Reducing Waste and Saving Money, Artist Edition

If you have followed my instagram lately, you know I’m playing with acrylic paint again. After trying more traditional painting, I’m now experimenting with pouring and liquid painting. This usually involves additional material like small containers for mixing liquid paint, stirring sticks, some kind of cover to protect the working surface, … which can add up to quite a lot of plastic and paper, unless you have space to keep an extra box of glass containers and all that jazz, and are very dedicated to thoroughly cleaning all materials right after a painting session.

As I’m not living zero-waste, there is enough single-use material at home that can be repurposed for painting and be used at least a few times before finally throwing it out. This way I don’t have to buy a lot of additional material for my creative hobby, while all this future waste is used as much as possible before trashing/recycling it.

A few items are

  • Plastic cups from yoghurts and desserts are stackable, can be cut to the needed height, and are washable. I use these for mixing paint for pouring and sometimes for making circles on paintings. (Before getting this idea, I started using up some old disposable cups lingering in a cupboard. They are wobbly and tend to break.)
  • Cheap chopsticks or small forks that come with convenience food or takeout are good for stirring, dipping, making lines, splashing …
  • Canvases often come wrapped in thin plastic sheets, which can be used to cover cups containing rests of paint (instead of clingfilm), be scrunched up and dabbed on paint to create effects, or serve as surface protection under smaller paintings.
  • I usually avoid plastic bags, but sometimes I buy too much or too big stuff to fit into my usual shopping bags, so a few manage to sneak in. They make great surface protection for small and medium artworks, still being small enough to be moved around together with the paining (I work on the floor most of the time, so I just drag them aside to let art dry out of the way); they are quite sturdy and can be reused and even cleaned it you want to – I just pull off the biggest blobs of paint after drying and call it a day.
  • Big plastic covers are good for big paintings or wild paint splashing. For some reason I had kept the thick plastic wrap a mattress came in and got it out for my first clumsy attempts with thinned paint.
  • Receipts for art supply orders are just paper and I don’t keep most of them (because I don’t do art for a living), so I sometimes use them to wipe my brushes/fingers or mix tiny bits of paint.
  • Old newspapers are good for covering bigger areas. I don’t buy a lot of newspapers, but sometimes they are used as wadding in packets (there is a constant influx of second-hand technology and the like in this apartment), so there’s usually a handful around.
  • Squeeze and spray bottles from cosmetics like shampoo samples or eco-friendly deodorant (which comes in fancy glass spray bottles here) are useful for dosing liquids. I have a spray bottle of water for art (and air plants) and I plan to put some floetrol into a small squeeze bottle later today because the original canister is really unwieldy for getting small amounts out of it.
  • (Old fabric from torn clothes/sheets can be cut into pieces and be used instead of paper towels, though they have to be replaced quite frequently when used to wipe away acrylics and aren’t washed immediately, so I prefer using them for cleaning the kitchen unless I have a lot of these rags at a given moment.)

The only plastic I bought specifically for my art is my palette (which I’ve had for quite a while and will last until I break it somehow), a pack of plastic shot glasses for really small amounts of paint, and some small stuff like eyedroppers and tiny bottles with fine openings.