You don’t need expensive materials to make great art

Nature Collage

Nature Collage

Do you love shops that sell art supplies? I do!
I feel like a kid in a sweet shop as I step into any establishment offering an array of paper and pencils, paint and canvas. I remember a feeling of sheer delight on receiving my very first tin of 40 watersoluble Caran d’Ache coloured pencils (yes, I still have the tin, though just 36 much shorter pencils remain) and I have a similar feeling each time I step out of an art shop loaded with new supplies. However, my visits to such shops are rare at present. I have a plentiful supply of art materials and, in recent years, have come to realise that the purchase of supplies, when I already have some, can be a form of procrastination, holding me back from creating…
Why waste time in the art shop when I could be making art?

What matters to me now, much more than obtaining new materials – and the feelings of excitement and possibility that go with them – is the actual making of art on a daily basis. The work I make now, rarely requires any materials or purchases, other than those I find for free just before I start creating.

As I wander out on my daily walks, I am regularly struck by the abundance of materials that are there at our finger tips, just waiting to be used, but are often overlooked. Always a scavenger when walking on the beach, I gather stones and shells, driftwood and seaweed. In years gone by, the gathering may have provided sufficient satisfaction, my treasures returning home with me, to become clutter in my bedroom. I did once cover a chair in shells I had collected, but that aside, the things I gathered were merely part of a collection. These days, I am drawn to creating temporary art, making something simple from the leaves, sticks, stones, feathers and other raw materials that nature offers up, asking nothing in return. My usual theme is simple faces, made in moments. I photograph them as a record, but it is highly likely, especially on windy days, that they will be gone in little more than the time it took me to create them. It is the act of creating – and how it feels – that is most important to me these days.

A couple of years ago, my friend Julia Barnickle captured me in action, making a One Wheeled Thames Serpent on the banks of the river. As you will see, from the video below, I am at ease and in flow when collecting and creating.

London Cameos – Gabriel’s Wharf, South Bank – Julia Elmore from Julia Barnickle on Vimeo.

This past week, a couple more videos have appeared on my radar, showing other people who create art from discarded items. The first showcases six artists, all creating using discarded materials. The variety of work, both in choice of materials and in scale was jaw-dropping. I hope you will enjoy the video and feel inspired, as I was, to experiment with new materials and find fresh ways of working.

The second video showed how the Aboriginal residents of a Cape York community are gathering debris from the beach and transforming such items as washed up old fishing nets and turning them into sculptures of beauty, depicting the sea creatures that may otherwise have been caught up in these “ghost nets”. The accompanying article explains how, in doing so, the sculptors are not only helping clear up their beaches and preserve the wildlife that may otherwise have perished, but also creating work that connects to their country, their ancestors and in the case of Short Joe, their art becomes a passport to visiting other countries.

Do you make art from materials you find? Please let me know in the comments below.

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