Reusing Envelopes and Jars as Art Materials

Art materials can be expensive. Sometimes this expense is really worth it. For me, good quality paint brushes and good quality paint are worth the extra money – control and water holding is better with good brushes and paints are more densley pigmented and less fugitive with good paints. However, it’s always great to find some art resources that can be found for free.


This summer I spent some time experimenting with this. It began when I was watching Star Trek Voyager and felt like doodling. I grabbed a cardboard Amazon envelope and my palette which had a range of paints left over from a picture I had worked on the day before. Then I just began to play with it. I was really happy to find that the gouache paint went on to this surface beautifully and, because the surface was a mid range tone rather than dark or light, it was really super to work with tonally.

This was my first adventure into envelope painting…

The next day I tried the same thing with an insurance envelope. This was a thin, low quality paper and it really showed. The paper couldn’t take any water without becoming wrinkled and discoloured making it hard to work on…

So I decided to only do this with cardboard. I grabbed some old envelopes and used my trimmer to make some small postcard sized canvases. Here’s my current pile…


This time I found the painting was even better because I had only reused parts of the card which were clear of printing and belimishes. It really was a fabulous surface to work on – and totally free!

Here’s a close up of my third foray into reusing envelopes for painting…

…and my forth…

I then went on to make a fully painted, small sized painting of a tiny chihuahua on the same reused card the next day. (More of that in next week’s post!)


Another new learning for me this summer has been that my kitty cat doesn’t care if the water I am using for painting is green, or blue or pink, she will still drink out of it! This is despite her having a cat fountain and two fresh bowls of water in different places! So I did a bit more recycling and reusing. I tipped away the last bit of coffee from a jar, cleaned it out and now I use this for painting. It still holds about a pint of water, but I can screw the lid on if I get up from the table so she can’t get to it. I’m using my trusty old pint glass to hold brushes now instead.

She looks so cute and fluffy but she can be quite a pickle!

An adventure in Gesture Drawing

I have been wanting to improve my figure drawing for a while, especially the initial sketching.  I’m pretty good with shadow and light and I love drawing details but often I find my initial sketches are letting me down.  Sometimes they’re accurate enough but have no life and sometimes they’re just wrong and I don’t see it until I’ve worked for ages on a piece which is really frustrating.

I discovered this type of figure drawing called Gesture Drawing.   The idea is ‘to sum up the figure in it’s totality showing it’s rhythm and movement quickly with a limited number of marks on the paper.’  Seems easy, but when I first tried I saw how hard it actually is to do well.

I began by watching this excellent video on You Tube:

This way of drawing is just thrilling to me.  It looks like magic!  I really really want to learn to do this.

So my plan is to watch a tutorial on gesture drawing from the internet each day and then try out what I’ve learned by making my own gesture drawings from photo’s of models in my Art Models books (I’ve got #1 and #8)…

Once I’ve had a go at each approach and technique I’ll post my efforts (such as they are) up here so I can review them.

It’s going to be fun.