2019

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.

towels.jpeg

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!

extra paint canvas.jpeg

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

London

As of writing this (May 16th, my birthday) I just got back from a two week trip to London. My purpose for this trip was less of a planned thing and more of a I-need-to-get-out-of-here and look-at-this-cheap-flight thing. Anyone who knows me personally can confirm that I am an impulse traveler and the barest thought of going somewhere means I’m on Skyscanner and booking a flight.

Back in January when the Itch-To-Travel was at it’s strongest; I was able to find a sweet house in Spitafields and clear off two weeks before my birthday. And that was that! Little did I know that I would be moving house right before the trip- which meant 0 plans were made for the trip till I was at the airport.

Traveling with me always has the same few priorities: eat new foods, take risks, and see as much art as possible. I’m posting some of my favorite pieces of art below! You can see full catalogs of all this work on each museums website. Which, lets be honest, is way better than my cell phone photos.

The National Gallery

Free museums are a blessing to us all! I think I went to the National Gallery 5 or 6 times.

The first thing that I saw was a special Sorolla exhibit (up till July 7th 2019). It’s funny, lately when I look at artists I’m starting to instinctively see their influences much quicker than I used to. Sorolla’s paintings are beautiful and romantic, and I immediately thought “This is so similar to John Singer Sargent’s style”. The next blurb on the wall said that they were friends.

I wonder which of my friends are influencing me? All of them? ;)

On my first day, the first museum trip, I found a painting that stopped me in my tracks. It wasn’t a finished painting, but a sketch.

" Sketch.jpg

This isn’t the exact piece, I’ve actually forgotten what the exact sketch is called, but this is similar enough so have a visual. ;) I saw the sketch and it broke down something in me that I had been fighting for many months:

Self doubt

Self doubt is a devastating and crippling demon that every creative type meets. I didn’t realize how heavy I had been dragging self doubt around till I left Seattle. It was something that had been stifling me in reaching out to new collectors, inhibiting my creative decision making, and convincing me to way undervalue my work.

I took one look at that sketch in the National Gallery on the first day of my trip and started crying. Because the month before I had make a sketch that looked just like that. That was rough around the edges, and the values weren’t perfect, and the color relationships needed to go to therapy. The sketch was imperfect and unfinished and full of life. And then I looked up.

On the wall was the masterpiece that the sketched study became. I was brilliant and beautiful and very romantic and- Well, I thought to myself “What an amazing transformation. If his sketch looks like this and then turns into this- I can do this too.”

I can do this

That returned confidence, that gift of seeing the process of someone who is a master of painting, was like a balm to a burn. It returned to me excitement in seeing and a hunger for more. So you can imagine that I lost my mind at the Tate.

The Tate

YAY ABSTRACT ART

I usually don’t like most abstract painting but the ones at the Tate were knock it out of the park-fantastic. I discovered Bridget Riley who I had never seen a painting in person before. Then there was a Morandi that I basically ran over a kid to see. And can we talk about the room of Rothko’s murals? Holy cats that is some atmosphere.

The National Portrait Gallery

The National portrait gallery is not one to miss if you ever get a chance. You can feel so much emotion in these rooms and the modern pieces are marvelous. No big stories about this museum, I just wanted to show you my favorites. Shout out to the kid with the camera taking pics of people looking at art.

Memory lane~

My trip was full of learning, laughter, buckets of tea, and Gustav the airbnb cat. I can’t wait to return to London to see more art again. If you need tips or recommendations, leave a comment! Thanks for reading!

Have a great day <3

-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