Updated: Jul 21, 2021
Summer’s here! It’s time to be crafty, create some art, and have fun! You may start looking around for your brushes and supplies and realize that everything is dried and crusty, or just straight up missing! Don’t worry, this happens to me too. Now we can be extra creative and start searching for recycled materials or household items that can become repurposed art. Here a list of easy to find substitutes for basic art supplies and recyclable materials.
If you don’t have any paintbrushes, sponges can be used to make fun textures with paint on paper or canvas (or even a wall). Different size sponges can give different textures that are more mottled and transparent or a more opaque, dense aesthetic. You can also cut or tear the sponges into desired shapes.
Food coloring is a great DIY watercolor, dye, or ink. Please just be aware that this will stain your clothes and any surfaces, so wear and apron and lay down protection for your table.
Flour and Water
Mixing flour and water together until it’s a waffle batter consistency, can create a makeshift (non-toxic) paste that works well to stick paper together. If you soak newspaper, magazine, or old telephone book paper strips in it, you can make papier mache. [Sign up for our papier mache class here or learn more about what is paper mâché here.]
Magazines are a great art resource! They can be torn and used for paper mache. You can also create collages and paper mosaics. Just tear or cut out the images and colors that you like from the magazines and paste them onto paper, canvas, or board.
If you are drawing with any media that can smudge (charcoal, chalk, even pencils), you may want to fix it in place once you are finished so that it does not get ruined. You can just use aerosol hairspray. It works almost as well as commercial art fixative.
Plastic Bottles and Containers
Recyclable plastics are a wonderful and easily accessible art material found in almost every home. They can be cut into different shapes and glued together. Beware that plastics typically melt when using a hot glue gun and some will dissolve when using super glue, however, this may be the look that you are going for. There are no limits to what you can build with recycled plastic. You can make flower garden decorations, easy cosplay armor, a model of the Empire State Building, a DIY dolls house… Just be careful when cutting the plastic as there can be sharp edges.
Cardboard can be carved and cut out to make stamps and DIY printing plates. Draw your design and carefully remove the layers of the corrugated cardboard until you are satisfied. Roll or brush a thin layer of paint on the cardboard, then press it down on the paper before the paint dries. You can use a rolling pin and roll it over the back of the cardboard for even pressure. Lift it up to see your homemade print design.
I only listed a handful of examples and uses of easy recycled art. There are so many more low-cost or no-cost art materials that you can use at home and art to be made from recycled materials. Take a moment, walk around your home, and let your imagination soar.
Sydney Davis-Campos is the Virtual Learning Coordinator at Able ARTS Work, Learn for Life. She has a B.A. in Studio Art and Art History. Sydney has worked at Able ARTS Work for almost 5 years where she has also held the positions of Art Instructor and an Assistant Program Manager.