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Going Green

By April 17, 2007

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For the artist there's a peculiar tension between biodegradability and longevity: how do we reduce our ecological footprint, yet preserve our work for posterity? For some artists, like Andy Goldsworthy and Christo, transience is an inherent part of their work. But disintegration isn't a desirable quality when you're buying an investment art piece. For a while there I was particularly interested in using organic materials, such as leaves and wax, but its pretty frustrating when a piece crumbles before your eyes. And while a photograph can document the artwork, it just "isn't the same".

As far as art mediums go, drawing has always been pretty minimal and therefore 'greener' than most, especially if you're talking pencil drawing as opposed to chemical-rich pigments. Paper is a bit of a problem, and there are very few options around for the eco-conscious artist. Many of the post-consumer recycled materials are not artist-quality, having been sourced from poor quality paper pulp to begin with. However mainstream art stockists are carrying more recycled paper, and tree-free alternatives, such as hemp, are becoming more readily available.

The first two 'Rs' of the 'three r's: reduce, re-use, recycle often get overlooked and have the added advantage of being easy on the hip pocket. I recently got some 100% recycled office paper to use for my practice sketches, so I can save the 'good stuff' for serious pieces. I often re-use unsuccessful drawings , working on the reverse or doing sketches in the empty space, or using them as a basis for collage. This is especially useful with expensive heavy papers. I'd like to buy locally produced materials to minimize the environmental costs of transportation, as well as supporting the local economy. My favorite papers tend to be foreign made, like Stonehenge, but there are a few good Aussie art supply companies, such as Art Spectrum.

Oddly, I thought that doing more 'by hand' and 'from scratch' - hanging out the washing, baking, gardening - would take time from making art, but the mental downtime that it gives me, away from tv and computer, with busy hands, actually gives me time to think, and I'm feeling more creative than I have in a long time.

Related Links: More recent blog entry - Artist's Footprint
Eco - Friendly Pencils
Low-Impact Paper


April 17, 2007 at 5:18 pm
(1) Debi says:

What a great topic. I have lately been questioning the ‘Greeness’ of my art supplies since I am very environmentally concerned. I wonder, my pencils are made from California cedar, is this renewable? my charcoal and pastels are burnt, do making these add to our pollution? What about how synthetic pigments are made, is this harmful to the environment? what about natural pigments? are we taking too much away from the earth? I have even gone so far as to get my kids to use mechanical pencils in school instead of wood. Luckily I prefer wood less pencils, clutch and lead holders to standard ones. And while were at it, what about animal friendly, dose a sable die to make my sable watercolor brushes? I am willing to make changes to help the environment and to support animal welfare, but there is so little information out there. While I try hard in everything else I do to be ‘Green’ and ‘Animal friendly’ am I being a hypocrite in my choice of art supplies.

Thank you Helen for touching on this, its something we need to think about and could defiantly use more information on!!

Right on! Debi

December 10, 2007 at 2:56 pm
(2) DoAn says:

I too am very interested in being a green artist, but disappointed with the lack of information.

Is there anyone out there that knows what is the best way to create environmentally friendly, yet enduring art? (is that an oxymoron?)


February 20, 2014 at 8:16 pm
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