I was recently invited to share my zero waste journey and how that has affected my art practice in a video chat with Devon Walz! When I began my zero waste journey about 2 years ago, my primary focus was on household waste from packaging and toxic chemicals. Now that I have conquered the waste in that area of my life, I've shifted my focus to reducing the waste in my art making practice. While I am not quite ready to give up the acrylic paints yet, there are many things you can do to start reducing the amount of waste that is created through your art practice. Check out our conversation via the video above, and my top 5 tips for art waste reduction below!
1. Start by doing a materials audit of your studio. This is the same idea as doing a waste audit in your home by going through your garbage to figure out exactly what kind of garbage you are producing and where you can make some changes. Take inventory of what materials you use most frequently, and do some research as to where you can make better choices. Are you using a lot of paper towel? Try switching to reusable cloth rags. Is your fixative made from toxic chemicals? Do a quick Google search to see if there are non-toxic alternatives. One thing that I have been really susceptible to in the past is accidentally buying paints and pastels that I already have in the studio, so right now I'm trying to use up all the materials that I already have before going out and buying new ones. Taking inventory of what you already have and where there is room to make some changes will make a world of difference.
2. Have conversations with the sales associates and managers at your local art supply store. Any time I'm shopping for art supplies, I always try to opt for buying surfaces to paint on that aren't wrapped in plastic, or brushes that don't come in packaging. When you go up to the till, just make a quick point to tell the cashier "I love buying these wood panels because they don't come wrapped in plastic. I wish you guys also sold canvas that isn't wrapped in plastic, I would be much more likely to buy it." The more people that make the point to have these conversations, the more likely it is that your feedback will be passed on and some actual changes will be made in the store.
3. Experiment with creating your own materials. Not only will this help you develop as an artist, it also helps to reduce your waste. Do you like using gel gloss that adds texture to your paintings? Try mixing a bit of sand into your paint to achieve the same effect. You know what makes a really great stain? Orange pekoe tea. Get creative and get creating!
4. Re-use everything that you can. When I buy pads of paper, I save the cardboard so that I can use it as a backing when I ship smaller works. If I have a canvas that's been floating around my studio unsold for a few years and it no longer resonates with me, I'll often paint over it and create something new. As mentioned in the video, a lot of my studies and sketches end up getting donated to charities for silent auctions, or end up as gifts for friends. I also like to cut up my old paintings on paper and collage them into new works. Before you throw anything away, just take a quick moment to think to yourself "Can I do anything else with this?"
5. Don't be too hard on yourself. Changing your art practice can definitely be a scary endeavour, as there can be that fear that you won't be able to achieve the desired effects by changing your materials. So just start slow with the small things that you feel comfortable changing, and work up to the bigger changes. Every little bit helps.