Behind the Scenes: Scrap Paper Freedom

One of my artistic foibles that I wish I'd get over and be done with is the belief that when I make something, I'm being wasteful. Oops! Did I just make an environmental faux pas?

See I'd like to believe I'm a pretty good advocate of recycling and whatnot, but somewhere deep in the root of making art is a sensuous and gluttonous obsession with material. Digging my hands into the most lovely chunk of chocolate colored clay or slathering on an incredibly decadent red oil paint is part of what has me hooked. You caught me. I'm guilty of artistic extravagance.

Nevertheless, I've spent a considerable amount of time feeling utterly shame faced over my gluttony and the inevitable waste that goes along with learning how to make art. I've noticed that these feelings of guilt hold me back creatively. Like a rider pulling back on the reins of a stallion, I miss opportunities to break free and let my imagination run wild.

So I've found myself playing tricks on my head and finding alternatives that somehow seem acceptable to my inner Waste Police. One tool I've embraced over the last couple years is hoarding all my scrap paper and making it into small sketch books. This paper was going to end up in the recycling bin anyway, so instead of future toilet paper it's a place where I draw whatever I want and as much as I want without feeling guilty. Scrap paper has allowed me to be more free.

As artists we tend to hoard things in hopes they will be used in the future, so I'm guessing you may have a whole bunch of ideas for recycling material in your studio so as to free up creative energy and move it forward. What's your best way to meditate the relationship between making something and being wasteful?


  1. trying to repurpose - like with paper... my packaging employs old outgrown jeans... however, i understand what you are saying... i am guilty of not exploring resin unless i have enough things to do to use it... i hate throwing it away... you have to make a certain amount at a time... but that removes the spontaneity from the process... i keep copper metal scraps so that i can experiment with soldering or enamel colors... great post, and makes me think... my waste police is in overdrive... there is surely a balance to be struck...
    i have a huge pile of paper from kids' research papers or copies that came out poorly... i doodle on those, or use them for lists, or whatever... your pads are much prettier!

  2. Mary Jane, how clever to use jeans in your packaging! Resin was one of those materials I abandoned because of what you said. I couldn't plan that well and be organized enough to feel like the expense was worth it. You just reminded me that I could be using some of my scrap wire to play around. Thank you! I forget that I have this resource that I could be doodling with before I send it in for recycling. Really fun to connect over this and see I'm not alone in my thinking :)

  3. Guilty as charged! I find I don't want to try new things such as resin, polymer clay, etc., because I know they take practice, and practice usually means materials will be wasted. It's nice to know I'm not the only one who feels this way.

    Love your sketch books!


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