Saving Discards

Running my brayer on a big drawing pad to clean off the paint brought a mumble from class members. I raised an eyebrow, “Question?”

“You shouldn’t be using good drawing paper to clean off the brayer,” said one person.

“That’s what a phone book is for,” said another, helpfully.

“Or a stack of newspaper,” added a third.

Background1They were all right, of course, except that a brayer is not just a tool for spreading paint. It’s the creator of accidental art—backgrounds, layers, textures.

When I’m applying paint on Gelli Plates, the extra color on the brayer needs to go someplace–but often, it creates a great background of its own. On a newspaper or phone book, it mixes with the cheaper soy inks and makes a pile of discard papers.

On the other hand, if I brayer off on a good piece of paper, it becomes a background, or a piece that can be torn up for a collage.

Here’s a nice accidentally textured background:


And this background became a good place for a stencil, making an instant page that can be used as is, for a card, or for a journal page:

background3Discards don’t have to be thrown out. They have something of their own to offer. Accidents can become fresh new starts. And that’s as true of art as in other parts of life. Don’t be so quick to bury your past, it brought you to where you are today.

–Quinn McDonald makes use of the layers of her life.


21 thoughts on “Saving Discards

  1. About a year ago during an on line art class the teacher suggested wiping the excess paint on a page in one’s art journal – and to keep adding until it looked “done.” I have been doing this every since and have created some amazing background – and merged and mingled colors and media I never would have considered if I were doing “hard thinking” art instead of just free form brush wiping. Its really very liberasting once I got over the phobia about “wasting” “good” art journal paper.

  2. When I was working with some students recently we explored some techniques (scraping paint with a card, stamping with recycled materials, stencilling with hand made stencils and random mark making) by making papers to use as backgrounds and for collage . . . deliberate discards. They learned a lot about the medium and colour, learned to critique their play positively and were feeling confident when I let them loose!

    “Don’t be so quick to bury your past, it brought you to where you are today.” A great quote and a sentiment I appreciate as I get older.

    • You are such a great teacher! I wish I’d had you as a teacher when I was younger. Learning to experiment, without worrying about the result is the tap root of a great artist. You are SO wise!

      • I wish I was as free myself Quinn . . . bloody Scot’s heritage, bloody parents who were young in the depression years, voices saying waste not want not, it must be useful, yadda, yadda, yadda . . . and so it goes on. My muses, the grandhearts, are coming for the holidays and I will follow their lead as the just muck around and explore. I used to, my nickname was Mucker after all! Learning to be free after a lifetime of sometimes self-imposed constraints . . . I’m starting the ramble.

        “Don’t be so quick to bury your past, it brought you to where you are today.” It has me thinking . . . dammit . . . how to make the most of it? Hmmmmm. All this reflection, is it’s my age do you think? I must get back to blogging this stuff as there are so many 60-somethings in the same boat (or for you Pete, farmyard).

        • Well, as we mature, we are more interested in what matters. And what mattered when we were younger were often position, prestige, staying ahead and moving up. Once we are older, and look around, we have a different perspective. My parents were immigrants to this country and we had to eat everything on our plates every night. My mother hoarded food for fear another war would send her and the family into starvation–again. We always ate the apples that were in danger of rotting first, so we never ate the good ones. Remembering that now makes it easier to throw out food that is long past its useful stage and eat fresh and delicious things. When we had weevils in the oatmeal my father used to tell us it was protein and good for us. When there was a bit of mold on the bread, my mom said it was penicillin and wouldn’t hurt us. When I throw out moldy bread now, I think of them, but I don’t eat it anymore.

  3. I always keep something handy to clean off my brushes, brayers, stamps, stencils, etc. And I don’t use something that has to be thrown away. It is usually nice paper or fabric. When you aren’t paying attention to what you are doing – that is when magic happens.

    • I’ll admit to also using a credit card, but I’m fast replacing it by pulling the business end off a spatula. That and the brayer and I am a happy woman! Your work is amazing, I’m in awe every day you publish!

  4. Hay, if you lived on a farm you’d have to make sure your discarded paper wasn’t eaten by a brayer. “Neigh, you should mooove it, no stalling!” your students would cluck.

  5. My favorite when using Gelli plates is to run the brayer on a piece of canvas. Instant art! Now I need to get my plate out and play again. Thanks for the reminder and I love, love, love the tree art! Where did you get that stencil or did you make if yourself?

    • I am incapable of making my own complicated stencils, although I have a lot of fun with masks that I make in pieces. This one is available, both positive (the tree itself) or negative (the one you see here) at Arizona Art Supply (Phoenix store) or from Artist’s Cellar.

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