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The Conscious Artist

Updated: Aug 24

So you’ve probably heard the terms ‘sustainable’ and ‘eco-friendly’ before, but you may be wondering how you can actually incorporate these terms into your daily creative life. Not all of us are environmentalists, but each and every one of us has the power to make small but noticeable changes in our routines to help take some weight off our Earth Mother's shoulders. There are countless activities that humans partake in, and it is important to always be consciously thinking of how our actions play a role in the circle of Life. Decreasing consumption of resources is the first step to reducing our impact on nature.

Art is a beautiful form of expression, it is the land of the unknown and an amazing tool used to help bring awareness in a positive way for pressing issues happening out there in the World. Just a few of those issues being climate change, pollution and water quality/scarcity. Our environment is extremely sensitive, and anything foreign that enters has the potential to result in negative consequences.

Read on to find out how these simple practices can start to incorporate conscious decisions into your Artist routine. These suggestions will make you feel good about the work you do, in all the ways we pay respect to Mother Earth!

Art is Harmful?

Art is beautiful, art is amazing, but art can also be harmful to the environment if the creator is not fully aware of the products they are using. There’s many ways in which creating Art can be harmful for the environment, but there are ways in which these things can be handled properly if you do your research. Trust me, I’ve been there. I’ve made mistakes in the beginning, I’ve kicked myself after finding out that my actions were doing harm to the environment… but most importantly I learnt from those mistakes and I will never go back to that old worn out way.

The mind is always learning, always searching for new information. There is no such thing as a perfect human being that knew everything they know today without making mis-takes along the way. Its OKAY to make mis-takes, but its our responsibility as the human collective to rise up to the fact that we have caused a ton of stress on Mother Earth, and she is over-stressed. We need to find balance within our ego’s that have taken up so much of our souls space. These ego’s have drowned out our integrated values, and have caused us to forget what we really stand for. Humans have become complacent, not always asking the right questions before buying a product… or buying something just because they can.

I am going to share the ways in which I made it possible to be more environmentally conscious when creating artistic masterpieces. Some of these things may take longer than others to get used to, for example pouring your acrylic paint rinse water into a jar to avoid having micro-plastics flushed down the sink. Doing this has resulted in adopting a new way of cleaning my brushes, in which saves both water, and space in my jar. I use less water in my rinse cup, make sure I use all the paint on my paintbrush before switching colours, and have become very good at drying my brushes with my rag between colours. The less paint I waste in the water, the cleaner it stays… in which creates a feedback loop of reduction from the start. Using less water, avoiding paint waste in both the water and on the brush makes for less entries into the jar, which ultimately results in less paint waste. Did I mention it also helps keep your wallets at a nice weight? Yes, you see being conscious about your waste makes you waste less in the first place, thus saving you money in the long run.

What can I do to lessen my impact on the environment as an Artist?

As an Artist myself, I have developed a few practices into my daily routine to help take some tension off the environment. I started my painting journey by learning to work with oil paint, and I absolutely loved it. The only issue was the long wait times between layers, as oil paint takes quite a while to dry. But boy, is it worth the wait! This was around the time I started dipping into acrylics, the oh so versatile world of fast-drying paint. This was a game changer for me, as I could create paintings in a few days as opposed to a few weeks or months.

I did NOT ask myself the right questions when I first started my Art journey, and I’m sure many of you reading are in the same boat, or have experienced this for themselves. When we buy products we need to ask ourselves “where was this made?”, “is this product ethically sourced?”, "can this product be recycled?", “has this been tested on animals?” or “is this product sustainable?”. These are just a few questions to ask yourself, but the most important things to note are: where the product was sourced, the ingredients, and how to properly and safely dispose of the product when finished.

Acrylic Paint

The rinse water we clean our brushes with is one of the biggest culprits. This topic, unless researched or brought to ones attention is rarely spoken about, and this is an issue that needs to be brought to every Artists attention.

All paints require a binder in order to have a working mixture to paint with. Binders are what hold the paint components together and also binds to the surface you are painting on. Acrylic paint binder is made up of plastic polymers, and separates from the pigments when mixed with water.

If you dump your acrylic rinse water down the drain it poses an extremely toxic risk to the environment, and nearby water supplies. Improperly disposed rinse water can cause plastic to leak into our waterways, soil and can even be ingested by nearby plants and wildlife. Not only are the polymers toxic for the environment, there are numerous chemicals found in some paints that should never go down the drain.

Solution : pour rinse water into large jar or container, and let the water evaporate to form a ‘paint patty’. You see, the point of using this jar is to allow the paint binder and the water to separate, resulting in evaporation of the water leaving a solid form of paint that then can be removed from the jar and taken to your local waste site. You can use cheesecloth or a filter of some sort on the neck of the jar to avoid critters/bugs from entering if you plan on leaving the container outside to evaporate. Please be mindful that if you are living in an area with four seasons, to obviously leave your jar inside during the winter months as the water jar will freeze and could potentially crack and break causing a huge catastrophe!

Get creative! Some people even use the paint patties they make to create sculptures! This is by all means not necessary, but if you want to further utilize the paint patty… you could even chop the patty up into teeny bits and pieces and use them for texture on your next abstract painting! All you have to do is think outside the box.

This post is a reminder that :

Your Art sure does make this World pretty, but you also have to do your part to protect it.

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