Artists reduce their ecological footprint

As a freelance artist and therefore self-employed, you have the advantage of not having to follow the instructions from above. But you also have the disadvantage that you always have to reinvent the wheel on your own. So I always like to research with others when I’m interested in a new topic. As “Artist 4 Future” looking for ideas for the good of our planet, the search is arduous, as there is hardly any material to date. But artists also leave an ecological footprint.

So I’m all the more pleased to have met Tom Albrecht from Berlin . On November 22nd, 2019 the workshop “How can artists reduce their ecological footprint?” Took place in the project room of the Group Global 300 – Gallery for Sustainable Art in Berlin . The topic is their everyday practice, the choice of their materials, their travel and transport. Moderation: Tom Albrecht ” . I couldn’t travel myself, but Tom kindly made the results available to me.

Recommendations for working in the studio

When looking through the handwritten notes I realize: Wow! So many ideas already! And completely inspired, I can think of a lot more! The task now is to formulate a few solid recommendations from the initially disordered ideas, all with the intention of generating less waste and working more sustainably.

The following lists & recommendations of what you as an artist can do to reduce your ecological footprint are based on Tom’s notes from the workshop (see above):

Generate less rubbish

  • In general, nothing to be thrown away is an ecological quality that must be achieved and maintained.
  • If you work with paints from tubes: only press as much on the palette as you really need.
  • Think carefully about where in your art you can save material or do without it. Or maybe you can replace certain material with common everyday objects or found objects 
  • This also applies to tools such as old T-shirts as rags.

If your art doesn’t allow you to do without certain material so much, then you can discover other strategies for saving:

  • A good cleaning and care of the used material comes first. For example, you don’t have to buy a new pallet every six months.
  • Also take care of your screw collection and don’t buy a new pack of 10 every time you visit Boesner. Do you even need 10 right away? Or maybe 2 or 3 are enough, which you can get individually at the hardware store?
  • Do you have material or equipment that you no longer need? Offer it to your artist colleagues!
  • Do you need devices that you don’t have yourself? From which colleagues can you borrow them?
  • You could even build up a network and a real stock of materials / equipment for visual artists to swap and borrow.
  • Also keep older works: maybe you can still sell them? Or exhibit again? Or recycle it for a new work of art?
  • If you offer workshops: Give people a well thought-out list of materials in advance. Is everything really necessary? Can you perhaps differentiate between “important” and “unimportant”?

An association with a model character in terms of sustainability

A really great example of the sustainable (re) use of artist material is the work of KUNST-STOFFE Central Office for Reusable Materials eV The Berlin association collects surplus art and culture that is no longer needed in a large warehouse and then sells them cheap to artists. A look at the website shows the great ideas of the initiative and a well thought-out concept. Hopefully there will be imitators in other cities soon!

protect the environment

  • Avoid using solvents when cleaning the brushes if possible. Alternatively, you can clean them first with sunflower oil and then with gall or curd soap. It is also best to pre-clean them before they come into contact with waste water, as the pigments can contain harmful substances such as heavy metals.
  • For your sewage drain, get a settling device at the hardware store that catches coarse dirt particles.
  • If possible, don’t use pigments that contain lead or cadmium at all.
  • Dispose of your garbage properly: Empty containers or packaging go in the yellow bin.
  • But be careful: Solvents and paint residues with harmful ingredients belong in the residual waste or, if necessary, in the special waste. Check with your local waste disposal company.
  • If you have a choice: buy the product without plastic. For example, choose a wood fiber board (MDF) instead of a lightweight foam board (KAPA).

Protect your own health

  • When painting with oils and acrylics, it is advisable to wear latex gloves. If your skin is sensitive to latex, you can still wear cotton gloves underneath.
  • Egg tempera and gouache paints are generally more compatible with the environment and nature.

What’s next?

Tom intends to hold more workshops on the topic. Perhaps you also have good ideas that you have already successfully implemented? Then we would be happy about it here in the comments! More extensive guest contributions are also welcome here in the Sommer arts Blog. Or maybe you just have a good tip on where we can do more research.