As I’ve previously mentioned, I’m collecting rainwater in a bucket to use for my painting and, to stop the wind blowing the bucket away, I’ve placed a brick in it. Well, this weekend, I was surprised to find a snail living in the brick.
Unsure of how the snail would’ve got there, I was intrigued enough to Google (other search engines are available) whether snails could swim and was surprised to find that indeed they could.
This then created in my mind the scenario that the snail not only slid over to the bucket but up the side, down again, swam across to the brick, and then climbed up it – which seemed quite the adventure!
More simply, perhaps it’d been picked up by a bird and fortuitously been dropped onto the brick?
Or perhaps it’d been a baby snail too small for me to notice when I placed the brick in the bucket and now grown much larger?
As you can tell, I’ve become quite fascinated by what this snail’s story may be. But, unlike Dr Dolittle, I can’t talk to the animals to find out. It will forever be a mystery.
However, this chance discovery illustrates that my art practice is part of the ecology. Of course, it’s not just my art practice: it’s all of me. Being more atune to this is crucial if I’m to understand how I can better affect what I am part of.
Talking about walking last week reminded me that being environmentally friendly often saves me money.
So why pay for a bus ticket when I can walk? Or pay for tap water when I can collect rainwater? Or buy paint when I could grind up earth like Friedensreich Hundertwasser did?
In fact, there’s a rich history of artists using environmentally friendly practices to inspire me. Some of my favourites include:
- Bob and Roberta Smith recycles the materials from his old paintings for new ones
- Robert Rauschenberg scavenged the streets for materials to include in his prints
- Pablo Picasso formed sculptures from recycled objects and incorporated collage into his paintings
- Kurt Schwitters, who turned using found objects into a complete style (Merz)
- and infinitely more, such as Nicola Carter (who is one of my co-members of the Not Just Collective) who recycles materials for her artworks, including an amazing dress made from blister packs
As I’ve mentioned before, I know refusing to buy new art materials will hurt my suppliers financially but, in actuality, I can’t imagine I’ll manage to stop completely as I don’t have the knowledge or skills to do so. Thankfully, there are more ethical suppliers to turn to when I do need to buy supplies. Buying from them may also encourage the bigger names to become more ethical in return.
So, really, I have no excuse. Saving the planet is good for me and my purse!
Last week, I came to the conclusion that no matter what I do, I’ll end up hurting someone. This left me feeling stuck; I felt I had to do something but I also felt I could do nothing that helped. I also felt pretty insignificant; that nothing I did would ever be enough. I am but one of billions of humans on this planet after all. The result was that my mental health took a sharp dip and, at one point, I even felt that maybe the planet was better off without me. The end result of all this? Nothing but anxiety.
Thankfully, I have a remedy for this: Walking.
Not that my walking helps the environment any. As someone that usually catches the bus, it makes no difference to the amount of pollution the bus causes whether I’m on it or not. All the same, I still feel virtuous for not directly causing the pollution myself.
That isn’t the only positive to walking. I also find walking helps tidy up my thoughts and clears the way for good and creative ideas to come through. Doing a little bit of research on the subject, I found an article at NBC News that confirmed this. Apparently, walking leads to something called “divergent thinking” that not only produces clearer thoughts and moments of revelation but, according to a Stanford University study, increases creative output by 60%!
So, as an artist, I definitely feel I should walk.
It struck me last week that, whatever way I look at it, I will derive pleasure from hurting others.
On the one hand, as I have already acknowledged, my art practice – which I rely on for good mental health – is damaging the planet and so hurts others.
But, on the other hand is the fact that, in going ‘carbon neutral’, I shall have to stop supporting the environmentally unfriendly supply chain I purchase my art materials from. So, whilst I may feel good at doing my bit to save the planet, I would not just feel guilty at wasting the materials I already have but also because refusing to purchase art materials will hurt my suppliers financially.
Consequently, I am in a bind: whichever path I choose, it will hurt others.
Interestingly, I see this bind repeated elsewhere. For example, the Bank for International Settlements has published a report, The Green Swan, stating that the challenge of keeping global warming to 1.5° C threatens the stability of the banking system… yet, if global warming exceeds 1.5° C, the threat of climate and social collapse becomes far greater.
Additionally, the publication Geophysical Research Letters has reported that cleaning up air pollution could actually add to global warming. Yet we can’t possibly allow the pollution to remain, can we?
So it all seems very much a case of damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
Following on from last week when I was beginning to appreciate how precious rainwater is, it dawned on me that all my materials are precious – I can’t just carry on consuming as though it has no consequences. Creating art consumes the Earth’s resources just as anything else does.
This put me in mind of Brett Bloom’s Petro-Subjectivity, in which he makes the point that we can’t just create a ‘greener’ version of what we have now if we’re still dependent on extracting the Earth of it’s resources – sooner or later we will end-up where we are now, facing the death of the planet.
However, I know from experience if I stop creating art, my mental health starts to suffer. It also strikes me that if we take things to the extremes Bloom proposes, essentially pressing the reset button and returning to pre-industrialisation, death might actually be more preferable to life! So I believe a compromise has to be reached. At the very least, it will buy us time for transitioning more smoothly to what Bloom proposes.
The conclusion I’ve reached is, rather than indulging my ego by consuming materials with wanton abandon or having my ego eat away at me by denying myself the pleasure of creating art, I must pacify my ego by reducing the amount of materials I use. In deciding upon this action, I realised that by reducing the amount of paper I use (from A1 to A2 in this instance), I reduce the amount of all the other materials I use.
Reducing the amount of materials I use, also means I live with my mistakes. So when I messed up the black line like I did in the m of “my”, instead of trashing the piece and starting again like I was tempted to, I had to live with it. (I also had second thoughts about the doodles I added but again had to live with them).
I feel living with my mistakes will make me more conscious about the act of creation itself. As someone who struggles with anxiety, this creates anxiety in itself – will I be too anxious about making mistakes to get into the zone I need to be in to be creative? I’ll just have to wait and see.