SUSTAINABILITY IN ART – III
After understanding sustainability and its relationship with art, we talked about 7 kinds of sustainable art that has been popularly practiced, in our previous posts. In simple terms an eco-friendly art should be nature-friendly and cautious about the alarming environment threats our planet is facing or will be facing in near future.
Eco-friendly materials are the ones that can be reused, recycled, renewable, organic, creating less waste and less toxic to humans, animals, and the environment. Let’s talk in detail about the materials required to create an sustainable art.
1. CANVAS OR SURFACES
First and foremost, a canvas is required to create any art. In an eco-friendly art, following things should be taken into consideration-
Look if the paper or wood you use is FSC Certified or not. FSC certification ensures that the timber has come from a forest which has been evaluated and certified as being managed forest.
Try to incorporate recycled paper and the paper with Elemental Chlorine Free (ECF) or Totally Chlorine Free (TCF) label. Recycled paper uses less energy, water, and produces lower carbon emissions than the manufacturing of non-recycled paper and thus a greener option for you to choose.
Bamboo paper or Bamboo pulp paper is considered an eco-friendly material, as its production requires 30% less water than normal paper. It is a natural beneficial material with antibacterial properties, thus more healthy and environmentally friendly product than wood pulp paper. But it is not sustainable as they are more expensive than recycled-paper products, and can lead to monocultures, which is a great threat to biodiversity.
Biodegradable foam board is the best option for mounting, framing, printing and model-making purposes. Generally they are made from recycled content and certified sustainable products. The foam is 100% biodegradable, taking around 1-5 years for total decomposition. Conventional foamboards, on the contrary, take upto 80 to 450 years for complete decomposition.
Other organic and non toxic materials for base could be hemp, flax and cotton.
Follow the approach of upcycling by reaching out for discarded wood, fabric, furniture or other materials from your local disposal facilities and waste management units.
2. PRINTING TECHNIQUES
In the current era of digital design and digital prints, the paper usage and waste is considerably low. But there are some important things to keep in mind while getting your art piece printed in an eco-friendly way.
Some classic eco-friendly printing methods includes-
ACRYLIC RESIST ETCHING
Acrylic resists use water as solvents, water based inks and vegetable oil and washing soda as cleaners together with ferric chloride (a salt). It avoids the use of toxic substances like nitric or sulphuric acid. It is non-toxic and eco-friendly method of printmaking.
Water-based printing features inks that are soft against your hand, breathable and able to soak into the fabric of the garment, rather than sitting on top. They are completely PVC free and they have a solvent base consisting of water.
Water-based inks are much more eco-friendly. They are non-toxic and do not contain any lead or heavy metals. They are also free of ozone depleting chemicals like chlorofluorocarbons (CFC’s) or other volatile solvents. These inks when printed on recyclable materials, ensure the 100% recyclability and biodegradability of that material.
Relief printing is when you carve into a printing block that you then use to press onto paper and make a print. The inks used for print making can be water-washable Caligo Safe Wash inks. Solvents like white spirit and methylated spirit should be avoided, instead oil-based inks with vegetable oil and citrus-based solvents should be used.
Lithography is a printing process in which an image is transferred to a printing plate that can be a flat stone or metal plate covered with water and oil based ink.
However, litho printing is sustainable in terms of materials used but less popular. It is a lengthy process, multistep process which requires a lot of extra effort.
Flexo is by far considered the most sustainable printing method. Flexography or flexo is a form of printing process which uses a flexible relief plate. Flexo incorporates wide use of sustainable and recyclable materials. It also gives a high-quality finish to a diverse range of recyclable, compostable, and biodegradable packaging materials.
Flexo can facilitate the use of water-based inks and solvent-saving cleaning to further reduce waste and water contamination.
3. ECO-FRIENDLY INKS
Many inks used in printing contain harmful toxic chemicals, which leads to water contamination and harmful waste production. Using sustainable inks can be an environment friendly option. The two most common types of ink used for screenprinting are- plastisol and water-based.
Plastisol is a popular ink for commercial printers. They are cheap and good for mass production. They are not eco-friendly as it contains PVC, which is plastic. Plastisol also contains plasticizer, which is a toxic chemical. These inks have many environmental and health side effects.
Water-based inks are a sustainable alternative as they contain pigments suspended in water with no plastics. Water-based ink lays down a thin, soft, flexible layer of ink on the garment. They are non-toxic and biodegradable.
Soy-based ink is made from soybeans. They are more environmentally friendly as the refinery process for soy-based ink is much more sustainable. They offer a wide range of accurate colours.
4. ECO-FRIENDLY PAINTS
Paints and pigments mark up the major part of any art. Traditionally, many pigments were made from toxic heavy metals, causing a long term damage to an artists health.
Lead is the main toxin present in paints which is now banned in many countries. But paints still contain toxins and heavy metals like cadmium, cobalt, manganese, ceruleum etc. Plastic is another common ingredient in paint. They are toxic to humans, plants, microorganisms and ultimately to the whole ecosystem.
Acrylic paints are the most common paints used by artists. Sadly, they are not water-based, they are plastic-based with a solvent that makes it water-soluble. Acrylic paint brushes can be easily washed off in sink but the microplastic mixed with drain water, end up harming our environment.
Oil paints, another common paint used by painters is a toxic paint containing thinners and turpentine. You can go for eco-friendly oil paints, as produced by M. Graham & Co., which uses walnut oil as a binder in all its paints.
Water colors are rather a safer option when considering the environmental impacts of paints on nature. Non-toxic, sustainable watercolor paints made from a mix of beeswax and plant dyes are also available in market. They are a great option for artists.
Normal watercolors, are also good because they are far more eco-friendly than acrylic and oil paints. Try using more water-based paints, plant based pigments, mineral-based pigments, natural dyes and other non toxic options. Avoid using glitter, because it is made from microplastics and it is not biodegradable.
5. PAINT BRUSHES
Paint brushes come in variety of shapes and sizes. There are softer brushes for watercolors and stiff brushes for using oils or acrylics. But they can be eco-friendly regardless of their use.
Eco-friendly options could be synthetic or cruelty-free made from nylon. The most eco-friendly option would be to out out bamboo brushes, rather than those made from plastic.
TO SUM UP
Following eco-friendly practices in art might be burdensome in the beginning. Our commercial market is full of chemical based art materials which is cheap and easily accessible. Finding nature friendly sustainable material on a fair prices is difficult but pressing priority.
With some of our efforts we can play a major role in saving our home- our Earth. Even with little efforts towards environmental sustainability, we can do our job in protecting the nature.
There’s always a way to reduce your carbon footprint and improve sustainability. Work on your art to make it sustainable. Try new products which are green and step ahead as a sustainable artist.
IMAGE SOURCE: PIXABAY