Sustainable art supplies

I have always loved painting and drawing. From the age of six my friends and I used to dream up and manifest whole little worlds together on shared pieces of paper.

Throughout school I always found that art class was my favorite. Even though I wasn’t always the best at it, it just felt so good to be able to create something with my hands in an instant.

As I grew older and changed schools a couple of times the drawing games from childhood stuck with me. Eventually I became better at it, and even gained my classmates admiration sometimes. But still I didn’t have the courage to explore my craft further when it came to choosing an occupation as an adult. I majored in communications science and became a sustainable packaging designer. Until two years ago.

These past years, as I have begun to shift toward a more sustainable lifestyle in many ways, the subject of creating a good work life situation for myself came on the agenda. And this time I had the courage to listen to my intuition. Was I really doing what is most meaningful to me, using my potential? And most importantly was my work situation suiting my life in a more cosmic sense? As my journey toward a more sustainable life began, so did my search for sustainable art supplies.

“The meaning of life is to find your gift, the purpose of life is to give it away.”
– Pablo Picasso

Paints and colors

The first thing I did when transitioning from amateur painter to sustainability explorer was to question my art supplies. In the acrylic colors I had been using there was sure to be some plastics and chemicals. I have no idea how they are produced, or where, or by who. And without much hope to find out easily I decided to make my own artist paints out of food scraps instead. What a win-win I thought, to both reduce food waste and produce my own supplies.

Food waste I have tried to use for paint:

  • Coffee
  • Tea
  • Spinach
  • Strawberry juice
  • Blueberry juice
  • Black bean water
  • Black currant juice
  • Beetroot decoction

I am not counting on any of these food colours to last more then a few years as they will start to bio degrade. To me that’s the whole point and an important part of the project. To question how important it really is for me as a human to leave long term marks on this planet. However, if the great artists through out history would have thought like this in their work we would perhaps not have as many important pieces of art preserved from history. There is a balance to everything.

 

 

Paper and canvases

The next thing I was curious about was the sustainability of the paper or canvases I was using. For starters most paper comes from renewable resources, trees and such, but as with anything new you can count on a lot of energy going into the paper making process. And why chop down even more trees to create my art?

Being who I am means I somehow didn’t even consider ordering something organic from overseas or anything like that. I wanted to learn how to make my own paper myself. Mainly to find out what ingredients my supplies need to contain and also to find out if there are ways to make use of “waste materials” just like with the painting colors.

 

The comments I received during this process were usually something like “Oh, you are making paper, just like they do in kindergarten?”. My reply being “Yes, just like kindergarten or like they do in the paper mills”.

My paper is still not very easy to paint or write on, but I’m learning the craft as I go. If you have any tips for making good quality sustainable paper at home please write me a comment down below!

I still haven’t tried making my own canvas yet, but am looking forward to trying it out with some old fabrics or cardboard sheets. Also, just painting onto old book pages would be really cool to try!

 

Brushes and sponges

My next endeavour will be to try and figure out how to make pencils, brushes, sponges and ink. These are the first trials, but I’m looking into making ink with blueberries and maybe make my own brush set with some sort of fur or hair. I don’t know, tip me off in the comments down below if you have any clever ideas lined up for me to try!

More techniques

I have also tested etching on wood, making collages with pictures from reused magazines, making my own glue with flour and water, making stamps of old wine corks and erasers, making bracelets of second hand beads, and a whole bunch of other stuff all with the aim of being completely climate neutral and sometimes even climate positive.

Fun facts about sustainability in art supplies:

  1. Glitter is micro plastics instantly ready to mess with the ecosystems. Please, make sure to use the bio degradable kinds of glitter for your crafts.
  2. Many traditional techniques and hand crafts are using locally sourced and natural materials such as leather, wool, plant dyeing and so on, which is very inspiring to me.
  3. Land art is an art form in which artists venture out in nature and using nature itself to create art on location. Such a beautiful idea.

 

As you probably could tell I am not fully educated in this area yet, and it is a definitively a work in progress for me to figure out more about sustainability as an artist. I am still adding new materials and ideas to my art supply set and can’t wait to see what cool things can be created when I have gathered all the practical tools and skills an artist needs.

Please let me know if you have any further tips or thoughts about sustainable art supplies. It would be great to to hear about it and maybe explore further together!

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