New Art From Old

One of my favorite things to say is: Give artists any kind of material and they?ll make art. You?re probably thinking that a lot of things you?ve made on your creative journey couldn?t really be considered “art.” But those near-misses don?t have to languish in the bottom of a stack. If art can be created out of any material, I?m willing to bet that we can make your old paintings into new pieces of art.

Gather your old paintings into a stack on the floor. Look at the colors and the patterns that run through each of them, both individually and as a group. In the demonstration below, we?ll create a whole new dialogue with the viewer by reworking and recomposing pieces of these paintings into a new work of art.

Step 1: Gather Supplies
Gather your scrap work and any pieces of foil or other interesting surfaces you may have lying around. Start thinking about which scrap pieces might work well together.

Step 2: Make Shapes
Draw abstract shapes on the backs of your scrap paintings, varying the sizes and angles. Don?t peek at the other side?these shapes need to be random.

Use a marker to outline the shapes you want and then cut them out with your knife.

Step 3: Put Shapes Together
Use white glue or gel medium to glue shapes together. Think of direction, and have a central focus and a base piece. Watch to be sure that the random patterns don?t take your eye out of the “picture.” Leave spaces between shapes. Carry your design out in space. No straight edges! What you finish putting the shapes together, you can go back and add paint as needed.

Step 4: Finish the Piece
The rhythm of the curved lines, the sparkle of foil and the patterning of light bring the eye into the painting.

Glue it all down to a canvas board or a piece of illustration board.

In Patriarch (at right; paintings and wood, 60×40), I started by drawing out random shapes on the back of old paintings so I couldn?t pre-order them by color or pattern and kill the spontaneity of the piece by color or pattern. As one of today?s popular photographers does, you can cut paintings into squares and sort them by color, then put the pieces together to make an image that appears real.

The artwork of Joy Thomas, of Murray, Kentucky, has been selected for many juried competitions, including the Salmagundi Club and the National Arts Club of New York City. She?s also a former first-place winner in The Artist?s Magazine?s annual competition. Thomas paints still lifes, landscapes and portraits, which can be seen at

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