Wednesday, April 22, 2015

What Can We Do as Artists to Reduce Our Footprint on Our Planet?

Happy Earth Day!

As artists, we depict our planet in many ways and forms using different mediums and surfaces.  We draw and paint landscapes, the sky, the ocean, the animals and the beauty of the light. We use watercolors, mediums, oils, acrylics, chalks and so on. But have we ever stop for moment and ask ourselves if our actions as artists might be affecting the planet we so much admire and which inspire us? I have. I am conscious that my actions as an artist might be affecting that which I most admire: Nature. 

As a result, I wanted to share a list of ideas to on how to reduce our footprint on our planet while still creating art. 

What can we do to reduce our footprint?

-Taking proper care of materials, such as brushes, palettes, etc. can help reduce consumption. Clean your brushes very well after you finish working with them. Don’t waist paint. Recycle canvases and papers for other project. Take care of your frames and reuse them.

- Turning items that no longer serve their purpose into new tools and art making materials rather than putting them in the trash will keep them out of the landfills. Use old credit cards to apply heavy paint and work it as palette knives. Use cartoons to make perfect paint palettes. Use old scratching Plexiglas from picture frame as a cutting board or paint palette.

"My Reflection" by Vanessa Montenegro
This oil painting was created
with MGraham oils
- Try to buy materials that pose no hazard issues to your health and the environment. Look for eco friendly materials and pay attention to the warning labels. If you can, create your own art supplies. But if that is not for you, buy from manufactures or small companies that are creating eco friendly materials.  For non-toxic environmental friendly paint, try milk paint or make you own milk paint as a substitute to acrylics. They are nontoxic, permanent, eco friendly, free VOC and hazardous air pollutants, lead and mercury free. They are also noncombustible. 

- Support manufactures that provide alternative eco friendly products. Instead of regular toxic oils, use non-toxic oils or create your own. At the Vanessa's Art Studio, we only use Mr Graham oils. It Is the only brand I recommend to my students when they ask to work with oils or watercolors. Mr Graham products are solvent-free. 100% of their power is purchased through the renewable power option and they  optimized their power use with efficiency lighting, detectors and timers. They seek out and purchase equipment that would otherwise be decommissioned. Their production waste is 1% (compared with an industry average of 3%).  The factory wash water waste used for cleaning equipment is recycled and reused for 2 weeks before it is collected, filtered and reclaimed for reuse.  Their shop uses no more energy than the average Oregon home. Their Cadmium pigment is a by-product of zinc manufacturing where it begins as a highly toxic metal and is converted into a beautiful "biologically unavailable" pigment that meets all current EPA requirements for disposal as non hazardous solid waste. Their paperboard box packaging is made with post consumer recycled paper waste. Their walnut oil is from black walnut trees that are considered short rotation energy crops.  The shells are used for other manufacturing applications and the remaining nut meat is used in animal feed. An other brand that also is manufacturing eco friendly products is  Lowell-Cornell. The company uses recycled aluminum for the paint tubes and recycles paper for the packing. Their paint brushes are made up from reclaimed wood handles recycle metal ferrules and animal free brush hair. Their acrylic paints are VOC and solvent free made of organic products.

- Make your own paper, from nontoxic, natural materials such as hemp, flax, and cotton. Hemp paper is naturally acid free and requires less processing than wood paper. Also it doesn’t require the heavy use of pesticides.

- For canvas options, you can create your own made out of organic cotton, hemp and linen. Stretched yourself using sustainable wood. You not only save money, reduce waste and reduce consumption but you have better control over the materials used.

- Use natural pigments and plant and vegetable dye.

- Create your own gesso, glue and paste or buy eco friendly brands.

- Dispose properly your art materials. This is important. Read manufactures interactions on how to dispose paint and art materials since some are very toxic for the environment. 

- Buy local brands if possible.

Small choices make a big difference.  You make the choice.

In my next blog, I will be showing you ways to create your own materials and finish projects from start to finish.


Vanessa Montenegro
Vanessa's Art Studio

Copyright © 2015  Vanessa Montenegro

Finding The Beauty On The Mundane

It was a rainy fall day in Florida. I was working on a portrait commission at my home studio with the patio door open, listening to the rain...