Making Art On Alternative Surfaces

It doesn't have to be on canvas - using found materials to make art

Many creative folks never get started… on anything. Their creative vision remains in their heads at best, and their potential mastery gets atrophied by commitment to the grind and to conforming, rather than to the expansiveness of intuitive activity.

One of the things that holds a creative human (i.e. any human!) back, is not knowing where to begin. And feeling like they’re not good enough, because they don’t know where to begin.

But beginning any artwork or project, is about making a mark: just that, nothing more, or less. And to make a mark, you need just two things: a surface, and any kind of mark-making tool.

We get hung up with art; with what it is and who it’s for – so when we start to feel called to making something, we hold back with the preciousness of it.

Actually art is everything and its for everyone. And the specialness, the value of it comes from our connection and our presence, in making it and in engaging with it.

So making art really is about the here and the now – about what we have in us and what we have around us. On this theme, here are some tips about what you can use to make art right now:

  • paper: paper printed on one side is very accessible; we might even come across it daily through our work. Sheafs of paper can be gathered together with a clip or sewn together, to make a sketchbook, and this can be a core tool for saving marks, ideas, plans: an essential part of the creative process. Printed paper can also be incredibly inspiring for collage and visioning; cutting out images and gluing together in larger format, with our added written/ drawn/ painted elements.
  • card and cardboard: there is a wealth of this fabulous material literally everywhere, for free; from cereal boxes to supermarket packaging, all it needs is cutting to shape, and prepping with a good gesso primer (or any acrylic paint, really), before getting stuck in.
  • wood: off-cuts from a wood workshop, old panelling from refitted buildings, shelving or deconstructed furniture or skip (dumpster) finds: wood can be prepared like cardboard, cut to size and primed, and is a wonderfully stable surface, so long as it’s dried out well, and not rotten.
  • stone and brick: old tiles, non-shiny surfaces that can be primed easily, particularly building materials that are being disposed of: the surface of a brick or tile is a beautifully solid object itself, to form the foundation of an artwork – make sure that it’s well-primed before painting if you use oil paint especially, as stones can be incredibly absorbent!

I adore working on imperfect surfaces, and using materials around me that have had a previous life – they already have meaning and story infused into them. I also know that I’m keeping stuff out of landfill, re-purposing and avoiding a lot of energy being lost through moving things to disposal sites.

We’re making things sacred through our attention on them, through using them as a container for our creative expression there’s a weaving of threads, thoughts, sentience, into an object; this is one of the most valuable actions that we can make in a world saturated with superficiality and over-stimulation …simply placing our focus on a thing, and thus calming our mind and heart, slowing the world down.

The feeling of being connected with the world around us by working with what’s already there can be profoundly fulfilling. Rather than calling for a manufacturing process of e.g. canvas, and all the waste and surplus, transportation and excess that this creates. Rather than purchasing a surface through a transaction and feeling that your art is a commodity rather than a sacred transmission… I challenge you to go and find a surface today, and start making some art.

Blessings on your day, and on your creative expansion into the divinity of life,


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