Ultimately, do you need it? – This one is self explanatory. I know it’s hard, but when you’re in the art supply store or are scrolling on pinterest, think of how you can create it using what you already have OR find a project that is better suited to your equipment.

Have some more ideas or are you already doing one of these? Let me know in the comments below and share your experiences!

As 2019 continues, I will upload my various art projects that I have done so that you can become inspired! Use #TheArtofEcology to share your projects with me so that I can be inspired by your beautiful work throughout the year as well!

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My old wedding dress was turned into it’s own, new dress and I reused the fabric to create this infinity scarf instead of throwing the scraps into the trash!

Visit my shop, The Art of Ecology, for more nature-inspired art! Remember, a portion of all proceeds benefits wildlife conservation & habitat preservation efforts.

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