Sustainable art. Ideas on what you could do to make your own..

Updated: Mar 13, 2021

Hi all, lockdown feels very long at the moment, my constantly stretching son needs new shoes, I've had to order online hoping that they fit and hoping that he'll like them..oh to browse around a clothes shop and see what you are buying?! I haven't felt the need to shop very much, thankfully, as its saving me lots of money, but moments..

Anyway, to the blog. In my artists musings last time, I touched a little on sustainable art, so I thought I'd share my findings. What is it? Sustainable art may also be understood as art that is produced with consideration for the wider impact of the work and its reception in relationship to its environments (social, economic, biophysical, historical and cultural). Turns out lots of people have been thinking about this for sometime, (No surprises there. We all know our planet needs as much help as is possible. As I said when making my own face creams, candles and soaps, I'm a bit late to the party, especially when you consider the Japanese read on..) Well I'm not going to re-write what others have written but I have read a few great blogs and other articles which I will reference for you to have a look at

Love the reference to Kintsugi the Japanese art of mending broken things with gold, this was one of the workshops I ran at a festival a few years ago, who knew I was even ahead of myself on that one.

Also the idea of wrapping presents in folded clothes, such an old practise but no plastic wrapping paper!

It's quite funny when I look at the idea of

Up-cycling as I do think artists have been doing this for years (largely because they are often skint and can't afford to buy new materials.) Plus when you live near a rag market (when it is open (sigh!) its a plethora of amazing junk finds that make you want to up cycle your whole home with weird and wonderful things..

I also came across this artist who has created Stained Glass windows out of single use plastic, to highlight how destructive it is for our environment. A great idea lets hope it makes you stop buying those plastic bottles of drink!

This has given me a great idea for my next project with artclub (after Covid). How do you do it though? Maybe she has one of those sticker machines that turns plastic folders into stickers?? I don't know ..but lovely art work.

Then there is Olafur Erikkson, the Icelandic artist who created the Sun for the Tate and recently 'The Weather project'.

(This picture shows my friends children sunbathing at the Tate).

I've loved and enjoyed both his exhibitions, he is an artist who is raising awareness around the world.

Another sustainable artist called Eleanor Perkins creates her own paints 'Foraging and recycling as well as using food waste she also forages plants to make her paints. She enjoys going on forest walks to find lichen to create vibrant paints! She also carefully considers the surfaces she paints on. She often creates her paintings on scrap materials from building sites. She turns abandoned items into beautiful works of art!'.. lots of ideas although I do wonder how her paintings smell.. there are lots of artists around the world thinking and working towards sustainability. I think I'll use up the paints I have before I think about doing this.

However if you did want to make your own paints: My knowledge of art history is that most paints were originally made from pigments found in the ground. I found this useful guide from Recycle Nation on How to make natural paints: Below is a guide for what plants will produce which colour to get you started. This isn’t an exhaustive list, but it contains some of the most popular and easily accessible natural items. Brown: Dirt. No, this isn’t a plant, but if you want a full colour spectrum you’ll have to get creative with all sorts of natural dyes. This one is good for mixing with water and using as a natural paint. Beetroot skin can also work as a brown dye for fabrics. Purple/Red/Pink: This is where some basic berries will come in handy. You can use strawberries, cherries, huckleberries, blackberries, elderberries, black currants, red currants and raspberries. You can also use beets, roses, pomegranates, hibiscus, day lilies and basil leaves. Blue: This one is obvious. Go get some blueberries. You can mix the juice with some distilled vinegar. You can also use purple grapes, indigo, red cabbage and elderberries. Grey: For this one, you can use wood ash. White: Chalk or talcum powder work for white. Yellow: Onion skins are a pretty popular option for yellow. Turmeric, sunflower petals, bay leaves, dandelion flowers, marigolds and celery leaves also work. Green: This is probably the easiest. You can use artichokes, spinach, peppermint leaves, lilacs or just plain grass. Orange: Some common ideas are child powder, paprika and carrots. Now that you know where to find your natural colours, there are several ways to use them. You can make natural paints, dye clothes, make a temporary tattoo and even stain wood.

For harder materials like chalk or charcoal, you’ll want to grind the material down to a fine powder. You then mix that with some egg yolks for a classic tempera paint method. The egg yolks will need to be combined with a bit of vinegar and water. The yolks will bind the paint pigment to any surface. Berries can be crushed and strained to make a juice and will paint like a watercolour. Dry materials like onion skins will need to be simmered in a pot until you can see the dye released into the water. Then you’ll strain out the plants and paint with the water. Many paints will also go on a certain colour and dry another colour. You’ll need to experiment, but that will be half the fun!

So happy paint making, Up-cycling or plastic stain glass making (if you can find out how she does it) If you have a try at any of these ideas or have other sustainable art ideas do post them in the comments as I would love to see..

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