“Waste not, Want not.”
If this quote is as true today as when Ben Franklin first coined it over two hundred years ago, why then, are the landfill sites full of things that could ideally be recycled, re-purposed, and reused? This fact pains me as an artist, as I find it difficult to throw away anything that I believe could be use again or in a different way. Money, these days, is hard enough to come by, and art materials are, essentially, a luxury. They are not something we need to live and survive such as water, food, shelter, warmth. We invest in art materials because the creation of art definitely adds to our enjoyment and who we are, as many of us really can’t imagine life without it. I know I can’t!
Most art materials are readily consumed once they are used, like paints, adhesives, masking fluid, mediums, ect. The fact is, once you apply them, they can’t be reused. Thankfully, that is not the case with some materials, like watercolor paper.
Watercolor paper is made from 100% cotton. It is naturally acid free and completely reusable and recyclable. We buy it as a surface for painting watercolors. And, of course, it is an investment and sometimes a big one. The biggest fear of creating, is that we will ruin the paper due to an unforeseen mistake or perhaps, our inexperience. Instructors will tell us to practice on quality paper, but, you have to expect that your early efforts will not produce instant masterpieces. Ok, then what?
Then, recycle, reuse, re-purpose, that’s what!
Here are some ideas of how to keep the investment of watercolor paper out of the trash can and landfill after you have used it!
One way of salvaging your paper would be to resurface it with American Journey Watercolor gesso. This gesso is different than ordinary acrylic gesso which can repel the watercolor paint. It is formulated to work with the watercolor and allow it to spread on the surface without beading. You do need to be aware that the gessoed surface will not absorb like traditional watercolor paper. The paint remains on the surface and can be easily removed if you make a mistake. This is a great surface to practice on, although,you may need to seal the painting with an acrylic varnish to keep from disturbing the paint, unless you are displaying the painting under glass.
You can also paint on this newly prepared surface with acrylics, pastels, oils, colored pencil, and other materials. Try experimenting with many different applications and techniques, as well!
If your painting is mostly successful, but you have a few areas that are not pleasing, you may be able to find mini paintings within the original. Using a smaller format size mat, such as a 5 x 7 or 4 x 6, can help to locate these minis by placing the mat in different areas of the painting. Cheap Joe’s offers plastic mats of various sizes called Gem Finders to locate and isolate mini masterpieces. Then, you can cut them out and frame.
GREETING CARDS AND GIFT TAGS-
These minis can also be adhered to card stock and be given as original greeting cards that are sure to be cherished for years to come. We also offer a greeting card system designed for just this purpose. Goof-Proof Greeting Cards provide you with everything you need to get started including instructions.
Custom gift tags are also a great way to use even the smallest scraps of watercolor paper.
The unexpected results of a painting can be somewhat disappointing if you are unable to think beyond the mistakes. What if you evolved the painting with collage materials to create a whole new work of art? There are several techniques and materials that may cover mistakes, or integrate them into your art work. Papers, fibers and other 3-dimensional items are a great way to enhance the work you have already put into your painting. Collage is a wonderful way to express yourself and to convert your mistakes into masterpieces!
Watch Collage Queen, Cathy Taylor , give you a run down on the process of re-purposing art stuff!
For more information on Cathy, visit her website!
WASH DAY ART-
You can also re-wet the entire painting, and wash it off with a soft cloth or paper towel. This will distort the detail and leave you with an abstract background. Just transfer a new drawing and begin again on the newly transformed background. This will result in an exciting and creative painting.
Weaving a basket out of a botched painting is a great way to recycle the paper. 300 lb watercolor paper is more sturdy but 140 lb will work as well. Just cut the paper in 1 inch strips and follow your favorite basket pattern for an extraordinary basket that will last for years! This idea is great for making woven mats or coasters, as well.
Use the back to paint a new picture or maybe even a color study of your palette, and also as a practice sheet for testing your colors as you paint.
A CUT ABOVE-
You can also use 300lb watercolor paper as a cutting mat.
Making handmade paper, from watercolor paper, may seem pointless. But, think of all of the great ways you can change it once you have returned it to its original liquid pulp state. Add color, flowers, seeds, tiny shells, metallic flakes, or anything to make it new again!
As artists, we dream that every time we attempt to create, we will succeed. As humans, we know that will never be true. But, isn’t that the best part of creating, the discovery of so much more?
So, don’t be afraid to try and even to fail. Because, no matter what, you can always create something new, as long as you never see a mistake as a mistake. Just, see it as an opportunity to try some of these great ideas for reusing your watercolor paper!
So,refuse to trash it!
And Go Forth and Reuse, Re-purpose and Recycle it!
And Have A Happy “No Refuse” Day!