Should an Artist Recycle their Art?

Yesterday I spent the whole day recycling art……or at least preparing to. There’s an awful lot of it!

So I’m writing to ask for help. Can you give a painting a new home? Could you take delivery of a drawing or two?

The table of art in my studio.
At first visitors seem nervous about touching it,
but they soon get the idea and start rummaging through it!

Cutting and Painting

I originally took up cutting silhouettes to support my work as a painter. As time passed, however, these roles have reversed. Today it’s the painting which supports the silhouettes.I’ll be honest, cutting silhouettes can be repetitive. Even somebody will my autistic level of obsession with silhouettes does need an occasional artistic break! Otherwise the repetitive nature of the work can lead to problems.

I’ve seen this happen to other silhouettists. They begin full of talent and enthusiasm. Their work develops quickly and they become really good. But then they somehow stop; they reach a plateau. A few years later their silhouettes begin to look very similar: formulaic faces under a variety of hairstyles. Perhaps it doesn’t matter too much – as long as the guests are entertained and the client is happy – but to me it seems a terrible shame. It feels like a waste of artistic promise.

This is where painting comes in. The habit of drawing and painting is what keeps the silhouettes alive. Drawing is a wonderful way to train the eye, while painting in colour is a huge freedom for an artist always working in black. By filling my head with paintings I find I can keep the silhouettes alive.

Full-Studio Syndrome

It’s a real problem. I left art college many years ago but have never really lost the art habit. The result is easy to see: folders of drawings take up all the selves, the canvas racks are full, over-used studio frames fill the wall space. The lack of space has become a real disincentive to paint. As an artistic business model, it isn’t working. The art has to leave the studio.

Over the last ten years I’ve been painting less and less. This is partly because of the increasingly international nature of my silhouette-cutting engagements. It’s also partly because I wrote a book (Mastering Silhouettes) and then made a film (Silhouette Secrets). I really did have to put my painting career on hold. However, I’m now realising that the main reason is simply because my studio is full. I cannot paint because there’s nowhere left to put the paintings!

Am I Mad?

Most people I talk to about this think I’m mad. There’s a received wisdom that artists should hang onto all their work “in case it becomes valuable”. They’re right, it may. So rehousing a work of art or two could represent an opportunity. It isn’t often that an artist clears out their own studio. I have, after all, cut the Queen’s portrait.

Mays Barn Studio Clearout

If you follow us on Facebook you may already have seen pictures of this. I’ve been advertising a series of open days and inviting people to come in and take away some art. Yesterday and today are the first such days. The studio will be open tomorrow and more dates will soon be announced on Facebook for next week. 

Recycling art is a fascinating process. It involves opening folders of work and spreading them over the studio table. Mostly, I’ve no idea what’s in them, so they’re full of interesting surprises. There are huge numbers of life drawings, a smaller number of landscapes, and endless experiments with cutting and tearing paper. They range in scale from enormous to really tiny. There are also a number of painted carvings, some of which are quite large. I welcome any proposal for what to do with them.

I understand that not everybody can simply pop in and visit the studio, so I am offering a second option:

Option 1: Pop in and Rummage.Take what you want and make a suitable donation to a charity of your choice. Most of the work is unframed, so you will need to budget for a suitable frame. 

Option 2: An Art Postal Lottery.  Get in touch and let me know the size available and set a postage budget. I’ll choose something for you, put it in the post and send a Paypal request for postage. There’s no need to visit the studio and rummage, but your pictures may be an unexpected choice. Hopefully you’ll like it, if not you can pass it to somebody who does.

An unfinished painting combining silhouettes and oil paint.
This is my current work which needs space to grow. 


I hope you feel able to take part and will enjoy your new art!

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4 comments on “Should an Artist Recycle their Art?

  1. Patricia John says:

    I think it is a wonderful way to let the world know of your paintings. I loved so many of them, landscapes especially. I hope that is will make you happy to have others hang your paintings.

  2. Paul DASILVA MCIJ FIJET says:

    Your a blessing in disguise…..

    Wishing you well with your latest exploits, whether advance artist or with the talents possessed for silhouettes…

    Moreover, more than welcome to join us for further events exhibitions and the like….

    Look forward to hearing from you soon.

    Have a good weekend.

    BEST W
    PAUL D.

  3. Olwen Badziak says:

    I’m so happy with the life drawings and landscape I brought home from your Studio this morning. Hope to visit again during CAT in May!
    best wishes,Olwen B.

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