Project Green Studio - Part 2: Towels!

This week I’m tackling the process of cleaning up. Before Project Green Studio I used paper towels galore to clean brushes, dispose of excess paint, and wipe down my pallet when I was finished for the day. I probably went through a roll of paper towels every two weeks. Can we talk about how wasteful that is for a minute?

544,000 trees could be saved each year if each US household used just one less roll of paper towels.
— https://www.betterplanetpaper.com/uearn2/Paper-Awareness

That’s a lot of trees and a lot of plastic to wrap around each pack of paper towels! Eliminating paper towels is a major step in the Green Studio direction. But then how am I supposed to clean the studio after each session responsibly? Use rags.

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When it comes to solving clean up, breaking down the steps is so important.

I work primarily in oil paint and my clean up in the past has been this:

  • Use vegetable or linseed oil to breakdown the color on the pallet and in brushes

  • Take a paper towel and absorb as much of the oil/paint mix as possible

  • Throw away said paper towel and then wash the brushes in soap and water

Now I get rags from second hand sources. I ask my Buy Nothing group or friends for old towels and trash-destined T-shirts to cut up. Pictured above, a newly acquired pile of rags. :)

The clean up process changes as such:

  • With a pallet knife, scrape up all the extra paint and apply to what will be your extra paint canvas. Mine pictured below. An extra paint canvas reduces the amount of oil (or solvents) you use to break down discard paint and at the end of the year you get a really weird painting. Win/win!

  • Alternatively: you can save the extra paint in airtight containers or put it in a freezer for the next painting session.

  • Squeeze the paint brush in a rag to coax out the bulk of the paint

  • Use vegetable or linseed oil to break down the remaining color in the brushes and on the pallet

  • Use your rag to wipe the pallet clean, using oil to help the process.

  • Wash the brush in soap and water. I’m a fan of The Masters Brush Cleaner and Preserver.

  • Store soiled rags in airtight metal container to dry. No combusting rags in my studio please and thanks!

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My next challenge is: What do I do with the soiled rags after they have been completely saturated in oil? They can’t be washed. Artist colors are considered hazardous waste and needs to be disposed of at an appropriate facility in your city. But is there a better way to deal with it?

A few weeks ago I was out at a cafe with some friends and this man came in with a big sack of rags and a rug. He looked like Practical Santa! It got me thinking: auto shops and restaurants have a rag service- so why couldn’t an artist?

I live in Seattle, so finding a place that would know how to responsibly treat the rags so that they can be reused might be possible. If you live in a rural area this idea might not be viable. I clearly have some more research to do, so until then I’ll be using my own rags and keeping the fully used ones with me.

What do you do with your used up rags? Do you have any ideas for a more responsible clean up process? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment!

Till next time~

Stevie

On The Importance Of Taking Breaks

I haven’t painted for a month.

Moving is so glamorous!

Moving is so glamorous!

Somewhere between moving out of my apartment and traveling to London I stopped picking up my paintbrush. Going to the studio was a really big struggle for me for a decent amount of time- at least 4 weeks, if not longer.

I actually can’t remember the last time I spent so much time away from my easel. At the beginning of this hiatus I went to my studio with the intention of painting daily- while also moving out of my apartment. I would go there, put on my apron, and be crippled in the mind for all the things that still needed doing. I think it shows in the painting below.

“Did I call my insurance company?”

“I still need to cancel the internet, and the electric bill, and this and that and this”

“Is this the right choice?”

“What if I forget something?”

Do you ever have creative blocks like this? Normally, I’m very good about leaving problems and to-do lists at the door so that I may open mental space to work. This was a first for me: being unable to create because of the enormity of everything else that was going on in my life and the weight of those responsibilities.

After three studio sessions in a row where nothing was being made I chose to stop visiting my studio until my move and traveling was over. And I think it was really good for me.

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Work in progress

This is a painting I started before my move, I can see my mental conflict in the color relationships!

Anyone who has moved after living somewhere for a significant amount of time knows how emotionally draining the process is. You are exhausted at the end of each day and it’s not a fast thing. My motto this year is Eyes Forward and the change of moving really confronts that. To look forward you have to let go of the things holding you back. The place I was living in was starting to hold me back. That and a few boxes of paper work that “I’d get around to” ha!

I was moving out of my old place right up to a trip I had planned to go to London. By coincidence that meant that I was taking more time off from painting- but this time in an exploratory sense. The trip was fabulous and I’ll write about it in another post- but mostly I wanted to say that the balance between clearing out/removing things in my life and the discovery/awareness of new places was really healing.

