The Accidental Artist

I have a tough time throwing things away that I might be able to use in future artworks. After all, those bits and scraps could come in handy for a collage. For instance, when painting, I use recycled printed cardstock paper as scrap paper. By the time I?ve finished a work, I usually have several scraps sitting around with the dots, slashes and swirls of testing paint, working paint into brushes or pulling paint from brushes before cleaning, as on the scrap at right.

Rather than throwing them away, I save these scraps for fun exercises in creativity. I take a 1-inch square stencil and move it around the piece of scrap paper until I find a color and pattern combination I like inside of it. Once I find such a patch, I use a pencil to trace around the stencil, then continue moving around the scrap paper until I have a good sampling of squares.

Using scissors or an art knife, I cut out the small pieces and paste them onto cardstock, greeting cards, boxes or a variety of other surfaces. With a neutral background the pieces look like a mosaic; on a colorful background the pieces take on the pattern of a quilt. I?ve used the pieces to make cards for friends, pasted them on boxes storing my art materials, and used them as backgrounds in my art journals. In addition to being a fun project, this is also a good exercise in really looking at color, movement and form.

Now that I?ve started recycling my scraps, I sometimes think ahead. If I?m working with a palette I particularly like, I?m more conscious of how I wipe my brushes on the scrap paper?using large strokes with big brushes to fill the background, then working my way up with detail brushes. I may even spatter the finished “scrap” with gold or white paint for contrast before cutting out my 1-inch pieces.

Butch Krieger teaches art at Peninsula College in Port Angeles, Washington.

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