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Is painting waste-free a good investment?

This is Revival Guy. He’s wondering why there are so many art supplies scattered at the beach!

Many artists have turned away from traditional pencil and paper, but not only for digital convenience. There are many reasons that cause paper to go out of style, and landfill is one of them. As artists, we must aim to reduce the threats to our environment, which inspires us in our work.

What can you do to reduce landfill when you’re creating?

When you think of drawing on paper, you may imagine that the paper itself is most problematic. But that isn’t true! Artists are rarely opposed to creating art traditionally because of their canvas. What concerns artists is waste, which a finished painting or canvas is not, as long as it isn’t thrown away.

So when you’re deciding to eliminate waste from your art, think of the things that suddenly appear around your creative space: drafting tape, pencil shavings, plastic containers for color mediums, plastic caps for thinners and solvents, etc. Additionally, make sure you recycle any produce that comes from your art process. The table below will help you decide which items you can recycle, or even compost.

ItemCompostRecycleWaste
PaperNot colored, glossy or mixed with chemicalsPaper with art mediums on itContaminated with dangerous particles
Pencil ShavingsPencils made from cedar woodOther wooden pencils/used as artPlastic pencils/not used in art
TapeGummed paper tapeOther paper tapesPlastic tapes
Art Medium ContainersBamboo/plant based plasticsRefillable containers, Metal and plastic Single use containers
Bottle CapsPlant based plasticsMetal and plastic capsPlastic caps numbered 3 or 5
Table showing items that can be composted, recycled, or become landfill.

Remember to compost before you can recycle, and if all fails, try to look for another solution if you’re living a zero-waste lifestyle, or if you just want to reduce your carbon footprint. Also, make sure you check with your local compost and recycle center to see which items they will accept.

Many art supplies come in plastic packaging that cannot be recycled. While it is not ideal to sacrifice your artistic experiences for the environment, there are still other solutions that are waste-free.

Have you tried painting without any materials at all?

It may seem difficult to start drawing with digital programs when you’re used to the traditional process, or if you’re just starting to embrace your art. But technology has progressed to a point where programs may be even more inclusive than all the art supplies you can possess. In my recent blog post, I have uploaded a digital artwork created with Procreate. Many of my artist friends couldn’t believe it was done digitally because of the brush textures and layers of the piece.

For many, digital programs can be a great investment as an alternative to art supplies. Art materials can be expensive and they run out quickly in contrast to digital programs that are indispensable. So think about the type of art you want to create, and what your reasons are for painting waste-free.

Don’t forget to have fun!

Even if you’re making enormous changes to your art and style, it is crucial to have fun. Otherwise, the art you create isn’t going to come from magical places. And remember to show your brushes some love! The more you take care of them, the less you’ll have to throw them out.

Illustration of three brushes, one of them being used to paint and it says "Oh no! I'm having a stroke again!"
“Brushstroke,” 2020.

3 replies on “Is painting waste-free a good investment?”

[…] The purpose of this video is to show you how illustrations are layered digitally. This is not a tutorial video, but rather a snippet of the work behind my illustration. A great thing about digital illustrations is how much you can change and how indispensable layers are. You can hide and unhide layers or even delete them. You’re able to erase again and again and change brushes, colors, and textures as you’re learning. So take the opportunity to build on your vision as you choose the art style you’d like to revive. It is always great to be traditional and go for pencil and paper, but remember that digital programs can also be an awesome alternative if you’re going for less waste (read more about art and waste here). […]

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