Art with a mission

As we well know by now, we are slow when it comes to taking care of Mother Earth. We often want to, but it is not always possible to choose or buy the best solution. We know very little about many things and subjects, how much does something really cost? Not only in terms of money, but also in terms of pollution and CO2 emissions, amount of water and land?

Is something recyclable or does it go to the incinerator? And if it is burned, what else is released into the air other than the CO2? What is thrown down the drain?

I am guilty of this myself , especially when I just started painting and drawing in April 2020, supplemented with mixed media later that year. Because: wasn’t it great, all those colors of acrylic paint, all those different (gel) mediums and not that expensive at all! Until I realized that when rinsing my brushes and containers, I was just rinsing (micro) plastic through the sink. 

By watching a lot of programs on TV about waste, recycling, stuff and garbage that we can make mountains with and then do that, preferably in a distant country so that we don’t suffer from it ourselves, my brain went to work.

Photo: Hermes Rivera

Fortunately, there are already many alternatives to non-recyclable material: biodegradable or recyclable. For example, cotton from old clothes can be reused, in some cases even for new clothes, but otherwise as a filling or insulation material. For 100% synthetic clothing, a new way of turning it into fibers for a new garment also seems to have been found.

Photo: John Cameron

But for waste containing a mixture of materials, such as polyester/cotton in a blouse or chip bags (plastic/aluminium), there is no other solution than the incinerator.


I am on a mission to make art with these materials. I make canvases and canvas boards from the clothing and process it in mixed media. From waste wood I make stretcher bars, painting and mixed media panels and it works also fine to paint on chips bags.

I’ve decided to buy as little new stuff as possible and to look at how I can make my art as environmentally friendly. So working a lot with waste, but also making my own paint with natural pigments, looking for materials at second-hand shops, checking renovation containers for wooden panels and slats.

Unfortunately, I can’t completely avoid buying materials, even those that are not very good for the environment, such as gesso and good gel medium that I use as glue (both contain acrylic). I continue to look for alternatives, such as a kind of primer (to prevent the absorbing effect of fabric and make the canvas acid-free) of PVA glue (wood glue), which is highly biodegradable.

Photo: Breedijk Fotografie

If I use acrylic-based products, I make sure that the used containers and brushes/rollers are well rubbed on/by an old newspaper, which I use as a surface to paint/draw on or process in a mixed media object.

Making art this way is challenging, exiting and wonderful, but the best thing of all, would be that I can no longer make paintings, because all our waste is recyclable or biodegradable.