· By Mitchell Sweeting
Since I was little, I have always been sort of a sustainable creator. I used to find rocks in my yard to paint when I didn’t have paper and build towers with my dad’s scrap wood. It wasn’t until I was starting college that I realized that art supplies are so expensive. In high school I always just made do with the supplies I had accumulated over the years. The same pack of charcoal lasted me through my junior and senior year, and I only ever started a new sketchbook when I had to verses every new class I took.
Now going to college for art, I learned quickly that almost every professor wanted us to have specific supplies and an obscene amount of paper. I found it ridiculous that we would use 15 to 20 24-inch pieces of newspaper, for 30 second warm up sketches. I would use different color chalk to draw on top quick sketches so I wouldn’t use as much paper. My professor always said it was hindering my drawings, but it was only really hindering mother earth.
Art always has meaning, even if the artist and the viewer see the work differently, it still means something to each of them. Work is labeled as sustainable if they are made of upcycled materials, found objects, and are made through processes that do no damage the earth’s resources. Land Art was one of the first creative movements that made sustainability a popular topic in the art world. In the last half a century, artists began exploring ways of creating art with their environment. Commonly used materials such as wood, earth, sand, stones, and water were used, and artworks were made without compromising the environment.
Personally, recycled, and reclaimed art is my favorite, being able to take something and create something completely different out of it is inspirational. In my own work in resin, I always take from nature to create, whether its donated shells from the coast, or found florals or butterflies from a walk, almost all my work has a reclaimed aspect in it. Sustainable art doesn’t have to be from natural materials though. Some of the coolest pieces I’ve seen incorporate everyday items to create a completely new form. Isla (Tierra Prometida) is a piece I saw in person that amazed me, at first glance it is just a painting of the sea, but when you look closer, all the waves are made up of individual fishhooks. It’s quite spectacular. But even seeing pinwheels made of plastic bottles is a fun recycled art project. There’s a billion ways to reuse found items.
Do you feel inspired to create some reclaimed or recycled art now? If you do, I have a project for you, that just may feed that inspiration.
Head to a thrift store, find a mechanical item; an old phone, a toy, a speaker, anything really that would eventually end up in some landfill. Take it apart entirely, so its just little screws and pieces. Then recreate something from it. Have fun with it, mess around till you see something new. When I did this in college, I bought about 10 computer keyboards and tore every single key off them. I painted the keys and created a box sculpture with a crazy texture of keys and the buttons that are inside the boards. Show us your creations! We Love to see what our community is capable of!
Art may be an expensive traditional practice, but anyone can create reclaimed art that can be.. well whatever you want it to be!