Going “Green” as an Artist

By Nicole Tinkham

In the spirit of St. Patty’s day, we wanted to talk about going green in the art studio. No, we’re not referring to the color associated with the holiday but rather how you can be a little more environmentally friendly when creating your masterpiece. Many art materials can leave behind a toxic mess in the environment (unless of course you’re working with clay or wood). We don’t expect you to throw all of your practices out the window, but every little bit goes a long way. Here are just a few ways to go green as an artist.

1. Don’t waste paint

There’s no reason why you should be wasting perfectly good paint! There are many ways to reduce the amount of wasted paint which will also end up saving you money.

• Only squeeze out what you need.

• Use a covered palette to store unused paint.

• You can put your palette in the refrigerator or freezer between sessions. This slows the drying time and extends the life of the paint.

• Save the caps from empty paint tubes. You can use them in emergency situations when you lose the cap on a full tube.

• Don’t toss tubes with stuck lids. Instead, soak them in hot water to loosen the cap. To avoid this in the future, make sure the tube is cleaned up then add a dab of petroleum jelly to the screw threads.

2. Recycle paper

Artists use paper in many ways. If you’re printing out images and ideas from your printer, don’t be afraid to use both sides of the paper. Scrapbookers can save bits of unused paper for future projects. There’s even ways to create art out of recycled paper, all you have to do is get creative! Check out these recycled paper art pieces for inspiration.

3. Reuse solvent

Many painters clean brushes with soap under the faucet however, pigment going down the drain can affect the environment. Solvent is a good alternative for oil painters. If using solvent, here’s a way to reuse it so it’s not wasted.

1. Set aside a jar with dirty solvent and let stand.

2. The next day, you will notice the pigment has settled to the bottom of the jar. The now clean solvent can be poured into a second jar and reused.

3. The pigment left at the bottom of the jar should be poured into a separate container with a lid.

4. Properly dispose toxic materials

Now we get into how to dispose of that pigment left at the bottom of the solvent jar. Most often, this gunk is hazardous waste and must be disposed of at a hazardous waste facility, NOT in your garbage can! Contact your recycling facility for more information on how to get rid of hazardous waste. Anything not made of toxins and heavy metals can be thrown out with the rest of your regular trash.

5. Reuse supplies

Above, we mentioned a way to reuse solvent but there are many other supplies that can be reused, such as:

• Canvases and panels: These can be recycled by painting over failed work (just make sure the work underneath is not still in the drying process).

• Paper towels: After using a paper towel to dry hands, leave it out to dry and reuse for dabbing paint brushes or wiping away charcoal.

• Pastels: When working with pastels, you will build up a pile of pastel dust. Reuse this dust by adding a little water. This will allow the dust to be rolled into sticks again.

• X-acto blades: Sharpen blades instead of tossing.

• Metals: Scrap metals can be used to create sculptures or jewelry.

• Clothing: Old clothing can be turned into many creative pieces.

6. Choose “green” supplies

When it comes to paint, it may be difficult to find environmentally friendly supplies especially since popular pigments contain toxic chemicals such as cadmium, lead, and cobalt. Some companies however, are more concerned with the environment and you can always look into a company’s “green” policies. It’s also a good idea to read the product’s label for any kind of health hazards. If you can’t go green in the way of paints, you can always find environmentally friendly paper, canvases, portfolios, easels, and more.

7. Reduce energy in the studio

Whether it’s in the art studio or in your house, it’s always a good idea to reduce energy by using energy efficient lighting and turning off lights when not in use. We often forget, but computers and printers should be shut down and unplugged at night. Also, be careful with how much water you’re using when washing brushes and cleaning up the art room – remember to turn off the faucet! These small acts will not only help the environment but will also save you money.

We don’t expect you to follow everything on this list but any small step you do decide to take will make a difference. As these are only 7 ideas, we’re sure you have some environmentally friendly tips of your own to share. Please leave a comment in the box below with a way that you’re “green” when working in the studio!

Speaking of green, have you ever found a 4-leaf clover?

Happy St. Patty’s Day!

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