Environmentally Responsible Cleanup of Paint Brushes

When I switched from oil paints to acrylics, I thought cleanup would be easy.  Most people simply wash their brushes with soap and water and they’re done.

But that didn’t seem right to me.   Why should we wash paint down the drain?  Wouldn’t those chemicals end up back in our water supply?

Municipal sewage treatment facilities are primarily designed to handle biological waste and have limited capability to process synthetic chemical wastes.  You've no doubt read that antibiotics have been measured in drinking water, and this is partly because those things are washed down the drain (even in our urine) and not processed out.  So the fewer chemicals we put down the drain the better.  Furthermore, many municipal sewage systems are handling both sewage and storm drain water.  When they get overwhelmed by a big storm, they dump the excess, and this can actually put raw sewage mixed with storm drain water into the ocean or wherever it goes.  (That’s why beaches are sometimes closed after big storms because raw sewage ends up there.)  

After further research, I discovered Golden Paint’s recommended ways of dealing with waste water.   Oddly, this is not the process that is followed in any of the art classes I have taken.  (I’ve tweaked the system a little so that it’s convenient for me.)

1.    I rub excess paint off my brushes either onto another paper or paper towels.  These can be later incorporated into collage work.  (I loved the effect when I used the used paper towels in a recent collage.)

2.    I wash the brushes in as little water as possible and pour the dirty water in empty one-quart yogurt containers.  (Sometimes these containers look muddy but if I separate the colors they are very pretty to look at!)  I leave these containers in a safe place to evaporate (my studio bathroom for example or outside in my yard.  So far, no animals have knocked them over but that is always a worry for me.).  As long as it is not too cold outside, the waste water evaporates faster outside because the air flow and heat accelerate the evaporation.    

3.    When the water has completely evaporated, there might be a small film at the bottom of the cup, which could be used in another art project or thrown away in the trash.  Sometimes, the cup just has a stain on the bottom and I start the process all over again.

It’s easy to do and I feel better about protecting our water supply.

Macrophotography: The Difference is in the Details

Maybe I should walk around with a pair of binoculars all the time.  But I have something better:  my camera.  One of the best things about being a photographer is that I can see details through the lens that I would otherwise miss.  I particularly enjoy macrophotography because you take small things and make them larger than life.  Then you really notice the details.  

Today I saw a grasshopper for the first time.  Yes, I have seen them jump around the yard every summer since I was a kid, but I never got up close and personal until today.  I spotted one that seemed rooted to its spot so I grabbed my camera and started to shoot.  I got lucky and got to take a series of shots.  I’m told this is a long-horned grasshopper better known as a Katydid.  The color, texture and lines are all beautiful.  I’m glad I finally got a closer look!

Nature Inspires Art in Surprising Ways

Nature provides never-ending inspiration for me as an artist.  More often than not, beauty comes in unexpected places.  This morning it was on my window pane.  I awoke to see a large smudge on my window.  Upon closer inspection, I knew exactly what had happened.  A bird had flown straight into the window pane and left behind a painful print and two tiny feathers blowing in the breeze.  I was immediately saddened by the sight.  That poor bird!  Then I was inspired.  Grab the camera!  The morning light was illuminating those features so they just glowed.  The smudge was bloodlessand provided a beautiful abstract pattern surrounding the feathers.  Two lonely feathers.  Perhaps that was all that was left of the bird.  Or maybe that was its only loss.  There was nothing on the ground so I hope the bird was just stunned and flew away.

The image is startling in its beauty and the sadness it evokes.  I showed the window to my husband and explained that I had photographed it.  At first, he was surprised because he thought it was kind of morbid (I totally understand).  But when he saw the digital photograph on my computer screen, he immediately saw the beautiful blue color and abstract pattern and thought it was beautiful.  (The color was provided by our garage in a soft focus.)  He said it looked totally different than he imagined and was completely different than what he saw on the window.

That’s why I love photography.  You might see something ordinary or in this case, morbid.  But with the right light, at the right angle, with right focus, it might actually be extraordinary.  

And this particular bird strike was extraordinary.