In moving, I was able to discover in myself what I wanted to bring with me to a new house, but also what I wanted to bring in this new chapter of my life. A lot of things that used to have sentimental value didn’t make the cut.

In traveling, I discovered that my hunger to see new places hasn’t abated and that my confidence in my own painting ability had been hiding under ‘my life is out of control’ types of feelings. It comes and goes in cycles.

Yesterday I went to my studio and sketched out my next painting. Change is happening in my work and my life and now I’m leaning into it. I was able to go to the easel with a clear mind. I now call upon more change and I can see it coming in the next months. Eyes forward!

The Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The Victoria and Albert Museum, London

To wrap this up: I want to encourage you, my reader, to take those breaks when you need to. Life comes at us fast and It’s not every day that reality matches up with our plans. This form of long term selfcare is crucial to make it to the finish line of life, and we have important things to do. :)

Hope you are having a wonderful day!

-Stevie

Project Green Studio - Part 1: Canvas

Project Green Studio

This year one of my main goals is to create a eco-friendly and zero trash studio practice! Last winter I started becoming more conscious of how much plastic I was purchasing with my groceries. It became an avalanche of noticing. Noticing how much trash I was producing in my kitchen, in my shopping habits, and finally in my studio practice. I want to be better! And I can, but it’s going to take some major shifts in how I operate.

So here starts Part 1 of Project Green Studio! This week: Stretched Canvas.

About to strip these old paintings!

About to strip these old paintings!

Buying premade canvas from the store is a plastic wrapped NIGHTMARE. Plus the quality isn’t as great as making your own. Upcycling canvases is one of the easiest ways I can think of creating a green studio practice. Not everyone can build their own wood stretchers, I don’t currently have the tools! So the next option is the most fun.

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There is no feeling like going to the register at your local thrift store with 16 canvases of someones unloved drink and draw ‘ladies night‘ painting.

“You have interesting…taste.” My cashier at Goodwill. Yes I do sir.

When going thrift shopping for surfaces, the most important part is the wood. Turn those babies around and make sure there is a solid structure. Look for weakness in the joints, an ridged frame on the canvas side, and a certainty that it’s not actually fake wood.

The best part is stripping the bad paintings off the wood stretcher. Use a knife, pliers, whatever you gotta do to get the image off. These paintings were destined for landfill anyways and now you’ve salvaged at least part of it. It’s very therapeutic! Did I get a noise complaint when doing this part? Maybe ;)

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Once you get the images off the frames it should look something like above. No more bad art in your space and lots of opportunity for great new images! Now it’s time to wrap the bare stretchers.

You will need a staple gun and either linen or canvas cloth. It all depends on your budget and what surface quality you like. Go to a fabric store and buy the fabric off the rolls by the yard. I was given this linen by my dear friend Peggy Wolff, It’s fantastically smooth and made for painters. I want 1000 yards of it :]

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Once you get the fabric stretched, it’s a couple of layers of glue and gesso.

My preferred surface:

  • Dampen the surface with a spray bottle. This will get the fibers to tighten.

  • 1 coat of GAC 400 which replaces rabbit skin glue. It will take A LOT of this product. Let dry.

  • 1 coat of GAC 100 which helps prevent absorbancy and creates a minimally textured surface. Let dry.

  • 2 -3 coats of undiluted gesso, gently wet sanding between the layers after initially drying.

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The finished product looks like this! I spent about $200 on all the materials and using up all the empty wood stretchers I had in my studio I ended up with 30 ready to go surfaces in various sizes. The process takes about a week and saves you a good number of $$. PLUS NO PLASTIC.

It’s not a perfect solution, you are left with the unstretched bad art to deal with. Might need to go into the burn pile? But it’s a step in the right direction. Next step for me will be building my own stretchers- when I get the space for it.

Thanks for reading! Till next time~

Stephanie

Commitment

In my studio hangs a quote that I define my life by.

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It was given to me as a teen by my mentor Sue Cumming-Schultz when I was in the horse riding program at Deerfield Farm. This quote has given me motivation, a few scoldings, confidence, and peace of mind throughout my years of studying to be an artist. I read it all the time, so I thought I’d share it with you. <3

Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too.

All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way.

I have learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets:

Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it.

Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it!
— W. H. Murray

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Quote of the Week

  • “Do you have a motto or creed that as an artist you live by?”

    I do. Life is short. Life goes fast. And what I really want to do in life is to bring something new, something beautiful, and something filled with light into the world. I try to think of that every day so that I can remember why I am coming to my studio. An the other thing is, just go, just show up.

    "

— Ross Bleckner from the book “Inside the Painters Studio” by Joe Fig